Breaking down the wall of silence: the archives in the

Gustavo Castaner
AWB Spain
 The
spanish transition to democracy has
frequently been considered a ¨model¨ for
other countries
 A look back after 30 years reveals that in fact
the spanish transition was based on
agreements with the dictator´s followers
that guaranteed impunity for them and their
 Franco´s
regime pales compared to Hitler´s
and Mussolini´s. He died in bed, apparently a
harmless old man. A deeper look at his
regime reveals a fierce repression, sustained
during nearly 40 years, that controlled all
aspects of spanish life, and that in fact was
much more dire than other dictatorships
(Chile, Argentina…)
 Imagine
statues of Hitler and Mussolini in the
streets of Germany and Italy… That
seemingly impossible situation was the case
until 2007 in Spain, with the passing of the
Law of Historical Memory…
 Much worse, thousands of corpses of the
victims of Franco´s brutal repression lie in
forgotten mass graves without any
 Archives
have been a crucial tool for the
retrieval of the forgotten memory of the
francoist´s repression
 Franco´s regime kept exhaustive archives
detailing the multiple-pronged prosecution of
the vanquished. Even facing difficulties of
access, these archives have proved vital for
the research about this grim period of
spanish history
 Contrary to the somewhat extended image of
a bumbling regime, the francoist state was a
well greased repressive machine, with
excellent information services that ensured a
constant flow of information on the enemies
of the state
 The
military analists share the conviction
that Franco could have won the war in one
year, with the professional army on his side
and the full support of Germany and Italy.
Instead he took three. This was a completely
intentional approach. This was to be a
¨cleansing war¨, to get rid of communists
and enemies of Spain.
 Against an enemy deprived of humanity, ¨the
reds¨, all strong-armed tactics previously
rehearsed in Africa were fair game, including
systematic executions and mass rape
The best known case was Badajoz, where
Franco´s troops shot between 2000 and 4000
people in the bullfight ring after taking the city.
 In words of Jay Allen, reporter of the Chicago
Tribune: ¨They were young, mostly peasants in
blue blouses, mechanics in jumpers, ¨The Reds¨.
They are still being rounded up. At 4 o’clock in
the morning they were turned out into the ring
through the gate by which the initial parade of
the bullfight enters. There machine guns
awaited them. After the first night the blood
was supposed to be palm deep on the far side of
the ring. I don’t doubt it. Eighteen hundred men
–there were women, too- were mowed down
there in some 12 hours. There is more blood
than you would think in 1,800 bodies¨
 Francisco
Espinosa Maestre has documented
in his book ¨The column of death¨ the
bloody advance of the African Army through
Extremadura, spearheaded by the shock
troops of the Spanish Legion. Before entering
each village there was a negotiation with the
landowners on the names that would
integrate the list of the 10% of the
population that would be shot summarily.
 About
gang rapes, John T. Whitaker, reporter
of ¨The New York Herald Tribune¨ wrote:
¨They never denied to me that they had
promised the Moors white women when they
reached Madrid. I sat with these officers in
bivouac and heard them debate the
expediency of such a promise. Some
contended that a white woman was Spanish
even if red. This practice was not denied by
El Mizian, the only Moroccan officer in the
spanish army. I stood at the crossroads
outside Navalcarnero with this Moorish major
when two Spanish girls, not out of their
teens, were brought before him…
 After
questioning them for military
information, El Mizian had them taken into a
small schoolhouse where some forty Moorish
soldiers were resting. As they reached the
doorway an ululating cry rose from the moors
within. I stood horrified in helpless anger. El
Mizian smirked when I remonstrated with
him. “Oh, they’ll not live more more than
four hours”, he said. I supposeFranco felt
that women had to be given to the Moors.
They were unpaid”
 From
march 1937 the wild repression linked
to the war edicts is replaced by court
martials, following the summary trial
procedure. Under an appearance of legality
the objective is to impart quick justice and
the guarantees for the defendants practically
non-existant (the counsel for the defense are
military officers under hierarchic discipline)
After the immediate and frequently fatal
repression associated with war edicts and court
martials, the Law of Political Responsibilities
(February 1939) establishes a second wave of
repressive measures, adressed against those who
“contributed to create or aggravate the
subversion of every kind inflicted to Spain since
October 1st, 1934 and those who, since July
18th, 1936 opposed the National Movement with
concrete actions or grave passivity”
 These Tribunals could impose penalties of total
disqualification, banishment, exile, total or
partial loss of assets and loss of nationality
 The
penalties apply event if the defendant
had died, extending to the descendants.
 The repressive effects of this law had an
enormous effect for the professional and
economic annihilation of the vanquished.
Until September 1941 the regional Tribunals
had initiated 229,549 cases