The Mysterious Identity of the Spanish Bestselling Writer Who Nearly Murdered Azaña Just Before the Civil War


Updated:09/02/2021 01:10h


In the decade of the 30s of the last century, the Spanish press was blindsided regarding the true identity of the writer who had become, overnight, the best-selling author in our country. The first time he was quoted on ABC was in March 1932, after the publication of «Communism in Spain», An essay in which our protagonist criticized, under the pseudonym of Mauricio Karl, the political current that had already come to power in the recently established Second Republic.

“The author presents himself in the prologue as a German who has acted for five years, in our country, as a secret agent of the International Service Against Communism – this newspaper said in April. In reality, we do not know that such an organism exists and, even if it does exist, we doubt its authenticity. It looks like a disguise of the writer to preserve his identity. It is more likely that he is a journalist who has closely studied the communist revolutionary groups, perhaps an infiltrator, since he offers details that cannot be fictitious.

In 1934, this Mauricio Karl published his second essay, «The enemy: Marxism, anarchism and freemasonry». A year later he released «Assassins of Spain». All bestsellers that delved into the same thesis, without knowing who the author really was or where he was from. In October 1935, ABC even reported that a large group of followers were trying to organize a tribute, but could not celebrate “because they could not discover his true identity.” And a few days before this newspaper inadvertently offered an interesting piece of information for the story that we are going to tell: “His pseudonym does not belong to any of the high-ranking police chiefs to whom the malice of the people has pointed out.” Wasn’t it really?

The attempt

In the same days that Spain was racking its brains to discover the true name of our mysterious best-selling writer, there was an unexpected visit at the headquarters of the General Directorate of Security (DGS) that it had nothing to do, in principle, with our author. At the Puerta del Sol headquarters in Madrid a former legionary called Carmelo Ruano, because I wanted to speak with one of the people in charge of the Madrid Police. He said that he had first-hand information about the organization of an attack against Manuel Azaña in the municipality of Alcázar de San Juan (Ciudad Real).

Azaña, during the Second Republic – Stroke

The complaint reached the office of Vicente Santiago, the head of the DGS Information Office, but it was not investigated until a year later, when Azaña was elected President of the Government and the new General Commissioner of Police of Madrid was appointed, Mr. Aparicio. As soon as he took office, he gave the order that the clues given by Ruano be analyzed and, shortly after, part of the complaint was leaked to ABC, on whose pages the name of the alleged mastermind of the attack was revealed: Julian Carlavilla, a Police inspector who had acquired two rifles and two pistols in Barcelona to assassinate the then Republican president.

Seen over time, the identities of Mauricio Karl —which according to ABC information, people claimed he was a police chief— and the mastermind behind the assassination began to connect without anyone knowing. Other versions, however, argued that Carlavilla was, in reality, a simple agent, while a third hypothesis claimed that he was official. According to Ruano’s statement, in addition, the aforementioned Carlavilla did not act alone, but together with the infantry captain Manuel Diaz Criado Y Eduardo Pardo Reina, lawyer and army captain. Both prominent anti-Zañistas and members of the Spanish Military Union (UME), the association that opposed Azaña in his day.

Cousin of Rivera

Carlavilla had become a specialist in criminal investigation in the different positions of responsibility that he had held. They even say that he prevented anarchist attacks against the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera and the Kings of Spain before the Second Republic was proclaimed. And that he came to act as head of Largo Caballero’s escort, who would also have saved his life in a shootout. However, he became famous for his tireless fight against Communism and Freemasonry in Spain, to the point that he managed to arrest those responsible for the attempted coup against Primo de Rivera in 1929.

All his achievements were usually achieved by infiltrating the same organizations to which the terrorists supposedly belonged. This is how he obtained the information that he used later for his police operations and thus he found out the first data about Manuel Azaña, when he was president of the Athenaeum, whom he directly accused of being homosexual. His hatred against the future president grew during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, in the Communist Investigation Section created by General Berenguer and of which he was a very important asset.

A year after the proclamation of the Second Republic, Carlavilla began his passion for writing with “Communism in Spain” (1932) in which he already decided to use his pseudonym Mauricio Karl. In just one month, this first book became a success and sold out in the main bookstores in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​while ABC and the rest of the newspapers wondered who was really that successful writer whose sales grew over the years until that, in 1935, Ruano’s complaint against him arrived.

Huida a Portugal

The ex-legionary directly accused him of preparing the aforementioned attack against Azaña, so that, when the new General Commissioner of Police of Madrid began his investigation at the beginning of 1936, our protagonist was expelled from the Police and had to flee to Portugal before be stopped. In the streets of Spain, the tension was already unbreathable, with continuous confrontations between Falangists and militants of left-wing parties that made people fear the worst, until, two months before the Civil War began, ABC exclusively recounted the assassination attempt that could change the history of Spain.

Mauricio Carlavilla
Mauricio Carlavilla

«In recent days there have been some arrests of people allegedly involved in an attempted attack against the current president Azaña and other political figures […] In April 1935, the confidant and former soldier of the Foreign Third, Carmelo Ruano, appeared at the DGS, who stated that he wanted to report that said attack was being prepared. He added that being at the Terminus hotel with the captain of the Foreign Third Manuel Diaz Criado, under whose orders he served, the lawyer Eduardo Pardo Reina appeared, accompanied by another gentleman whose address coincides with those of the Police Inspector Julián Carlavilla, author of several books on social affairs that he signs as Mauricio Karl ”, could be read in our newspapers on May 3, 1936.

“According to Carlavilla,” he continued, “the latter stated in that meeting that the DGS wanted to have men of action to prepare the attacks against Azaña, Largo Caballero and Diego Martínez Barrio [presidente del Congreso de los Diputados]. As a result of that meeting, Ruano was tasked with looking for men capable of committing such attacks and was told that he would be given 75 pesetas every day. The delivery took place over three or four days, according to Carmelo, but later, Gustavo del Villar, Carlavilla’s secretary, told him that he would no longer give him quantities because they no longer needed his services. […]. It is not known for what reasons this declaration was archived and it was not followed.

75 pesetas a day

This newspaper also pointed out that Carlavilla had recruited four men, with whom he met on the Calle de la Bolsa in Madrid, on the corner of Carretas, wearing a false mustache, to prepare the assassination. Among them was Ruano himself. And he paid all of them, equally, those 75 pesetas a day. But Carlavilla decided to expel him for “not being a determined guy”, despite the fact that he had been presented as a “fervent anti-leftist.” This decision could provoke revenge on the part of the former legionary, who came swiftly to report our ghostwriter to the DGS.

According to the Guerra website in Madrid, after the expulsion, «Carlavilla and Diaz Criado had to reorganize the terrorist cell and they thought that the attack had to be carried out by” young people who were really convinced “”. This newspaper also reported at the time that the group had colluded with some of the president’s bodyguards to “provide facilities to carry out the attack” in Alcázar de San Juan, where the politician was going to hold a rally. “The idea was to shoot him from a newly acquired vehicle, just before his speech started. Carlavilla and Pardo Reina came to travel to the La Mancha town for preparations in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The perpetrators of the attack had programmed to send, once the attack had occurred, a message by telegram to the other members of the command with an agreed language: in the case of assassinating Azaña they would have to telegraph to their companions saying: “Mama grave” », adds Guerra in Madrid.

Unfortunately for Carlavilla and his henchmen, Azaña did not go to Alcázar de San Juan and the meeting was suspended as a result of inclement weather. Even so, the arrests against the instigators did not occur until May 1936, when the mastermind of the operation had already fled to Portugal months earlier. His two closest associates were arrested, as were other police officers who acted as accomplices. The life of his boss during the Civil War, however, is a real mystery. The web assures that he participated in the attempted liberation of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, before he was shot in the Alicante jail.

It is also said that during the Franco dictatorship he served as a policeman until he took a ten-year leave of absence to travel throughout Europe. During World War II, there are those who say that he visited a Nazi concentration camp and that he retired as a commissioner, years later, to continue writing. On page 37 of the June 26, 1982 edition, in a very small obituary, ABC reported: «The writer Mauricio Karl, who specializes in issues of Freemasonry and Communism, has died in Madrid at the age of 86. Mauricio had been a police commissioner and was in charge of the order for the search and capture of his own person on several occasions. His books against the Republic, Communism and the Freemasons were widely distributed between 1931 and 1937 ».

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