Spain is trying to identify the victims of the civil war, as it leads to a fascist past

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who took over the fascist past, still remembers the first time she saw the monumental complex erected by the late dictator Francisco Franco.

“I saw a place built by force in honor of the dictator,” he said of that visit four decades ago in a rift in a rift that holds the remains of at least 33,000 people killed in the 1930s. The civil war that brought Franco to power. “It made me feel powerless,” he recalled.

Now Calvo wants to do more, four and a half decades after Franco died.

The Socialist Minister advocates legislation that would, among other reforms, strengthen the exhumation of tens of thousands of bodies dumped by Franco’s troops in pits in the country, create an authoritative register of victims, and change the valley itself. In the center of the site is a huge basilica 50 km north of Madrid, dug into the mountain 150 m below the cross, with a domed mosaic depicting the fascist Falange flag.

Near a monument in a valley north of Madrid, a person holds a Franco-era Spanish flag © EPA-EFE

The Spanish move comes at a time when countries around the world are counting on their history և The UK is debating how to deal with it. slavery the past և The United States, which faces centuries of racial injustice.

Critics say Spain’s left-wing administration is sowing further divisions in a polarized society, although Calvo, who sees the civil war as part of a broader struggle against fascism, insists the plans owe nothing to the country. :

“What do we say to families?” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “We have no right to forget, we must remember. “We have disappeared more than Chile and Argentina combined.”

Government officials confirm historians’ estimates that the Franco regime killed between 140,000 and 150,000 people in military tribunals and extrajudicial killings between 1936 and 1944. They say that in the next four to five years, 20,000-25,000 can still be recovered from mass graves.

Although the defeated Republican side was also guilty of war crimes, they were not at the same level. “Repressions [Franco’s] were rebels [in terms of deaths] “About three times as big as what happened in the Republican zone,” wrote historian Sir Paul Preston in his book. The Spanish Holocaust,

Carmen Calvo, Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo supports reforms that include exhumation of thousands of bodies dumped by Franco forces © Chema Moya / EPA-EFE

The Spanish government hopes to finalize the bill in the coming weeks, after which it will be sent to parliament for approval.

But this week, Spain’s top judges raised concerns about some issues suggestions:in particular, the impact on the right to assembly ազատ freedom of speech, given the Government’s plans to close the Franco Memorial Fund. The judges also worried that the measures could be “asymmetric” in favor of Republican victims.

Recently in an FT interview Pablo Casado, the leader of the center-right opposition People’s People’s Party, described the government’s activities as inconsistent with modern concerns.

“Am I going to talk about Franco?” He asked. “I’m going to talk about a cultural war here, a cultural war is not what happened 80 years ago.”

The bill is the third major step by the Socialist-led government in this century towards Franco’s legacy. 2007 The law allowed state funding for the exhumation of mass graves, և Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ordered the removal Franco’s body from the valley in 2019

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

But the latest measurement goes much further than the previous ones.

In particular, it makes the recovery of corpses from mass graves not only the right of the family, but also the obligation of the state.

The government has already stepped up its decentralization efforts, which largely stopped in 2013, when the then Spanish PP administration reverted to 2007. The law he considered divisive.

This year, the government is financing the exhumation of 114 sites throughout Spain. In total, according to officials, there are still 600 mass graves.

Some sites are small, others are huge. Excavators have found the bodies of more than 450 people shot dead by Franco’s troops in one part of Sicily. in the end he could give 1000. Officials say another site in Cորդrdoba may contain up to 5,000 bodies.

The man remains in the mass grave of Seville
People remain in the mass grave in Seville, where 1,103 people were killed during the civil war in the late 1930s © io ulio Munoz / EPA-EFE

The law also creates a national database of victims’ DNA and updates civil war education in schools.

Officials admit that this is one of the most explosive issues for everyone. “The state has a responsibility to make these truths a part of people’s education,” said Calvo. “How can someone initiate a political case so that people do not know?”

The government does not yet intend to deter all 12,000 Republican Republicans buried in the valley from mass graves taken by the Franco regime, along with their former enemies. But the law recognizes the right of families to remove families from websites. There are already about 60 questions.

The more than 33,000 graves behind the cathedrals will be turned into a civilian cemetery, where the body of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the fascist Phalanx, will be moved from its consecrated place to the altar.

On the last day of June, several visitors to the Valley complained about the government’s plans. “It’s better to leave things as they are than to reopen the wounds,” said Diego, a security guard who declined to give his last name.

Others rightly believed that Spain had to face the worst period in its history. “Our grandparents fought a civil war. “They thought it was real peace then, but now everything looks different,” said teacher Sol De Mosteirin Hernandez.

“We need a deep reconciliation process in this country, it is just beginning.”

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