In May 1938 the Republican Servicio de Investigación Militar (S.I.M.) opened six forced labour camps, al lin Catalonia. These camps were intended to be an alternative to the prisons, where the inmates should redeem themselves through the work, but they were actually very different institutions. The inmates were an amalgam of political prisoners, deserters, undisciplineds, rightists, religious, captured rebel militars and even civilians from the zones recovered by the Republican Army. They were treated harshly, and in many occasions they suffered arbitrarial executions.
The main tasks of the prisoners was the fortification of the surroundings of the fields where they were held, and their system of communication with the outside world was under tight control. Each prisoner could only send two post cards monthly, and their text could not have a lenght of more than 20 words, without cover to allow an easier censorship, and the text could only be a salutation of the addresse and explain him the good health of who was writting. It was strictly forbidden to write about anything else, neither to say the place of the camp where the prisoner was held.
The captivity of the prisoners who survived the forced labor camps ended when they crossed the French border on early February 1939. That meant the liberty for them, and the exile for their guardians.
The postal items circulated from or to the Republican forced labor camps are very rare, and only a few privileged collections have some examples of this kind of postal history.
This is the list of some known pieces (in bold characters, those offered in Colectalia):
SIM HEADQUARTERS IN MUNTANER 55, BARCELONA (LABOR CAMP NUMBER 1)
LABOR CAMP NUMBER 2
A cover sent from labor camp number 2 to Barcelona, in a private collection
LABOR CAMP NUMBER 3
Two post cards from labor camp number 3 to Begues, in a private collection
A post card to labour camp number 3, returned to sender, in a private collection
LABOR CAMP NUMBER 4
Three post cards sent by prisoners from labor camp number 4 to Barcelona, in a private collection
A post card sent from labour camp 4 to Barcelona, in a private collection
A cover sent by a guard from labor camp 4 to Carcasonne, France, in a private collection
LABOR CAMP NUMBER 5
A post card sent from Gibraltar to a prisoner in labor camp number 5, in a private collection
LABOR CAMP NUMBER 6
Two post cards sent by a prisoner from labor camp number 6 to Begues (Barcelona), in a private collection
A post card from labor camp number 6 without mark, identified thanks to the sender's info, date and context, in a private collection
A cover sent by a prisoner from labor camp number 6, detachment number 3, to Calella, in a private collection
A post card sent from labor camp number 6 to Calella, in a private collection
A post card sent to labour camp number 6, detachment in Porrera, in a private collection
A cover sent to a prisoner in labor camp number 6 and returned to sender, in a private collection
For what we have seen, some pieces have a redirection to Muntaner 55, in Barcelona, where the offices of the SIM were placed. The redirection was signed by who ordered it, and from Muntaner 55 the mail was addressed to the camp where the prisoner was hold.
Needless to say that this is not a definitive list, and we only give notice of the pieces of postal history of the Republican forced labour camps under the SIM that we know. We assume that some other pieces may exist in private collections or in the hands of relatives of former prisoners of the camps.
The lots available in Colectalia.com are a unique opportunity to add undoubtedly rare pieces to the best collections.
You can download our study about the S.I.M. forced labour camps following this link.
Francesc Badia: Els camps de treball a Catalunya durant la Guerra Civil (1936-1939), Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, 2001
Joan Samper: Los Campos de Trabajo republicanos en Catalunya durante la Guerra Civil, Monografías Filatélicas nº 20, 2016