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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Requiem pour les républicains espagnols

by By C.Ce.

Requiem for Spanish Republicans: Review of “Les Fosses du franquisme”

Translated by Carol Gullidge

Translated Tuesday 28 March 2006, by Carol Gullidge

The price to be paid for the transition to democracy after Franco’s death was an official amnesia regarding the crimes of the Franco regime - an eradication of both the republican opposition and the memory of the victims - and silence on the part of those defeated in the civil war. This book by Emilio Silva and Santiago Macías breaks the silence and reawakens the memory.

Requiem for Spanish republicans: a review of “Les Fosses du franquisme” [“Franco’s Graves”], a book that breaks the silence surrounding the repression.
By Emilio Silva and Santiago Macías, translated from “Las fosas de Franco”, by Patrick Pépin-Levy (Éditions Calmann. 2006, 310 pages, 20.90 euros)}}

This is first and foremost a family story: the search for a grandfather assassinated by Franco’s men in October 1936 and whose body has been buried somewhere - nobody knows where - in the region of El Bierzo, in north-west Spain. In the year 2000, Emilio Silva discovers the location. “At that moment, I thought back to my grandmother. She had died two years earlier, silent, hardly uttering a word, as though struck dumb by a fear that had never left her since that night when her husband had handed over his ring and his watch to one of his six children...”

The story of the grandson of a republican killed at the very start of the Civil War plunges us into the tragic fate of some 30,000 other gunned-down republicans who still haunt common graves: a repression covered up by the Franco dictatorship. Condemned to bear the burden of shame, the families of the “vanquished” are immured into silence by the “victors’” camp. The eyes of the few witnesses to the summary executions will remain forever closed. The return to democracy will open up a small breach in this wall of silence. But not for long.

Patrick Pépin produced “Histoires intimes de la guerre d’Espagne” [“Personal stories from the Spanish Civil War”] - a series of twenty-five radio programmes on the subject for "France Culture" in 2004. In a robust preface, he tells us that this book by Emilio Silva and Santiago Macías is “a document that is indispensable to understanding reverberations in Spanish society today, and for a more informed reading of what was the Spanish civil war”. The conditions peculiar to the Spanish transition, he stresses, explain “...this delay in getting down to the rehabilitation of the republicans, and in recognising Catholic-nationalist crimes”.

Even today, this work has yet to materialise. The victims of Franco’s repression, perhaps 200,000 of them, still wander on roads, in fields, or around cemeteries. In the name of national reconciliation, which rings tragically hollow for the victims and their descendants, successive authorities have carefully avoided facing up to this past. “There’s still a silence, an official amnesia, which are just another way of piling on the punishment for all the victims”, reckons Santiago Macías who, in the second part of the book, offers a platform for the “disappeared” through the evidence of their close relatives. For, he explains, “That is probably one of the worst consequences of Franco’s dictatorship - the fact that this can still go on, beneath the surface, in a consolidated democracy”.

The Spanish civil war is over. Franco is dead. But we’re still waiting for an unambiguous condemnation of the crimes of Franco’s regime, and reparation for the victims. The time has come for the Spanish authorities to tackle this task of remembering, essential in any democracy. That is what Silva and Macías strongly recommend in this moving, serious, and compelling book.

[Translator’s notes]

Further information on Emilio Silva’s search for his grandfather’s grave can be found on pages 5, 6, and 22 of
http://www.alba-valb.org/volpdf/v24n3_september2002.pdf and on http://recuerdo.macreablog.com/rub1598/

Published in l’Humanité on 7 March 2006

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