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|White Terror, and the Francoist Repression|
|Part of Spanish Civil War and Francoist rule of Spain|
Twenty-six republicans executed by Francoists at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War
|Target||Extermination of Spanish Republicans|
|Politicide, Mass murder, forced labour, human experimentation, war rape|
|Deaths||200,000 - 400,000
|Perpetrators||Nationalist faction of Spain and the proceeding government|
|Part of a series on|
In Spain, the White Terror (Spanish: la Represión franquista, the Francoist Repression) was the series of assassinations realized by the Nationalist faction during the Spanish Civil War (17 July 1936 – 1 April 1939), and during the first decade of Francisco Franco's régime. For the first nine years (1936–45) of the Francoist State, the mass killings of loyalists to the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39) included the Popular Front, the liberals, and Socialists, the Trotskyists, the Communists, and the anarchists, Protestant Christians, freethinkers, intellectuals, and Freemasons, and Galician, Catalan, and Basque nationalists.
To eliminate Leftism in Spain, the White Terror realized the political reaction of the Nationalists, the re-establishment of the monarchic status quo ante in place of the Spanish second republic. The right-wing notion of a limpieza (cleansing) of society was the essential political strategy of the Franco government, thus, the assassinations began immediately after the nationalists captured a place. The Civil Guard (nationalist military) and the fascist Falange realized political violence against civilians in name of Franco, and were ideologically legitimized by the Roman Catholic Church as defenders of Christendom.
Throughout Francoist Spain (1 October 1936 – 20 November 1975), the Law of Political Responsibilities (Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas), promulgated in 1939, reformed in 1942, and in force until 1966, gave legalistic color of law to the political repression that characterized the dismantling of the democratic republic; and served to punish loyalist Spaniards who survived the military coup d’état against the Spanish Republic in July 1936.
Many historians of the Spanish Civil War believe that the death toll of the White Terror (200,000–400,000), because of its extent and duration, was greater than the death toll of the Red Terror (38,000 – ~172,344 ). However, some historians of the Spanish Civil War believe that the death toll of the Red Terror was greater than the death toll of the White Terror.
The political repression of the White Terror was formal policy of the Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War, and of the government of Gen. Franco until 1945 — six years after the war's end in 1939. In 2015, the government of Spain refused Spanish historians access to the pertinent government archives, open to foreign historians, which would allow determining the physical whereabouts and political fate of victims of the White Terror.
After the flight of King Alfonso XIII (r. 1886–1931), the Second Spanish Republic was established on 14 April 1931, led by President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, whose government instituted a program of secular reforms, which included agrarian reform, the separation of church and state, the right to divorce, women's suffrage (November 1933), the socio-political reformation of the Spanish Army, and political autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque Country (October 1936). President Alcalá-Zamora’s reforms to Spanish society were continually blocked by the right-wing parties and rejected by the far-left-wing National Confederation of Labour (CNT, Confederación Nacional del Trabajo). The Second Spanish Republic suffered attacks from the right wing (the failed coup d'état of Sanjurjo in 1932), and the left wing (the Asturian miners' strike of 1934), whilst perduring the economic impact of the Great Depression.
After winning the general election in February 1936, the Popular Front — a coalition of left-to-centre-right parties (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSOE), Republican Left, IR), Republican Union, UR), Communist Party, PCE), Workers' Party of Marxist Unification, POUM), Republican Left of Catalonia, ERC) and others — the Spanish right wing planned their military coup d'état against the democratic Republic to reinstall monarchy. Finally, on 17 July 1936, a part of the Spanish Army, led by a group of far-right-wing officers (the generals José Sanjurjo, Manuel Goded Llopis, Emilio Mola, Francisco Franco, Miguel Cabanellas, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, José Enrique Varela, and others) launched an armed insurrection against the Republic. The generals’ coup d'état failed, but the rebellious army, known as the Nationalists, controlled a large part of Spain; the Spanish Civil War had started.
Gen. Francisco Franco, one of the leaders of the military coup d’état against the Spanish Republic in July 1936, and his Nationalist army, aided by the Condor Legion of Nazi Germany and the Corpo Truppe Volontarie of Fascist Italy, won the Spanish civil war in 1939. Gen. Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years, until his death in 1975. Besides the mass assassinations of republican political enemies, political prisoners were interned to concentration camps and homosexuals were interned to psychiatric hospitals.
From the beginning of the war, in July 1936, the ideological nature of the Nationalist fight against the Loyalists indicated the degree of dehumanisation of the lower social classes (peasants and workers) in the view of the politically-reactionary sponsors of the nationalist forces, the Roman Catholic Church of Spain, the aristocracy, the landowners, and the military, commanded by General Francisco Franco. Captain Gonzalo de Aguilera y Munro, a public affairs officer for the Nationalist forces, told the American reporter John Thompson Whitaker:
You know what’s wrong with Spain? Modern plumbing! In healthier times — spiritually healthier, you understand — plague and pestilence could be counted on to thin the Spanish masses ... now, with modern sewage disposal, they simply multiply too fast. The masses are no better than animals, you understand, and you can’t expect them not to become infected with the virus of Bolshevism. After all, rats and lice carry the plague.— Spain in Our Hearts, by Adam Hochschild, p. 37
The Nationalists committed their atrocities in public, with assistance from the local Catholic Church clergy and from the upper social classes of the place (land and people) to be politically cleansed. In August 1936, the Massacre of Badajoz featured a great crowd of rich people and a Mass before the shooting of some 4,000 Loyalists. Among the children of the landlords, the joke name Reforma agraria (agrarian reform) identified the horseback hunting parties by which they killed insubordinate peasantry and so cleansed their lands of communists; moreover, the joke name alluded to the grave where the corpses of the hunted peasants were dumped: the piece of land for which the dispossessed peasants had revolted. Early in the civil war most of the victims of the White Terror and the Red Terror were killed in mass executions behind the respective front lines of the Nationalist and of the Republican forces:
During the first months of the fighting most of the deaths did not come from combat on the battlefield, but from political executions in — the “Red” and “White” terrors. In some cases, the murder of political opponents began more or less spontaneously, but, from the very beginning, there was always a certain degree of organization, and nearly all the killings, after the first few days, were carried out by organized groups.
Common to the political purges of the left-wing and right-wing belligerents were the sacas, the taking out of prisoners from the jails and the prisons, who then were taken for a paseo, a ride to summary execution. Most of the men and women taken out from the prisons and jails were killed by death squads, from the trade unions, and by the paramilitary militias of the political parties (the Republican CNT, UGT, and PCE; the Nationalist Falange and Carlist). Among the justifications for summary execution of right-wing enemies was reprisal for aerial bombings of civilians, other people were killed after being denounced as an enemy of the people, by false accusations motivated by personal envy and hatred. Nevertheless, the significant differences between White political terrorism and Red political terrorism was indicated by Francisco Partaloa, prosecutor of the Madrid High Court of Justice (Tribunal Supremo de Madrid) and a friend of the aristocrat General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Sierra, 1st Marquis of Queipo de Llano, who witnessed the assassinations, first in the Republican camp and then in the Nationalist camp of the Spanish Civil War:
I had the opportunity of being a witness to the repression in both areas. In the Nationalist side it was planned, methodical, cold. As they did not trust the [local] people, the authorities imposed their will by means of terror, committing atrocities in order to achieve their aim. Atrocities also took place in the Popular Front zone; that was something which both areas had in common. But the main difference was that in the Republican zone the crimes were carried out by the [local] populace in moments of passion, not by the authorities. The latter always tried to stop them. The assistance that I received from the Spanish Republican authorities in order to flee to safety, is only one of the many examples. But this was not the case in the Nationalist zone.
Historians of the Spanish Civil War, such as Helen Graham, Paul Preston, Antony Beevor, Gabriel Jackson, Hugh Thomas, and Ian Gibson concurred that the mass killings realized behind the Nationalist front lines were organized and approved by the Nationalist rebel authorities, while the killings behind the Republican front lines resulted from the societal breakdown of the Second Spanish Republic:
Though there was much wanton killing in rebel Spain, the idea of the limpieza, the “cleaning up” of the country from the evils which had overtaken it, was a disciplined policy of the new authorities, and a part of their programme of regeneration. In republican Spain, most of the killing was the consequence of anarchy, the outcome of a national breakdown, and not the work of the state; even though some political parties in some cities abetted the enormities, and even though some of those responsible ultimately rose to positions of authority.
In the second volume of A History of Spain and Portugal (1973), Stanley Payne said that the political violence in the Republican zone was organized by the left-wing political parties:
In general, this was not an irrepressible outpouring of hatred, by the man in the street for his “oppressors”, as it has sometimes been painted, but a semi-organized activity carried out by sections of nearly all the leftist groups. In the entire leftist zone the only organized political party that eschewed involvement in such activity were the Basque Nationalists.
That, unlike the political repression by the right wing, which “was concentrated against the most dangerous opposition elements”, the Republican attacks were irrational, which featured the “murdering [of] innocent people, and letting some of the more dangerous go free. Moreover, one of the main targets of the Red terror was the clergy, most of whom were not engaged in overt opposition” to the Spanish Republic. Nonetheless, in a letter-to-the-editor of the ABC newspaper in Seville, the pro–Franco philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said that, unlike the assassinations in the areas held by the Republic, the methodical assassinations effected by the White Terror were ordered by the highest authorities of the Nationalist rebellion, and identified Gen. Emilio Mola y Vidal, 1st Duke of Mola, Grandee of Spain, as the proponent of the political cleansing policies of the White Terror.
No matter how many the atrocities perpetrated by the Reds ... those perpetrated by the Whites are greater ... Murders without justification, such as two University lecturers, one in Valladolid, and another in Granada, just in case they were Masonic, and García Lorca as well. It is disgusting to be a Spaniard stuck in Spain now. And all this is being directed by General Mola, that poisonous beast full of resentment. I told that Spain would be saved by Western Christian civilization, but the methods employed are not civilized, but militarized, not Western, but African, not Christian, but from an ancient Spanish traditionalism that is essentially anti-Christian.
When news of the mass killings of Republican soldiers and sympathizers — General Mola’s policy to terrorise the Loyalists — reached the Republican government, the Defence Minister Indalecio Prieto plead with the Spanish republicans:
Don’t imitate them! Don’t imitate them! Surpass them in your moral conduct; surpass them by your generosity. I do not ask you, however, that you should lose vigour in battle or zeal in the fight. I ask for hard breasts for the combat, hard like steel, as some of the courageous militias have named themselves — Breast of Steel — but with sensitive hearts, capable of shaking in the face of human sorrow, and capable of harbouring mercy, the tender sentiment without which the most essential part of human greatness is lost.
Moreover, despite his political loyalty to the reactionary rebellion of the Nationalists, the right-wing writer José María Pemán was concerned about the volume of the mass killings; in My Lunches with Important People (1970), he reported a conversation with Gen. Miguel Cabanellas in late 1936:
My General, I think that far too many people have been, and are still being killed, by the Nationalist side.
After a full minute of silent reflection, General Cabanellas grimly answered:
The White Terror commenced on 17 July 1936, the day of the Nationalist coup d'état, with hundreds of assassinations effected in the area controlled by the right-wing rebels, but it had been planned before earlier. In the 30 June 1936 secret instructions for the coup d'état in Morocco, General Emilio Mola ordered the rebels "to eliminate left-wing elements, communists, anarchists, union members, etc." The White Terror included the repression of political opponents in areas occupied by the Nationalist, mass executions in areas captured from the Republicans, such as the Massacre of Badajoz, and looting.
... thanks to the failure of the coup d’état and to the eruption of the Falangist and Carlist militias, with their previously prepared lists of victims, the scale on which these executions took place exceeded all precedent. Andalusia, where the supporters of Franco were a tiny minority, and where the military commander, General Queipo de Llano, was a pathological figure recalling the Conde de España of the First Carlist War, was drenched in blood. The famous massacre of Badajoz was merely the culminating act of a ritual that had already been performed in every town and village in the South-West of Spain.
Other examples include the bombing of civilian areas such as Guernica, Madrid, Málaga, Almería, Lérida, Durango, Granollers, Alcañiz, Valencia and Barcelona by the Luftwaffe (Legion Condor) and the Italian air force (Aviazione Legionaria) (according to Gabriel Jackson estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 victims of the bombings), killings of Republican POWs, rape, forced disappearances  — including whole Republican military units such as the 221st Mixed Brigade — and the establishment of Francoist prisons in the aftermath of the Republicans' defeat.
The main goal of the White Terror was to terrify the civil population who opposed the coup, eliminate the supporters of the Second Spanish Republic and the militants of the leftist parties, and because of this, some historians have considered the White Terror a genocide. In fact, one of the leaders of the coup, General Emilio Mola said:
It is necessary to spread terror. We have to create the impression of mastery eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do. There can be no cowardice. If we hesitate one moment and fail to proceed with the greatest determination, we will not win. Anyone who helps or hides a Communist or a supporter of the Popular Front will be shot.
In areas controlled by the Nationalists, government officials, Popular Front politicians (in the city of Granada 23 of the 44 councillors of the city's corporation were executed), union leaders, teachers (in the first weeks of the war hundreds of teachers were killed by the Nationalists), intellectuals (for example, in Granada, between 26 July 1936 and 1 March 1939, the poet Federico García Lorca, the editor of the left-wing newspaper El Defensor de Granada, the professor of paediatrics in the Granada University, the rector of the university, the professor of political law, the professor of pharmacy, the professor of history, the engineer of the road to the top of the Sierra Morena and the best-known doctor in the city were killed by the Nationalists, and in the city of Cordoba, "nearly the entire republican elite, from deputies to booksellers, were executed in August, September and December..."), suspected Freemasons (in Huesca, where there were only twelve Freemasons, the Nationalists killed a hundred suspected Freemasons), Basque, Catalan, Andalusian or Galician nationalists (among them Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera, leader of Democratic Union of Catalonia Unió Democrática de Catalunya, Alexandre Boveda, one of the founders of the Partido Galeguista and Blas Infante, leader of the Andalusian nationalism), military officers who had remained loyal to the government of the Republic (among them the Army generals Domingo Batet, Enrique Salcedo Molinuevo, Miguel Campíns, Nicolás Molero, Nuñez de Prado, Manuel Romerales and Rogelio Caridad Pita), and people suspected of voting for the Popular Front were targeted, usually brought before local committees and imprisoned or executed. The living conditions in the improvised Nationalist prisons were very harsh. One former Republican prisoner declared:
At times we were forty prisoners in a cell built to accommodate two people. There were two benches, each capable of seating three persons, and the floor to sleep on. For our private needs, there were only three chamberpots. They had to be emptied into an old rusty cauldron which also served for washing our clothes. We were forbidden to have food brought to us from outside, and were given disgusting soup cooked with soda ash which kept us in a constant state of dysentery. We were all in a deplorable state. The air was unbreathable and the babies choked many nights for lack of oxygen...To be imprisoned, according to the rebels, was to lose all individuality. The most elementary human rights were unknown and people were killed as easily as rabbits...
Because of this mass terror in many areas controlled by the Nationalists, thousands of Republicans left their homes and tried to hide in nearby forests or mountains. Many of these huidos later joined the Spanish maquis, the anti-Francoist guerrilla force that continued to fight against the Francoist State in the post-war era. Hundreds of thousands of others fled to the areas controlled by the Second Republic. In 1938 there were more than one million refugees in Barcelona alone. In many cases, when someone fled the Nationalists executed their relatives. One witness in Zamora stated: "All the members of the Flechas family, both men and women, were killed, a total of seven persons. A son succeeded in escaping, but in his place they killed his eight-months-pregnant fiancé Transito Alonso and her mother, Juana Ramos." Furthermore, thousands of republicans joined Falange and the Nationalist army in order to escape the repression. In fact, many supporters of the Nationalists referred to the Falange as "our reds" and to the Falange's blue shirt as the salvavidas (life jacket). In Granada, one supporter of the Nationalists said:
The battalion was formed to give political prisoners, who would otherwise have been shot, a chance either to redeem themselves on the field or else die with honour before enemy fire. In this way their children would not suffer the stigma of having had Red fathers.
Another major target of the Terror were women, with the overall goal of keeping them in their traditional place in Spanish society. To this end the Nationalist army promoted a campaign of targeted rape. General Gonzalo Quiepo de Llano spoke multiple times over the radio warning that "immodest" women with Republican sympathies would be raped by his Moorish troops. Near Seville, Nationalist soldiers raped a truckload of female prisoners, threw their bodies down a well, and paraded around town with their rifles draped with their victim's underwear. These rapes were not the result of soldiers disobeying orders, but official Nationalist policies, with officers specifically choosing Moors to be the primary perpetrators. Advancing nationalist troops scrawled "Your children will give birth to fascists" on the walls of captured buildings, and many women taken prisoner were force fed castor oil, then paraded in public naked, while the powerful laxative did its work.
Estimates of executions behind the Nationalist lines during the Spanish Civil War range from fewer than 50,000 to 200,000 (Hugh Thomas: 75,000, Secundino Serrano: 90,000; Josep Fontana: 150,000; and Julián Casanova: 100,000.). Most of the victims were killed without a trial in the first months of the war and their corpses were left on the sides of roads or in clandestine and unmarked mass graves. For example, in Valladolid only 374 officially recorded victims of the repression of a total of 1,303 (there were many other unrecorded victims) were executed after a trial, and the historian Stanley Payne in his work Fascism in Spain (1999), citing a study by Cifuentes Checa and Maluenda Pons carried out over the Nationalist-controlled city of Zaragoza and its environs, refers to 3,117 killings, of which 2,578 took place in 1936. He goes on to state that by 1938 the military courts there were directing summary executions.
Many of the executions in the course of the war were carried by militants of the fascist party Falange (Falange Española de las J.O.N.S.) or militants of the Carlist party (Comunión Tradicionalista) militia (Requetés), but with the approval of the Nationalist government.
The Spanish Church approved of the White Terror and cooperated with the rebels. According to Antony Beevor: "Cardinal Gomá stated that 'Jews and Masons poisoned the national soul with absurd doctrine'... A few brave priests put their lives at risk by criticizing nationalist atrocities, but the majority of the clergy in nationalist areas revelled in their new-found power and the increased size of their congregations. Anyone who did not attend Mass faithfully was likely to be suspected of 'red' tendencies. Entrepreneurs made a great money selling religious symbols... It was reminiscent of the way the Inquisition's persecutions of Jews and Moors helped make pork such an important part of the Spanish diet." One witness in Zamora said: "Many priests acted very badly. The bishop of Zamora in 1936 was more or less an assassin—I don't remember his name. He must be held responsible because prisoners appealed to him to save their lives. All he would reply was that the Reds had killed more people than the falangist were killing." Nevertheless, the Nationalists killed at least 16 Basque nationalist priests (among them the arch-priest of Mondragon), and imprisoned or deported hundreds more. Several priests who tried to halt the killings and at least one priest who was a Mason were killed.
The Church, which upheld the idea of a 'National Crusade' in order to legitimize the military rebellion, was a belligerent part during the Civil War, even at the cost of alienating part of its members. It continues in a belligerent role in its unusual answer to the Historical Memory Law by recurring to the beatification of 498 “martyrs” of the Civil War. The priests executed by Franco's Army are not counted among them. It continues to be a Church that is incapable of transcending its one-sided behaviour of 70 years ago and amenable to the fact that this past should always haunt us. In this political use of granting religious recognition one can perceive its indignation regarding the compensations to the victims of Francoism. Its selective criteria regarding the religious persons that were part of its ranks are difficult to fathom. The priests who were victims of the republicans are “martyrs who died forgiving”, but those priests who were executed by the Francoists are forgotten.
The White Terror was especially harsh in the southern part of Spain (Andalusia and Extremadura). The rebels bombed and seized the working-class districts of the main Andalusian cities in the first days of the war, and afterwards went on to execute thousands of workers and militants of the leftist parties: in the city of Cordoba 4,000; in the city of Granada 5,000; in the city of Seville 3,028; and in the city of Huelva 2,000 killed and 2,500 disappeared. The city of Málaga, occupied by the Nationalists in February 1937 following the Battle of Málaga, experienced one of the harshest repressions following Francoist victory with an estimated total of 17,000 people summarily executed. Carlos Arias Navarro, then a young lawyer who as public prosecutor signed thousands of execution warrants in the trials set up by the triumphant rightists, became known as "The Butcher of Málaga" (Carnicero de Málaga). Over 4,000 people were buried in mass graves.
Even towns of rural areas were not spared the terror, such as Lora del Rio in the province of Seville, where the Nationalists killed 300 peasants as a reprisal for the assassination of a local landowner. In the province of Córdoba the Nationalists killed 995 Republicans in Puente Genil and about 700 loyalists were murdered by the orders of rebel Colonel Sáenz de Buruaga in Baena, although other estimates mention up to 2,000 victims following the Baena Massacre.
Paul Preston estimates the total number of victims of the Nationalists in Andalusia at 55,000.
The colonial troops of the Spanish Army of Africa (Ejército de África), composed mainly of the Moroccan regulares and the Spanish Legion, under the command of Colonel Juan Yagüe, made up the feared shock troops of the Francoist military. In their advance towards Madrid from Sevilla through Andalusia and Extremadura these troops routinely killed dozens or hundreds in every town or city conquered. but in the city of Badajoz the number of killed Republicans reached several thousands. Furthermore, the colonial troops raped many working-class women and looted the houses of the Republicans. Queipo de Llano, one of the leaders of the Nationalists said:
Our brave Legionaries and Regulares have shown the red cowards what it means to be a man. And, incidentally the wives of reds too. These Communist and Anarchist women, after all, have made themselves fair game by their doctrine of free love. And now they have at least the acquaintance of real men, and not milksops of militiamen. Kicking their legs about and struggling won't save them.
When Heinrich Himmler visited Spain in 1940, a year after Franco’s victory, he claimed to have been "shocked" by the brutality of the Falangist repression. In July 1939, the foreign minister of Fascist Italy, Galeazzo Ciano, reported of "trials going on every day at a speed which I would call almost summary... There are still a great number of shootings. In Madrid alone, between 200 and 250 a day, in Barcelona 150, in Seville 80". While authors like Payne have cast doubts on the democratic leanings of the Republic, "fascism was clearly on the other".
According to Beevor, Spain was an open prison for all those who opposed Franco. Until 1963, all the opponents of the Francoist State were brought before military courts. A number of repressive laws were issued, including the Law of Political Responsibilities (Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas) in February 1939, the Law of Security of State (Ley de Seguridad del Estado) in 1941 (which regarded illegal propaganda or labour strikes as military rebellion), the Law for the Repression of Masonry and Communism (Ley de Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo) on 1 March 1940), and the Law for the Repression of Banditry and Terrorism (Ley para la represión del Bandidaje y el Terrorismo) in April 1947, which targeted the maquis. Furthermore, in 1940, the Francoist State established the Tribunal for the eradication of Freemasonry and Communism (Tribunal Especial para la Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo).
Political parties and trade unions were forbidden except for the government party, Traditionalist Spanish Falange and Offensive of the Unions of the National-Syndicalist (Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista or FET de las JONS), and the official trade union Spanish Trade Union Organisation (Sindicato Vertical). Hundreds of militants and supporters of the parties and trade unions declared illegal under Francoist Spain, such as the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), PSOE; the Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de España), PCE; the Workers' General Union (Unión General de Trabajadores), UGT; and the National Confederation of Labor (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo), CNT, were imprisoned or executed. The regional languages, like Basque and Catalan, were also forbidden, and the statutes of autonomy of Catalonia and the Basque country were abolished. Censorship of the press (the Law of Press, passed in April 1938) and of cultural life was rigorously exercised and forbidden books destroyed.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War the executions of the “enemies of the state” continued (some 50,000 people), including the extrajudicial (death squad) executions of members of the Spanish maquis (anti–Francoist guerrillas) and their supporters (los enlaces, “the links”);in the province of Córdoba 220 maquis and 160 enlaces were killed. Thousands of men and women were imprisoned after the civil war in Francoist concentration camps, approximately 367,000 to 500,000 prisoners in 50 camps or prisons. In 1933, before the war, the prisons of Spain contained some 12,000 prisoners, but, by 1940, one year after the end of the civil war, there were 280,000 prisoners contained in more than 500 prisons throughout the country. The principal purpose of the Francoist concentration camps was to classify the prisoners of war from the defeated Spanish Republic; men and women classified as “unrecoverable”, were put to death.
After the war, the republican prisoners were sent to work in militarised penal colonies (Colonias Penales Militarizadas), penal detachments (Destacamentos Penales) and disciplinary battalions of worker-soldiers (Batallones Disciplinarios de Soldados Trabajadores). According to Beevor, 90,000 republican prisoners were sent off to 121 labour battalions and 8,000 to military workshops. In 1939, Ciano said about the Republican prisoners of war: "They are not prisoners of war, they are slaves of war". Thousands of prisoners (15,947 in 1943) were forced to work building dams, highways, the Guadalquivir Canal (10,000 political prisoners worked on its construction between 1940 and 1962), the Carabanchel Prison, the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) (20,000 political prisoners worked in its construction) and in coal mines in Asturias and Leon. The severe overcrowding of the prisons (according to Antony Beevor 270,000 prisoners were spread around jails with capacity for 20,000), poor sanitary conditions and the lack of food caused thousands of deaths (4,663 prisoner deaths were recorded between 1939 and 1945 in 13 of the 50 Spanish provinces), among them the poet Miguel Hernández and the politician Julián Besteiro. Torture was systematic in the Francoist prisons and concentration camps. According to Gabriel Jackson, the number of victims of the White Terror (executions and hunger or illness in prisons) just between 1939 and 1943 was 200,000.
Vallejo Najera also said that it was necessary to remove the children of the Republican women from their mothers. Thousands of children were taken from their mothers and handed over to Francoist families (in 1943 12,043). Many of the mothers were executed afterwards. "For mothers who had a baby with them—and there were many—the first sign that they were to be executed was when their infant was snatched from them. Everyone knew what this meant. A mother whose little one was taken had only a few hours left to live".
Furthermore, hundreds of thousands were forced into exile (470,000 in 1939), with many intellectuals and artists who had supported the Republic such as Antonio Machado, Ramon J. Sender, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Rafael Alberti, Luis Cernuda, Pedro Salinas, Manuel Altolaguirre, Emilio Prados, Max Aub, Franciso Ayala, Jorge Guillén, León Felipe, Arturo Barea, Pablo Casals, Jesús Bal y Gay, Rodolfo Halffter, Julián Bautista, Salvador Bacarisse, Josep Lluís Sert, Margarita Xirgu, Maruja Mallo, Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, Americo Castro, Clara Campoamor, Victoria Kent, Pablo Picasso, Maria Luisa Algarra, Alejandro Casona, Rosa Chacel, Maria Zambrano, Josep Carner, Manuel de Falla, Paulino Masip, María Teresa León, Alfonso Castelao, Jose Gaos and Luis Buñuel.
When Nazi Germany occupied France, Franco's politicians encouraged the Germans to detain and to deport thousands of Republican refugees to the concentration camps. 15,000 Spanish Republicans were deported to Dachau, Buchenwald (including the writer Jorge Semprún), Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg (among them the politician Francisco Largo Caballero), Auschwitz, Flossenburg and Mauthausen (5,000 out of 7,200 Spanish prisoners at Mauthausen died there). Other Spanish Republicans were detained by the Gestapo, handed over to Spain and executed, among them Julián Zugazagoitia, Juan Peiró, Francisco Cruz Salido and Lluis Companys (president of the Generalitat of Catalonia) and another 15,000 were forced to work building the Atlantic Wall. Moreover, 4,000 Spanish Republicans were deported by the Nazis to the occupied Channel Islands and were forced to work building fortifications; only 59 survived. Thus, thousands of Spanish refugees (10,000 fighters in 1944) joined the French Resistance—among them Colonel Carlos Romero Giménez—and the Free French Forces.
The Francoist State carried out extensive purges among the civil service. Thousands of army officials loyal to the Republic were expelled from the army. Thousands of university and school teachers lost their jobs (a quarter of all Spanish teachers). Priority for employment was always given to Nationalist supporters, and it was necessary to have a "good behavior" certificate from local Falangist officials and parish priests. Furthermore, the Francoist State encouraged tens of thousands of Spaniards to denounce their Republican neighbours and friends:
Although this process has not been analysed in detail, the regime did all it could to encourage denunciation. The Code of Military Justice that regulated the entire trial process effectively created a denouncer’s charter and allowed prosecutions to begin through ‘any denunciation worthy of consideration’. Denunciations did not even have to be signed before 1941. The radical nature of this rule outflanked even the Nazis’ efforts to root out those they despised, indeed they took measures to restrict ‘self-interested’ denunciations. The Franco regime also went to greater lengths to encourage denunciations. Following the occupation of a village or town the new authorities set up special denunciation centres and placed announcements in newspapers and government publications exhorting people to denounce Republicans. Francoists even made it an offence not to register denunciations against Republicans known to have committed crimes.
Republican women were also victims of the repression in postwar Spain. Thousands of women suffered public humiliation (being paraded naked through the streets, being shaved and forced to ingest castor oil so they would soil themselves in public), sexual harassment and rape. In many cases, the houses and goods of the widows of Republicans were confiscated by the government. Thus, many Republican women, living in total poverty, were forced into prostitution. According to Paul Preston: "The increase in prostitution both benefited Francoist men who thereby slaked their lust and also reassured them that 'red' women were a fount of dirt and corruption". Furthermore, thousands of women were executed (for example the 13 roses) among them pregnant women. One judge said: "We cannot wait seven months to execute a woman".
Furthermore, under the Francoist legislation, a woman needed her husband's permission to take a job or open a bank account. Adultery by women was a crime, but adultery by the husband was a crime only if he lived with his mistress.
Concrete figures do not exist, as many supporters and sympathizers of the Republic fled Spain after losing the Civil War. Furthermore, the Francoist government destroyed thousands of documents relating to the White Terror and tried to hide the executions of the Republicans. Gabriel Jackson states that:
Prisons records and the death registers are misleading, since it is known that certificates of release were regularly signed by or for men who were then taken out and shot, and that certificates alleging heart attacks or apoplexy were made out for corpses left on the open road. Execution techniques deliberately disfigured the corpses so as to make them unrecognizable. Officials of the time have testified that families were afraid to report missing male members, and did not come to identify the bodies of the dead.
Thousands of victims of the White Terror are buried in hundreds of unmarked common graves (over 2,000), more than 600 in Andalusia alone. The largest of these is the common grave at San Rafael cemetery on the outskirts of Málaga (with perhaps more than 4,000 bodies). The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Historica or ARMH) says that the number of disappeared is over 35,000.
There is no concrete number, but there is a variety estimates of those murdered during the Francoist Repression ranging from over a 1/2 to a few hundreds of thousands:
|~58 000 - < 60 000||Ramón Salas Larrazaba
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
|~65 000||Paweł Machcewicz|
"Victimas de la guerra civil"
Michael Richards, "A Time of Silence: Civil War and the Culture of Repression in Franco's Spain"
There are, however, concrete regional and partial figures as compared to the figures to the amount killed in Spain overall. For example, in the province of Córdoba the victims of the White Terror number 9,579 (the historian Francisco Moreno Gomez has increased the number to 11,581).. On the other hand, the victims of the Red Terror in the same province come to 2,060. According to the historian Francisco Espinosa, the victims of the Nationalists in only five Spanish provinces (Seville, Cádiz, Huelva, a part of Badajoz and a part of Cordoba) out of fifty were 25,000. The historian Paul Preston says that the number of victims judicially executed in 36 out 50 Spanish provinces were 92,462 (many other victims were executed without a trial). They died either as a result of the Nationalist repression during the war or as a result of the Francoist State's repression after the war. Other provincial number breakdowns are as follows:
|Province||White Terror||Red Terror|
|Province of Badajoz||6,600||243|
The last concentration camp, at Miranda de Ebro, was closed in 1947. By the early 1950s the parties and trade unions made illegal by the Francoist State had been decimated by the Francoist police, and the Spanish maquis had ceased to exist as an organized resistance. Nevertheless, new forms of opposition started like the unrest in the universities and strikes in Barcelona, Madrid and Vizcaya. The 1960s saw the start of the labour strikes led by the illegal union trade Workers' Commissions (Comisiones Obreras), linked to the Communist Party of Spain and the protest in the universities continued to grow. Finally, with Franco's death in 1975, the Spanish transition to democracy commenced and in 1978 the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was approved.
After Franco's death, the Spanish government approved the Spanish 1977 Amnesty Law (Ley de Amnistia de 1977) which granted a pardon for all political crimes committed by the supporters of the Francoist State (including the White Terror) and by the democratic opposition. Nevertheless, in October 2008 a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, of the National Court of Spain authorized, for the first time, an investigation into the disappearance and assassination of 114,000 victims of the Francoist State between 1936 and 1952. This investigation proceeded on the basis of the notion that this mass-murder constituted a Crime Against Humanity which cannot be subject to any amnesty or statute of limitations. As a result, in May 2010, Mr. Garzón was accused of violating the terms of the general amnesty and his powers as a jurist have been suspended pending further investigation. In September 2010, the Argentine justice reopened a probe into crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and during Franco's reign. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Council of Europe and United Nations have asked the Spanish government to investigate the crimes of Franco's reign.
[Ramon] Salas [Larrazabal] calculated that Nationalist Execution during the Civil War amounted to 35,021, followed by 22,641 during the four years that followed (after which large-scale executions ceased)...
Ramon Salas Larrazabal published his painstaking monograph Perdidas de la guerra, in which he gibes estimates of the death from all causes province by province. He computer execution and homicides at 58,000 in the Nationalist zone and at 73,000 in the Republican zone