That “they all killed the same” and “it was a war between brothers.” That the mass graves are an invention. Or that victims are looking for “grants.” The sociological Franco regime has spent years – long before we incorporated the concept – feeding fake news to build the Memory of the victors. A speech that keeps Spanish society navigating, not infrequently, between forgetfulness and equidistance before the coup, the Civil War and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Decades of delay in historical memory condemn most families to never recover their dead
Denialism, agitated lately by the rise of the extreme right and its presence in Parliament, has flooded the public discourse with repeated platitudes as truths that threaten the so-called Historical Memory and despise the fulfillment of the most elementary Human Rights. Here are some examples.
“They all killed the same“
False. The Civil War adds half a million dead, in round numbers. The Franco regime executes (outside the battlefield) some 150,000 people (most of the forced disappeared they are still in mass graves). The republican rearguard accumulates another 50,000 victims. The rest lose their lives in the war itself. “The exhaustive investigations carried out allow us to affirm that, in general terms, the repression of the rebels was approximately three times higher than that of the republican zone”, in the words of historian Paul Preston.
“It is necessary to create an atmosphere of terror (…) eliminating without scruples or hesitation anyone who does not think like us (…) anyone who is openly or secretly a defender of the Popular Front must be shot,” he ordered on July 19, 36 the coup general Emilio Mola. And “in the government zone there was no plan” although “the absence of violence on the part of the popular front committees that were formed throughout the country did not prevent them from contributing their share of blood,” explains historian Francisco Espinosa Maestre.
“It was a war between brothers and two opposing sides“
False. It was a coup by the economic, military and religious oligarchy against democracy and the Government of Spain, which in July 1936 led a coalition of the main left parties called the Popular Front. It was not a Cainite struggle even though there were, in particular cases, family members supporting the coup plotters or the Democrats.
In much of Spain there was no war, understood in traditional terms. An example: Cádiz, Huelva and Seville have almost as many executed as the state terrorism of the dictatorships of Argentina and Chile together. In that triangle of Andalusia, the fascist coup d’état triumphs and there are no notable battles, but a systematic repression that leaves some 30,000 murdered.
“Mass graves are a lie”
False. He Trench Map state registers more than 120,000 victims buried in 2,591 illegal graves. The cartography of terror has not been updated since 2011. Andalusia, Aragon and Asturias are the communities with the highest number of identified graves. Since 2000, more than 740 graves have been opened throughout the country and around 9,000 skeletons have been recovered. A study estimates that only a quarter of the missing will be able to be recovered and some 7,000 people identified, according to a report commissioned by the Government of Spain and to which eldiario.es has had access.
“Why don’t they look for the graves where there are Francoists? And Paracuellos, what?“
Because Franco has already opened them. And with public money. The nascent Franco regime built its own Historical Memory and began by giving its own truth, justice and reparation to those who died fighting for the fascists and victims of leftist violence.
The dictatorship also instructed the so-called General Cause, a theoretical process to purge “the criminal acts committed throughout the national territory during the Red domination”, which began in 1940 and which largely ends up being pure Franco propaganda.
The so-called Paracuellos massacres add up to more than 2,000 right-wingers killed during the battle of Madrid. The executions took place in the ‘sacas’ of prisoners in Madrid jails between November and December 1936. “Indeed, there were Paracuellos and also other atrocities,” says Preston. But the Government of Spain “did not approve the massacres in Madrid in October and November 1936 that were the work of the anarchists and the PCE,” says the Hispanicist. “Paracuellos has always been the resource of the justifiers of fascist terror,” a “propaganda issue that has lasted for eight decades,” says Espinosa Maestre.
“The Republic was a communist dictatorship“
False. The Second Spanish Republic was a democratic regime that relieved the monarchy of Alfonso XIII. The first reformist biennium after its proclamation (1931-1933) welcomes governments of a republican and socialist nature. The elections of the year 33 bring the triumph of the right and the so-called black biennium.
And the polls, in February 36, give the victory to the Popular Front whose program is signed by the Republican Left, the Republican Union, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Syndicalist Party and the Marxist Unification Workers Party, in addition to the General Union of Workers and the National Federation of Socialist Youth. The PCE obtains 17 seats out of 473, the PSOE reaches 99 deputies, followed by the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA) with 88 and the Republican Left with one less, in a Parliament with up to 32 parties represented.
“There is no need to open wounds and the victims seek revenge and subsidies”
The families that look for victims in mass graves are protected by international law, human rights, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance… Memory is not revisionism, nor revenge. Providing truth, justice and reparation is a debt that the United Nations claims from Spain. A duty of the State that starts by giving a dignified burial to the dead. In reading well the darkest pages of the recent past. And close wounds.
In addition, many of the processes for recovering the Historical Memory (including archaeological works) have been carried out by the victims themselves and by Human Rights associations. That is why Spain continues to be a democratic anomaly with tens of thousands of forced disappearances. Not true that phrase of the current PP senator Rafael Hernando: “Some have remembered his father, it seems, when there were grants to find him.”
In fact, state public aid was paralyzed since 2011, when it was suspended by the Government of Mariano Rajoy, until it was rescued in the current call launched by the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory. Some autonomous communities, councils and even the city council have been making up for this lack in recent years.