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FRANÇO

Spain plans truth commission on civil war and Franco’s dictatorship

Spain has announced it wants to establish a truth commission on wrongdoings during the civil war and dictatorship, in what would be a major step in a country that has largely brushed aside the dark period.

Spain plans truth commission on civil war and Franco's dictatorship
Human remains discovered during exhumation works done by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid. Photo: AFP

In a statement, the justice ministry said “historical memory” was one of its seven priorities under the new Socialist government, outlining a number of measures it would take in this sensitive area.

It said it would search for people who disappeared during the 1936-9 civil war and Francisco Franco's subsequent dictatorship, which only ended upon his death in 1975.

The justice ministry said it would make public the exhumations every year and number of people found.

An official census of the victims of the civil war and dictatorship would be created.

The ministry also plans to set up a “truth commission” and take away all symbols glorifying that period such as the street names of Franco generals.

After Franco's death, as the nation transitioned to democracy, authorities opted to draw a veil over the past for fear of further conflict.

Franco watching the front during the Civil War. Photo: AFP

As a result, what happened is still largely suppressed, with Cambodia the only country to have more mass graves than Spain, according to Amnesty International.

Decades on, this means that no trials have been held, descendants of those who were killed by Franco's nationalists are still searching for the remains of their loved ones, and monuments honouring Franco's regime are scattered across Spain.

A bystander takes a snapshot of Robert Capa's famous Spanish Civil War photo “The falling soldier”, taken in 1936. Photo: AFP

Chief among these is the Valley of the Fallen, a mammoth mausoleum to the late dictator just outside Madrid that was built in the 1940s and 50s largely by prisoners drawn from the forces Franco defeated in the civil war.

SEE ALSO: Spain begins to exhume bodies from Valley of the Fallen

He is buried there, as are more than 30,000 dead from both sides of the civil war, which was triggered by Franco's rebellion against an elected Republican government.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works done by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid. Photo: AFP

In his book “The Spanish Holocaust”, historian Paul Preston estimates that 200,000 people died in combat during the civil war, and another 200,000 were murdered or executed — 150,000 of these at the hands of nationalists.

He calculates that 20,000 supporters of the fallen republic were executed after the war. 

 

FRANÇO

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a special fund to exhume graves at the Valley of the Fallen, where thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictator Francisco Franco are buried.

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen
Women hold up pictures of their fathers and relatives, who were condemned to death during Franco’s dictatorship. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The Socialist government said it had set aside €665,000 ($780,000) to exhume some 33,000 victims whose remains lie behind a vast basilica near Madrid.

Franco was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975 but his remains were removed in 2019 and transferred to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montera told reporters that more than 60 families and international institutions had called for the exhumation of the victims to give relatives who suffered during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship “moral reparation”.

Campaigners estimate more than 100,000 victims from the war and its aftermath remain buried in unmarked graves across Spain —- a figure, according to Amnesty International, only exceeded by Cambodia.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works carried out by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid, in a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were dumped during the Spanish civil war. Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP

Built between 1940 and 1958 partly by the forced labour of political prisoners, the imposing basilica and the mausoleum of the Valley of the Fallen was initially intended for those who had fought for Franco.

But in 1959 the remains of many Republican opponents were moved there from cemeteries and mass graves across the country without their families being informed.

The crypts and ossuaries where some of the victims are buried are inaccessible as they were walled off at the time.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

As well as the Valley of the Fallen, his government is also focusing on identifying remains founds in mass graves across Spain.

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