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posts directly related to new datasets included in our database – en

International POUM volunteers in the Spanish Civil War

In a previous article we reviewed The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War, Giles Tremlett’s exhaustive and wide-ranging account of the 34,000 foreign volunteers who fought in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Hot on the heels of Tremlett’s book comes this latest volume, Voluntarios por la Revolución: La Milicia Internacional del POUM en la Guerra Civil Española, by Andy Durgan (Laertes, 2022), currently published in Spanish only, on the foreigners who fought in the militia of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM). By comparison with the International Brigaders, the foreign volunteers who served in the militia of the POUM have received little attention. To mark the 87th anniversary of the founding of the POUM – 29 September 1935– we are publishing this review of a book which fills this gap in the literature on the Civil War. At the same time we are adding to our database a further 1,174 records which are drawn from Durgan’s extensive research.

The story of the POUM during the Civil War is usually seen through the eyes of Eric Blair, the English writer who wrote under the name George Orwell and whose experiences in the party militia were recounted in Homage to Catalonia. Orwell was a member of the only group of volunteers which has received much attention from historians, namely those from the British Independent Labour Party (ILP). Andy Durgan, a British academic long resident in Barcelona, is excellently suited to his subject-matter: his previous work has included a study of the origins of the POUM

Following the street-fighting in Barcelona in early May 1937, known in Catalan as els fets de maig, the POUM was accused of being a Nazi-front organisation.  On 16 June 1937 it was declared illegal by the Republican government. One of its leaders, Andreu Nin, was arrested and later murdered by Soviet agents, though it was claimed, bizarrely, that he had been rescued from prison by Nazi agents disguised in International Brigade uniforms. Other party leaders were arrested, the Hotel Falcón in Barcelona – the headquarters of the party’s military committee –  was turned into a Communist party prison and its other offices were closed. Numerous members of the POUM militia were arrested, in some cases after returning on leave to Barcelona after serving on the front line in Aragon.    

At the time of the outlawing of the POUM, the accusations against the party of being agents of the Nazi state were repeated in foreign media and widely believed.  Orwell, who returned to Barcelona from the Aragon front on 20 June, was forced to go into hiding until he escaped to France with his wife. Later, in Homage to Catalonia (1938) Orwell set out to expose the preposterous allegations against the POUM and its members. In 1938 seven prominent leaders of the party were finally put on trial: the charges of being Nazi agents collapsed and, instead, five of the accused were convicted of attempting a revolutionary seizure of power in Barcelona in May 1937. As Durgan points out, the Republican state and its legal system were not under the control of the Soviet Union or the Spanish Communist Party and the kind of show trial which occurred in Moscow in 1936-1938 was not possible in the Republic. 

Despite the acquittal of the party leadership on charges of being Nazi agents, much of the mud thrown at members of the party and its militia has continued to stick.  Among the common accusations which have been regularly levelled at the POUM militia, two stand out: that of playing football against the enemy in no-man’s land on the Aragon front and that of large-scale desertion of the same front during the fets de maig. Durgan provides evidence to refute both of these charges. With regard to the allegations that the POUM was a nest of foreign spies, Durgan accepts that there were probably spies in all military units, but dismisses the idea that they played an important role in the POUM by pointing to the extensive pre-war experience of many of the foreign volunteers as militant revolutionaries.  This, effectively, is one of the fundamental points of Durgan’s volume: by detailing, as he does, the backgrounds of the foreign POUM volunteers, he challenges the reader to believe that such people could be Fascist spies or counter-revolutionaries. 

The exact number of foreigners who served in POUM military units between the military coup of July 1936 and the outlawing of the party in June 1937 is unknown. Durgan puts the number at about 500, of whom he has managed to trace 367; these form the basis of much of the book. The brief biographical notes on each of these which are provided in an appendix give a picture of the extraordinary lives of many of these hitherto-overlooked revolutionaries and will be of use to researchers. 

Not surprisingly the POUM volunteers shared many characteristics with members of the International Brigades: most were manual workers, only a minority had any previous military experience and a significant number were Jewish. There were, however, differences: Poumistas tended to be older than Brigaders.  Whereas the latter included volunteers from around four-fifths of the total of independent states in the world, the POUM volunteers were drawn from a smaller range of countries and they were more likely to be anti-fascist refugees. Some 60 per cent of POUM volunteers came from countries with authoritarian governments, with the largest groups, not surprisingly, from Germany (about 30 per cent) and Italy (another 20 per cent). Most of these were already living outside their home countries when the Civil War began, often in France or Belgium. However, a significant number foreign Poumistas were already living in Spain before the outbreak of war: Durgan identifies 79 such foreign residents, 34 of them German, 25 Italian. Most of the Germans were living in Barcelona, where, even before the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, there was a large German community. By 1934 this was estimated by the police at 15,000-18,000, many of them illegal immigrants. One of the features of interwar Europe underlined both by Durgan and by Tremlett is the large number of displaced people. 

The common background of German and Italian volunteers as refugees from dictatorship in their home countries led to one, possibly predictable, difference between the two groups. The earlier establishment of the Fascist regime in Italy meant that most Italian volunteers had left the country in the 1920s, making the average Italian poumista noticeably older than their German counterpart – and older than the overall average of POUM foreigners.  

Predictably many of the POUM volunteers had been active in left-wing political circles in their own countries, either in dissident Communist groups and parties critical of Stalin or in left-wing Socialist parties, such as the German Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (SAPD) and the British ILP.  Durgan helpfully provides both background material on these parties in an early chapter as well as an alphabetical list which many readers will find particularly useful. 

The focus of Durgan’s book is, however, not only on the foreign volunteers: he also sets out to examine the military policies of the POUM, an aspect which, he argues, has been badly neglected by historians. This involves detailed accounts of the establishment and development of the POUM militia units and their military activity during the first year of the war, above all on the Aragon Front. 

Historians seem to have accepted too readily Orwell’s picture of Aragon as a stagnant front where little fighting occurred. This picture fitted easily into accounts of the war written by opponents of the POUM including supporters of the Communist party. The Aragon Front was clearly a backwater in comparison with the battles around Madrid in the winter of 1936-1937 and those in the Basque provinces and Asturias in the summer of 1937. However, Durgan shows that the POUM units were far from inactive, particularly in the attempts to seize the Francoist stronghold of Huesca. Indeed, on the very day that the POUM was declared an illegal organisation, 16 June 1937, troops from the 29th Division, the party’s militia unit which had until shortly before been known as the Lenin Division, captured the strategically important hill “Loma de las Mártires” on the northern outskirts of Huesca. 

While most of the POUM forces were deployed in Aragon, Durgan also details the experiences of the party’s unit on the Madrid front, including the role of the Argentine Mika Etchebéhèhere, who, despite being a woman, commanded a company of the POUM militia and later served on the General Staff of the (Anarchist) 36th Brigade, before dedicating her remaining time in Spain to working with the Anarchist women’s organisation Mujeres Libres

Mika Etchebéhère, who was born in Argentina in 1902 and died in France in 1992 . Here at the Guadalajara front in 1936. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The POUM is often seen as a marginal party which enjoyed an ephemeral existence between its founding in 1935 and its suppression. Durgan challenges this, citing a membership of 30,000 during the winter of 1936/7, mainly in the most revolutionary zones of Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon. While it is often assumed that the outlawing of the POUM in June 1937 spelt the end of the party, Durgan also shows that this was clearly not the case: it continued a shadowy existence in Valencia and Madrid until mid-1938: clandestine editions of La Batalla, the party’s newspaper, continued to appear and Durgan quotes the paper’s editor, Josep Rebull, who claimed that 8,000 to 10,000 members remained active in December 1937.     

After the party was outlawed the fate of the POUM’s foreign volunteers varied. Durgan argues that most of the volunteers who came from countries with democratic regimes were able to leave Spain, though in many cases this was after periods of detention. The situation for the remainder was much more difficult as they could not return to their home countries. Durgan lists 104 volunteers who were arrested after the fets de maig, 31 of whom were expelled. Many of the others stayed on, whether to enlist in anarchist units, in the International Brigades, in regular units of the Republican army, or, in some cases to work in factories. 

Readers of Homage to Catalonia may recall that, prior to the fets de maig , the author, along with some of the other ILP volunteers, was attempting to transfer to the International Brigades. The events in Barcelona made this unthinkable and Orwell returned to the POUM militia on the Aragon Front until he was wounded. Transfers between military units seem, however, to have been relatively common: Durgan identifies 51 volunteers who served in both the International Brigades and in POUM militia units. In some cases former Poumistas had limited alternatives: the Italian Giuseppe Leban, for example, was expelled from Spain in August 1937, but was then expelled from France two months later and returned to Spain to join the Brigades.

The situation of many of the volunteers emerges from the biographical details in Durgan’s appendix. The German Hans Reiter, for example, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, served in the POUM militia and, after being detained in July 1937, became an officer in the Republican army. Detained in a camp in Algeria between 1939 and 1942, he joined General Philippe Leclerc’s famous 2nd Armoured Division which entered Paris at the head of allied liberation forces in August 1944.  Otto Towe, also German, served in the POUM militia before transferring to the Anarchist Durruti Column in December 1936 and subsequently, in July 1937, enlisting in the International Brigades in which he served until the end of the war (despite being briefly arrested in August 1937). His experiences afterwards included being interned in France, returning to Germany where he was detained by the Gestapo, being sent to Greece as part of a German penal battalion, escaping and joining the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS), the largest of the Greek forces fighting the German occupation. 

Towe’s option of joining the International Brigades, however, does not seem to have been available to many of those volunteers who had been members of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Opposition), the dissident German communist party: Durgan notes the role of the KPD-Abwehr, the security organisation of the pro-Moscow German communist party, which accused all German POUM volunteers of being Gestapo agents and was able to prevent most of them from enlisting in the Brigades. 

As the cases of Otto Towe and Hans Reiter indicate, the fate of those foreigners who served in the POUM was often very harsh after the victory of Franco. The relatively large numbers of German and Italian volunteers were, almost inevitably, destined for concentration camps, initially in France, where their prospects worsened after the Fall of France in 1940.  Of the 52 POUM volunteers whom Durgan lists as having been interned in French camps, 28 were Italians and 18 Germans. Their situation can be compared with many of their compatriots from the International Brigades. Like the latter many were sent to the concentration camp at Gurs in South-west France. Here, according to Durgan the Poumistas suffered the additional hardship of being treated as Nazi spies and sympathisers by members of the Communist party. 

How should we assess the contribution of the relatively small number of foreign volunteers who served in the military units of the POUM? Durgan argues that their importance should not be overlooked. He lists 36 volunteers who served as officers and/or political commissars in POUM units and argues that the units in which they served were the most effective assembled by the party. Their role, like that of the POUM itself, has been marginalised in many of the accounts of the Civil War. Few historians have believed the charges levelled at the party and its militia of being a Nazi front organisation, but, as Durgan indicates, many of the other frequently repeated accusations made against it were unwarranted and false.  One of Durgan’s conclusions, indeed, is that:

the main difference between the foreign fighters of the POUM and the members of the International Brigades was the vilification and, in many cases, the repression to which they were subjected

Voluntarios por la Revolución: La Milicia Internacional del POUM en la Guerra Civil Española (p. 485)

As indicated earlier, this book’s focus on the foreign volunteers of the POUM fills a vacuum in our knowledge and understanding of aspects of the Civil War. While much of the material on the party itself may already be found in specialist literature in Spanish and Catalan, Voluntarios Por La Revolución makes this available to a wider readership and is to be recommended to readers interested in the internal politics of Republican Spain during the Civil War. Readers of the English edition of this blog must hope for the early publication of an English-language edition.  

With thanks for Enric’s work on the database.

This post has been updated on 4 October 2022.

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!

PHOTO: POUM’s militia members being instructed about shotguns. Lenin headquarters in Barcelona. Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Imágenes procedentes de los fondos de la Biblioteca Nacional de España.

New search engine for birthplace

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Seguimos explorando maneras diferentes de comunicar información sobre las víctimas de Guerra Civil y la represión posterior durante la dictadura de Franco. Hoy publicamos un buscador geográfico que incorpora registros de diversos conjuntos de datos.

Anunciamos la publicación de este recurso durante la mesa redonda Datos abiertos y patrimonio documental en el XVIII Congreso de Archivística y Gestión Documental de Catalunya y lo publicamos poco antes del Día Internacional de los Archivos el 9 de junio para destacar la importancia de que se publiquen datos históricos en formato abierto.

Martin Virtel y Guillermo Nasarre han ubicado en un mapa los más de 82.000 registros de personas muertas, desaparecidas o represaliadas de quienes conocemos su lugar de nacimiento para facilitar búsquedas geográficas. Se puede buscar por apellidos y por lugar de nacimiento. Para los apellidos, se recomienda probar diversas grafías, especialmente con o sin acento.

“Nos gustó especialmente trabajar con Datasette de Simon Willison –dice Martin–. Es una herramienta excelente para publicar datos: muy bien pensada, fácil de comprender y de adaptar”.

“El tiempo que ahorramos usando Datasette lo pudimos invertir en publicar un paquete de R que bautizamos como limpyr –añade Guillermo–. Incluye varias funciones de limpieza, como convertir nombres de lugares, a veces con más de una versión, en coordenadas geográficas .”

Búsqueda geográfica por lugar nacimiento

En el enlace, que quedará en nuestra página principal, veréis un mapa y a continuación un listado de nombres. En el mapa se sitúan como máximo mil puntos. La ubicación no es necesariamente exacta y puede haber más de un punto por persona si consta en más de un conjunto de datos. El lugar de nacimiento se ha calculado automáticamente para ampliar las posibilidades de resultados. También hemos creado un tutorial sobre ¿Cómo buscar geográficamente en nuestra base de datos?, con música cedida por Piano Accompaniment.

En el listado constan los resultados y desde el número de identificación a la izquierda (columna ID) se enlaza directamente a toda la información de qué disponemos en nuestra base de datos. Clicando en Referencias desde cada registro, podéis ver cómo acceder a la información o documentación.

Al poder buscar por apellidos y lugar, creemos que muchas personas van a poder descubrir a familiares represaliados de los que no se tenía conocimiento. Para buscar por nombre y apellidos, es mejor hacerlo en, donde hay más de 1,2 millones de registros, y en el Nuevo Buscador de Represaliados de la Guerra Civil del que os hablamos en nuestro artículo anterior.

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The making of the Ministry of Education records

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La base de datos de los expedientes del Archivo del Ministerio de Educación que incorporamos a es útil para el objetivo por el que se creó: encontrar en el Archivo el expediente solicitado entre más de medio millón. El Archivo pasó años elaborándola.

Hemos querido calcular cuánto tiempo se tardaría únicamente en teclear la información que contiene.  Los casi 30 millones de caracteres que la conforman suponen un mínimo de tiempo de 340 días laborales tecleando a un ritmo de 36 palabras por minuto, la velocidad media para acceder a un puesto de la Administración Pública que implique esta tarea. Es decir, solo introducir los datos habría ocupado más de un año de trabajo. No estamos teniendo en cuenta la tarea de traslado de los expedientes para su consulta y laboriosa descripción. El trabajo con esta documentación histórica se llevó a cabo de forma adicional al trabajo diario del Archivo.

Igual que cada registro se refiere a una persona -y nunca olvidamos esto-, quien introduce cada registro desde un archivo también lo es, y todas las personas podemos cometer errores. 

Limpiar los datos nos permite analizarlos y extraer nuevas conclusiones. En asignamos género a cada uno de los registros, aunque este trabajo no es visible en la base de datos. 

Para asignar género a cada uno de los nombres, hemos utilizado una base de datos de uso interno, elaborada por Carla Ymbern con datos del Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) y el Institut Català d’Estadística (IDESCAT). Esto nos permite concluir que es muy superior el porcentaje de hombres con un expediente de titulación, mientras que el número de expedientes de depuración a hombres y mujeres es paritario.

Porcentaje de expedientes por género

La descripción del siguiente trabajo de limpieza de los datos no tiene como objetivo la crítica, sino explicar una parte de la actividad de con los conjuntos de datos que integramos en la base de datos centralizada de la Guerra Civil y el franquismo. 

El número de registros era inicialmente 565.218, y acabamos con 562.298. Se eliminaron casi 3.000 porque se detectó que eran duplicados. Nadie sería capaz de crear una base de datos uniforme  La tecnología avanza rápidamente y los criterios pueden cambiar, así como las personas que dirigen el trabajo y quienes lo llevan a cabo.

Errores tipográficos que no tienen importancia en otros contextos cobran importancia en el caso de una búsqueda en una base de datos con tantos registros.  Por ejemplo, existían nombres con caracteres imposibles, como números o símbolos diferentes al guión o el apóstrofe, o bien espacios y signos de puntuación adicionales.  También había palabras incompletas o escritas incorrectamente. 

Se reemplazaron expresiones como  “Mª” o “Antº” por María o Antonio, aunque a veces no fue posible por su ambigüedad. Por ejemplo  “Fº” podría ser “Fernando” o “Francisco”, incluso otros, y se optó por transformarlo en “F.” 

Las máquinas que nos ayudan a limpiar los datos tenían que recibir instrucciones claras. Por ejemplo, 

  • Todos los apóstrofes deben tener caracteres alfabéticos antes y después. 
  • Todos los puntos deben ir precedidos por una mayúscula y seguidos de un espacio. 
  • No puede haber mayúsculas en el interior de una palabra. 

Asimismo, en el campo de nombres y apellidos, no puede haber ni dígitos, ni interrogantes ni guiones sueltos para indicar que “no consta”,  ni espacios extra en blanco, porque esto dificulta la búsqueda. 

Nombre y apellidos con mayor número de expedientes

Núm totalDepuraciónTitulación
josegarcia garcia33231
manuelfernandez garcia27423
josesanchez garcia25223
josemartinez martinez25124
franciscogarcia garcia25223
maria del carmengarcia garcia21021
maria del carmengarcia fernandez16016
josefagarcia garcia14212
maria del carmenperez garcia11011
maria de los angelesgarcia garcia11110

Utilizamos la existencia de la serie de caracteres “depura” en Tipo de expediente y Especialidad para separar los datos del Ministerio de Educación en

Hemos creado un notebook para explicar este proceso de limpieza y está disponible aquí.

We hope you liked this article. We keep a database of 1.2m records of the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain and help promote access to information in Spain. Please consider making a donation to enable us to continue our work by following this link Thank you!

IMAGEN: Título de Maestra de primera enseñanza elemental de Tomasa Sevilla Aranda (1913). Cedido por su bisniesta Raquel Herrera, quien estudia la depuración de sus bisabuelos en el proyecto difundido como #maestrosyrehenes en la red social twitter.

Correction: Ministry of Education data

In our work we value highly the accuracy of information and therefore we consider it important to correct mistakes. The following is a correction to our previous article entitled Data from the Ministry of Education – our database now has over one million case files .

We have discovered that the files containing more than half a million personal records from the Ministerio de Educación which we received described as records of teachers screened for their political reliability and – in some cases purged from the teaching profession – are, in fact, mainly records of those awarded teaching or professional qualifications.

This was discovered by making a request for the file of a person who had, supposedly, been politically screened to the Archivo General de la Administración (AGA). 

The Archive of the Ministerio de Educación has provided this explanation: “When the databases of records of screened teachers and qualifications were merged, they were mixed in a way that made it impossible to separate both categories” (*)

In the original database the word “depuración” (screened) appears in a total of 49,045 personal files, usually in the field listing “Tipo de expediente” (category of file). Therefore, from now onwards, you will be able to find in our database two sets of datasets:

Both types of personal file may be found in the Archivo General de la Administración (AGA), where they were transferred from the Archivo Central del Ministerio de Educación (ACME). 

50% of those names against which there is at least one record of political screening refer to people for whom there is also a record of a teaching qualification.  

According to the Archive, in some cases the records of screening and of qualification may be included in the same personal file. We have only retained personal files covering both screening and qualification in a dozen cases, where we have established that the first names, family names, folder number and file number are the same and where the record covers both screening and qualification.   

We think that it is a good idea to continue to provide access to all of these personal records in order to facilitate the work of anyone who has an interest in reconstructing their family roots. 

(*) Text has been modified after obtaining further information from the Archivo de Educación (27 April 2021)

 “He who has made a mistake and doesn’t correct it makes an even greater mistake.” 


Data from the Ministry of Education – our database now has over one million case files

If you read this article and find it useful please consider making a donation to enable us to continue our work by following this link Thank you!

To mark the fourth anniversary of the establishment of Innovation and Human Rights we have added a total of 562,298 personal files from the Ministerio de Educación to our database. We have divided them into two separate datasets. 49,045 are records of teachers who were screened for their political reliability in the Francoist repression and – in some cases – expelled from the profession, and 513,253 are the records of people who were awarded teaching or technical school qualifications This means that the database now includes 1,282,626 personal records which may be accessed by first name and family name. 

[Note 9 March 2021: In the previous version of this article a higher number of people was given and reference was made to only one dataset. For an explanation of this change follow the link to this article]

The personal files of people purged in this process is now much more accessible than previously. The dataset itself is the result of the efforts, over a period of many years, of the staff of the Archivo Central de Educación (ACME) . The files themselves were subsequently transferred to the Archivo General de la Administración (AGA) in Alcalá de Henares, where they are now housed. 

The purge was not restricted to teachers at primary and secondary levels: it also included staff in the Universities, the Colleges of Engineering and of Architecture,  the Technical Colleges, the Business Schools and the Escuelas Taller (Vocational Training Centres). Neither was it restricted to the teaching profession as it also covered teaching assistants, auxiliary staff, administrators, caretakers and anyone else involved education, all whom were liable to be removed from their posts and to have a file opened on them. 

In total there are over half a million personal files and they include people from a variety of professional backgrounds: not only teachers but also industrial experts, teachers of commerce, engineers, architects, veterinary surgeons, fitters, machinists, overseers and many others. We are carrying out an analysis of this data and hope to be able to provide more information soon.  

The importance of education for the early governments of the Republic was pointed out in a previous article The Mission of the School is to Transform the Country. A generation of teachers identified with this mission and with the Republic. The key aims of the early Republican governments, namely freedom of the individual, teacher’s initiative, solidarity and citizenship were reflected in the educational system. The rebel military officers and their civilian allies were determined to prevent the promotion and encouragement of these aims in the educational system.

The Spanish Republic was a pioneer in promoting two reforms which at the time were very controversial but which today are taken for granted not only in Spain but also in neighbouring countries: an educational system which is public, secular and mixed; and the equal role of women in society.  As a result the dictatorship was particularly brutal in its treatment of the educational profession.

As Maria Antonia Iglesias explains in her book Maestros de la República. Los otros santos, los otros mártires (La Esfera de Libros, 2006), an unknown number of teachers were executed, above all during the Civil War but also during the early postwar period, often in the cruellest and most arbitrary fashion. These include the following:  Argimiro Rico Trabada (Baleira, Lugo), Ceferino Farfante Rodríguez, Balbina Gayo Gutiérrez (Cangas del Narcea, Asturias), Bernardo Pérez Manteca (Fuentesaúco, Zamora),  Miguel Castel Barrabés (Sant Bartomeu del Grau, Barcelona) José María Morante Benlloch (Carcaixent, Valencia),  Gerardo Muñoz Muñoz (Móstoles, Madrid), Severiano Núñez García (Jaraiz de la Vera, Cáceres), Teófilo Azabal Molina (Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz), Carmen Lafuente (Cantillana, Sevilla) and José Rodríguez Aniceto (El Arahal, Sevilla). 

During the Civil War, as the rebel military forces advanced and occupied new territory, they imprisoned not only soldiers but also leading local political and social figures. In addition they sacked teachers and other educational staff, initially banning from the classroom all staff who had been involved in teaching in the Republican Zone during the Civil War. 

Decreto 66 , a decree issued as early as 8 November 1936 established Committees for the Purging of Educational Staff (Comisiones Depuradoras del personal de la Enseñanza). There were four types of these committees, specialised as follows : (1) University Staff; (2) Colleges of Engineering and Architecture; (3) Secondary teachers, Teaching Inspectors, Teacher Training College staff and Administration Department staff; and (4) Primary Teachers. For each of the last two categories there was one committee for each province, while for the first two there was one nationwide committee. 

A landmark in the historical study of the purging of the Spanish educational profession was achieved in 1997 by the doctoral thesis of Francisco Morente Valero, currently Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Entitled La escuela y el Estado Nuevo. La depuración del magisterio nacional (1936-1943), this included an appendix which listed 20,000 names, although this was only a sample of the total number of staff affected.  More recently, in 2017, in his thesis on the purging of the teaching profession in A Coruña entitled La depuración del Magisterio nacional en A Coruña, Jesús Manuel García Díaz provided a summary of the historical studies of the purging of the educational system at both national and local levels up to the date of publication  (pages 24-62). 

This dataset is the largest so far to be included in the database. All of the files in the database can be accessed by inputting first name and family name.  Among the other datasets included in the database are:

If you read this article and find it useful please consider making a donation to enable us to continue our work by following this link  Thank you!

Photograph: A school in Spain before 1936, showing a teacher with her pupils.  Photographer unknown. Wikipedia. 

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].

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

Neus Català in Ravensbrück – and who else?

As a means of paying homage to Neus Català, we are including in the  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)

Promise Kept: 654,000 case-files included in the Database!

At the end of November 2017 Innovation and Human Rights held the official presentation of its centralised database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Dictatorship in the Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona – CCCB). During that event, entitled Defending the Right to Know: Data Journalism and the Spanish Civil War,  we explained that we had entered the first 220,000 case-files into the database and we made the commitment to increase this to reach a total of 500,000 case-files within a year. You can find a summary of what was included in the database at that stage by reading the article Data for the Collective Historical Memory.

Today we are able to announce that not only have we reached this target of half a million case files, but that we have exceeded it. The database now contains 654,000 case files, all of which are supported by references to archives and historical research.

Now is the time to consult the database again.

Meanwhile the team at IHR are working to increase further the number of case-files in the database with the following three aims:

  • To assist the relatives of the victims and people who were repressed
  • To spread knowledge about the archives
  • To contribute to historical research

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