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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Elisa Santafe recently filed an interesting report for AFP on the descendents of those who fled Spain during the 1936 – 1939 Civil War who are now offering their DNA so that bodies in mass graves can be identified.

Apparently it has seen a return to Spain of some of the children and grandchildren of the refuges from Franco who now live in South America, France, Italy and Switzerland. They met earlier this month in the cultural centre in the town of Aranda de Duero in Burgos.

Santafe tells us these descendents believe their relatives are amongst those who are buried in the seven mass graves in the area. To date 110 people have taken part in DNA tests the results of which should be ready by early 2009.

It is all part of a scheme being run by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH). It has initiated this project in Burgos which it hopes will encourage the uncovering of more mass graves in Spain.

The ARMH, says Santafe, set up the first DNA bank in Burgos as it is a province in which a large number of people disappeared. Many rail workers unions were based in the area and the ARMH suspects that Franco engaged in “political cleansing” by removing them.

As in all civil wars there were atrocities and blood letting on the left and right. It is estimated that around 500,000 people, on the Republican and Nationalist sides, were killed in the civil war. However after Franco's victory, another 50,000 Republicans were executed by the victorious Nationalist forces with tens of thousands more sent to jail.

Today’s problem is that whilst Franco’s regime honoured its own dead it left tens of thousands of its opponents buried in hundreds of unmarked graves across the country. Hence last October the Spanish socialist government passed the "Law of Historical Memory" that provides state subsidies for associations set up to exhume the remains from the mass graves.

This initiative has again divided the country with many socialists and those on the far left anxious to learn what happened to their family and party members, whilst many on the right would prefer this sleeping dog was allowed to lie. As part of this process many of the street names and monuments that honour the Nationalist era are also being torn down. This in turn has not only upset many on the right but the guardians of the nation’s heritage as well.

For now my eyes for now are dim – but I will return to this subject shortly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Though many people in Spain are still 'Franquistas', the country is rising up being able to 'speak'.
It is a very sad task BUT, I think everybody needs to have their dead found.