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The IHR database: some explanations (2)

At the end of July we published the first of two articles which attempt to clarify some doubts raised about the central database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Regime which is being established by  Innovation and Human Rights.  As mentioned in the first of these, if you have any queries about this you are welcome to contact us via email to  info@ihr.world.

The data you publish are of a personal nature.  Is it legal to publish them?

All of the data included in this project are either already publicly available in another format or, in cases where they are covered by copyright, we have obtained the authors’ permission for their use.  Spanish legislation is, apparently, very protective in relation to the availability of data and restrictive in terms of permitting access to information, despite the fact that, in theory the law, like the Constitution, emanates from “the people”.  A proposed reform of the 1968 Official Secrets Act, presented by the Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) is currently being blocked in the Spanish Congress by the Popular Party (Partido Popular) and the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español).  Secrets appear to be eternal and access to some archives is denied. 

The names of the victims of the Civil War should not be subject to data protection legislation. Neither, in our opinion, should be the names of those who were victims of repression. In fact, the pioneering legislation passed in Catalonia in 2017 (see The Catalan Parliament Approves the Annulment of the Political Trials of the Franco Regime ) has made it possible to publish a list annulling the judicial sentences passed in Catalonia during the Civil War and afterwards until the year 1980 (See Victims of Francoism in Catalonia, finally available on #opendata). It makes little sense in this context that legally we should be prevented from knowing the names of victims of other types of repression in this period.

With respect to those people who were victims of forced disappearance, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has for years called on the Spanish state to establish a public database of those who disappeared (Naciones Unidas reclama justicia para los 114.226 desaparecidos).

What is the next stage of the project?

We plan to continue adding datasets to the database, thus increasing both the volume and type of data included.

What is the ultimate goal of the project?

Our aim is that anyone who suspects or knows that one (or more) of their relatives was a victim of the Civil War or during the Franco Regime should find assistance here which will enable them access more information or documentation.

What difficulties have you encountered?

Sometimes it is difficult to explain that our aim is altruistic and has the same objective as other public and private initiatives.  We present the database to show how we work and hope that it puts us into contact with other people with similar aims among those who work as professional historians or archivists or in the cultural industries or in data sciences or in fields concerning transparency and open government….We believe in interdisciplinarity.

Don’t you think that most people don’t care what happened in the past?

We think that there are people who care what happened in the past. Our project is aimed at those people who do care what happened in the past. Maybe as a society, we should be concerned that a lot of people don’t care that, for example, the families of over 100,000 dead people in Spain cannot leave flowers at a grave in a cemetery because their relatives remains lie in an unmarked mass-grave.  

Aren’t you taking unfair advantage of the research carried out by other people?

We want to put together in one place the results of hundreds of research projects and databases, many of which cover a limited geographical area or which suffer from limited distribution. We consider that putting the data together in this way will enable it to be cross-referenced in a way which has not hitherto been possible and will facilitate further historical research. 

Is this a research project?

It is a project which aims to contribute towards research, because our objective is to provide the data in a fashion which will enable users to make more elaborate searches for information simply by imputting a person’s name. 

Is it easy for you to obtain data from the archives?

The archives hold datasets which are the fruit of thousands of hours of work by professional archivists and we think it is important to make this information available to a wider public as well as to make their enormous efforts more widely recognised.  Sometimes, when they publish data, it appears in a format which is not very helpful for our purposes. However, they have to follow the instructions of their legal advisors and, apparently, under current legislation, they are not allowed to share an important part of their work.

Has the archive data which you present been sent to you by the archives?

We have obtained most of the archive data by searching on the internet for documentation on the Civil War and the Franco Regime. In some cases we have not needed to seek permission to use the data because the documentation which is available online has been presented by public archives and financed by public money. 

Will you include the names of those responsible for the killings?

We have no plans to include those responsible because this is a database of victims. There are, however, precedents for this: in Poland a database was posted on the internet with the names of 10,000 members of the SS who were connected to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

How is the association financed?

It is financed by membership fees paid by our very small number of members and by the finances of the founding members.

If anyone wants to help how can they do so?  

They should write to us at info@ihr.world

How can I find the name of a relative?

The database is organised in datasets which come from archives (for example  https://scwd.ihr.world/es/dataset/18) or from research projects (for example  https://scwd.ihr.world/es/dataset/30) which always refer back to the original sources.  At the moment we are not including personal files on individuals but, if you care to send us the name of your relative, we will help you to search.  We would also be interested if you wish to share your relative’s story o any documentation which you may have. Write to us at info@ihr.world.    

The IHR database: some explanations (1)

This is the first of two articles in which we attempt to clarify some issues about the base de datos or central database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco Regime which has been set up by  Innovation and Human Rights. We hope this will be useful. If you have any queries please about this contact us via email to info@ihr.world

How did the project begin?

The project began with the idea Guerra Civil Opendata while designing a web presentation on the bombardment of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.  In the spring of 2016 Concha Catalán sent this idea of the project to the organisers of the IV International Conference of Open Data. It was accepted and Guillermo Blasco and Concha jointly prepared the presentation which was given at the conference which was held in Madrid in October 2016, after which they decided to develop it further.

What if someone cannot find the name of their relative(s) in the database?
The database is being continually updated, both in relation to the number of people included and in relation to the the quality of the material available. From time to time we will be announcing via our blog the inclusion in the database of new files and we will outline what these files contain.

What kind of information does the database include?
The basic information: apart from the person’s first name and surname, it will list the documents available in which the person appears and data about the origins of these documents. In cases where this is a book or article a reference will be included. Where reference is to a document or an archive, a specific reference will be included as well as information on how to request access to the archive.

Have the team from IHR visited any archives? 
Yes, on numerous occasions. Among the archives visited are the Archive of the Third Regional Military Tribunal (Archivo del Tribunal Militar Tercero) in Barcelona where we have consulted the records of the Military Judicial Proceedings of the Franco Regime and the records of the Modelo Prison in Barcelona which are held in the National Archive of Catalonia [Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya]

How does the database work?
You type in a name and you will find a list of the documents where this person’s name appears. It is important to note that spellings of names can vary. Therefore try entering several different variations and spellings of the name. We are working to try to improve the search process as well as to provide responses which are similar – but not the same as – the names which are entered.   
We use software specially developed for this project, which allows files in a spreadsheet format to be put together in the database in response to the click of a button. Then, we provide a description of the information available in each dataset.

Why are the archive references of such importance to IHR?
Archives are not only important to IHR. Archives are fundamental to historical research in general. When people look for information and find it, they need to know where this information comes from for two important reasons: (1). for credibility; (2) for reliability. If you don’t have the document or you don’t know where the document is then you do not have the information.

How is the IHR database different from other similar databases?
1- We have a clear aim – to put together the documentation available from public sources and from published research in order to recover the memory of the victims and to assist their families. We wish to include all of the victims of the Spanish Civil War and of the Franco Regime without any geographical or other limits:

  • People killed whether Spanish or from overseas – for example members of the International Brigades.
  • People who were victims of enforced disappearance – numbering over 100,000. For years the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations has repeatedly called upon the Spanish government to establish a public database of these people.
  • Those who were victims of retaliation or repression, such as members of  forced labour battalions, people held in concentration camps or prisons, people deported to camps run by the Nazis, people forced in exile….IHR considers the babies stolen under the Franco Regime to be victims also. [Read about stolen babies on this June 2018 BBC report].

2- IHR aims to make the sources of the information accessible by giving references which enable the user to find information at the click of a button.
3- IHR aims to help encourage public awareness of the fundamental importance of archives for the establishment and maintenance of a democratic society.

Will IHR include details of supporters of the 1936 military coup who became victims?
Yes.

Why is IHR including victims who were supporters of the 1936 military coup or who supported the Francoist side in the Civil War?
Because in the context of the outbreak of the Civil War and of the social revolution which followed in some parts of the territory which remained loyal to the Republic there were also people who were victims – people such as murdered priests and businessmen…. or youths in areas where the military coup succeeded who were forced by the local authorities to enlist in the Francoist armed forces.