Farewell to Ramiro Santisteban Castillo

06.03.2019

We mourn the death of Ramiro Santisteban Castillo, who died this February in Paris at the age of 97.

Farewell to Ramiro Santisteban Castillo
(Fotocredit: KZ-Gedenkstätte Mauthausen)

Ramiro Santisteban was born in 1921 in Laredo, Cantabria. In 1936 he and his family were forced to flee from Francoist troops to France. Shortly afterwards, however, the family crossed the border back into Spain and lived in Catalonia until the defeat of the Spanish Republic. At the beginning of 1939, they once again fled from Franco’s troops to France. The family became separated. Ramiro, his father Nicasio and his brother were initially interned in a refugee camp and later drafted into a work battalion in the French army. Following the invasion of France by the Wehrmacht, they were taken by the Germans as prisoners of war. On 6 August 1940, Ramiro, his father and his brother were transferred from Moosburg prisoner of war camp to Mauthausen concentration camp as part of the first transport of Republican Spaniards to the camp.

Ramiro was held in the main camp and forced to work in the quarry. Later he was transferred to the ‘Poschacher’ work detachment, which provided forced labour for the Poschacher company in its quarry in the town of Mauthausen. The entire detachment was formally released from the concentration camp in autumn 1944 but its members remained imprisoned as forced labourers until the end of the war. Ramiro, his brother Manuel and his father Nicasio all survived imprisonment in Mauthausen concentration camp. However, Nicasio died shortly after returning to France from the consequences of his time in the concentration camp. Manuel was shot by the Spanish police as he attempted to cross the border into Spain to see his mother again.

Ramiro settled in France, where he met his wife, and embarked on a career with a large car manufacturer. He never gave up the struggle for finding the truth and reparation. Throughout his life after the war he was president of the FEDIP, the Federation of Spanish Deportees and Political Prisoners, and took an active role in investigating former members of the SS. When a memorial to the residents of Laredo deported to German concentration camps was unveiled in 2010, Ramiro Santisteban said in his speech: ‘At the beginning of the third millennium, those deemed ‘the forgotten’ are now finally recognised. May this memorial act as a missing link in the chain of our country’s history.’

Ramiro Santisteban Castillo will be sadly missed.