Manzanas entered the police force in 1938, in Irun, where he established one of his infamous interrogation centers and collaborated with Nazi Germany — he helped the Gestapo to arrest Jewish people that were trying to escape from Occupied France. He was assigned to Donostia-San Sebastián in 1941, eventually becoming commander of the Brigada Político-Social (BPS), the francoist political police division, in San Sebastián. A Basque himself, he was a vehement opponent of Basque nationalism, which had been revived in the 1960s, and, in particular, to the then fledging organisation ETA.
Thirty years after his death, Manzanas was awarded the medal of Civil Merit dedicated to the victims of terrorism by José María Aznar. Manzanas' service under Franco's regime, the fact that he was known for having used police torture, and the fact that he was not the first torturer rewarded by the Spanish Government raised some controversy about this award.
- Iglesias, María Antonioa. "Hablan las víctimas de Melitón Manzanas" (The victims of Melitón Manzanas speak), El País, 2001-01-28. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
- "El Gobierno condecora al policía torturador Melitón Manzanas por ser víctima de ETA" (Spanish Government decorates torturer police agent Melitón Manzanas, because he was victim of ETA), El Mundo, 2001-01-20. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
- "España: no deben tolerarse las recompensas a torturadores" (Spain: rewards to torturers should not be tolerated), Amnesty International. 2001-01-30.
- Jeffery, Simon (2004-03-11). "Timeline: Eta". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-12.
- "Begoña Urroz afera" (PDF) (in Basque). Berria. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
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