Spain wants to identify the victims of the civil war because it bears a fascist past

Carmen Calvo, the former deputy prime minister of Spain’s fascism, still remembers the first time she saw the huge complex of buildings built by the late dictator Francisco Franco.

“I saw a place of forced labor built for the glory of a dictator,” she said of her visit to the Valley of Fallen 40 years ago. This divided place has at least 33,000 people who died in the 1930s. The civil war brought Franco to power. “It made me feel powerless,” she recalled.

Now, four and a half years after Franco’s death, Calvo wants to do more.

The socialist minister is advocating legislation that, among other reforms, will speed up the excavation of tens of thousands of bodies dumped by Franco’s troops in pits across the country, establish an authoritative register of victims, and change the valley itself. At the core of the site 50 kilometers north of Madrid is a huge cathedral, dug into the mountain under a 150-meter cross, with domed mosaics and engraved with the flag of the fascist spear flag.

A man holds a Franco-era Spanish flag high in the Monument Valley of the Fallen north of Madrid © EPA-EFE

As Spain takes action, countries around the world are facing the reckoning of their own history, and Britain is debating how to deal with its history. Slave trade The past and the United States are struggling to deal with the racial injustice that has prevailed for centuries.

Critics claim that Spain’s left-wing government is sowing the seeds of further division in a polarized society, although Calvo, who views the civil war as part of a broader anti-fascist struggle, insists that these plans are nothing more than what the country owes itself. .

“What do we say to our family?” She said in an interview with the Financial Times. “We have no right to forget, we have an obligation to remember… We have more missing persons than Chile and Argentina combined.”

Government officials emphasized the estimates of historians that the Franco regime killed approximately 140,000-150,000 people in military courts and extrajudicial murders between 1936 and 1947. They said that in the next four to five years, 20,000-25,000 people may still recover from the mass graves.

Although the defeated Republican party also committed war crimes, their scales are not the same. “Suppression [Franco’s] The rebels are [in terms of deaths] About three times what happened in the Republican area,” the historian Sir Paul Preston wrote in his book Spanish massacre.

Carmen Calvo, Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo supports reforms, including the excavation of thousands of corpses dumped by Franco’s army © Chema Moya/EPA-EFE

The Spanish government hopes to finalize a draft law in the next few weeks and then submit it to parliament for approval.

But this week’s top Spanish judges proposal, Especially the impact on assembly rights and freedom of speech, because the government plans to close a foundation dedicated to commemorating Franco. The judges also worry that these measures may be “asymmetric” and benefit the victims of the Republican Party.

In a recent “Financial Times” interview, Pablo CasadoThe leader of the center-right opposition People’s Party described the government’s attention as out of step with contemporary attention.

“Should I talk about Franco?” he asked. “I’m going to talk about the culture war now. The current culture war did not happen 80 years ago.”

The draft law is the third major measure taken by the socialist government in this century to solve the problems left by Franco. A law in 2007 authorized the state to fund the excavation of large-scale cemeteries, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ordered the demolition Franco’s body 2019 is from Silicon Valley.

Franco's coffin was moved from the Valley of Fallen
The coffin of Spanish fascist leader Francisco Franco was removed from the Tomb of the Fallen Valley in 2019 © Juan Carlos Hidalgo/Getty Images

But the latest measures go further than its predecessors.

In particular, it makes it not only the right of the family to retrieve the body from the mass grave, but also the obligation of the state.

The government has accelerated the pace of decentralization, but it basically stopped in 2013, when Spain’s PP government cancelled the 2007 law, which it considered divisive.

This year, the government is funding the excavation of 114 sites across Spain. In total, official estimates still have as many as 600 mass graves.

Some sites are small, some are very large. The excavator found the bodies of more than 450 people shot and killed by Franco’s army at a location in Seville; it could eventually produce 1,000. Officials said there may be as many as 5,000 bodies in another location in Cordoba province.

Human remains in a mass grave in Seville
Human remains in a mass grave in Seville. During the civil war in the late 1930s, an estimated 1,103 people were executed © Julio Munoz/EPA-EFE

The law also established a national victim DNA database and plans to update school teaching during the Civil War.

Officials admit that this is one of the most explosive issues. “The state has an obligation to make these truths part of people’s education,” Calvo said. “How can someone give political reasons that people don’t know?”

The government currently has no plans to rebury the bodies of the approximately 12,000 Republicans dug up from the mass graves by the Franco regime in the valley along with their former enemies. But the legislation recognizes that the family has the right to retrieve the body from the scene. There have been about 60 requests.

More than 33,000 tombs behind the cathedral chapel will be converted into civilian cemeteries, and the body of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Fascist Phalangist Party, will be removed from the altarpiece. The privileged position is removed.

On a recent day in June, several tourists in the valley complained about the government’s plan. Diego, a security guard who refused to give his surname, said: “Rather than let the wound heal again, it is better to keep it the same.”

Others are right to think that Spain should face the scariest period in its history. “Our grandparents suffered a civil war… They thought there would be real peace afterwards, but now things look different,” said teacher Sol De Mosteyrín Hernández.

“We need a deep reconciliation process in this country-and this is just the beginning.”

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