All posts by charlie_nurse_c_catalan

The Coalición ProAcceso asks to guarantee the right of access to information

Innovation and Human Rights is a member of the Coalición Pro Acceso, Along with around twenty other organisations, we have petitioned the Spanish government to guarantee the right of access to information, following the suspension of administrative procedures under the State of Alarm declared on 14 March in response to the coronavirus crisis.   

The Coalición ProAcceso, which ihr.world  joined in March 2017,  is an initiative launched by  Access-Info, which defends and promotes the right of access to information in Europe. Its membership includes associations of Archivists, Journalists, Lawyers and other groups of citizens. Defending the right to access to information has always, since its establishment, been a key aspect of the work of our organisation.  At the end of this article you will find a list of all of the organisations involved; in some cases you may obtain further information on them by clicking on the links provided.  

Our requests are as follows: changes in legislation, the participation of archivists in the management of access to information, the establishment of a network centralising official information about Covid-19,  the publication of open data and, finally, guarantees for the protection of privacy in the process of digital data-tracking.

Access to information is fundamental

In a letter sent to Carolina Darias, the Minister of Regional Policy and Public Administration , the member-organisations of the Coalición Pro Acceso denounce the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on transparency and the right of access to information, which is a fundamental right which must be protected especially at times of crisis.  If we want citizens to trust institutions, it is essential that they know what those institutions are doing and that they are confident that they may hold the government accountable for its actions.  

The seriousness of the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic has led the Government to take exceptional measures such as the suspension of plazos administrativos (the period within which official institutions are required to take action), a measure which has also occurred in many other countries, both in Europe and in the Americas. However, there are also examples of good practice, both within Spain and elsewhere, which demonstrate that, in spite of the circumstances, it is possible to fulfill the rights of the citizen in this regard: 

  • In Argentina, the measure has been altered so as to maintain the time limit requirements for replies to requests to access to information; 
  • In the European Union both the Council and the Commission have maintained the requirement to reply to requests, although they have given notice that in some cases there may be longer delays;  

The Coalición Pro Acceso calls upon the Spanish government to adopt the following measures:

  • Amend Real Decreto 463/2020, so as to include the right of access to information among the exceptions to the suspension of administrative requirements;
  • Require the information sections of the state administration to ensure that, as long as the State of Alarm continues, they prioritise all requests for information relating to Covid-19,  basing this on section four of the Disposición Adicional Tercera of the Real Decreto, which provides for the continuation of normal administrative procedures in matters related to the pandemic; 
  • Continue, as far as possible, to deal with those enquiries which are unrelated to the pandemic, whether received before or during the State of Alarm, thus avoiding delay in their resolution.
  • Fully document in a proper fashion all decisions taken and all action taken, in order to ensure the correct management of all information.
  • In the event that extra personnel are required to deal with requests for access to information, draw on the assistance of the archivists of the public sector as provided for in the eighteenth Disposición Adicional of the Real Decreto – Ley 11/2020, dated 31 March, under which urgent additional measures may be adopted in social and economic matters in order to confront Covid-19. 

Moreover, in order to ensure the transparency of the actions of public institutions it is necessary to carry out the following: 

  • Create either a specific web page or a specific section on the Transparency Portal of the Government dedicated exclusively to Covid-19, on which should be published in a proactive and centralised manner, all of the information related to the management of the pandemic (health, legal, labour, economic, scientific, budgetary, environmental….)  at all levels – national, autonomous community and local –  providing data in the most disaggregated way possible (by neighbourhood).  Priority should be given to providing the information required in the form most frequently requested. All of the data should be published in formats which are open and reusable, along with the corresponding metadata, and should also be included in a special section dedicated to Covid-19 on ; 
  • Publish in a proactive manner and with immediate effect:
    • details of the composition of the scientific committees, along with the reports which formed the basis of decisions taken by the Government; 
    • all of the information relating to emergency public contracts, including the names of the intermediaries, the beneficiaries, the contracts themselves, settlement of accounts, implementation, etc. 
    • Maintain digital support for the provision of all information related to Covid-19 which facilitate the traceability of the action taken and, thus, guarantee an adequate accounting procedure.
  • Guarantee protection of privacy, ensuring that the digital tracking and vigilance employed to protect the health of the citizens in this emergency are only a temporary measure and their use is constantly supervised by specialists and by members of civil society, thus ensuring complete transparency in the use of the data collected.

List of organisations supporting this petition:

Letter to the Prime Minister of Spain

Dear Prime Minister – at least we finally have one, 

The road from here to where we want to be is tortuous and difficult, both for civil society and for the government. This year Innovation and Human Rights, a not-for-profit NGO,  has grown and extended its work: our centralised online database of victims of the Civil War and the Franco Regime  now has over 700,000 case-files, all of them supported and referenced to archives and academic research. This has been done without the support of any government agency.  

We are appalled by the difficulties experienced by the families of those people who disappeared or were otherwise subject to retaliation during this period when they seek information.  Therefore, our database provides access to almost half a million named case-files from the military judicial proceedings held between 1936 and 1975 as well as 130,000 files of people who were held in Disciplinary Labour Battalions as well as case-files from other sources.

 What we are asking for in 2020 is political courage:

  • To unblock the Congressional initiative which sought to reform the Official Secrets Law of September 1968 and to introduce the practice of automatically declassifying official documents after a maximum of 50 years, as is the case most other European countries. Or alternatively we call for the drafting and introduction of a specific Law on Archives.
  • To provide all of the archives with the human and financial resources necessary for them to provide a catalogue and description of the archive material dealing with the Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship which is still not accessible. 
  • To facilitate and to make public permission for the re-use of the databases and the descriptive material from the archives on the repression, especially those held by the Sub-Directorate of State Archives
  • To remove all the obstacles to access to official documents, especially historical documents, which have, for decades, faced people who have wanted to conduct research into the Civil War and the Franco Regime. In this case, the right of access to material should prevail over the right to protection of personal data, which is what the law currently establishes. 
  • To close the foundations which hold the documents of all the former Heads of State and Heads of Government and to include this documentation in the public archives.

In the coming year we plan to continue working to enhance the protection of fundamental human rights, especially the right of access to public information, and we trust that your government will do the same.

We look forward to receiving your reply. Best wishes,

Three Years Calling for the Right to Access to Information

Today, the entire team of Innovation and Human Rights  are celebrating the third anniversary of the foundation of our non-profit making association.  We are also celebrating the continuing growth of our online centralised database of victims of the Civil War and the Franco Regime, which currently includes over 700,000 case-files supported by reference to archives and investigatory research.  This is a task which we are committed to continue.  

The Big Data of the Repression

At the moment, the majority of the case-files, that is to say 485,136, are from military judicial proceedings which come from a variety of different archives of the Ministry of Defence; these we have centralised into one database for the first time. They are, however, only from the archives of the army – and not the other armed services – and they only cover eleven of the fifty Spanish provinces. 

Gaining access to documentation on the Civil War and continuing to build the database has at times been difficult. We have received no help from any part of the public administration.  We have often come up against the restrictions on access imposed by the general regulations on data protection which have been interpreted in the strictest manner possible.  A further complication has been the unusual nature of our work: some of the historical data is already published but in different formats and our task has been to make it accessible by presenting it in a single format.

Team Work

Our work has only been possible because of the following: (1)  the efforts of each and every one of the amazing people who are members of the team or who have otherwise provided assistance to Innovation and Human Rights: among them are experts in journalism, information science, history and archive work. (2)  the work of the archivists who provide descriptions of the documentation and provide access to researchers ; (3) the work of authors who have helped amplify and enrich the database by providing the results of their research; (4) those people who have always been ready to provide such support as they were able, each of them according to their position; they will know who they are. They include not only archivists, historians, information scientists, victims’ associations and similar organisations, with whom we are in regular contact, but also people who discover us, write to us and/or even thank us for our efforts or even give us tasks to do which help us survive as an association. 

Developing networks 

We are also very pleased and to have been able to sign cooperation agreements with the following organisations, to whom we wish to express our gratitude:  the Associació d’Arxivers i Gestors Documentals de Catalunya, the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, the CRAI Pavelló de la República de la Universitat de Barcelona (UB), the Fundación Pablo Iglesias and, recently, the Fundació Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (FUAB).  In addition, we have received students on practical placements in journalism and history from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR). We are currently extending these agreements.

The origins of IHR lie in the multimedia project The Bombings of Barcelona (800 Days under Bombardment) in 2016, on the Civil War in Barcelona, for betevé (which was then called Barcelona Televisió). This project included a database of the people killed by the bombardment of the city.  At the time we were annoyed to discover that, eighty years after the event, it was still difficult for the families of victims to gain access to information.  In November 2017 we formally presented the database, which at the time included 224,000 case-files online, at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.  At this inaugural event Concha Catalan was accompanied by Guillermo Blasco, one of the founding-members, and Dr. Javier Rodrigo, a historian who is a specialist on fascism, the Civil War and collective violence.  Their presence underlined the importance of an initiative which would incorporate both the collation of data and the enrichment of historical knowledge and understanding. 

Objectives for 2020 

In the short term, we intend to complete the task of documenting our methodology not only so that our work could be duplicated by others but also in order to improve our productivity. In the words of Carla Ymbern, an expert in Data-Journalism who has been at IHR since 2017 “The biggest challenge is that each dataset has a different structure, often as a result of its contents.  We verify that a dataset does not contain material which is either duplicate or incomplete, and that nothing has been left out in converting the file into reusable data. When we are sure that the data is correct, we identify the relevant fields and clean up the data using our established criteria”.   

We are also planning to continue to increase the volume of data, which has already tripled in the last two years.  We are eager to develop new links with other groups and organisations and to launch new projects. In the medium term, we face the challenge of improving the database and making it more accessible so that there are better links between sets of data.  Centralising all the information fields would achieve a qualitative leap.

Our aims are global rather than being focussed on one geographical area.  “Spain and its people have been very generous to me since my first visit in 1974” in the words of Charlie Nurse, a historian who produces the English version of this website from Cambridge. “ I think that this project may help Spanish society to understand and come to terms with its recent past. All societies need to understand their past ”.  In conclusion, we continue to work towards our goal of providing access to information, spreading an understanding of the importance of archive work and making a contribution towards historical research.  

485,136 military proceedings opened against so-called «reds»: the big data of the repression

At the not-for-profit organisation Innovation and Human Rights  we think that access to information is a fundamental right. Recognised as such in international law, as well as by many constitutions  and in the national law of over 80 countries across the world, it implies that everyone has the right to request and receive information from public organisations. 

Today we are announcing that we are making available access to the data on nearly half a million summary military judicial procedures which were opened in a total of eleven Spanish provinces  between 1936 and 1975, during the Civil War and under the Franco Regime, according to data from the Ministry of Defence.  We are working on making available this kind of data for additional provinces.

«Access to information is of fundamental importance in order to break the silence and the lack of knowledge which still exist in relation to our recent history.»

Since 2016  Innovation and Human Rights   has been compiling and republishing data which has hitherto been scattered across different sources and integrating this material into a Central Database on the Civil War and the Franco Regime.  This may now be searched merely by the click of a mouse.

Our database now consists of over 700,000 case files, each of which provides a reference to the documentary source on which it is based as well as a page which outlines the source of the dataset, its authorship and how to acquire access to the original documentation or other source of information.  Usually, the datasets are based upon indices assembled by the archives themselves, but we also include data from historical research which has been carried out in some regions of Spain, namely La Rioja, Aragón, Catalunya and Madrid, and which their authors have generously shared with us for this project (For more details search the section Datasets on our home page). 

«A lot of people do not even know that their relatives were victims of reprisals; they are surprised to find their relatives’ names in the database and, as a result of discovering this, request the source documentation. »

So far we have included data about eleven provinces from the following Territorial Military Tribunals (into which Spain was divided at the time): 

  • From the First (Primero), data about Madrid, Albacete, Alicante, Castellón and Valencia; 
  • From the Third (Tercero) data about Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona
  • From the Fourth (Cuarto)  data about León and Zamora

These were already available to the public via the pages of the following archives, respectively: the Archivo General e Histórico de Defensa, the  Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya and the Archivo Intermedio Militar Noroeste.  

Searches may be carried out by first name and surname. Each case file provides information on how to gain access to the original documentation and also clarifies whether the source is in an archive, or is contained in a reference in a book,  doctoral thesis or academic article. In the case of data on the repression in Catalonia, Innovation and Human Rights has also produced a virtual exhibition on Summary Military Proceedings Against Women which you may consult.  

Important:  485,136 refers to the number of case files of military proceedings which were opened, not to the number of individual people. An investigation could group together dozens of people. Equally, one person could have been the subject of 2, 3, 4, 5….proceedings. In the majority of cases the records do not specify what the result of the prosecution was or the sentence imposed.

Innovation and Human Rights has an interdisciplinary team of workers, mainly female, with  professional backgrounds in journalism, computer science, history, archivism and statistics.  

Our work, which has been disseminated at conferences in Spain like International Symposium Traumatic Past, History and Collective Memory in the Digital Society, at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, has three objectives:

  1. To provide access to information on people who were victims and/or were subject to reprisals.
  2. To publicise the work carried out by archives, in order to increase understanding of their importance as well as of the importance of access to documentation.
  3. To contribute to historical research, by means of sharing and cross-referencing data.

«One of the users of our database wrote to us to say that, while searching for data on one of their relatives, they found data on six. Another user told us that they wouldn’t find anyone in their family, until they typed in the family name, which was an unusual one, and found someone.»

In addition, the database includes – among other things – the names of the following:

Photograph: Surrender of Republican militiamen at Somosierra, Madrid province, following the Battle of the Guadarrama in July 1936. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía [Google Arts & Culture].

Memoirs of the War & Post-War by female writers

Last year we published a selection of books dealing with aspects of the Civil War and the Franco Regime. We continued this this year with some Some Recommendations for Summer Reading Following on from this previous post (1) New Books , today we discuss (2) Memoirs of the Civil War and the Post-War period by female writers. In relation to this you may also be interested in looking at our virtual exhibition Summary Military Proceedings against Women . Another article will follow about (3) Forced Labour in Franco’s regime.

  • The first person to reveal to the outside world the nature of the repression which occurred in women’s prisons during the Franco Period was, without any doubt, Tomasa Cuevas. Starting in 1974 she courageously travelled around Spain,  interviewing fellow former political prisoners about their terrible experiences so that these would not be lost. These interviews were recorded on a cassette recorder (for the benefit of any readers who are milennials, it would have been something like this ) and they later formed the basis of her bookCárcel de mujeres (1939- 1945)published in 1985, with a frontcover designed by Josep Guinovart. This has been published in English as Prison of Women: Testimonies of War and Resistance in Spain, 1939-1975 (State University of New York Press, 1998). A fully revised edition was later published in three volumes as Testimonios de mujeres en las cárceles franquistas (Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses, 2004) and one part was also published under the title Presas (Icaria Editorial, 2005). For a posting by Innovation and Human Rights which discusses her experience in the women’s prison of Les Corts in Barcelona follow this link . A budget has finally been approved by Barcelona City Council to establish a memorial on the site where the Les Corts prison used to stand.
  • Ángeles Egido, a History doctorate, compiled bleak testimonies of the repressive conditions experience by women prisoners in her book El perdón de Franco. La represión de las mujeres en el Madrid de la posguerra (Catarata, 2009). On 8 March this year we included the data from her research in our centralised database and discussed her work in our blog entry Women Whose Death Sentences were Commuted. In her book Egido gives a detailed description of the commutation of the death sentences. Although commutation was supposedly a benevolent gesture, it was, in effect, a very cruel process. The death penalty was commuted in favour of a prison sentence of 30 years and one day. In some cases prisoners were not informed that their death sentences had been commuted and were forced, every evening, to listen to the announcement of the names of those who were to be executed the following dawn. The book also analyses the fundamental role of the Catholic Church in supporting the prison system. We discovered her book during a conference entitled Pasados Traumáticos: Historia y Memoria en la Sociedad Digital ,organised by HISMEDI in the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. At this event Innovation and Human Rights presented our centralised database after it had been incorporated into the Entorno Virtual de Investigación del Laboratorio de Innovación en Humanidades (LINHD) de la UNED. You can see all the videos of the conference by following the link here.

The following volumes, dealing with memories of the Civil War and the Postwar period and written by women, are, in some cases biographical; in other cases they are works of fiction. Both approaches are equally valid in providing a view of the reality of the period, from the point of view of women protagonists.

  • Carlota O’Neill was the author of the first chronicle of the outbreak of the Civil War (Primera crónica del estallido de la Guerra Civil) . She was a Republican intellectual whose father was a Mexican diplomat and whose mother was a Spanish writer and pianist. When the military rebellion occurred in July 1936 O’Neill was on holiday in Melilla along with her two daughters and was visiting her husband, Captain Virgilio Leret, who was acting head of the Atalayón Seaplane Base in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco. Leret was executed on the first night of the attempted coup d’etat, although his wife was not informed until three months later, during which time she had spent a hellish period in prison. It would be years before she could recover custody of her children. Her autobiographical account of her experiences entitled Una mujer en la guerra de España (Ed. Oberon, 2004), was originally published in 1964 in Mexico, where she subsequently lived in exile, under the title Una mexicana en la guerra de España. An English edition, under the title Trapped in Spain was published in 1978 by Solidarity Books (Toronto, Canada). In the 1930s O’Neill had founded the feminist magazine Nosotras. Following her release from prison in 1940, during the harsh postwar years in Spain, she made a living as a writer using several different pseudonyms, before leaving for Venezuela and Mexico. For more information on her and a video follow this link .
  • Constancia de la Mora wrote her autobiography Doble esplendor (Ed. Gadir, 2004) in the United States within months of the end of the Civil War and it was first published in English in 1939 under the title In Place of Splendour. She was the grand-daughter of Antonio Maura, who was Prime Minister of Spain on four occasions during the reign of King Alfonso XIII. Her uncle, Miguel Maura, was Minister of the Interior in the first government of the Republic. In her book she recounts her childhood experiences in a privileged family, her stay at a private school in Cambridge (UK), and how her concern over social conditions in Spain led her to support the Republic from 1931 onwards. Like O’Neill she was also married to an airman, Ignacio Hidalgo de Cisneros, who was her second husband (Her first husband was the brother of Luis Bolín, who became Franco’s press chief and whom she divorced immediately after the legalisation of divorce in 1933.) During the Civil War, while Cisneros rose to become Head of the Republican Airforce, she worked initially as the head of a home for refugee children and later in the Republican Foreign Press Office, of which she became Head in November 1937. She was based in several different cities in the Republican zone, and, shortly before the defeat of the Republic she left Spain to promote the Republican cause in the United States, convinced that she would soon return. The prologue to the Spanish edition of her book was written by her first cousin Jorge Semprún.
  • Elena Fortún was the pen name of María de la Encarnación Gertrudis Jacoba Aragoneses y de Urquijo, who, during the Franco period, was the author of a series of very successful children’s books, which featured a character called Celia who was a very critical and inquisitive child. This same innocence and capacity for critical thinking occur in Celia en la Revolución (Ed. Renacimiento, 2016), in which Fortún presents a fictional account of Republican Madrid during the Civil War, seen through the eyes of the adolescent who had been Celia. What is surprising is that, although this novel is set in Civil War Madrid, the Madrid of “No Pasarán” (“They shall not pass”), it could have been an account of life in many other cities during the conflict with its portrayal of the harshness of day to day life, in terms of death, hunger, uncertainty, shortages of everything and fear, all presented without expressing an opinion. There was a first edition (1987) but, according to Andrés Trapiello in the prologue to the 2016 edition, “barely had it been published, than it disappeared from bookshops, since when it has only surfaced in the rare books market, appearing one copy at a time, always at fabulous prices.” The story of how this book came to us is in itself a wonder: the manuscript, written in pencil, was recovered in the 1980s (long after the author’s death in 1952) by Marisol Dorao (PhD in Philology, University of Cádiz), who travelled to the United States to obtain it from the daughter-in-law of the author. In 1993 Televisión Española created a series based on the books called Celia without including this volume. Editorial Renacimiento is publishing a new edition of the works of Elena Fortún, which have been out of print for many years, while the episodes from the TVE series Celia can be seen free by following this link.

Human Rights, the case of La Rioja: the database continues to grow

Our database has recently grown with the addition of a dataset which is very special because it includes data about all of the people killed in an entire autonomous community, that of La Rioja. For this we are grateful for the generosity of Jesús Vicente Aguirre, who has contributed the data gathered in his three-volume study, which began under the title  Aquí nunca pasó nada. La Rioja, 1936 (Editorial Ochoa, Logroño). In this work of over one thousand pages he summarizes the events, village by village, with names, personal records, documents and, wherever possible, photographs, of the two thousand people killed in La Rioja, most of them between the months of July and December 1936.  The entire work is based on  extensive documentation and oral testimony.  His study is of particular importance because La Rioja was not at any time in a war zone,  having fallen into the hands of the military rebels within hours of the military coup of 18 July 1936.

His study covers both people born in La Rioja and residents of the province born elsewhere;  it includes not only those killed in the province but also those who died at the battlefront “the great majority of them in the ranks of the national army [ie the Francoist army], in which it was their fate to serve (in most cases merely because of where they were living, though some of them due to their right-wing convictions, while others were attempting to escape the fate for which they had already been identified by their past republican or left-wing sympathies,” in the words of Jesús Vicente Aguirre.  Also included are those people from La Rioja who died in the Republican rearguard, obviously while in other provinces, and those deported to the Nazi camps.  

We should always remember that behind every item of data there is a person and a family. We should also bear in mind the contrast between the official account of these events and the reality. The photo which illustrates this article shows a scene from a military ceremony in Logroño, the provincial capital of La Rioja, on 2 October 1938 at which Franco decorated the Italian Legionary troops which, along with the German forces, made such an important contribution to the triumph in the Civil War of the forces which had provoked the outbreak of the conflict with their attempted coup d’etat in July 1936.  By October 1938, when –as seen in the photo– Franco’s daughter, Carmencita, was hanging decorations on a banner, in La Rioja alone 1,966 people had already been killed, the majority of them victims of the fierce repression. It is important to remember that in La Rioja there had been very little fighting during the Civil War because Gen Mola’s troops entered Logroño on 19 July 1936, shortly after the attempted military coup.

Logroño, 2 October 1938

Statistical analysis of the data reveals that in La Rioja the number of women killed was 43, a small percentage (2%) of the total number. 96% of the victims were residents of La Rioja; only 82 people were non-residents – 56 of them from Navarra and 16 from Burgos. In 30% of cases the data indicate where people had been born.

Although the majority of the victims had been born in La Rioja, of the 175 victims living in the province known to have been born elsewhere, 62 were natives of Castilla y León, 33 were from the Basque Provinces and, for example, five were from Catalunya.

175 residents of La Rioja killed who were born outside the province, according to place of origin

With regard to the places where death occurred Innovation and Human Rights has categorised by municipality the 2,006 people who were either born in La Rioja or who were residents of the province born elsewhere.  394 people are recorded as having been thrown into the mass grave of La Barranca, converted into a Civil Cemetery in 1979.  This is situated in the municipality Lardero, seven kilometres south of Logroño, where the victims were taken “from September 1936” according to Aguirre “because by then there was no room in the cemetery of Logroño.”  In other municipalities we know of the existence of mass graves, as in Logroño (La Grajera), Calahorra (Cuesta de la Gata) and Villafranca Montes de Oca (La Pedraja), amongst many others. From the data available, there are 108 people whose place of death is unknown and, in 164 cases, it has been impossible to distinguish the municipality because the place referred to is larger than one individual municipality. 

Municipalities registering the largest number of people killed

The research carried out by Jesús Vicente Aguirre also lists the names of the 21 natives of La Rioja who were members of the so-called Tercio Sanjurjo who were murdered in Zaragoza and the six who died as a result of the escape from the prison of Fuerte de San Cristóbal in Pamplona, carried out by 795 prisoners in May 1938. During the escape “207 men were murdered by military forces, members of the Falange [the Francoist official party], requetés [members of the Carlist forces] and irregular forces including people from the surrounding villages, who climbed the hills with their shotguns and their dogs as though they were going on a hunting party” in the words of the researcher Koldo Pla. The mass grave where their bodies were thrown was only discovered last year.

The past 12 months have been special for this non-profit Innovation and Human Rights.   We recently marked two and half years since our foundation on 10 December 2016, a date chosen to coincide with the International Day of Human Rights.  Shortly before the first anniversary of our establishment, in November 2017, we published our online central database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime which then included over 200,000 individual case files backed by reference to archives and historical research. If you follow this link you can see the  presentation which took place in the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB).  During our second year we fully exceeded our objective which had been to double the number of individual case files included in the database; the number now stands at over 700,000 individual case files.   

The data base allows you to search for people (by first name and family names); each finding is accompanied by a description of the dataset from which we have obtained the information, along with the author(s) of the research, which may consist of an archive, a book, a thesis….We will be including new datasets in the near future.

Photograph: Military celebration to mark the award of decorations by Franco to the troops of the Italian Legion. Carmencita Franco adding decorations to a banner. Source: Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Biblioteca Nacional de España

La Barranca: 40th Anniversary

There were few armed confrontations in La Rioja during the Spanish Civil War. The troops of General Mola entered Logroño, the provincial capital, on 19 July 1936 and the repression was ferocious, as the researcher Jesús Vicente Aguirre explains in Aquí nunca pasó nada (2007). When there was no space to bury the dead left in the city cemetery, the firing squads chose the location of La Barranca, eight kilometres south of Logroño. The political prisoners were forced to dig the pits at the edges of which the nightly shootings were carried out.

In the Dehesa Almida, the ravine of Barriguelo, in the district of Lardero, near Logroño, in the heart of La Rioja, over 400 people were murdered between the months of September and December of 1936: workers, farmers and day-labourers, tailors, barbers, builders, carpenters, teachers, government officials, mayors and councillors, political militants, union members, people of good will.

In the early years following the end of the Civil War, mothers and widows used to go on foot from the neighbouring villages to spend the day in La Barranca, where you can still see the mounds of earth which indicate the two large mass graves and the beginnings of a third one. In secret, they did this, year after year.

In this place, the “women in black” ( las mujeres vestidas de negro ) were the people who, by their presence, would finally write the most terrible and the most beautiful page in the historical memory of La Rioja. As a result of their efforts, on 1 May 1979 La Barranca was converted into a Civil Cemetery.

Today, 40 years later, the anniversary is being celebrated, 83 years after those brutal murders. Innovación y Derechos Humanos also wishes to use this anniversary to remember all of these innocent victims. For more information follow this link to view a video . At La Barranca you can also see the “Map of the Prisoners” (“mapa de los presos”), which was recovered from the concentration camp which operated in the bull-ring (“plaza de toros”) of Manzanera in Logroño. For the history of this map follow this link to an article which is on the website of the La Barranca Association , where there is also a poem by Máximo Sicilia which we will use to close:

You are not alone;

You are not alone or forgotten

There are still a few of us

Of those who are living, of those who feel,

And who bear witness your murders,

We come here, to remember you,

And so that people never forget

The holocaust.

So that your children and grandchildren

And those of your brothers and sisters,

Also remember it

And so that here in this place,

They will come, year after year;

Until the end of the world,

To remember it,

And I know that you can hear me, my mind can feel it,

What energy there is in the mind;

And that energy

Is in our minds

And, there, in space

They form stars,

Which get mixed with 

The other heavenly bodies,

And they send you a greeting

The greeting which you taught me

When I was a child,

Salud, Comrades, Salud

And until next year, when we will come back again.

Photograph:  Jesús Rocandio (archivo Casa de la Imagen,Logroño)

Happy World Book Day ‘de memoria’

Having been active for over two years, Innovation and Human Rights wishes to mark World Book Day,  as we did last year, by offering our recommendations of a selection of books relating to the Spanish Civil War and Francoism.  For last year’s selection follow this link.

These will appear in three sections, each dealing with a different theme.  We begin today with (1) New books. This will be followed by (2) Memoirs of the war and the postwar years by women and (3) Forced labour during the Franco period.  

New Books

  • Los campos de concentración de Franco– The author, journalist Carlos Hernández defines his research as a “collective work” but he deserves the praise for giving it a new perspective, by synthesising and then presenting in such a striking form the reality of the world of the Francoist concentration camps, particularly in the post-war period. This is achieved through a chronological narrative with horrifying testimonies by survivors across all parts of Spain. It is impossible to continue ignoring the tragic and hitherto silenced reality of cruelty, torture and murder experienced by the defeated.  In 2005 Javier Rodrigo listed 188 camps in his  pioneering work of historiographical research Cautivos: campos de concentración en la España franquista, 1936-1947 . Hernández has increased the number by listing almost 300 and has provided an accompanying website with links to interesting videos of testimonies and an interactive map on which the user may,  for example, locate the first concentration camp opened by the rebels on  19 July 1936: la Alcazaba de Zelouan in what was then Spanish Morocco  (today Kasbah de Selouane, twelve kilomtres south of Nador, en Morocco).   The names of over a thousand of the prisoners in this concentration camp taken  from documentation in the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara, are included in our database.
  • Diccionario de Memoria Colectiva –  This is a collective work, compiled by the historian Ricard Vinyes, which contains 269 entries written by 187 authors. This is a book which the reader will want to approach at their own pace and which invites readers to reflect on concepts.  Under the entry, for example, of Víctima we find: “Some people prefer to avoid a concept which has not managed to avoid stigmatization, which reduces subjects to pain and suffering (…) Others defend the use of this term as a form of resistance and support its use as an engine of political action and of recognition of groups of people who have lived in oppressive situations.  Under Subtierro: “funeral space of those people defeated in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), especially those civilians executed in operations carried out behind the lines and thrown into mass graves (…) these mass graves sent an exemplary  signal warning of the potential destiny of dissidents and prevented mourning by family members or political supporters”.
  • El duelo revelado: la vida social de las fotografías familiares de las víctimas del franquismo – Jorge Moreno Andrés, a film-maker with a doctorate in anthropology, examines the universe of family pain through photographs of victims of forced disappearance during the  Civil War and under the Franco Regime and (re)constructs their histories. Who keeps photographs of the victims of repression? Where? How? What value do these photos have and how is this transmitted? The value of this work lies in explaining from a new perspective the reality of the silence imposed on the families of the defeated. For a summary by the author himself follow this link

 

Neus Català in Ravensbrück – and who else?

As a means of paying homage to Neus Català, we are including in the ihr.world  database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Regime a dataset of the 8,263 Spanish people who were deported to Nazi extermination camps.  We are also doing this because there are still people such as Lola, who, thanks to 15MPedia, only discovered a year a year ago that her grandfather had died in the camp of Gusen –part of the Mauthausen complex– in 1942, rather than at the battlefront in 1937. This data comes from a list taken from the Base de datos Españoles deportados a campos de concentración nazis (1940-1945) of the Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte which is in turn based on the contents of the publication Libro Memorial. Españoles deportados a los campos nazis (1940-1945) , which was edited by the Ministerio de Cultura in 2006,  following extensive research by Benito Bermejo and Sandra Checa [for a description follow this link here].  This data brings us to a total of 680,000 individual case files all of which are referenced to archive sources or research material.

We are publishing this data because this is what we have been able to obtain. We are aware that this list is in need of updating. According to Carlos Hernández, an expert on the subject: “The number of Spanish who were held in Nazi concentration camps, of whom there are documental evidence, rises to 9,328.  Of those 5,185 died, 3,809 survived and 334 count as having disappeared.”  Our numbers  are lower than this in all of these categories. In addition we account for only 68 women, of whom 29 were in Ravensbrück. 

We are also aware of the existence of another relevant database; this was put together by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the organisation Amical de Mauthausen. This is in the hands of Memorial Democràtic de Catalunya under the terms of an agreement signed in October 2015, according to which it was going to be made available to the public .  However, so far this has not happened.

Neus Català

When Neus Català was aged sixteen she experienced the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic (1931).  Her death, on 13 April this year, at the age of 103, occurred on the eve of the anniversary of republic.  Born in Guiamets (Tarragona province), during the Civil War she worked as a nurse. In 1939 she crossed the French frontier with 180 orphan children from the children’s home Las Acacias de Premià de Dalt.  She joined the French Resistance and, in 1943, was arrested by the Nazis and deported, in 1944, to Ravensbrück. She was transferred to Flossenburg, where she was part of a work brigade responsible for making munitions, which she and others attempted to sabotage.

Following the liberation, she stayed in France where she continued the struggle against the Franco Regime.  Having been affiliated to the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (the United Socialist Youth)  during the Civil War, she afterwards became a member of the Partido Comunista de Cataluña (PCC) and, later of Izquierda Unida y Alternativa (EUiA).

In 1978 she was interviewed (in Catalan)  for Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) in the programme Personatges by the journalist Montserrat Roig,  the author of Los catalanes en los campos nazis (for our review of this book follow this link)

Here are a few extracts:

– Why were you deported?

– It was a miracle that they did not shoot me –said Català with half a smile-  . That was the strange part. I was sentenced to life imprisonment […] When we joined the (French) Resistance we knew the risk we were taking, we were fully aware; we knew what we had to do, and we did it.

– What was your first impression of Ravensbrück?

– No one could ever explain that. It was indescribable. We arrived at Ravensbrück as one thousand women at three o’clock in the morning when the temperature was 22 C degrees below zero. The guards drove us out of the train by beating us with clubs. We got out of the wagons with the women who were ill because if they had not come with us they would have been killed by the blows from the two lines of SS [officers].  As we passed the huts we could see women leaning out of some of the windows and we thought that they were the dead falling out of their tombs. Only their eyes showed any life. The rest of them were cadavers. I recall the camp in black and white: the camp was black and everything was covered in snow. The cold was terrible. (…)  I have one vision of Ravensbrück: a woman electrocuted.

If you wish to find out more about the life of Neus Català you may consult her archive , which is catalogued in the CRAI Biblioteca del Pavelló de la República of the Universitat de Barcelona.

Picture Women working at the Ravensbrück concentration camp CC BY-SA 3.0

Women Whose Death Sentences were Commuted

Last year, to mark International Women’s Day (8 March) and International Open Data Day (5 March) we published a virtual exhibition on Women who were subjected to trial under the Summary Military Tribunals established by the Franco Regime  (Summary Military Proceedings Against Women) aand we added the dataset Mujeres asesinadas en Aragón: Eva en los infiernos to our database.

Thanks to the efforts of our team our database now includes over 570.000 personal files. Of those,  470.000 are from summary military tribunals   (which are known in Spanish as sumarísimos) which were held in Catalunya , Madrid, la Comunidad Valenciana y Albacete.   We can establish that, of the nearly 70,000 people subjected to these tribunals in Catalonia, 4,410 were sentenced to death and that 3,358 people were executed.  Through archival work we have found the documentation dealing with the remaining cases, but the sentences imposed in each case have not been made public.  

However, during the past year we have discovered a new piece in the puzzle of the map of victims and of those subject to reprisals during the Civil War: the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara  (General Military Archive of Guadalajara) has a 363-page list headed Los expedientes personales de penas de muerte conmutadas (personal files of those whose death sentences were commuted). This contains the names of people whose death sentences were not carried out because they were commuted to the sentence immediately below that of execution – 30 years imprisonment under maximum security – directly by the Head of State (Franco) himself, though often they themselves were not informed of this.

This means that we have now included three sets of data which relate to this other type of cruel repression carried out by the Franco dictatorship. Condemning someone to death when they were already in prison meant that on any night they might hear their name called out on the list of “sacas” or people who were to be executed the following dawn. There were some people who spent many months like this without knowing that their sentences had been commuted. 

The three datasets which we are publishing include the names of:

  • The 79 militiawomen whose death sentences were commuted (Milicianas con pena de muerte conmutada) which come from the doctoral thesis of Francisca Moya Alcañiz, Republicanas condenadas a muerte: analogías y diferencias territoriales y de género 1936-1945
  • The more than 800 women whose death sentences were commuted (Condenadas a muerte con pena conmutada) which are taken from the book El perdón de Franco (2009), by Angeles Egido.
  • The over 16,000 personal files of those people whose death sentences were commuted (Penas de muerte conmutadas), which are available as a result of the archive work by the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara.

The procedure for commuting sentences was as follows: names were proposed at the provincial level by a provincial committee (Comisión Provincial de Examen de Penas or CPEP) to a central commission (Comisión Central de Examen de Penas or CCEP),  which was subject to the Ministry of the Army (Ministerio del Ejército).  The process of revising death penalties began in September 1942, over two years after a similar process had begun for the revision of other sentences which started in February 1940 with the establishment of the Provincial Commissions to Examine Sentences (Comisiones Provinciales de Examen de Penas) under the  Orden de 25 de enero para constituir comisiones provinciales .
In its prologue, this Order indicated recognition of the arbitrary nature of the military judicial system by referring to the “lack of uniformity in the criteria for judging and sentencing crimes of similar gravity” 

Innovation & Human Rights is aware that in our database there are 79 cases of women whose names have been included three times and a further 832 cases where women’s names have been entered twice.  We have done this in order to fulfill our objective which is to compile as much information as possible about every single one of the victims of the Civil War and of the Franco Regime.   If someone finds their grandmother amongst these names, they will be able to obtain information about her from more than one source, even though, this will be, at least partly, based on the same documentary sources. 
For example, the only militiawoman subjected to a court-martial in Catalonia and sentenced to death who is included in the Archivo Militar de Guadalajara as having had her death-sentence commuted is Adela Trilles Salvador.  If we search for her in the database,  we will find four references  all of which are based on one documentary source. These references are to:

  • Her court martial, in the llista de reparació jurídica de víctimes del franquisme,  a list of people whose sentences by the Francoist military judicial system were cancelled under Llei 11/2017 of the Catalan Generalitat, published by the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya,  which may be consulted in the archives of the Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero de Barcelona.
  • The commutation of her death sentence in Penas de muerte conmutadas, a list published by the Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara.
  • The book El perdón de Franco,  by Angeles Egido on the repression of women during the post-war period which discusses detention, interrogation, torture and confinement in prison, as well as the “policy of supposed clemency the theoretical basis of which has its roots in redemption, following acceptance of guilt, and which is wrapped (…) in an ideological layer of pardon or amnesty, connected to religious ceremony.”
  • The doctoral thesis  Republicanas condenadas a muerte: analogías y diferencias territoriales y de género 1936-1945 by Francisca Moya Alcañiz.  This lists 79 militiawomen which includes not only those who were physically at the battlefronts, but also those who, according to their sentences, dressed as militiawomen and carried weapons while they were actively participating in the Republican rearguard during the war.

For example, in the thesis, Adela Trilles  is described as follows: “she was 33 years old, married, was a railway ticket-office clerk, was affiliated as a socialist, dressed as a militiawoman and was named head of the Juventudes Femeninas [the Socialist women’s youth movement], being condemned to death in Tarragona on 30 May 1939 as a propagandist and for having frisked women who looked suspicious in the station”.

After being condemned to death and following the commutation of her sentence, Trilles was granted a conditional release from the Las Corts Women’s Prison in Barcelona in 1946, as listed in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE), the official state gazette, on 6 March 1946 .

We are continuing to work on datasets and more will be included as soon as they are available.

Photo: Militiawomen CNT-FAI (public domain)