In the summer of 1936, a fascist military coup led by Francisco Franco put an end to the democratic Spanish Republic that had been established in 1931. During and after the Spanish Civil War, which began in 1936 and ended in 1939, more than 120,000 people were slaughtered by Franco’s forces and buried alongside roads and in fields. These people did not fight on the battlefield; they were simply arrested and killed for having political ideas that conflicted with those who led the fascist uprising. School teachers, farmers, doctors and laborers were all executed and buried in mass graves.
Seventy-five years later, the relatives of these victims are still demanding justice. Since 2000, groups of people have attempted to unearth this tragic chapter of Spanish history by using forensic science to recover the bodies of those killed by Franco’s supporters. This work is carried out by volunteers and private foundations, and coordinated by the Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory. Doctors, anthropologists and psychologists from all over Spain are aiding in the exhumations of these mass graves.
The bones of those killed are analyzed in order to confirm their identities. They are then returned to their families, who decide how they will be reburied; in some cases, in cemeteries erected on the sites where they were murdered. Currently, the exhumation of mass graves is virtually paralyzed due to an elimination of all public funding by the Spanish government, which has cited the economic crisis as the primary reason for not supporting victims’ attempts to recuperate historical memory and recover the experiences of the fallen.