If the current plans are implemented, the remains of the Dictator Francisco Franco will soon be exhumed from the so-called “Valle de los Caídos” or “Valley of the Fallen.” The mausoleum, erected to commemorate the Spanish Civil War, is the largest mass-grave in Spain. Itopened to the public on 1 April 1959, on the 20th anniversary of Franco’s victory in this war. It contains not only the remains of Franco but also those of more than 33,000 other people who had been killed during the Civil War. In many cases these were transferred without the consent or even the knowledge of the victims’ families; this affected victims and their families on both sides of the Civil War, but especially for those who had supported the Republicans.
Even today, there are families which have throughout their lives taken flowers to graves without knowing whether they were empty or not. To help them, we have included the datasetVíctimas enterradas en el Valle de los Caídos(Victims Buried in the Valley of the Fallen) in the ihr.world database – which now contains more than 700.000 personal records (*).
This dataset contains the personal records of more than 20,000 people whose names are documented in the Registers of the Abbey of Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos. These books contain the names of people whose remains were transferred to the mausoleum between 17 March 1959 and 3 July 1983. The Abbey’s website, however, admits that the exact number of people whose remains are buried here is unknown (admite desconocer el número exacto de restos).
Work on the construction of the “Valley of the Fallen” began in 1940 and continued until 1959. The labour force included about 20,000 Republican prisoners who had been sentenced to forced labour. It was originally planned as a commemorative monument in honour of those who had been killed in the “glorious crusade”, as the victorious campaign by Franco’s forces during the Civil War was described. However it was later redesignated as a “symbol of reconciliation” and, as a result, the remains of victims from the Republican side were transferred to be reburied here.
The monument is characterised by the 150 metre-high stone cross, which is considered to be the “highest Christian cross in the world”. Visible from a distance of 40 kilometres, it is a similar height to, for example, the Mapfre Tower in Barcelona, the Picasso Tower in Madrid or the Iberdrola Tower in Bilbao. It belongs to the Patrimonio Nacional, which is part of the Ministry of Culture.
In her book, Els morts clandestins. Les fosses comunes de la Guerra Civil a Catalunya (1936-1939) [“The Clandestine Dead: The Mass-Graves of the Civil War in Catalonia”] the historian Queralt Solé has published the results of her research into the transfer of the mortal remains of Civil War victims, both supporters of the Republic and those who supported the military coup from mass-graves in Catalonia to the “Valley of the Fallen.” In addition the Catalan documentary Avi et trauré d’aquí [in English: “Grandfather I will get you out of here”] (Sense Ficció, CCMA, 2013) records the testimonies of families, the remains of whose relatives transferred without their permission or even their awareness.
In 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia passed a law which annulled all of the sentences imposed by the military tribunals of the Franco Regime. As a result, the National Archive of Catalonia issued the llista de reparació jurídica de les víctimes del franquisme, which includes cases dealt with by summary military proceedings from 1937 onwards. 5,502 out of the almost 70,000 summary military proceedings in that list were opened to women. It amounts to eight percent of the total.
In 1939, at the end of the Civil War, anybody who was denounced as having been a member of a political party or a supporter of the Republic could find themselves facing a firing squad. A few insubstantial and unverified allegations related to the crime of “rebellion” could lead to the opening of summary military proceedings leading to a sentence within weeks.
This was Carme Claramunt‘s sad fate. She was the first woman to be executed by a firing squad at the Campo de la Bota in Barcelona. Claramunt, aged 41, was a single housewife who had been born in Roda de Barà in the province of Tarragona. She lived in Badalona, near Barcelona, where she worked in a shop which sold fashion accessories. Angelina Picas, who ran the shop and who was called “auntie” by Carme, was childless and wanted to leave the shop to her. Claramunt was tried on charges of having denounced and thus caused the deaths of several right-wing people during the Republic. According to the work of the historian Emili Ferrando in his book Executada, some of the accusations against her were made by the nephews and nieces of Angelina Picas, who wanted to inherit the shop.
The victorious leaders of the military rebellion occupied Barcelona on 26 January 1939 and quickly established tribunals which could carry out summary trials within a matter of hours. On 2 March Carmen Claramunt, after being “arrested by members of the Falange Española,” was put into preventive custody. Within a week five of her neighbours had testified.
The summary of her case includes two statements: one from the Falange and the other, written in a similar style, from the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil). There is also a summary of the indictment describing her as “Dangerous extremist. Enemy of the nationalist regime.”
According to the prison records for 1939, cited by Fernando Hernández Holgado in his doctoral thesis “La prisión militante”, Carmen Claramunt pleaded not-guilty to all of the charges and was sent to the Corts de Barcelona women’s prison on 13 March. On 27 March her case went before a consejo de guerra sumarísimo (summary military court) accused of the offence of “military rebellion.” Later the same day she was sentenced in a joint hearing along with seven other people. Along with one of the men she was sentenced to death. (For further details see case summary No 58 in the Archivo del Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero de Barcelona). The record contains two errors: her second surname is given as ‘Bonet’ instead of Barot and her age is given as 28 instead of 41 as stated by Ferrando.
However, executions could not be carried out without being expressly authorised by the Generalísimo from his Headquarters and this authorisation (known as an “enterado”) was not received by the prison until 17 April . Claramunt would have known her sentence but she would not have known her fate until she was informed that the death sentence was to be carried out the next morning. By then she had spent over a month in the women’s prison of Les Corts. A few hours before being executed she said goodbye to her “auntie” in a letter which Ferrando reproduces and transcribes in his book: “you already know that they are killing an innocent person (…) my only regret is to leave you but be assured that God wants this; from heaven I will ask that you will not lack anything”. Carme Claramunt was executed by firing squad at five in the morning on 18 April 1939, only five weeks after her arrest.
The same month two other women came to the same sad end: Elisa Cardona Ollé, in Tarragona, on 22 April and Encarnación Llorens Pérez, in Barcelona, on 26 April. In total, 17 women were executed in Catalunya after the Civil War. We now have more information about the others.
The Repression against Women: Some Statistical Data
The repression carried out by the military authorities by means of summary proceedings was at its most intense immediately after the end of the Civil War: 86% of the total of 3,362 executions were carried out in 1939.
Of the nearly 70,000 cases handled by summary military proceedings 5,502 cases were brought against women, which amounts to nearly eight per cent of the total.
Analysis carried out by Innovation and Human Rights of the data on all of the women included in this list of victims of the Francoist summary judicial system allows us, for the first time, to consider the summary military proceedings from the point of view of gender.
Three of every four of the 5,319 women tried by the Military Authorities up to 1978 were tried during 1939. All of the seventeen women executed by firing squad on the orders of the courts were shot during 1939. Another 24 women were condemned to death; however, they were not executed.
In one case – that of Carmen Lopez Cano – three different sets of military judicial proceedings were opened in 1939. In addition there are 181 cases of women for whom two separate proceedings were opened.
In 40% of the cases, following early investigations, the women were not detained or were subsequently released; but they acquired the stigma of having been investigated and had often suffered a period of imprisonment. For the others, the most common sentence was one of imprisonment for between twelve and twenty years. The second most common sentence was of between six and twelve years imprisonment. For details follow this link.
Minors, the Elderly and the Waiting
In 1939 alone a total of 795 women were condemned to between 12 and 20 years in prison. Even those who were, in legal terms, still minors, were subject to the repression. Until 1972 the age of majority was 21 years, but, under Article 321 of the Civil Code, all women under the age of 25 were prohibited from living outside their family without parental consent, unless it was to get married or enter a convent. Once they had married, all women were obliged to present what was called the “marital license” in order to work, to carry out a trade, to occupy a public office or to obtain a passport.
Nevertheless, during the postwar period, 6 fourteen year old girls and 5 fifteen year old girls were charged. Between 1939 and 1975, 87 girls under the age of eighteen and 466 women aged between eighteen and twenty-one were also charged. [see the data here]. Moreover, one legal minor, Eugenia Gonzalez Ramos, was even executed by firing squad at the age of twenty.
In 1939 also, one of the two youngest women to be found guilty, Encarnación Cano Cano, who was aged 16, was given a ten-year sentence. She had to wait four years for the sentence to be given because of the delays in the system.
People awaiting sentences were detained in prison. In the case of Barcelona this was in the prisión de Les Corts, which continued to function as a prison until 1955. The site of the prison is now occupied by the branch of El Corte Inglés on the Diagonal; the location is currently only marked by a sad-looking plaque. It was in Les Corts that the other woman tried in the same summary proceedings as Carme Claramunt, namely Teresa Vila Castellví, a 57 year old widow who had been condemned to 15 years imprisonment, died two weeks after the execution of Claramunt, on 5 May 1939.
Her case, however, does not end there, and, as presodelescorts.org comments “Some idea of the efficiency of the judicial-penitential system of the regime is indicated by the fact that in 1944 her prison sentence was to be commuted from one of fifteen years to one of five, without the corresponding military court being aware of her death” which had occurred five years before. Only the archives now provide a record of such deaths of people held in prison.
Charges were also brought against elderly women, including eleven who were over the age of 75 years [see data here]. The eldest of these was Antonia Castán Viu, who in 1938 received a sentence of 39 years imprisonment when she was already aged 79! This was later reduced to twelve years.
The five longest running military judicial proceedings were only finally closed after between 27 and 32 years. [see data here]. Finally one curiosity may be of interest: the most common first names of the women charged were as follows: Maria, Teresa, Carmen, Dolores y Josefa, in that order [data here].
The analysis of the data of all of the women included in the reparation list for the victims of the Franco Regime, drawn up by Innovation and Human Rights, enables us to analyse the outcomes of the summary military courts for the first time from the point of view of gender. This analysis has been possible thanks to the Law to Annul the Trials of the Franco Regime of 2017 and to the fact that, following its passage, the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya published the database of the summary trials in a reusable format, which itself is the result of ten years work on the documents in the Archive of the Tribunal Militar Tercero.
A jupyter notebook produced by Innovation and Human Rights complements this Investigation of the summary military trials: Some Detailed Cases of Women in Catalonia. This provides access to the open source code and to the raw data which we have used to provide this information.
Grateful thanks are owed to Martin Virtel, Professor of Journalism BCN_NY, founder of the data consultancy Datenfreunde and member of dpa-Newslab, the innovation unit of Deutsche Presse Agentur, the German press agency.
[Translation by Charlie Nurse]
Photo: Militiawomen, 1936. Author: Gerda Taro. Public domain.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March we have added the following two items which you can find elsewhere on our website:
Firstly, we have included in the Innovation and Human Rights database the first set of data dedicated exclusively to women: in this case to the women murdered in the Aragón (mujeres asesinadas en Aragón) which is based on the research of the historian Antonio Peiró of the Universidad de Zaragoza, which was published under the title Eva en los infiernos: Mujeres asesinadas en Aragón durante la Guerra Civil y la posguerra. (“Eva in the Depths of Hell: Women murdered in Aragón during the Civil War and the Postwar Period”). Although it is impossible to establish the total number of women killed, Peiró has tracked down a total of 780 and has built up profiles of them: 593 of them died at the hands of the insurgents and another 187 at those of the Republicans.
In addition, we are publishing the results of previously unpublished research based on extensive analysis of the data on the military judicial procedures between 1938 and 1975 with specific reference to women who were subjected to retaliation. This has been made possible by the cooperation of Martin Virtel, Professor on the Master’s degree in Journalism BCN_NY and also thanks to the publication in a reusable format by the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya of the list of those people sentenced by the judicial system of the Franco Regime. We have used the first version of this list which was published in July 2017. Follow this link for access:
On 30 July we published an article in the Minorca daily newspaper ‘Menorca’ under the title Minorcan Victims of Reprisals, with a list of names (follow the link en castellano)
This was based on the open data provided by the National Archive of Catalonia, which was discussed in the previous article ‘Victims of Francoism en Catalonia finally available on #opendata’.
Minorca remained loyal to the Republic throughout the Civil War. It was the site of one of the last battles of the war, between 4th and 9th February 1939. Hundreds of Republicans were able to escape to Marseilles in the British cruiser HMS Devonshire following British mediation and another 75 left for Algeria in the yacht Carmen Pico. However many more waited in vain in Maó for a ship which never arrived. Antoni Pons Melià has compiled a list of those killed in the repression in Minorca in his book Victimes del silenci while stories of the reprisals on the island have been collected by Bartolomeu Pons Sintes in Memorias de un preso político.
The people listed in the article in ‘Menorca’ were not the only victims during the Civil War and the Francoist period. It is also clear that the repression was not limited to these judicial procedures. The data published by the National Archives of Catalonia are based on the archives of the Military Tribunals of Region Three [Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero] but are not exhaustive. As a result the Innovation and Human Rights continues to work for the establishment of a central database which includes all the victims.
Photo: Trench and artillery post in Cavalleria, Minorca [C. Catalan]
This followed the release of a pdf version, (ie not reusable) a few days earlier, as a result of the publication in the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya (DOGC) the official register of Generalitat de Catalunya, of Llei 11/2017 de reparació jurídica de las víctimes del franquisme, which provides for judicial restitution of the victims of Francoism. This law declares that the military tribunals of the Franco regime were illegal and symbolically annuls those sentences and rulings which were politically inspired.
We welcome the fact that Catalonia has now joined Galicia and the Basque Country by publishing a list of the victims of the Franco regime. It is, however, important to add two important points:
The Guide was compiled by the National Archives of Catalonia as a result of archive work lasting ten years following an agreement with the Archives of the Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero [TMT3] (the Military Tribunal of the Third Region) which provided complete access to its records. The TMT3 archives continue to hold all the documentation and requests for specific information should be directed there [Email:email@example.com; Postal address: Portal de la Pau, s/n – 08002 Barcelona ]
2-The data published help us to understand the dimensions of the repression which occurred but they are nowhere near exhaustive. There are a total of 28 military archives in Spain and many others with documentation from this period, covering prisons, Francoist concentration camps, military disciplinary labour battalions, workers battalions…
We are in the process of compiling this information but in Catalonia we are still awaiting the opening of the database of the Centre d’Història Contemporània with their reference to archives, as well as those of the Barcelona prisons (the collections of documentation of the male Presó Model and the female Presó de Les Corts by the National Archives of Catalonia, and many other records in numerous archives.
Publication of the victims’ names comes after extensive background work. On 15 September 2016 Guillermo Blasco and I had our first interview with Mireia Plana, Deputy Director of Memòria, Pau i Drets Humans, and Plàcid Garcia-Planas, of Memorial Democràtic, in which we explained the ihr.world project to assemble a central database on the Civil War. We offered to cooperate with them to put together the material already available in the different institutions of the Generalitat de Catalunya and we asked them to open up the database of the Cost Humà de la Guerra Civil, of the Centre d’Història Contemporània, whose records can only be accessed one at a time.
The idea of creating a central database listing the victims of the Civil War had been sown over a year before, while we were researching in the Barcelona Television (BTV) datalab for the publication of 800 days under bombardment: Barcelona during the Civil War (unfortunately this is now only available in an Italian-language version). Since the IV International Open Data Conference was due to be held in Madrid in the following October – the first time it was hosted in Europe – I decided to send suggestions and proposals. When, as a result, I was chosen to join the panel on Open Data and Humanitarian Causes, the proposal for #GuerraCivil #opendata became the seed for Innovation and Human Rights (ihr.world).
Since that first meeting on 15 September last year we have sent petitions for data to numerous organisations, both in Catalonia and in other parts of Spain. Locally we have been in contact with the Departament d’Afers i Relacions Institucionals i Exteriors i Transparència of the Generalitat, the Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero (the Military Tribunal of the Third Region), and the National Archives of Catalonia, as well as other archives and private institutions, in addition to investigators, researchers and historians. Some of these requests have been more successful than others.
Finally we draw your attention to two relevant articles. In his article “Cuando la prensa se ausenta” (lamarea.com) Gervasio Sánchez rightly points to the importance of the lack of interest shown by the media over the past forty years in the human rights record of the Franco regime. Meanwhile in PuntAvui attention has been drawn to the current poor condition of the Campo de la Bota, which was the site of the executions in Barcelona during the Franco regime.
Photo: Carme Claramunt, executed by firing squad on 18 April 1939 in the Campo de la Bota [Courtesy of Emilio Ferrando, historian and author of ‘Executada’]