Juan Pujol, a brief biography

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Attributed to Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Juan Pujol García was born in Barcelona on February 14, 1914. Son of a Catalan industrialist, he studied at the Royal Poultry School of Arenys de Mar, where he received the only degree obtained during his youth.

According to his own testimony, when the Spanish Civil War broke out he followed the ethical code instilled in him by his father, who had died a few years earlier. Juan decided to avoid the front lines and not participate in the conflict. This decision led him to remain hidden from the Republican forces for two years. Finally, he enlisted with them only to then escape from the Republican trenches, changing sides and joining the Nationalist faction.

After the end of the Spanish Civil War, he settled in Madrid. In Burgos he had met Araceli González Carballo, a native of Lugo and the undisputed joint protagonist of this story. They married in 1940 and had three children: Juan, Jorge and María Eugenia.

After the victory of Franco, Juan and Araceli decided to contribute to ending the Second World War by helping the United Kingdom as much as possible against the Axis powers. Juan was rejected several times by the British Military Intelligence Services (the MI5) and recruited in Madrid by the Abwehr, the German Intelligence Service. He was given Alaric as his codename, as the Germans were prompted by their belief in his small yet nonexistent spy network within England. Unable to get real information for either faction, Alaric decided to invent it: he transmitted his messages from Lisbon pretending to be in Britain, using maps, dictionaries of military terms, press releases and the Blue Guide of maritime navigation, whatever he could find in bookstores, news kiosks and libraries.

In April of 1942, thanks to Araceli González’s intervention before the US embassy Juan Pujol was finally recruited by MI5 and transferred to London. He was baptised by the British with the code name Garbo, the best actor in the world. With Thomas Harris, his most direct boss, he expanded his fictitious network to 27 operative agents, in order to supply false information to the Germans.

The network was baptized as Arabal by the Abwehr and financed by the Third Reich. In this way, Garbo influenced the decision making of the German High Command, which trusted him even after the end of the war. Highlighted -among other achievements- is his decisive contribution to Operation Fortitude, a much wider poisoning manoeuvre whose objective was to convince the Germans that the landing in France would take place in the port of Calais and not on the Normandy beaches.

Juan Pujol García was the only participant of the Second World War decorated by both sides, receiving the highest honours: he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and received the German Iron Cross.

MI5 gave Pujol half of the money the Abwehr had paid for its alleged espionage services.

Once the war ended, the family moved to Venezuela out of fear of reprisals. However, after a series of hard economic setbacks, Araceli did not adapt to the new life, which led to the separation of the couple. Juan Pujol managed to get the British military intelligence to spread false news of his death, of which several versions circulated: for example, that it took place in Angola or Mozambique, and that it was, either by malaria or by snake bite.

Both Pujol and Araceli remade their lives, with the collaboration of the Allies. In Venezuela, Pujol taught English to local employees of the Shell oil company; He later opened a stationery store and after his marriage with Carmen Cilia Álvarez he had three more children, Maria Elena, Carlos Miguel and Juan Carlos.

Araceli returned to Madrid. She married again, this time to Edward Kreisler, an American businessman with excellent political and diplomatic connections. Together they founded an art gallery with the same name, Kreisler. Edward Kreisler had been a double for Rodolfo Valentino and was well connected with Hollywood.

This would have been the end of the story, if it were not for the fact that, in 1984, British writer, politician and military historian, Nigel West, pseudonym of Rupert Allason, discovered that Garbo was still alive and together they wrote a book in which they unveiled this story to the world.

After his reappearance, Pujol received all kinds of honours in England and was able to meet with former colleagues of MI5. Finally he was reunited with the children of his first marriage, who had considered him dead until then. Later, both families met.

Juan Pujol died in Caracas, in 1988.

Araceli González never published her memoirs: she kept her own story secret and died in 1990.