Spain to mark 70 years since the end of the Civil War

28th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Civil War Wednesday in a low-key fashion which is drawing criticism from associations representing victims of the conflict and the ensuing Franco regime.

MADRID - Parliament will hold a "tribute to the combatants" at the urging of the tiny left-wing United Left party but no member of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist party is scheduled to attend.

In the southeastern Mediterranean port of Alicante, the last city loyal to the losing Republican government to be occupied by conservative General Francisco Franco's troops, several commemorative acts will be held that are being organized by a local historical association.

The city suffered some of the worst air bombings during the three years of the conflict, in which historians estimate that 500,000 people from both sides were killed.

One ceremony scheduled for Sunday will pay tribute to the crew of the Stanbrook, a British ship which managed to escape a blocade of the port of Alicante and escape to Algeria with about 2,000 Republican refugees on board.

"It is an act to commemorate undeniable historical facts, to pay tribute to those who died and were taken prisoner," said the spokesman for Alicante’s Civic Commission for the Recovery of Historical Memory, Enrique Cerdan-Tato.

Emilio Silva, the head of a group that seven years ago started locating and exhuming the bodies of Republicans killed during the war and its aftermath, said Zapatero's goverment was staying away from events marking the end of the war because it "is afraid of angering the right".

Zapatero is likely to be in London on April 1 on the 70th anniversary of the end of the conflict for the G20 summit of major industrialized and developing nations which gets underway the following day, a government spokesman said.

The low-key commemorations planned for that day underscore just how divided Spaniards remain about the causes of the conflict that tore Spain in half and how to deal with its consequences seven decades later.

The civil war, which has been immortalized in books by George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway, was sparked by Franco's Nationalist insurgency against the democratically elected left-wing Republican government.

It is often regarded as a rehearsal for World War II as Franco's revolt was aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy while the Communist Soviet Union came to the aid of Spain's democratically elected administration.

Thousands of foreign volunteers fought on both sides.

A brutal wave of repression followed the Nationalists' victory as Franco sought to consolidate power.

Historians estimate betweeen 50,000 and 130,000 Republicans were executed by Nationalist forces in the early years of Franco's 36-year dictatorship. Many victims were summarily shot and buried in mass graves.

Opponents of the regime, from political militants to simple primary school teachers, were systematically "physically finished off", said Ricard Vinyes, a contemporary history professor at the University of Barcelona.

"It was a real purification decided by the state," he added.

Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, pushed into forced labour and tourtured. Entire villages were wiped out.

"The repression was terrible. For Franco the war was not enough, he needed a second wave of terror," said Silva, whose grandfather was killed by Nationalist troops at the start of the civil war.

Gilbert Grellet/AFP/Expatica


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