Francisco Franco ruled Spain from 1939, after the Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975. His remains were placed in a tomb in the Valley of the Fallen near Madrid, alongside thousands of people who died – both Nationalists and Republicans – in the bloody conflict that raged between 1936 and 1939. The Catholic basilica and its 150-metre high cross in the Cuelgamuros Valley mark the final resting place of 40,000 people in what was claimed to be a “national act of atonement” and reconciliation.
However, a number of those buried from the losing side were transferred there during Franco’s regime without permission from their families.
After a decade-long battle from Spanish socialists and others to have him removed from the Valley of the Fallen, the country’s highest court has ruled he will be moved to a municipal cemetery to lie alongside his wife.
This has been a priority for the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party since it came to power in June 2018, as they have long sought for the Valley of the Fallen to be a memorial to the victims of the civil war.
Acting vice-president Carmen Calvo declared that the Government would proceed as soon as possible.
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General Franco’s body is being moved from the Valley of the Fallen
Acting vice president Carmen Calvo
He said: “This is good news or the Spanish people, out of respect for the victims on both sides, so that our coexistence can be fully free and ethical.”
However, Spain’s resurgent far-right have opposed the exhumation of Franco’s remains and are treating it as an insult.
Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox party, tweeted: “This is how the socialist campaign begins, profaning tombs, digging up hatreds, questioning the legitimacy of the monarchy.
“Vox alone has the courage to defend freedom and common sense in the face of totalitarianism.”
Family tomb in Mingorrubio Cemetery after the Spanish government decided to move Francos remains
The reason this is such a significant and controversial moment comes down to Franco’s actions during the civil war and after, especially the White Terror.
The White Terror consisted of numerous assassinations of political opponents during the civil war and the first nine years of Franco’s regime.
Thousands of victims were buried in hundreds of unmarked mass graves.
Victims included loyalists to the Second Spanish Republic, the Liberals, the Popular Front, the Socialists, the Trotskyists, the Communists, the Anarchists, Protestant Christians and freethinkers, intellectuals, Freemasons and nationalists from Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country.
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Demonstrators outside the Spanish Supreme Court yesterdat
General Franco was in charge when thousands of political dissidents were slaughtered
The main goal of the White Terror was to terrify the civil population who opposed the Nationalist coup and eliminate supporters of the Republic and the militants of leftist parties.
Because of this, some historians have described the White Terror as a genocide.
It is unknown how many victims there were, as many Republicans fled Spain after losing the civil war and the Francoist regime destroyed thousands of documents relating to the White Terror to hide the executions.
In fact, the true horror of the White Terror was not known until after Franco died, when many of the mass graves were discovered.
However, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were slaughtered in total.
Many of these now lie in the Valley of the Fallen, alongside the dictator who ordered their murders.
This is why many people in Spain feel like Franco’s final resting place is an affront to the victims.
Chato Galante, who was imprisoned and tortured by the Franco regime in the Seventies, welcomed the court ruling.
Demonstrators outside the Spanish Supreme Court
He told The Guardian: “It’s a huge satisfaction for all those working for the recovery of historical memory that he’s coming out of the Valley of the Fallen.”
However, he added: “This isn’t the end of the process. We now need to get the bodies of all the loved ones who were locked in there and give them a decent burial.
“We need to see a judicial resolution formally condemning Franco’s criminal regime.”
The wounds of division still exist within Spain, as demonstrated by the controversy surrounding Franco’s exhumation.
Spanish Attonery General Maria Jose Segarra
Catalonian independence protest
It is also demonstrated in the ongoing row over Catalonian independence.
Catalonia was a hotbed for socialist and separatists movements which ultimately lost the civil war and where many of the mass killings took place.
Many Catalonians have always considered themselves politically and culturally separate from Madrid.