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Republican Exile: An Introduction

Seven years after the founding of in 2016, our database has grown to include more than 1.4 million records of victims from the Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship. Now, after several months work, we are starting to add data on exiled Republicans. This article is intended to provide some necessary context: it is based on extracts from Informe sobre la Nacionalidad, by Ludivina García Arias, of the Asociación Descendientes del Exilio español published in 2004 por Equipo Nizkor in We are grateful for their kind permission to publish extracts from the report, which have been edited and slightly amended.

We have replaced the cover photo of our website (which showed a group of women in the cemetery in Lleida where they had gone to identify their relatives who had been killed in an aerial attack on the city on 3 November 1937) with another by the same photographer, Agustí Centelles, which shows a group of refugees in a concentration camp in the south of France. This photo, which is well-known, is, in fact, a compilation of two photos: the one that illustrates this article (a barbed wire fence) and the one that now appears on the front page of our website (a group of refugees). This is the well-known photo:

Bram, France, 1939. Refugees entering the concentration camp through the avenue that separated two sections of it.


In February 1939, after the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s armies, hundreds of thousands of Spanish people fled across the French border. The number of people involved in the Republican exodus has been subject to a wide variety of estimates. Some have put the number as high as one and a half million. It is almost impossible to establish a definite number as the figure was constantly changing due to some people being repatriated and others leaving France for other countries. 

The Vallière Report, drawn up at the request of the French government, gave a figure of 440,000 refugees on 9 March 1939, of whom 170,000 were women, children and the elderly; 220,000 were soldiers or militiamen, 40,000 were invalids and 10,000 were wounded.

Approximately 275,000 Spaniards passed through French internment camps. By December 1939, more than 250,000 refugees had returned to Spain.

Those remaining in France, numbering approximately 200,000 people, can be seen as constituting the Spanish exiles from the war. A year later, according to the French Minister of the Interior, 167,000 refugees remained in France; to this figure we should be add those who had reached the Americas and those in North Africa. 

Republican political and trade union leaders were involved in finding solutions to the problems of moving the exiles and providing for their care. Two organisations: the S.E.R.E. (Servicio de Emigración para Republicanos Españoles) and the J.A.R.E (Junta de Auxilio a los Refugiados Españoles) managed the refugee diaspora, especially to Latin America. 

Under a French government decree of 12 April 1939 foreign refugees and stateless persons were required to provide compulsory service. The Spanish refugees were offered four options: to be recruited individually by agricultural or industrial employers; to join Foreign Workers Brigades; to enlist in the French Foreign Legion; or to join the Foreign Volunteer Battalions of the French army, which were military units under French command – after the outbreak of the Second World War. They would be contracted for the duration of the war. 

Some 50,000 Spaniards were attached to the Workers’ Brigades, of whom about 12,000 were sent to help build the Maginot Line and about 30,000 to the area between the Maginot Line and the River Loire. A further 5,000 were members of regular Battalions of the French army. Those who remained in the camps were older men, the sick, invalids and the wounded and those considered dangerous because of their political activism.   

World War II

After the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the living conditions of Spanish refugees became even worse, especially after the German invasion of France in May 1940 and its division into two zones in the following month.

The German occupation of France further increased the risk to the safety of asylum seekers who were exposed to kidnapping and extradition to Spain or to deportation to labour camps or extermination camps in Germany. In this situation, the Mexican government of Lázaro Cárdenas, in an admirable gesture of international solidarity, ordered its diplomats in France and a number of other countries to support Spanish refugees until the signing of a treaty for the protection of Spaniards in France.

From August 1940, the (highly restricted) rights of Spanish exiles in France depended [at least in theory] upon three documents: the Franco-Mexican Convention of August 1940, the French Law on the Extradition of Foreigners of 1927 and the Franco-Spanish Treaty of 1877. 

The Mexican government and Republican political leaders had good reason for concern over this situation. In a letter sent by the German embassy to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 20 August 1940, Franco’s government was asked whether it wanted to take charge of the 2,000 Spanish “reds” who were at that time interned in Angoulême.

In a second letter dated 28 August, the German embassy, in addition to referring again to the refugees in Angoulême, also raised the question of more than 100,000 “reds” in the camps in southern France and notified the Spanish authorities that, if they refused to accept them, the Nazis intended to deport them from France to other destinations. Two more notes, dated 13 September and 3 October 1940, written in identical terms, demonstrate that the Francoist government had abandoned the Spanish refugees.

On 13 September 1940, Ramón Serrano Suñer, who was Minister of the Interior [Gobernación] between 30 January 1938 and 15 October 1940, went to Germany and met Hitler carrying precise instructions from Franco to avoid any formal commitment to enter the war. Hitler requested a summit meeting between the two leaders.

After his visit the deportations of Republicans to Mauthausen and other death camps began. In the following months Lluis Companys, Joan Peiro, Julián Zugazagoitia, along with Manuel Azaña’s brother-in-law Cipriano Rivas Cheriff, were kidnapped in France and extradited to Spain. Companys, Peiró and Zugazagoitia were courtmartialed and shot by death squad. The death penalty on Rivas Cheriff  was commuted to 30 years imprisonment. After his release in 1947 he left for Mexico. 

The Nazi regime also forced 40,000 Spanish Republicans to join its labour battalions, while another 12,000 Spanish Republicans were deported to various concentration or extermination camps. [Note: their names are on our database here]

Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and Serrano Suñer, as well as Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo and General Franco held a meeting in mid-October 1940, at which it is believed that they discussed the issue of Spanish prisoners in concentration camps.

A document from Himmler, issued on behalf of Hitler, orders that some of the Republican exiles in France should be deported to concentration and extermination camps.

Serrano Suñer, who became Spanish Foreign Minister on 16 October 1940, refused to recognise the Spanish nationality of the Republican exiles, many of whom were exterminated in the Nazi camps, often after suffering all kinds of torture, ill-treatment and humiliation during their captivity. In Mauthausen, they were forced the wear a blue triangle identifiying them as apátridas (stateless). 

By contrast, at the same time as the exiled Spanish Republicans were declared stateless by the Francoist government, Francoist embassies and consulates indicated the government’s  willingness to grant Spanish citizenship to some Jews in Nazi-occupied countries. In a letter to the Spanish Embassy in Paris in 1940 Serrano Súñer advised ‘that the Sephardic Spanish subjects should clearly state their status as Spaniards in order to be defended as such at the appropriate time’.

The exiles in France

At the end of the Second World War, the situation of the Republican refugees in France varied enormously. Although many had become integrated into local communities, many others showed the after-effects of their exile and the war. In addition to the experiences of the surviving deportees and those wounded in the two wars, there were the problems caused by family separation, precarious living conditions and the illnesses which accumulated as a result of years of poor physical health. Moreover, the internment camps continued to be a reality for those who had no other alternative.

In the first months of 1945, the French government extended the legal status of Spanish refugees by providing them with the protection established for refugees before the Second World War. A decree of 15 March 1945 granted refugee status to those Spaniards who, de jure or de facto, did not enjoy protection from the Spanish government. They were thus able to benefit from international refugee status as established by the Convention Relating to the International Status of Refugees of 28 October 1933,   i.e. they were able to enjoy the benefits of the Nansen status which, before the Second World War, had been granted to Russians, Armenians, Assyrians and other groups of refugees.

As a result Spanish refugees received an identification and travel card whose design was virtually identical to that of the Nansen passport, the name of which was officially abolished after the war, although it continued to exist in everyday administrative parlance. As a result refugees were free to find work and settle in an area of their choice. During the early post-war years, however, many refugees saw this as a temporary situation, as they had great hopes of soon being able to return to Spain.

By decree of 3 July 1945, a Central Office for Spanish refugees – OCRE – was created to provide legal and administrative protection for them. The International Refugee Organisation (OIR), was responsible for the office. In France, responsibility for the OCRE was shared between the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and the Interior. In effect, however, following the publication of decree, the French government asked the OIR to assume responsibility for Spanish refugees and urged it to represent them legally and administratively.  The management of the OCRE was assumed by Spanish diplomatic or consular personnel who had previously worked in France and who had been domiciled in the country, uninterruptedly, since 1932 [i. e. before the Civil War].

Shortly after the creation of the OCRE, its managers went to the French departments where there were large numbers of Spanish residents and carried out an assessment of the post-war situation of the refugees. At the end of August 1945, the director of the OCRE, Fernando G. Arnao, submitted to Governor V. Valentin-Smith the results of this survey carried out in the prefecture delegations and the office’s delegations in the regions.

The OIR made some funds available to its organisation in France to provide, with the help of various charitable organisations, assistance to Spanish Republican refugees in France. Between September 1945 and the beginning of July 1946, the Service Social d’Aide aux Émigrants [Social Service for Assistance to Emigrants ] distributed a third of these funds, another third was distributed by the Quakers, and the rest by various other organisations including the Unitarian Service Committee and the American Christian Committee. The requirements stipulated ‘To be assisted, all Spanish refugees must provide the number of their certificate of nationality issued by the OCRE and authenticated by (the OIR)’. 

Meanwhile, assistance to the wounded from the Spanish civil war – as well as to pensioners – was the responsibility of the exiled Republican government, then in Mexico.

At the end of 1945, there were also around 10,000 refugees in North Africa, 80 percent of whom were men, all of whom were registered with the Amicale d’Entraide for Spanish Refugees. Permanent assistance was needed for 180 people.

In December 1945, the Spanish Republican Government moved to France. Although France did not officially recognise the Republic, in February 1946, it granted the Republican Government a Statute recognising its right to organise, protect and represent those Spaniards living in France and its African territories who presented themselves voluntarily at one of its delegations, where they would be provided with documentation, visas, passports, nationality cards, etc., valid in the eyes of the French authorities.

In the early post-war years, however, many refugees refrained from applying for naturalisation as they expected the restoration of democracy in Spain. The proportion of those who wished to become naturalised or were in the process of naturalisation during the five-year period 1945-1950 was under 10% of the total of refugees, and consisted mainly of skilled industrial workers or specialised workers in the agricultural sector.

We recommend that readers who are interested should read the 2004 Nizkor Report itself, the full title of which is La cuestión de la impunidad en España y los crímenes franquistas.   The Report was warmly received and its findings were widely endorsed, including by the renowned forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria Gabilondo of the Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi.

It is important to stress the failure of Spanish governments to take action in relation to the Republican refugees. The case of the refugees is not, however, unique.  As the recent report by Gregorio D. Dionis entitled Inanidad (2021) makes clear, no Spanish government since the restoration of democracy has taken any serious steps to provide justice to the victims of the Franco Dictatorship. 

The Nizkor Report proposed an Action Plan which included the following two points:

10. The compilation of lists of Spanish victims of the Franco Regime in third countries, especially  the so-called “children of the war”. It suggested that, where necessary, international cooperation should be requested, especially at the European level. For this purpose organisations of exiles or foreign organisations which were working with Republican exiles should be involved. In addition it also pointed to the importance of addressing the issues of Spanish nationality arising as a result of exile as well as those deriving from the registration of Spaniards under the legitimate authorities of the Second Republic and ensuring the maintenance of dual nationality to exiles and  their descendants. 

11. The compilation of lists of the victims of repression since the Francoist uprising in July 1936, in a manner which is legally valid, granting valid legal recognition and paying particular attention to legal minors, orphans and women.

In 2018 we took part in the Round Table event Pasados traumáticos. Historia y Memoria colectiva en la Sociedad Digital, along with Gregorio D. Dionis, whose report is mentioned above. You can watch the video of the round table here.

Photo: Alambrada. Reproduced under licence. SPAIN. MINISTERIO DE EDUCACIÓN, CULTURA Y DEPORTE, Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, ARCHIVO CENTELLES, FOTO 1039.

Article translated from the Spanish by Charlie Nurse.

Mantenemos una base de datos con 1,4 millones de registros de la Guerra Civil y el franquismo. Suscribete a nuestro boletín de noticias aquí y considera la posibilidad de hacer una donación aquí. ¡Gracias!

The Bodies in the Valle de los Caídos: An Analysis of their Origins By Municipality

Text: Concha Catalán / Laura Cuesta. Data and maps: Alejandro Zappala. With the assistance of Martin Virtel and Marta Martínez.

The year 1958 witnessed the beginning of a macabre exercise as lorries transported the remains of people killed during the Civil War along the roads of Spain. The objective was to use them to fill the largest mausoleum in the history of Spain, the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) which would be inaugurated on 1st April 1959, the twentieth anniversary of the formal end of the Civil War.

Today we begin a short series of articles dealing with the process of transferring these corpses to the Valle de los Caídos.  

In 2018 we added to our data base the names of over 20,000 victims whose remains were transported to the Valle de los Caídos and we identified the provinces from which they were transferred. For details of this see The People Buried in the Valle de los Caídos: Where did they die?

Today we are taking a step further and providing new information about these people, namely the municipality from which their remains were transferred and the exact location of the original grave in the municipality if this information is included in the mass grave map which can now be found on the website of Memoria Democrática at the Ministerio de la Presidencia, Relaciones con las Cortes y Memoria Democrática [it was previously at the Ministerio de Justicia].  A description of the dataset is available via this link.

The analysis of this data is possible as a result of the work of our colleague Alejandro Zappala, to whom we are also grateful for using QSIG software to produce maps showing the population size of municipalities. 

Click on the map to enlarge it

We think that this first map deserves some explanation, as it constitutes a real metaphor of the wounds exposed by the exhumation of the mass graves to transfer the remains of the victims to the Valle de los Caídos. The roads, shown in red on the map like human veins, run across Spain and, alongside them are indicated the locations from where corpses were exhumed before transportation. Each municipality where exhumation occurred is indicated by a brown colouring, the shade of which provides an indication of the number of victims whose remains were transferred. This means that the areas marked dark red, the colour of a bruise, indicate locations where the greatest number of corpses were exhumed.

The graph (below) provides data on the mass graves in the municipalities from which the remains of the largest number of victims were exhumed (it covers a total of 50 mass graves located in 47 different municipalities). The number of corpses which have been identified is indicated in green; the number unidentified is indicated in grey. 

Click to enlarge

The data reveal that, in total, the remains of 33,840 people were moved to the Valle de los Caídos from 500 mass graves in 460 municipalities located throughout the territory of the Spanish state. It  includes, for example, Ramon Piñeiro Jiménez and Francisco Ramos Rubio, from Ceuta, and Alfonso Prendes Estrada, from Melilla. The ten municipalities from which most corpses were exhumed and transported were as follows: Zaragoza (4,024 bodies), Griñón, Madrid (3,180), which was the location of rebel army field hospital; Teruel (2,916), Madrid (2,124), Getafe, Madrid (1,552); Bot, Tarragona (1,194); Oviedo (1,040), Gandesa, Tarragona (923); Grado, Asturias (920); and Huesca (855). 

Not all of the corpses transferred were identified. The ten municipalities from which the largest number of identified corpses were taken were as follows: Zaragoza,(3,769); Griñón (2,217), Madrid (1,639), Bot (1,194), Teruel (1,142), Grado (870), Gandesa (863), Batea, Tarragona (835), Cella, Teruel (635) and Horta de Sant Joan, Tarragona (576). 

There are a total of 11,688 people whose remains have not been identified.  In the case of some municipalities, such as Bot or Batea (Tarragona), unidentified remains were not transferred. A high percentage of identified remains also came from Zaragoza (93%) and Gandesa (93,5%). One obvious factor in the variations in identification rates was the orders given to the rebel forces who were instructed to bury corpses with a glass bottle containing a sheet of paper listing the dead person’s name and military rank. 

Identification documents found in glass bottles alongside Francoist soldiers buried in the cemetery of
Batea. From the Archivo Municipal de Batea (Tarragona). Cited in The valley of the fallen: a new El Escorial for Spain, por Queralt Solé

Read also (pending translation)

PHOTO: Document belonging to el Patronato. “List of the honoured remains of members of the National Crusade which were sent to lie in eternal rest in the National Monument of Santa Cruz of the Valley of the Fallen at Culgamuros”. Photo by permission of Queralt Solé.

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The Atocha Massacre: 44 Years After

On 24 January 1977 three extreme-right terrorists stormed into the offices of labour lawyers working for the trade union Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) in the Calle Atocha in Madrid. They opened fire murdering three of the lawyers, Enrique Valdelvira Ibáñez, Luis Javier Benavides Orgaz and Francisco Javier Sauquillo. They also killed a law student, Serafín Holgado, and an administrator, Ángel Rodríguez Leal. Four other people, Miguel Sarabia Gil, Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta Carbonell, Luis Ramos Pardo and Lola González Ruiz, were seriously wounded in the attack.

In a context of political violence, impunity for members of the far right and social unrest, the massacre led to a slow opening up of rights and liberties during the transition towards constitutional democracy which followed the death of Franco in November 1975. The aim of the massacre had been to destabilise the fragile government of Adolfo Suárez. However, instead of provoking violence, this terrible terrorist attack united the forces of the left: over 100,000 people silently accompanied the funeral cortège.

«Forever remembered for the freedom for which you gave your lives (Hasta siempre en la libertad por la que disteis la vida)», was the headline in Mundo Obrero, the daily newspaper of the Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party following the funeral. Less than three months later, on 9 April 1977, the Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez ordered the legalisation of the Communist Party.

Decades later the importance of the massacre is clear, as well as that of the roles played by other Atocha lawyers, colleagues of those murdered, in the defence of civil rights and their role in our democratic system. The memory of those murdered is also preserved by the Fundación Abogados de Atocha (Atocha Lawyers Foundation) and by the Comisiones Obreras, who have collaborated in the recent publication of a book which we consider to be important, opportune and worthy of review here.

As is well known, Manuela Carmena avoided the massacre because the meeting she was attending had been moved to an office in a nearby building. One of the other people who attended the meeting with Carmena was Juan José del Águila as he recalls on justiciaydictadura. com

The Tribunal de Orden Público (TOP) and its role in the repression of the later Francoist period

Now retired, Juan José del Águila, was a labour lawyer who later became a labour court magistrate  In 2001 Editorial Planeta published the first edition of the book El Tribunal de Orden Público (TOP). La represión de la libertad, written by him, which was fundamental for our understanding of the political repression carried out by the Tribunal de Orden Público (Tribunal of Public Order) in the later years of the Franco Regime.

The book was well received within a specialised readership and the author was invited to speak about it by various institutions, including the Colegio de Abogados of Madrid, the Ateneo, the Club de Amigos of UNESCO as well as the Employment and Training Agency of the Unión Sindical Madrid Región (USMR) of Comisiones Obreras. This latter meeting took place in what are now the offices of the Fundación de Abogados de Atocha. The book must have made uncomfortable reading for many people who were named in it; despite selling well, it was withdrawn by the publishers and any remaining copies were destroyed.

Fortunately the author has written an updated second edition, incorporating new judicial material, which is now on sale in bookshops.

This new edition has been reviewed by Enrique Lillo for the blog Según Antonio Baylos [Madrid, 6 November 2020], together with the previous introductory text. We wish to thank both for their kind permission which allows us to republish it here. 


by Enrique Lillo Pérez

This book has been edited by the Fundación Abogados de Atocha, which was founded by the Unión Sindical de Madrid Región CCOO, and has received support from the following: the Ministerio de la Presidencia, Relaciones con las Cortes y Memoria Democrática of the Spanish Government; the Consejo General de la Abogacía; the Ilustre Colegio de Abogados of Madrid; and, obviously, CCOO Madrid. 

This second edition includes a prologue written by Dr. María Emilia Casas Baamonde, Emeritus President of the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal and Professor of Labour Law and Social Security (Presidenta Emérita del Tribunal Constitucional y Catedrática del Derecho del Trabajo y Seguridad Social) at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid. 

Juan José del Águila is a labour lawyer and expert in criminal law, who regularly defended those prosecuted by the Tribunal de Orden Público.

He has studied extensively the repression of the Francoist Dictatorship and is an expert on the repressive mechanisms and institutions which it employed. These include the following: public officials (funcionarios públicos); the secret police (Brigada Político Social); military institutions (special military courts established for the repression of freemasonry and communism, as well as those dealing with extremist activities, courts martial and military judicial authorities such as the Captaincies-General of the Military Regions); and judicial institutions (the Tribunal de Orden Público). His research uncovered the chronological antecedents of the latter, including the magistrates’ courts of February 1956 and May 1957, presided over by examining magistrates from Madrid and which had been established by the Governing Council of the Supreme Tribunal (Sala de Gobierno del Tribunal Supremo) under the Presidency of José Castan Tobeñas, and which were given powers to carry out summary trials of those accused of the offences of attending illegal meetings, publishing clandestine material and carrying out illegal propaganda).

This book is required reading for any citizen who wishes to understand, as part of our historical and democratic memory, the institutional mechanisms used in the Francoist repression by means of the torture carried out by members of the Brigada Político Social and by members of other public and military bodies, as well as the prison sentences imposed by the institutions listed above in summary courts martial without any procedural guarantees whatsoever, including the massive numbers of death sentences were imposed.

These are essential requirements for a system of justice to operate objectively and impartially and to conform with the strict principle of legality by making judgements on the basis of valid supporting evidence established by means of an oral judicial procedure and allowing opportunities for the defence of the accused  

The analysis provided by Juanjo del Águila is exhaustive and is presented with a high level of historical and judicial rigour. The same rigour is also to be found in material published on his personal blog  which is indispensable reading for understanding the reality of the political repression and institutional violence of the Franco Dictatorship and the mechanisms and institutions used in the process as well as being essential to enable us to recover a historical and democratic memory in Spain.

In her prologue  María Emilia Casas asserts the fundamental importance of the reissue of this book, which will now fills the gap which should have been occupied by the first edition published by Editorial Planeta and which included a prologue written by Gregorio Peces Barba.

The publication of this new edition establishes Juan José del Águila as one of the most authoritative voices in the historiography of the special jurisdictions which existed under the exceptional powers (ordenamiento de excepción) which operated under the Franco Dictatorship and he is, without any doubt, the authority on the Tribunal de Orden Público. He has studied in detail and publicised the activities of the Tribunal and the prison sentences it imposed on many people, along with the role played by the Brigada Politico Social, whose statements and reports, although extracted through torture, were never questioned by the Tribunal, but were invariably accepted.

The book includes an examination of the case of Julián Grimau, who was executed by firing squad in April 1963 following a summary court martial carried out without due process of law, the death sentence being confirmed by the then-supreme military judicial authority, the Captain-General of Madrid, General García Valiño, without any kind of opportunity for appeal. The decision to impose the death sentence was expressly confirmed by Franco and his government, ignoring the numerous petitions for a pardon, including one from the Pope Pablo VI, and in spite of the fine and well-argued defence of Grimau presented by Alejandro Rebollo, the military officer assigned to defend him.

The detention of Julián Grimau, an experienced leader of the Spanish Communist Party, led not only to his torture but to a lot of dishonest stories. One of these, published in contemporary newspapers such as the daily newspaper ABC, falsely claimed that Julián Grimau had attempted to commit suicide by jumping out of the window of the offices of the Dirección General de Seguridad and that this accounted for the multiple injuries from which he was suffering as a result of the torture he had endured.

After detailed and careful examination of the evidence and, after reading the political memoirs of Fraga Iribarne [Note: at the time Minister of Information and Tourism] as well as other historical sources, Juanjo del Águila comes to the conclusion that, as a result of the efforts of Franco and his most devoted and fanatical colleagues, the announcement of the projected law establishing the Tribunal de Orden Público. was maliciously delayed until after the Grimau case. The new law would have transferred the case from a court martial under military jurisdiction to the new tribunal and therefore it was agreed to keep news of its approval by the government from being announced until after the execution or murder of Julián Grimau, which thus became a state crime. 

Had the projected law establishing the Tribunal de Orden Público been introduced on the date which Fraga gives in his memoirs, then the Grimau case, which had been carried out under military jurisdiction, firstly by the involvement of a military officer, Colonel Eymar as an examining magistrate prosecuting cases for the suppression of extremist and communist activities, and then, by means of a Court Martial carried out in the Madrid Military Region, it would have have been necessary to stop the entire case and to transfer it to the new tribunal, even though this had not yet begun to operate. 

To avoid this, the Franco government deliberately delayed the approval of the projected law establishing the tribunal and the date on which it would begin to operate, thus ensuring that the death sentence on Julián Grimau would be imposed and carried out. 

In addition to this delay in the official approval date of the proposed law, which, according to the documentary sources consulted by the author, maliciously perverted the course of justice in the Grimau case, the book reveals other vital aspects of the case, such as the use of supposedly anonymous accusations made against Julián Grimau which were made after his detention and torture by the Brigada Político Social of Barcelona and which formed the basis for his death sentence by attributing to him criminal actions allegedly carried out during the Civil War.

Juanjo del Águila also describes the role of Ruiz Jiménez, a member (procurador) of the Francoist Cortes, who proposed an amendment for the total rejection of the proposed law, invoking in his support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the encyclical “Pacem in Terris” issued by John XXIII (Cardinal Roncalli) a few days earlier on 11 April 1963.

Juanjo del Águila’s research also provides the basis for a sociological description of the treatment of citizens who were prosecuted and sentenced by the Tribunal de Orden Público. The accused were habitually held in prison during the investigation instead of being granted provisional liberty and, once they had been sentenced, the sentence was applied even during any appeal for annulment to the penal chamber of the Tribunal Supremo. In addition, the Tribunal de Orden Público allowed the reports and notes provided by the Brigada Político Social to be used on their own as valid evidence, ignoring the judicial requirement that evidence in penal hearings should be limited to material presented at an oral court hearing and not based upon previous reports by government agencies.

In a sociological account of people who appeared before the Tribunal the author analyses the large numbers of manual labourers, skilled workers, trade unionists, professionals and students who were victims of the repression. Many of them were neither politically militant nor members of organised trade unions, but rather were people who had merely participated in labour disputes or activities aimed at improving the existing minimal standards of living, or who had expressed their opinions during a meeting, or who had participated in protest demonstrations, or who had outlined their problems orally or in writing.

It is clear, therefore, that the role of the Tribunal de Orden Público was one of repression and punishment by imprisonment of people who attempted to exercise the fundamental individual or collective rights which already in the 1960s and 1970s were protected by international human rights declarations or by the international conventions of the International Labour Organisation (including rights to union membership and freedom of expression and of information, as well as the right to collective bargaining and to take collective action to seek improvements in working conditions).

The Tribunal de Orden Público was composed of members of the judicial profession and the author analyses the contribution of the higher judicial echelons of the dictatorship and of the Tribunal Supremo in the implementation of the repression.  

This role of validating and applying the repressive measures adopted was not only played by members of the Tribunal de Orden Público. Many of those judges who rose during the political transition after the death of Franco to sit on the Supreme Court had participated in the repression, as had those who became members of the penal chamber of the Supreme Court. One of these was Adolfo de Miguel who became President of this chamber and who, in 1981-82 was the defence lawyer for General Milans del Bosch, one of the key figures in the attempted military coup of February 1981.

These historical events must not be forgotten, because they are part of the democratic and historical memory of the struggle against the Franco Dictatorship, which always enjoyed the support not only of the military command, but also of those who controlled the judicial system, the prosecutory bodies and the police forces, especially the Brigada Político Social.

It is important, finally, to point out that, unlike other European countries in the 1960s and 1970s, Spain did not enjoy a so-called “golden age” of workers’ rights and social security, such as was consolidated in the rest of Western Europe after the victory over Nazism in the Second World War.

Spain, by contrast, endured many years of poverty and misery and these collective and human rights were not recognised during the years of the Dictatorship.

During these years the activities of the opposition were remarkable, exemplary and epic in character and it is important that recognition is given today of the efforts of sectors of civil society including many workers, trade unionists especially those of the Comisiones Obreras, students and skilled and professional workers to demand their rights and to defend them as well as to claim the freedoms and equality which are part of a democratic society. In the context of these remarkable and exemplary activities, those who worked as labour lawyers, among them Juanjo del Águila, through their defence of workers in the labour tribunals of the Francoist Regime (Magistratura de Trabajo) and in defending labourers, trade unionists, students and skilled workers in the Tribunal de Orden Público played a role which should not be forgotten and which forms a part of the democratic and historical memory of Spain. 

This book, therefore, is essential reading and should be widely read.

[Translation by Charlie Nurse]

PHOTO: The funeral cortège of those killed in the Atocha Massacre, 26 January 1977. Photographer unknown. Public domain.

In Spain there is no such thing as a single “General Archive of the Civil War (or a need for one) (Part 2)

Henar Alonso @henararch – Archivist (Técnica Facultativa Superior de Archivos). Ministry of Defence.

This article is a continuation of the earlier one  In Spain there is no such thing as a single “General Archive of the Civil War” (or a need for one)

The two main archives which are fundamental for any research on the Civil War and the repression during the Franco Dictatorship are the  Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica de Salamanca (CDMH) y el Archivo General Militar de Ávila (AGMAV), both of which were discussed in Part 1. However, these are not the only archives which contain documentary sources which are of interest for researchers. 

Within the Sistema Archivístico de la Defensa (Defence Archive System), which covers the archives managed by the Ministry of Defence, those which are particularly relevant are the Archivo General e Histórico de la Defensa (General and Historical Defence Archive) as well as the other historical archives of the separate arms of the armed forces, namely those of the Army (Ejército de Tierra), Air Force (Ejército del Aire) and of the Navy (Armada).  Among these archives the following are especially important: 

Archivo General e Histórico de la Defensa (AGHD)

The most important part of the General and Historical Defence Archive are the records of the summary courts martial of the Territorial Military Tribunal which covered Military Territory No. 1 (TMT1). The lists of those prosecuted (listados de encausados) by the army have been indexed and are available online in relation to the provinces of Albacete, Alicante, Castellón, Madrid and Valencia.  These are of primary importance for research into the repression which followed the Civil War. 

The records of the summary courts martial carried out by all of the Territorial Military Tribunals may be found by following this link to the Guía para la localización de los procedimientos judiciales incoados por la Justicia Militar a raíz de la Guerra Civil y durante la etapa franquista (Guide to the location of the judicial proceedings initiated by the Military Justice system as a result of the Civil War and the Franco period).  However, at the moment only the records of people prosecuted in TMT No. 3 and TMT No 4 are available. Those for TMT No. 4, covering the northwest of Spain, are available via this link  sumarísimos que se conservan en el Archivo Intermedio Militar Noroeste . For those for TMT No. 3, covering Catalonia, follow this link  Cataluña . The records of all of those prosecuted in the courts martials in TMT No. 1,  TMT No. 3 y TMT No. 4 are included in the database of  The Air Force Historical Archive (Archivo Histórico del Ejército del Aire) also provides online access to the records of those members of the Republican Air Force who were prosecuted  as well as the records relating to the purging of civilian personnel who had worked in the service of  Republican military aviation.

Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara (AGMG)

The General Military Archive of Guadalajara holds the archives and personal files of two types of forced labour battalions established for former Republican soldiers as part of the Francoist repression, namely the Batallones Disciplinarios de Soldados Trabajadores (Disciplinary Labour Battalions for Soldiers) and the  Batallones Disciplinarios de Soldados Trabajadores Penados (Disciplinary Labour Battalions for Convicted Soldiers) , as well as those of the military prisons and of the Concentration Camps of  Miranda de Ebro and Alcazaba de Zeluán (near Melilla). They may be consulted online via the introductory index of the Archive.  The database of includes part of the AGMG index of  138,000 members of these two types of forced labour battalions, including the 3,000 sentenced soldiers from the so-called 1ª Agrupación, as well as those from the Montjuïc military  prison in Barcelona (more than 3,000), and from the Zeluán concentration camp (1,000).

There are also collections of archives relating to the Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship to be found elsewhere in the state archives (Archivos de la Administración General del Estado).  These include not only the national history archives which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture (Ministerio de Cultura) but also the historical archives of the various government ministries. Without attempting to be exhaustive, we would underline the importance of the following:

Archivo Histórico Nacional (AHN)

In the National Historical Archive, among the contemporary archive collections of the Judicial System (Poder Judicial) there is documentation relating to the Popular Tribunals and Emergency Courts (Tribunales Populares y Jurados de Urgencia y de Guardia de Madrid), established under the Republican government in the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup of July 1936).  Following the defeat of the Republic these documents were included in the Causa General (the Francoist prosecution; see Part 1) as supporting evidence.  In the Personal Archive section there are personal archives dealing with some of the major political and military figures relevant to the conflict, including Manuel Azaña, Vicente Rojo, Diego Martínez Barrio, José Giral…

Archivo General de la Administración (AGA)

The General Archive of Administration, in Alcalá de Henares, holds two small but very interesting collections of material, namely those of the  Junta Delegada de Defensa de Madrid (the Defence Junta which ran Madrid under siege from Francoist forces between November 1936 and April 1937) and those of the  Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, (the Defence Ministry of the Republic between 1936 and 1939). There is also a large collection of archive material from the central, regional and local bodies of the so-called “Movimiento Nacional” (the name given to the single legal political “movement” authorised in Francoist Spain) which is indispensable for social research on the postwar period and the Franco Regime. Although the AGA is categorised as an “archivo intermedio” (an intermediary archive which is supposed to transfer all of its archive material to the AHN for permanent storage), it holds such a large amount of documentary material on public organisations during the Civil War and the Franco period, much of it not yet examined, that it is currently impossible to provide a clear picture of its value. However the archives from the civil war and postwar periods of the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Relations (Interior y Asuntos Exteriores  are particularly relevant.

Sistema de Archivos del Ministerio del Interior

The Archive System of the Ministry of the Interior, in spite of the difficulty of gaining access, has some particularly interesting archive collections, especially those of the Dirección General de la Guardia Civil, the  Dirección General de Seguridad/Dirección General de la Policía and those of the prisons and penal system (Direcciones Generales de Presidios/Prisiones/Instituciones Penitenciarias). 

So, if I want to carry out research on the Spanish Civil War do I have to consult all of the archives? No – not if you know what you want to do and not if you know where the sources you need to consult are located.   To help you to do this, we offer you a 

Quick Guide on How to Find Documentary Sources on the Civil War in the Spanish Archives

I would like to carry out research on…

1. Military aspects of the Civil War

Archivo General Militar de Ávila; Archivo General Militar de Segovia (for personal files of military officers); Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara (for personal files of ordinary soldiers); Archivo Histórico del Ejército del Aire; Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica.

2. The Repression following the Civil War

Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica; Archivo General e Histórico de la Defensa; Archivo General Militar de Guadalajara; Archivos Militares Intermedios of Ferrol, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, Ceuta, Melilla, Baleares y Canarias; Archivo General e Histórico del Aire; Archivo General de la Administración; Archivo General del Ministerio del Interior.

3. Social and Political Implications and Consequences of the Civil War

Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica; Archivo General de la Administración; Archivo General del Ministerio del Interior.

4. The Civil War in my own locality

Archivo General Militar de Ávila; Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica; Archivos Histórico Provinciales; Archivos Municipales.

5. Personal histories of the Civil War

The sections holding the private and family archives and the collections in the Archivos Histórico Nacionales of the Ministerio de Cultura (CDMH, AHN, AGA) and in the Archives of the Sistema Archivístico de la Defensa (AGMAV, AGHD).

So why is there no need for a single “General Archive of the Spanish Civil War”?

Because it would serve no useful purpose to attempt to concentrate all of the collections of documents which, as we have seen, are currently held in Spain on the subject in one single location.  It would be convenient, perhaps, and we think that an amendment should be proposed to the Law of Historical Memory (Ley de Memoria Histórica) which would go some way to achieving this objective by establishing a single unified point of internet access to all of the archive collections mentioned above.  This would be a true internet portal to source documents on the Civil War and the Franco Regime, which would also include links to open source data initiatives on the subject such as  IHR World, Todos los Nombres or Brunete en la Memoria, and to library collections and to collections of historical newspapers. 

Before completing this article we would like to add a brief mention of the main private archives, including those belonging to foundations, universities, political parties as well as personal archives. These also contain material relevant to the Civil War and to the Franco Dictatorship and the majority of these are accessible to the public.  We have serious doubts whether the action of some of these institutions in holding on to some of this material complies with current legislation, but this is not the time or place to go into this thorny subject….  

[Translation by Charlie Nurse]

Photo: Frente de Madrid. Servicio sanitario en la capital y en el Frente. El General Miaja con los jefes de Sanidad Militar visitando el importante donativo sanitario al ejército republicano por Central Sanitaria Internacional. Reportajes Gráficos Luis Vidal. Valencia. Biblioteca Nacional de España. Licencia CC-BY-NC-SA

In Spain there is no such thing as a single “General Archive of the Civil War (or a need for one)

Henar Alonso @henararch – Archivist (Técnica Facultativa Superior de Archivos). Ministry of Defence.

Publications by researchers on specific aspects of the Civil War and the Franco Regime appear with ever greater frequency, some of which, including those from people with a media profile, are multiplied by the social networks.  The majority of these,  moreover, of necessity refer to original documentary sources, and consequently cite the archives where these documents are to be found and where they have been consulted – or, at least, they should do this. 

And this is the moment when the archivists, sometimes by means of social media, throw our hands in the air in exasperation…. We understand perfectly that this kind of research work is not easy and that it requires time and effort from people who,  in most cases, do not receive any kind of payment or reward for their efforts, and that sometimes they manage to lose the correct relationship between the documents and their context.  The problem is that, with regard to documents and archives, the context is much more important than it may appear. 

As stated in the title, in Spain there is no such thing as a single “General Archive of the Civil War” (“Archivo General de la Guerra Civil”).  Instead there are many collections of documentary sources on the subject which are divided between lots of different archives,  some of them of a national character, but others regional, provincial, local, public, private…. People usually consider the Salamanca Document Centre of Historical Memory (Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica de Salamanca) as the  “Archive of the Civil War”, but, in reality, this holds only the documentary sources which were, for many years, a section of the Archivo Histórico Nacional. As a section of the latter archive, they were known initially as the “Sección Guerra Civil” and later as the “Archivo General de la Guerra Civil”.  This, understandably, is the source of the confusion which we have mentioned.

The Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica de Salamanca (CDMH) preserves the archive material from the Document Service of the Presidency of the Government (Servicios Documentales de la Presidencia del Gobierno) and from the Francoist-era  Special Tribunal for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism (Tribunal Especial para la Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo), along with others which were added after 1979, including documents transferred from other archives as a result of the promulgation of the Law of Historical Memory (Ley de Memoria Histórica) of 2007. Essentially, then, this archive contains the documentation produced by three of the Special Judicial Jurisdictions which were established for the purposes of repression during the Dictatorship, namely: 

The Causa General is the name given to the “general prosecution” established in 1940 to investigate the crimes committed in Spain between 1931 and 1939, during what was referred to as “the red domination” in Francoist Spain. The 1,953 sets of files of the Causa General, preserved in 4,000 boxes. They amount to more than a million pages that have been digitised and are accessible from this link by clicking on the arrow icon.

In addition to these three large collections which derive from the major institutions which were responsible for the seizure and copying of the documents which the rebel forces carried out during the Civil War, the CDMH also contains a number of  collections of documents from public institutions, from both Republican and  Nationalist zones. There are also numerous private or personal or family or institutional archives, as well as collections of oral sources, which have been added from time to time, along with material from numerous donations.  All of this may be consulted online via the Introductory Index (Cuadro de Clasificación) which, in addition, is linked to a description and a digitised version (if this exists)  on the Portal de Archivos Españoles except in the case of the Causa General, which still has to be consulted on this website as part of the Archivo Histórico Nacional, even though physically the documents are now housed in the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica. 

It is also worthwhile consulting the index of online databases (micrositios web de las bases de datos) of the CDMH, where the following can be found: information on the victims of the Civil War and those who suffered retaliation during the Franco Regime; Republican soldiers and members of the Republican forces of public order;  members of the Republican Army who were killed or were reported as disappeared in action; or who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps. To conclude, therefore, we could say that the CDMH, rather than being an archive “of the Civil War” is an archive of the postwar repression

If there is really anything which may be considered as a most deserving of the title “Archive of the Spanish Civil War” it is the General Military Archive of Ávila [Archivo General Militar de Ávila (AGMAV)], which is one of the four historical archives of the Spanish army. This is where documentation dealing with the military aspects of the armed conflict are to be found, whether relating to the forces of the Republican government or to those of the military rebels.  The archive preserves information on the following: the different military units; the development of the military operations; the services of military intelligence; maps, plans and photographs of the conflict; personal files of men who enlisted in the rebel forces through the recruitment offices of the militias.  The Archive’s collections consist partly of material gathered at the end of the war by members of the Military History Service of the Ministry of Defence [Servicio Histórico Militar del Ministerio de Defensa] as a result of an order issued by General Franco in July 1939 requiring all military units to collect all documentation of a military nature, both of their own forces and that seized from the Republican Army, in order to establish what he termed the “Archive of the War of Liberation”  (“Archivo de la Guerra de Liberación”). 

Along with this initial collection of documents, the Ávila archive also holds the following: the personal files of volunteers who enlisted in the militias formed by the Nationalists in the early months of the war; the personal files of the “Blue Division” (whose formal title was the “División Española de Voluntarios”) which was formed in 1941 to assist the armies of Nazi Germany in the invasion of the USSR; documentation from the now-extinct Ministry of the Army (Ministerio del Ejército), from the former Captaincy-Generals of the Military Regions of Spain (Capitanías Generales de Regiones Militares) and of the Gobiernos Militares (which operated at the provincial level) ;  documentation from other military establishments, such as Hospitals, Military Academies and Armaments Factories. A final part of its collections consist of private and family archives and collections.  The introductory index (cuadro de clasificación) may be consulted online, as well as the index of its historical and organisational structure.

Although these are the two main archives which should be consulted in any research on the Civil War and the repression during the Franco Dictatorship, they are not the only archives which contain important documentary sources which are of interest for research. We will give an account of the others in a later article.  


[Translation by Charlie Nurse]

Photos: Salamanca (Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica current building), November 1937. Exhibition of the National Document. 1er Año Triunfal. FOTO DESLESPRO. Biblioteca Nacional de España. Licencia CC-BY-NC-SA