Originally published on www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/05/spanish-civil-war-bodies-removed-mass-grave
Spanish civil war victims' bodies finally removed from mass grave
Spain's government publishes first country-wide map of locations of more than 2,000 mass graves from the civil war
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 May 2011 20.01 BST
The bones of 62-year-old Severina Gómez and 23 others whose remains had lain together for 75 years, surrounded by bullet cases and with hands tied behind backs, have finally been removed from their mass grave in countryside near the central Spanish village of Loma de Montija.
Anxious family members watched last week as forensic archaeologists and volunteers scraped through layers of mud to uncover evidence of a crime committed in the heat of a civil war that still haunts parts of Spain – and that served as a curtain raiser to the bloodshed of the second world war.
After a decade of bitter debate over how to heal the wounds left by conflict and dictatorship without stoking ancient hatreds, Spain's government on Thursday published on the internet the first countrywide map showing the location of more than 2,000 mass graves from the civil war.
The map is part of a series of measures, including a searchable database of victims and graves, designed to satisfy the demands of people such as Gómez's grandson, Agustín Fernández, who led a local campaign to dig up the Loma de Montija grave.
"We used to go and lay flowers there on All Saints' Day, but the police would try to stop us and others would take them away. Even now the village is split," said Fernández, 64, who is waiting for DNA tests to identify his grandmother.
Severina Gómez was one of some 120,000 leftwing sympathisers killed away from the frontline by the nationalist forces of the rightwing dictator General Francisco Franco after he rebelled against Spain's elected government in 1936. "My father died with the pain of never having recovered his mother's corpse," Fernández said.
In 2007 the socialist government introduced what became known as the "historical memory" law, which recognised victims of the Franco regime.
Other measures by the government have included removing 570 Francoist monuments and symbols from public places, awarding 13,400 pensions to people orphaned or sent into exile as children and giving Spanish nationality to 188,000 descendants of exiles.
Presenting the results of almost four years of work, the interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said: "No human being should be buried in a ditch."
Not everyone, however, agrees that the government of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has achieved its aim of closing wounds. "It is an aberration," complained Maria Eugenia Yague, daughter of one of Franco's most infamous civil war generals, in a recent letter to the defence ministry after her father's bust was removed from a sports centre in nearby Burgos. "This is no way to govern."
Others think the government should do much more. "It is great that the government publishes a map," said Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. "But I don't understand why it refuses to look for and dig up the victims itself, leaving it to volunteer groups like us.
"The crimes are as bad as they can get: kidnapping, torture, murder and the concealment of corpses," he said, adding that his group received just ¤46,000 (£41,000) a year to carry out the work.
So far, about 250 of the more than 2,000 mass graves have been excavated, with 5,400 bodies found.
He also criticised an announcement by Rubalcaba that it would be too difficult to recover and identify the tens of thousands of corpses that Franco ordered to be moved to the Valley of the Fallen basilica near Madrid, where he himself would be buried two decades after the civil war.
Silva is the man who sparked the historical memory movement by digging up his own grandfather and a dozen other victims from a mass grave in the northern town of Priaranza del Bierzo in October 2000.
A grassroots campaign to dig up graves eventually broke down decades of government silence and popular fear of raking over the coals of the civil war, which often pitted neighbour against neighbour and left lasting wounds in towns and villages across the country.
With archives finally open for proper study, volunteers and local historians across Spain have slowly revealed the full scope of Francoist repression for the first time.
Last month the British historian and Franco biographer Paul Preston published, in Spanish, a definitive study of the repression on both sides of the civil war called The Spanish Holocaust, which is to be published in English later this year.
He distinguishes between the impulsive violence of uncontrolled thugs and leftwing extremists among those defending the republic and the systematic, deliberate nationalist repression which one Francoist general called an attempt to eliminate "all those who do not think like us".
"A programme of terror and annihilation constituted the central plank of their plan," says Prof Preston.
Communists do tend to praise creating conditions ripe for genocide and social conflict.
Wikipedia, Red Terror
The 'Red Terror' in Spain (Spanish: Terror Rojo en España) is the name given by historians to various acts committed "by sections of nearly all the leftist groups" such as the killing of tens of thousands of people (including 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy, the vast majority in the summer of 1936 in the wake of the military rising), as well as attacks on landowners, industrialists, and politicians, and the desecration and burning of monasteries and churches. News of the military coup unleashed a social revolutionary response and no republican region escaped revolutionary and anticlerical violence - though in the Basque Country this was minimal.
A process of political polarisation had characterised the Spanish Second Republic – party divisions became increasingly embittered and questions of religious identity came to assume a major political significance. Electorally, the Church had identified itself with the Right, which had set itself against social reform.
The insurgents had expected a rapid alzamiento, or rising, to be followed by military rule, and they had not counted on the strength of working-class resistance. In the Catholic heartlands, where the rising with the exception of the Basque territory did enjoy instant success, the repression of Republicans of all kinds followed. General Mola believed that terror behind the lines was essential. Likewise, the failed pronunciamiento of 1936 set loose a violent onslaught on those that revolutionaries in the Republican zone identified as enemies - " where the rebellion failed, for several months afterwards merely to be identified as a priest, a religious or simply a militant Christian or member of some apostolic or pious organization, was enough for a person to be executed without trial."
In recent years the Catholic Church has beatified hundreds of the victims, 233 of them on 11 March 2001 in a spectacular ceremony, the largest single number of beatifications in the church's history.
Some estimates of the Red Terror range from 38,000 to 72,344 lives. Paul Preston, speaking in 2012 at the time of the publication of his book The Spanish Holocaust, put the figure at a little under 50,000.
Historian Julio de la Cueva has written that, "despite the fact that the Church...suffer[ed] appalling persecution" in the Loyalist rearguard, the events have so far met not only with "the embarrassing partiality of ecclesiastical scholars, but also with the embarrassed silence or attempts at justification of a large number of historians and memoirists." Analysts critical of Francisco Franco's military rebellion, a rebellion that emerged to challenge Spain's democratic institutions and elected government, like Helen Graham, have pointed out that it was the military coup that allowed the culture of brutal violence to flourish and " its original act of violence was that it killed off the possibility of other forms of peaceful political evolution."
Following the outbreak of full-scale civil war there was an explosion of atrocities in both the Nationalist and Republican zones.
The days of the greatest anticlerical bloodletting were at the beginning of the civil war, in the aftermath of the generals' rising, and large areas of the country fell under the control of local loyalists and militias. A large part of the terror consisted of a perceived settlement of accounts against bosses and clergy as they lost their powerful position in the social revolution and move towards extremism that took place in the first months of the civil war. According to historian Anthony Beevor: "In republican territory the worst of the violence was mainly a sudden and quickly spent reaction of suppressed fear, exacerbated by desires of revenge for the past" - in contrast with, "the relentless purging of 'reds and atheists' in nationalist territory." After the generals' coup d'état on 17-18 July 1936 the remaining days in July saw 861 priests and religious lose their lives, 95 of them on 25 July, feast day of St James, patron saint of Spain. August saw a further 2,077 clerical victims. After just two months of civil war, 3400 priests, monks and nuns had been murdered.
According to recent research, the Republican death squads were heavily staffed by members of the Soviet secret police, or NKVD. According to author Donald Rayfield, "Stalin, Yezhov, and Beria distrusted Soviet participants in the Spanish war. Military advisors like Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, journalists like Koltsov were open to infection by the heresies, especially Trotsky's, prevalent among the Republic's supporters. NKVD agents sent to Spain were therefore keener on abducting and murdering anti-Stalinists among Republican leaders and International Brigade commanders than on fighting Francisco Franco. The defeat of the Republic, in Stalin's eyes, was caused not by the NKVD's diversionary efforts, but by the treachery of the heretics.
The most famous member of the Loyalist assassination squads was Erich Mielke, the future head of the East German Ministry for State Security.
"During the first months of the fighting most of the deaths did not come from combat on the battlefield but from political executions in the rear—the 'Red' and 'White' terrors. The terror consisted of semi-organized actions perpetrated by almost all of the leftist groups, Basque nationalists, largely Catholic but still mostly aligned with the Republicans, being an exception. Unlike the repression by the right, which "was concentrated against the most dangerous opposition elements", the Republican attacks were more irrational, "murdering innocent people and letting some of the more dangerous go free. Moreover, one of the main targets of the Red terror was the clergy, most of whom were not engaged in overt opposition."
Describing specifically the Red Terror, Stanley Payne states that it "began with the murder of some of the rebels as they attempted to surrender after their revolt had failed in several of the key cities. From there it broadened out to wholesale arrests, and sometimes wholesale executions, of landowners and industrialists, people associated with right-wing groups or the Catholic Church." The Red Terror was "not an irrepressible outpouring of hatred by the man in the street for his 'oppressors,' but a semi-organized activity carried out by sections of nearly all the leftist groups."
As early as 11 May 1931, when mob violence against the Republic's perceived enemies had led to the burning of churches, convents, and religious schools, the Church had sometimes been seen as the ally of the authoritarian right. The academic Mary Vincent has written that: "There was no doubt that the Church would line up with the rebels against the Republic. The Jesuit priests of the city of Salamanca were among the first volunteers to present themselves to the military authorities...The tragedy of the Second Republic was that it abetted its own destruction; the tragedy of the Church was that it became so closely allied with its self-styled defenders." During the war the nationalists claimed that 20,000 priests had been killed; today the figure is put at 4,184 priests, 2,365 members of other religious institutes and 283 nuns, the vast majority during the summer of 1936.
Historian Stanley Payne has called the terror the "most extensive and violent persecution of Catholicism in Western History, in some way even more intense than that of the French Revolution", driving Catholics, left then with little alternative, to the Nationalists even more than would have been expected.
Figures for the Red Terror range from 38,000 to 110,000.
In his recent, updated history of the Spanish Civil War, Antony Beevor "reckons Franco's ensuing 'white terror' claimed 200,000 lives. The 'red terror' had already, according to Beevor, killed 38,000." According to Julio de la Cueva, the toll of the Red Terror was 72,344 lives. Hugh Thomas and Paul Preston said that the death toll was 55,000, and the Spanish historian Julian Casanova said that the death toll was fewer than 60,000.
Previously, Payne had suggested that, "The toll taken by the respective terrors may never be known exactly. The left slaughtered more in the first months, but the Nationalist repression probably reached its height only after the war had ended, when punishment was exacted and vengeance wreaked on the vanquished left. The White Terror may have slain 50,000, perhaps fewer, during the war. The Franco government now gives the names of 61,000 victims of the Red Terror, but this is not subject to objective verification. The number of victims of the Nationalist repression, during and after the war, was undoubtedly greater than that." In Checas de Madrid (ISBN 84-9793-168-8), journalist and historian César Vidal comes to a nationwide total of 110,965 victims of Republican repression; 11,705 people being killed in Madrid alone. Historian Santos Juliá, in the work Víctimas de la guerra civil provides approximate figures: about 50,000 victims of the Republican repression; about 100,000 victims of the Francoist repression during the war with some 40,000 after the war.
Toll on clergy
See also: Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War
In the course of the Red Terror, 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy, 20% percent of the nation's clergy, were killed. The figures break down the as follows: Some 283 women religious were killed. Some of them were badly tortured. 13 bishops were killed from the dioceses of Siguenza Lleida, Cuenca, Barbastro, Segorbe, Jaén, Ciudad Real, Almeria, Guadix, Barcelona, Teruel and the auxiliary of Tarragona. Aware of the dangers, they all decided to remain in their cities. I cannot go, only here is my responsibility, whatever may happen, so said the Bishop of Cuenca. In addition 4,172 diocesan priests, 2,364 monks and friars, among them 259 Claretians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers (also called the De La Salle Brothers), 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits were killed. In some dioceses, the number of secular priests killed are overwhelming:
In Barbastro 123 of 140 priests were killed, about 88 percent of the secular clergy were murdered, 66 percent
In Lleida, 270 of 410 priests were killed. about 62 percent
In Tortosa, 44 percent of the secular priests were killed.
In Toledo 286 of 600 priests were killed.
In the dioceses of Málaga, Minorca and Segorbe, about half of the priests were killed"
In 2001 the Catholic Church beatified hundreds of Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War and beatified 498 more on October 28, 2007.
In October 2008, the Spanish newspaper La Razon published an article on the number of people murdered for practicing Catholicism."
May 1931: 100 church buildings are burned while firefighters refuse to extinguish the flames.
1932: 3000 Jesuits expelled. Church buildings burned with impunity in 7 cities.
1934: 33 priests murdered in the Asturias Revolution.
1936: just a day before July 18, the day the war started, there already have been 17 clergymen murdered.
From July 18 to August 1: 861 clergymen murdered in 2 weeks.
August 1936: 2077 clergymen murdered, more than 70 a day. 10 of them bishops.
Septiembre 14: 3400 clergymen murdered during the first stages of the war.
1939: end of the war; a total of 7000 clergymen and 3000 religious people murdered for practicing Catholicism.
Hugh Thomas, Spanish Civil War
...well worth reading, if only to recall what human beings are capable of. It was a war marked by furious ideological passions, a version in miniature of the titanic struggle between fascism and Communism that was to follow it. Especially in the beginning, but throughout the war, both sides systematically hunted down and shot any person of talent they had any reason to believe might favor the other side. Many tens of thousands of Spain’s best and brightest were squandered in this national decapitation that is such a trademark of the 20th century, mimicking the even more devastating self-immolation that reached its peak of fury in the Soviet Union at the same time, and decades later in Cambodia. Imagine what it would be like if people in a town 20 or 30 miles from yours grabbed weapons, climbed onto trucks and drove to where you live, and then began systematically going door to door, shooting down 100′s of your neighbors for the flimsiest of reasons, including pure malice and personal revenge. That’s what it was like. We forget such events at our peril. They are still quite recent, and could easily happen again.
One wonders how many of the later dictators of central and South America were “inspired” by Franco and his fascists. After all, in the end, he “won,” in the sense that his will prevailed. How many of the organizers of death squads, the “revolutionaries” who murdered and still murder whole villages, and the military thugs responsible for the “disappeared ones” learned their lessons from him? It’s ironic to consider what has become of his “victory,” paid for with the blood of so many of Spain’s most talented children. Today she is ruled by a socialist he certainly would have shot back in July or August of ’36. Franco posed as the defender of outraged Christianity. Recently, I saw the Spanish film “Talk to Her,” in which one of the characters claims that those priests who don’t rape nuns are pedophiles...
There's Atheists on YouTube, promising "the dream" of Communist society can happen again, if you can only "Imagine" as John Lennon put it.
But I don't need to "Imagine," I only have to open a history book and read.
Atheism? No thanks!!
|The Vatican considers the 498 victims - including two bishops, 24 priests, 462 nuns and monks, three deacons or seminarians and seven lay people - to be martyrs, the requirement of evidence of having performed a miracle was waived.|
Most were killed in at the start of the war in 1936 by anti-fascist republican forces.
The war tore Spain apart after the nationalist uprising of General Francisco Franco against the republican Popular Front government.
The Roman Catholic Church strongly supported General Franco's nationalists and called his rebellion a "crusade".
An estimated 7,000 clergy were killed by republican forces but Franco's soldiers carried also out thousands of executions.
From abc.net.au, Vatican beatifies 498 spanish civil war victims
Why don't they have the backbone to just call these monsters by their right name?? These monsters were not Republicans, they were Communists. They were Atheist mobs, mentally sickened and twisted, maddened on Marxist delusions.