Majorca Property News

Cabrera: The mystery of death Island next to Mallorca

At not a lot other spots of the earth, the beauty of nature and the horrors of humanity as close together as on the island before the south coast of Mallorca. On the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the arrival of the French prisoners of war was to the human tragedy reminds that in today's Marine National Park was once zutrugen: Napoleon's soldiers went there to thousands miserable underlying

For the French 200 years ago, Cabrera has been a huge disappointment to. Ausgezehrt of privation and disease landed in the days of 5 to 10 May 1809, thousands of them as prisoners of war on the barren Felsinsel. Until their arrival on the inhospitable island they had left in the belief that they caught against Spaniards want to share. Given the rugged cliffs and ledges, the hope of the men, in their homes soon to be released, like a soap bubble to burst.

The Majorcan writer Baltasar Porcel was not the first, very well but the most renowned thinkers of the Balearic Islands, Cabrera as "the first concentration camp of humanity known. Thousands of men (and about two dozen women) had up to five years on the island under scorching sun, as in bitter cold wind darbs, is barely adequate food and water even less. Thousands died on the island, without their names anywhere detained.

Two centuries after their arrival out of the Marine National Park of Cabrera and its museums with a few panels on the suffering of the POWs. The military - the Spanish Ministry of Defense is still the owner of the island, even if the administration of today's more natural parks this summer in the jurisdiction of the Balearic Government should go on - on Wednesday organized a commemorative event, which includes representatives of France arrived. At the end of the year is also a large exhibition on the island of Majorca to the tragic fate of the prisoners-Cabrera remember.

The men who were below the medieval castle of Cabrera landed were all soldiers of Napoleon's beaten army in Spain. Behind them, the military defeat in the Andalusian Bailén July 1808 and long months of captivity at pontoon boats in the bay of Cadiz. Already there was death everywhere. Contemporary reportedly died from hunger, thirst and poor hygienic conditions, 80 to 300 men a day. The corpses were thrown into the sea, the waves flushed them to the southern Spanish coast.

Meanwhile halted negotiations on an exchange. The Spanish Defense Council and the British, Napoleon's main opponent, are not thinking out of the military power of the French Emperor by the expulsion of thousands of new prisoners forces as soon as possible. Therefore, the Frenchman caught in the Canaries and the Balearics are interned. The National Defense of Mallorca vehemently defends itself against these plans. They fear the enemy in his own house, refers to the already tight supply situation of their own population, warns of epidemics and plagues. In vain. The compromise solution is the presence of French on Cabrera alone should be restricted. Only the highest officers in the prison must to Palma.

Like many Frenchmen, but also Poland, Swiss, Italians and a German life as prisoners of war had deadlines to Cabrera, is controversial among historians. Exact figures are not available. Of the 18,000, which came Bailén in captivity, were 4000 to the Canary Islands, and around 9000 after Cabrera brought. Among these were 1814, when Napoleon was beaten and the men could return home, only 3600 left on the island.

That does not mean that this 5400 soldiers on the island of hunger, thirst and disease were used, explain how historians Balearic Miquel Bennàssar. Some Frenchmen managed to escape on rafts or boats, others were not substituted for work on British war ships requisitioned. Exact data were not available. Nevertheless, many state boards to Cabrera that there from 3000 to 5000 Frenchmen were killed.

Precarious conditions were mainly in the first twelve months of captivity. The French virtually camped in the open air or in caves. The halbverfallene castle with its narrow spiral staircase as the only access to the hospital was converted. The fortress, in 1400 against pirate attacks up, but was soon overwhelmed. Worked here for about 20 women, the former Market End gutters, as nurses. Some prostitutes they are for food. A handful of children to be in those years to Cabrera, the light of day have to report to guide the museum Cabrera.

The guarding of the prisoners and their supplies of food and extra drinking water is the responsibility of the British Navy. The only source on the island ranges especially in the summer is not enough. After about a year consolidates a delivery system. Bread and beans, are food, the ship regularly to Cabrera arrives. In the same way is even promoted post.

A Mallorcan, Josep Maria Billon, is finally charged with the care. There is money for the dealer from Cádiz. It ensures a more or less smooth process, but evil tongues say Billon task also made him rich. His former house is now with the "Abaco" in Lonja district of Palma is a popular restaurant, wrote recently that "Ultima Hora" magazine "Brisas".

Not knowing all the French to Cabrera to organize: They built a crude shelter, their foundations by recent excavations on the island have been unearthed. There were small chambers made of stone and wood. Prisoners made from the wood of the Macchiagewächse cutlery and crafts, how about a traditional chess game. With the goods drove them with Majorcan fishermen trade. The buttons of the former uniforms probably served as a means of payment among themselves. Other prisoners appealed to vegetable beds or had to abandon the diet with all edible, of what the island hergab. The only donkey, Martín Cabrera lived on, was just like all verspeist habhaft become goats, rabbits, seagulls, lizards, rats, worms, fish, sea urchins, clams, crabs. At the end will be as good as no more animals on the island have been found, barely a tree anyway.

Cases of cannibalism are a legend, but historians are in doubt. Considered safe, however, that plays in a cave to have literacy and use of the time, their illiterate comrades the world of letters closer.

All of these humanistic approaches can not hide the fact that the existence of Cabrera for the survivors was characterized by deprivation, illness, uncertainty and death. The few surviving letters, reports, and charcoal drawings of the 1814 the end of their captivity experienced, speak volumes about the horrors suffered. The stony soil was so filled with dead that the rain water of a flood of the corpses auswuschen and flushed into the bay.

After the end of Napoleon's ships arrived at last, in order to redeem the Damned, hesitate to exempt all from shelters, as if they are suffering from the past, wanted to burn the soul. In this way, the former prisoner of war hardly something tangible to have been transmitted to posterity. Also the name of that prison is not known, but the seals on the occasion of his liberation: "We can in any direction announce / that peace back to let us / because it comes from the other world / when you return from Cabrera."