General Franco's grave: when 'righting past wrongs' backfires

#1
When, in November 1975, General Franco died, he was buried in a mausoleum at an (impressive) site known as Valle de los Caídos (in English, the Valley of the Fallen):

Valle de los Caídos - Wikipedia

The site is a memorial to the dead of the Spanish Civil War, and was constructed by political prisoners and convicts. The bodies of many of the dead of the war were moved to the Valley and buried, in some cases without the consent of their families.

Needless to say, the memorial, and Franco resting there, is controversial. It is a place of pilgrimage for supporters of Franco and some Spanish Catholics (with the anniversary of Franco's death being a focus for such visits).

In June 2018, a centre-left government came into being in Spain. The Left has apparently long - resented Franco laying in rest at Valle de los Caídos and passed a law to the effect that his body would be exhumed and re-buried, at a less 'divisive', less prominent place. The problem, for the Spanish Left, is that Franco's family owns a plot in the crypt of la Almudena cathedral in Madrid, next to the royal palace. Franco's grandchildren want him re-buried there and the Catholic Church is not objecting.

'If (the Irish Times reports) they are successful, the move could turn the city’s tourism hub into a place of pro-Franco pilgrimage.'

A church official's views of the the matter are quoted as:

"The church cannot deny that right (burial at the cathedral) to a Christian, if the family has acquired the right.” He added: “The dead do not have a political affiliation.”

The Irish Times reports:

'The current dispute over Franco’s exhumation, however, threatens to have political repercussions. Sánchez’s Socialist Party has less than a quarter of seats in Congress, curbing its ability to introduce major reforms. Critics say this has encouraged the government to opt instead for media-friendly gestures, such as welcoming the Aquarius immigrant boat after Italy shunned it and promising to dig up Franco.

The government has insisted that the exhumation and reburial will be completed by the end of the year. But if they do not go to plan it will be a severe blow to the credibility of the Sánchez administration and fuel opposition calls for a general election.'

The UK has seen similar calls for symbols of the past to be moved, hidden or removed. The ongoing debate about whether a statue of Cecil Rhodes should be removed from an Oxford University is a good example of the strength of feeling such subjects can cause.

My main reaction to attempts to 'right past wrongs' is that there are more important things to do now. The past has happened. Exhuming Franco may make those on the Spanish Left feel they have denied him a final form of victory but Franco did win. His victims are dead now and will be no less dead, nor their suffering at the time of their death lessened, by Franco being re-buried. If Franco is moved to a final resting place in the heart of Madrid, and his memory is revived by the news coverage, the Left achieves even less. Is there any real point to such acts? Perhaps most importantly, will moving Franco's body (or Rhodes' statue) drive people apart, rather than resolving divisions?

There are sometimes good reasons for 'righting past wrongs'; an apology about past events can help to improve relations between states, communities, etc. Insisting that the body of a former leader be exhumed does not seem a conciliatory act, however.

Link to Irish Times article:

Spain in quandary over exhumation and reburial of dictator
 
Last edited:
#4
It does seem a bit strange, to say the least, for a democracy to have a dictator's corpse entombed in the manner of a national hero. Even for robber-baron Russia it's strange to still have Lenin's body in a special mausoleum. The Chinese at least still pretend that Mao (who's entombed in a similarly grandiose mausoleum) is a guiding light rather than someone responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people.

Ah, put 'em all on a catapult & fling 'em into a volcano.
 
#6
It does seem a bit strange, to say the least, for a democracy to have a dictator's corpse entombed in the manner of a national hero. Even for robber-baron Russia it's strange to still have Lenin's body in a special mausoleum. The Chinese at least still pretend that Mao (who's entombed in a similarly grandiose mausoleum) is a guiding light rather than someone responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people.

Ah, put 'em all on a catapult & fling 'em into a volcano.
There's a lot in what you say. It's a move that is going to upset some people. A bit like rubbing the Right's nose in it -' we're in charge - Franco's got to go'.
 
#8
There's a lot in what you say. It's a move that is going to upset some people. A bit like rubbing the Right's nose in it -' we're in charge - Franco's got to go'.
Upset people who want to keep a monument to a man who executed tens of thousands, put people in concentration camps and also had medical experiments carried out on some of them. Apprently when Heinrich Himmler visited Spain in 1940, even he was shocked by their brutality, ands thats saying something when the head of the SS thinks its too much.
 
#9
Upset people who want to keep a monument to a man who executed tens of thousands, put people in concentration camps and also had medical experiments carried out on some of them. Apprently when Heinrich Himmler visited Spain in 1940, even he was shocked by their brutality, ands thats saying something when the head of the SS thinks its too much.
Point taken. The point is, why raise the matter now? Those who want to visit the memorial and mausoleum can, those who don't, don't have to.
I think that it can be accepted both that Franco did very bad things, and that his exhumation might be re-opening old wounds.
 
#10
Lefty's trying to rewrite history. Who'd of thought!
 
#11
Point taken. The point is, why raise the matter now? Those who want to visit the memorial and mausoleum can, those who don't, don't have to.
I think that it can be accepted both that Franco did very bad things, and that his exhumation might be re-opening old wounds.
How many Falangist snowflakes are there & what damage can their objection do?
 
#12
Upset people who want to keep a monument to a man who executed tens of thousands, put people in concentration camps and also had medical experiments carried out on some of them. Apprently when Heinrich Himmler visited Spain in 1940, even he was shocked by their brutality, ands thats saying something when the head of the SS thinks its too much.
I´ve never heard that before and it sounds like BS. It´s not mentioned in any biography of Franco or history of the civil war that I´ve read (and I have taken the trouble to read a few during my 20 years in Spain). In fact Spain was a safe haven for escaped POWs via the Pyrenees. They still had to make it to the British Embassy in Madrid but a blind eye was turned once they got into the Spain. Same went for Jews.
 
#13
I´ve never heard that before and it sounds like BS. It´s not mentioned in any biography of Franco or history of the civil war that I´ve read (and I have taken the trouble to read a few during my 20 years in Spain). In fact Spain was a safe haven for escaped POWs via the Pyrenees. They still had to make it to the British Embassy in Madrid but a blind eye was turned once they got into the Spain. Same went for Jews.
Which part?
 
#14
How many Falangist snowflakes are there & what damage can their objection do?
Good point. The Internet says that the memorial / mausoleum is third most visited place in Spain. Not all visitors will be Falangists but there was a civil war and Spanish society was divided along the lines reflected in the war, into the 70s (poss beyond - I defer to others re. more recent history).
 
#16
Lefty's trying to rewrite history. Who'd of thought!
More like the recognition of history by people who like democracy over the objection of people who rewrite the history of a dictator into that of a hero.

Would removing Lenin's body from his mausoleum amount to righties rewriting history?
 
#17
We did the same thing with Oliver Cromwell except it was the other way round. Exhumed from Westminster Abbey, hanged at Tyburn and head stuck on a spike.
 
#18
Symbolism over substance. That's all it is.
Exactly. Its a real shoot yourself in the foot moment and doesn't give the impression of a sensible organisation run on logic not emotions

This whole digging up the past, chasing offence, without the context of the time in history is bullshit. Its a sign of powerlessness lack of ideas and lack of progress
. All political organisations, in fact all countries should be drawing a line under this shit and moving on with the objective of improving life for all participants in society.

So much of it tied up in religion.................And religions are apparently big on forgiveness......
 
#19
More like the recognition of history by people who like democracy over the objection of people who rewrite the history of a dictator into that of a hero.

Would removing Lenin's body from his mausoleum amount to righties rewriting history?
Personally, I'd leave Lenin, and any other person laid to rest, where they are. They are history and the monuments, etc the same, whether they be for Left or Right.
 
#20
A continuation of the renaming of roads and squares which refer to him and his cohorts. The law of "historical memory" (ratified in 2015) also calls for the removal of statues.
Calle General Romero Basart in Madrid has been renamed Calle Blas Cabrera, replacing one of Franco's generals with a physicist.
Plaza Generalissimos have been renamed for several years and even one avenue named after the "fallen of the Blue Brigade" has been renamed after Picasso.

Yes, there were concentration camps (these foreigners did learn something from the Brits) with the first one on Ceuta and, interestingly, the whole system was said to be masterminded by the German head of the Gestapo in Spain.
 

Top