buber.net > Basque > Features > Books > Book Review: Escape via Berlin by Jose Antonio de Aguirre
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Book Review: Escape via Berlin by Jose Antonio de Aguirre
by Blas Pedro Uberuaga
June 28, 2003
Read: January, 2001.
The majority of this book relates the adventures of Aguirre as he was
stuck behind German lines after the Spanish Civil War. He decided to
actually go to Berlin and try to leave Europe from there, as the only
other way he could leave Europe was through Spain, where he would
likely have been caught and executed. He had to leave his family
behind, as they were in more danger with him than without him.
Aguirre had a great deal of help from the Ministers of several Latin
and South American countries, including the Dominican Republic and
Peru. He took the identity Dr. Alvarez and met with many people who
would have arrested him instantly if they had known who he was. His
wife was made to be from Venezuela, along with his children, while
"Dr. Alvarez" was made to be from Peru.
He finally obtained a visa to leave through Sweden, along with his
family, who met him in Berlin before leaving for Sweden. He gives a
lot of commentary about the status of Europe at the time. He notes
how Sweden, in order to avoid being invaded, submitted to many German
policies. He also notes how the German population had to go without a
lot of things in order to supply the war, but that they went to great
efforts to make things appear plentiful (full store windows while the
stores had nothing). Invaded countries, like Belgium, were plundered
for their resources, leaving nothing for the native populace. Aguirre
stayed with a family in Belgium and noted how the Belgians were, at
first, happy with the Germans because they were polite and neat, but,
after they started taking resources, the Belgians began grumbling.
Aguirre notes that this is how things usually happen.
He spends a bit of time defending the side of the Basques in the
Spanish Civil War, since most people viewed Franco as the defender of
Christianity. They couldn't understand how the Basques, very
Catholic, would fight against him. He spends time trying to
illustrate the connections between Hitler, who everyone seemed to
acknowledge as bad, and Franco, who they saw as a defender of
He also tries to get the readers to understand the importance of
encouraging democracy, especially Christian democracy. He spends a
lot of time trying to describe the necessity of democracy based upon
moral law (where he means Christian morals). He also spends time
describing the influence Spain, Italy, France and Portugal have over
Latin and South America and the importance of democracy in those
countries, as the liberty they have would influence the Americas.
He spends a lot of time on these issues, maybe too much time from my
point of view. He describes the future of the Soviet Union and how
the democratic spirit is taking hold there. He, as the editor
mentions, was naive with regards to this and undoubtedly didn't know
if Stalin's purges.
The story of his escapes in Germany and Belgium are interesting and
entertaining and I think he also has a lot of good political
commentary, describing and defending his political beliefs. He goes a
bit overboard in the last part of the book, especially trying to
illustrate the importance of Christianity in making the world better.
He also felt that the world was on the verge of a democratic age,
which may have been partially realized, but definitely not to the
extent that he envisioned. But, he did have some interesting insights
into the different personas of the countries involved in the war. He
was in a unique position in that he had to defend the rights of
nationalism for small groups like the Basques. In an effort to do so,
he goes a bit extreme in some of his defences of Christian democracy.
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