Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The German Occupation Of Cala Ratjada

Coffee and cake; wheat beer, wurst and curry sauce; Schlagermusik and Bayern München shirts. Cala Ratjada is the Arenal of the north-east, an annexation through sunbedsraum: Vorsprung durch Touristik. Its alliance with Germany wasn't the result of some grand master plan for the division of Mallorca on nationality grounds. As with other resorts, it just happened because of tour operator concentration. Or, unlike for example Arenal, was there more to it? An association from the past? Possibly there was.

Cala Ratjada is about as far away as you can get from Palma and so was about as far away as seekers after tranquility could get in the first thirty plus years of the last century: seekers after tranquility and refuge. They could number among their ranks the banker Joan March. One of his "palaces" was built in Cala Ratjada. A more modest pile, overlooked by the March palace, was the summer residence of the only Mallorcan to have been Spanish prime minister - Antoni Maura.

March and Maura had established themselves in Cala Ratjada many years before they were to be joined by non-Mallorcan neighbours. Of some 400 inhabitants in the early 1930s, a quarter of them were from overseas. They came from England, Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. But most important among them were those who came from Germany and Austria.

Quite why Cala Ratjada became the refuge it did will doubtless be revealed in a book by municipal archivists in Capdepera - Maria Massanet and Gori Rexach - and a Swiss researcher, Gabi Einsele, about the "central European exile" in Cala Ratjada between 1930 and 1936. The rise of the Nazis and the creation of the Second Republic in Spain in 1931 were undoubtedly factors, though a political regime in Spain that was opposed to fascism still doesn't explain how Cala Ratjada came to be a chosen place of refuge.

In contrast to, for instance, Pollensa, where an initial wave of artists was to attract others during the First World War, establishing a starting-point for the benefits of Cala Ratjada is less clear. Nevertheless, soon after the Second Republic had commenced and then especially in 1932 when the Nazis' momentum was great, it became home to German Jews and pacifists, most of them sharing common interests in the arts and literature.

So it was, therefore, that journalist Heinz Kraschutzki came, as did poet and photographer, Konrad Liesegang, as well as Karl Otten (also a journalist), the Austrian writer Franz Blei, the painter Friedrich Kleukens, and someone who was to become an artist, Hugo Cyril Kulp Baruch, much better known as Jack Bilbo.

Of these, Bilbo and Otten are perhaps the most familiar names. Otten had faced being shot when things turned nasty after July 1936, but he escaped with the help of the British and was to go on to be a propagandist with the BBC. Bilbo didn't stay all that long. He arrived in Cala Ratjada in 1932 and left the following year, having sold what was, for the times, a bizarre bar named the Waikiki. With its Hawaiian design, it was for a time the principal meeting-place for the foreigners who had descended on Cala Ratjada and indeed from further afield.

Bilbo was as much an adventurer as he was an artist. Prior to coming to Mallorca, he had been Al Capone's bodyguard. Once he finally ended up in England, he became something of a celebrity: there is very odd British Pathé newsreel footage of him giving his New Year's message in 1947. Though his time in Cala Ratjada was short, his presence - and that of the Waikiki - was perhaps the most significant. When the swastikas started to be raised in Germany, the German population in Mallorca was estimated to have been around 3,000, and many of them would have made a trip to the Waikiki: a focal point for opposition to the Nazis.

But there were of course other Germans, the Nazis themselves, one of whom was Hans Dede. Initially acting consul, in 1933 he became the permanent German consul. The colony in Cala Ratjada naturally attracted his attention. Even before the Civil War, he was hard at it, denouncing the likes of Kraschutzki, who had had his German nationality taken away and was to be arrested at the outbreak of the war. Furthermore, Nazi supporters began to arrive in Cala Ratjada. The Hotel Castellet, the first hotel built in Cala Ratjada, became something of a headquarters for the Nazis. And yet curiously, while all this was going on, the mayor, Miquel Caldentey Ginard, was backing a campaign to develop tourism, seeking both local and foreign investors.

It may be pure coincidence that the resort is now so very German, but Cala Ratjada's history bears a very clear German imprint. Perhaps there is more to the resort's German association after all.

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