Fri. Apr 26th, 2019

Lift the debris

Lift the debris

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Despite what was assured by the last part signed by Franco in Burgos, the first of April 1939 did not end the war, but, according to many of the scholars of the period, the victory began. Even so it was in the terminology of the regime: 1939 "third triumphal year", the 1st of April, would be the "day of victory" and until 1976, the parade of the Armed Forces was called "parade of victory".

Victory began for many, but most Spaniards had lost the war. 25 years later, a rural woman told me with contained emotion that that April 1 was working in the harvest when they began to ring the bells.

- "What good news! We had won the war ... I could not be happy: in my house, my father and my brother were missing and we were left a widow with ten orphans, almost all children, and a threatening future because the workshop that supported us was empty and closed. "

And so on millions of families. Ten percent of the population had died or suffered serious injuries or were in exile or concentration camps and prisons so few families without dead, mutilated, exiled prisoners ... And then come the reprisals. The victory, for a large part of the Spaniards, was pain, worry, anguish and poverty. And for those who lost, worse.


Everyone was aware that the three years of war had been a huge expense. The gold of the Bank of Spain and the precious metals that could be captured among the population served to pay for the arms that the Republic bought in the USSR, France and other countries and the insurgents received, on credit, even more material from Germany and Italy, that they would want to charge.

The country was destroyed, factories, ports, bridges, road junctions, cities (more than 250,000 houses in ruins), had suffered bombings and destructions so that if in 1936 almost everything was somewhat antiquated and poor, in 1939 the rubble predominated .

The gross domestic product, typical of a very modest country, fell by 25% (until 1956 the per capita income before the war before the war did not recover); cereal production fell by 30%; that of beet, 60%. Spain had plunged into poverty: deindustrialization, obsolete agriculture, food deficit, depressing autarchy and, around it, World War II. The victory consisted in the impoverishment of the families, the inflation, the rationing, the black market, the fuel, the generalized begging ...

Politically, what brought peace was the dictatorship, the deprivation of liberty, all the censures, the connection to the Nazi and fascist states, the danger of foreign, Nazi or allied intervention.


80 years have passed, but their deep wounds still hurt. The Transition, for the sake of an essential harmony to achieve democracy and backbone in Europe, launched the Amnesty Law of 1977, approved by the Cortes and endorsed by society, which was one of the starting points for an extraordinary change political, economic and social. Despite this, one of the most bitter national debates of recent times has been the Law of Historical Memory and the search for responsibility for war and dictatorship.

Pedro Laín Entralgo said: "It is true, yes, that the civil war must be forgotten by all, but only after having known the full truth - I insist, the complete truth - of what it was and because it can only be really forgotten what really was known. "

But ignorance of the truth is not the only cause. The American Civil War (1861-1865) is one of the most controversial elements among Americans, despite the exhaustive research and information, a century and a half since more than half of the current population of the United States. UU (320 million) is a recent emigrant or descends from those who arrived after the war. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the end of that conflict, CNN conducted a survey that, according to its director, Holland Keating "shows that there are still racial, political and geographical divisions about the Civil War."

In France, the same thing: collaboration with the Germans during the 1940/44 occupation is the most glassy and controversial national issue three-quarters of a century after the conflict and although that dull civil war between the French seems more than investigated ...


Knowing the truth does not cure the wounds, but without their knowledge it is impossible to end the fever. We must clarify, from the beginning, that the calculation of the victims is not yet complete or absolutely reliable, so there are very different figures circulating.

There is no significant controversy regarding those killed in combat: 132,266 (Ángel D. Martín Rubio), 142,000 (Ramón Salas Larrazabal) and 145,000 (Hugh Thomas).

The differences referred to the civilian victims of the republican terror are not very relevant either and oscillate, according to solvent investigations, between 50,000 (Santos Juliá) and 56,577 (Martín Rubio).

Worst known is the terror of the victors. In general, it presents a wide gap that goes from 55,000 or 56,000 dead (Hungh Thomas and Martín Rubio) to 80,300 (Salas Larrazabal, which includes those shot to 1959), or to the provisional figure of 90,194 (Santos Juliá and others) that arises from the verified and complete investigations of twenty-five provinces and of other seven partially investigated, with what that team suggests a projection for all Spain of about 140,000 deaths: about 90,000 during the war and about 50,000 in the post-war and dictatorship.

Then there are some 50,000 dead in prisons during the postwar period; the victims of the calamities of the war: hunger, disease, extreme poverty, which some authors raise to 120,000. Some 20,000 perished in exile due to death or because of causes inherited from the Civil War.

These figures (520,000 in total), the result of dozens of investigations, are as debatable as all the others, but they seem close to reality because they coincide with demographic research.


Therefore, the approximate data is known but there are more things and, above all, an issue that favors its manipulation and political advantage is pending: the clandestine burials of repression in the rebel zone and the mass graves of the post-war executions. The professor Santos Juliá, recognized authority in the period, points out: "It is still pending that the state agencies give a solution to the problem of the graves and that ends up contaminating any discussion about the past. There is a social demand that has not been taken over by public administrations, putting judges, forensic and political authorities to work on their resolution "

It is not about digging into resentment, but about justice and even Christian mercy. The remains of the victims of the red terror were almost always found, buried, honored; their families were socially recognized, helped in some cases and their civil status clarified. On the contrary, part of the victims of the rebellious terror was thrown into chasms, mines, ditches and mass graves, while their relatives suffered persecution, marginalization, legal uncertainty, social rejection and the disconsolate of not being able to bury them according to their religion and custom . Double victims: of terror, like the others and, in addition, of the abandonment of their Homeland.

In order to forget the war, one of the most urgent and effective measures would be the exhumation of clandestine burials and mass graves. It will not be a panacea because, as Tony Hudt writes: "Memory is intrinsically polemic and biased: what for some is recognition, for others it is omission. In addition, she is a bad adviser as far as the past is concerned ". With everything, it is essential to start there.

Demographic studies 1936-1942:

1,150,000 Spanish missing

The demographers Javier Silvestre and José Antonio Ortega have studied the terrible blow that the Civil War and the immediate postwar period meant for the Spanish population.

* If the demographic growth of the previous years had been maintained, in 1942 there should have been 1,151,000 Spaniards more than those that year were counted.

* In the years of the war, 1936-39, between the expected population and the real population there is a difference of 540,000 people, which would correspond to those killed by the conflict.

* Another section is the one referred to the unborn by causes of war: 39,000.

* In the subsequent triennium, 1939-42, the situation did not improve "because of the harsh conditions of the immediate postwar period" (J. A. Ortega).

* All of this determines that between 1936-1942, a gap of 1,151,000 people was opened between those that existed and those that should have been.


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