Spanish Judge seeks to unearth fate of Franco’s victims

For the first time since the Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco, died in 1975, Spanish authorities are taking action regarding the victims of the regime who still linger in thousands of unmarked graves throughout the country.

The high court judge Baltasar Garzón…has sent an official request to various government archives, the Catholic church, the keepers of Franco’s tomb and the Madrid, Granada, Cordoba and Seville city halls for documentation on mass graves from the 1936-1939 Spanish civil war and the subsequent 36-year dictatorship. Garzón is asking for victims’ names, and the dates and circumstances of their deaths.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Emilio Silva, founder and head of the non-profit Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH), whose volunteer forensics, archaeologists and anthropologists have excavated 120 mass graves containing around 1,200 people over the past eight years. “This is the first time Spanish authorities have done something like this and it could be the first step towards a truth commission,” he said…

Historians estimate that from the beginning of the civil war between Franco’s Nationalists and supporters of the Republic to the dictator’s death, Franco’s forces killed around 150,000 people and Republicans killed around 60,000, mostly during the war. The regime recovered almost all of the Nationalist dead, but Franco’s victims have never received the same treatment. Silva said the people in mass graves could number at least 100,000.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to know several veterans of the Spanish Civil War. It’s worth reflecting that every one of them stayed true to their ideals of fighting fascism, fighting for freedom.

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