Rojas Feijespán or Feingespán, Manuel

Manuel-Rojas

Spanish captain involved in the massacre of Casas Viejas and in the bloody repression that followed the coup against the Republic in Granada. He was the son of a wealthy Granada landowner, Manuel Rojas Cortés, and a woman of German origin named Fernanda Feijespán or Feingespán, who lived between Granada and Madrid. The researchers Miguel Caballero and Pilar Góngora suppose that since Manuel Rojas was a contemporary of García Lorca and taking into account that the bourgeoisie at the end of the 19th century was very small, Federico’s family and Manuel’s family knew each other.

Captain Rojas is in command of the group of Falangists who, on August 6, broke into the Lorca’s summer house with the excuse of searching inside the piano for a clandestine transmitter that supposedly communicated with the Soviet Union.

The brutal fame of Captain Rojas was achieved by several criminal acts. First, for directing and participating in the massacre of Casas Viejas, the event that shook the republican-socialist government of Manuel Azaña in 1934. Rojas was sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing 13 day laborers in cold blood in retaliation for the anarchist insurrection of Casas Viejas (Cádiz, today Benalup-Casas Viejas) that claimed the lives of eight peasants, two civil guards and an assault guard. His mother lived in Granada at the beginning of the Civil War.

The 21-year prison sentence was reduced to just two years thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.

The second event has to do with Granada. The reduction allowed Rojas to soon regain his freedom. On July 18, 1936, he was in Torrenueva (Granada) as an available prisoner. He takes advantage of the uprising to move to the capital where he joins the insurgents and participates in violent assaults, one of them against the San Vincente Farmhouse, the summer home of the García Lorca family. Captain Rojas is in command of the group of Falangists who, on August 6, burst into the Lorca’s summer home with the excuse of searching inside the piano for a clandestine transmitter with which they supposedly communicated with the Soviet Union. The group even took a pianist with them to dismantle the instrument in search of the radio. When they found nothing, they gave up.

Captain Manuel Rojas (right) during the trial of the Casas Viejas events.
Captain Manuel Rojas (right) during the trial of the Casas Viejas events.

“On several occasions and almost always in the torrid afternoons at the end of July, armed men in uniform had invaded the farmhouse in the Vega de Granada where we spent that summer of 1936. The heaviness already produced by the heat, against which we fought by darkening and closing the windows and balconies, was added to by the shocks and anguish produced in those hours of silence and tranquility by the outcries of imperious voices, the expletives, the noises of boots and weapons in the small square first and then inside the house on the stairs and in the hallway later. They invaded the house recklessly, searched the furniture, always with bad and threatening manners, and removed the drawers. Once they even lifted the lid of the grand piano in the living room, looking for I don’t know what, and they also searched inside the mahogany box of the giant wall clock in the living room,” recalls Manuel Fernández-Montesinos García-Lorca (What lives in us, 2008).

After successive assignments in the Falange militias, as chief of the Motril sector, chief of the 17th battery of the Light Artillery regiment number 3 and officer of the Divisionary Park number 2, he was transferred in October 1937 to the Heavy Artillery regiment number 1 to organize the 8th battery.

Captain Manuel Rojas (first from the right) during the trial for the events of Casas Viejas. In the photo we can also see Manuel Azaña (first from the left).
Captain Manuel Rojas (first from the right) during the trial for the events of Casas Viejas. Also pictured is Manuel Azaña (first from left).

His brazen and violent biography still has one more chapter. In February 1938, while on the Aragon front, he obtained permission to move to Granada due to the death of his mother. After the funeral, instead of returning to the front, he travels to Seville where he steals an American-made car – which was assigned to a military transport controller- with the idea of going on a spree with prostitutes before returning to the fight. On March 3, on his return to Zaragoza, he is arrested and sent back to Seville where a court tries him and sentences him to one year and eight months in prison.

His trail is lost in the run-up to the days of victory.

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