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Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 22:52 GMT
Your stories: Spanish war legacy
As the Vatican honours hundreds of Roman Catholics killed in the Spanish Civil War and Spain's parliament debates how the conflict should be remembered, descendants of some of those who suffered on both sides share their feelings with the BBC News website.


My great uncle was blessed yesterday. He was a priest and the director of a school in southern Spain. He was no war criminal. All he cared about was for poor kids to get an education. He was taken out of his school and killed six days after the war started. He forgave his killers and so do all my family. His only worry was his elderly parents for he feared for their security. He was right: a few days later, his father, a humble shoemaker was killed at his doorstep accused of having a son in the priesthood. Let's hope that these tragedies never happen again
Antonio Lopez Torrero, New York, USA

My great uncle (Victor Chumillas) is one of the beatified yesterday in the Vatican (I'm called Victor after him). He was a good person and not involved in politics, a true "believer" and person of God. Although he was killed by the Republicans, however my family had also to suffer losses from the other side and my grandfather had to leave Spain for the rest of his life (not a good prospect to stay in Franco's Spain if you had belonged to the Socialist Party).

Although the Spanish Church has lost a lot of its support in recent years, they are (sadly) still part of politics in Spain, and try to use any opportunity to get the upper hand to gain some support for their "favourite parties". My great-uncle has been in process of beatification for almost 20 years and only now when it has been necessary (for the Church) the process had been speeded up (I'm actually surprised they haven't looked for three more people to beatified so the number would be more than 500). I feel bad that after waiting for so long his death has been used as a "weapon" against the much needed Law of Historical Memory.

It's undeniable that Franco (and cronies) started a Civil War (brother against brother... literally) and for 40 years was a dictator killing many Spanish. Like Eddie Izzard says, it seems it's okay to kill a lot of people if they are your own people... Well, it is time for everybody to acknowledge what he did to Spain.
Victor Sanchez Chumillas, The Hague, The Netherlands


When the Fascist army marched into my grandmother's home village in Andalucia... it was the Catholic priest who betrayed local people to the invaders
William Garcia, York, England

...When the Fascist army marched into my grandmother's home village in Andalucia, in the very first weeks of the war, it was the Catholic priest who betrayed local people to the invaders. He gave them a list of everyone who lived in the village, so they knew if anyone had fled or gone into hiding. He told them who the "troublemakers" were, who the leftists were, the intellectuals, the trade unionists, the people who didn't go to church regularly and those who had not baptised their children. It did not take long for the Fascists to round all of these people up, along with anyone they didn't like the look of and men of fighting age, and shoot them all en masse in the village square. Is it any wonder then, that those on the left didn't like the Catholic Church?
William Garcia, York, England

My grandfather was killed by the Franco soldiers when they arrived to his village because one of these new "saints" pointed to him with his finger. He never carried a weapon; his only crime was that he never went to the church. This pope was a member of the Hitler Youth, so it's not a surprise that he's supporting the dark side of Spain. Europe wants to be a model of modernity, but the Vatican is a shame on humanity.
Alberto Alvarez, Barcelona, Spain

I and my family were lucky to leave Spain during the early years of the Spanish Civil War. I was eight years old and remember the bombings in Valencia by the Fascists. The Catholic clergy would wave flashlights in the night to direct the bombing. As we left Spain by train to France, the trains were bombed. Clearly the Franco forces were aiming to kill civilians since schools and hospitals were also bombed. After Franco came to power, his forces rounded up supporters of the Republic, imprisoned, tortured and shot them, and threw them in mass graves. My uncle was killed in this way. For the Pope to honour those who collaborated with Franco is morally wrong.
Frances Rostocki Gomis, Southbury, Connecticut, USA

My uncle died fighting for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil war. He was a Communist and a Jew and I don't know whether the Church had anything to do with his death but, the history of the Church with respect to the Spanish people and its relations with Jews has been anything but stellar. I feel that there has been much controversy over these acts of "beatification" of various individuals with chequered pasts that the practice should be stopped.
Stuart Graham, Toronto, Canada

My Father was born in Madrid in 1940 and shunned Catholicism at the age of 15 when he searched his soul after he took a real look at the priests and nuns being driven around in limousines while the majority of the population lived in poverty. The police would "confiscate" bread my grandfather had baked to sell for a little money, finding it because they could smell it baking. They worked hand in hand, the Fascists and the Catholics, to oppress a nation. I had a cousin that was killed by Guardia Civil in a peaceful march against Franco in Barcelona in the 1970s. He was 16 years old and shot through the back to the heart as he ran away from the violence that the police were creating...
Marisa Gallego, San Diego, CA


I had members of my family killed on both sides. The difference is that the Republicans did not only kill people for political reasons but also for religious reasons. Part of my family was persecuted just because they were religious and they went to Mass every day in spite of the fact that they were poor peasants belonging to the working class. One of them was 13 and his only crime was to be in the seminary because he wanted to be a priest.

That's the reason why all the people to be beatified belong to one side: they were killed defending their faith, they refused to say blasphemies, to urinate or to spit on crosses etc, when they told them to do so and that's the reason why they were killed. However, when some of these people were told to say things such as "long life to Russia" or "long life to Communism", they did, they did not care about politics. A martyr is someone who dies defending their faith and faith was only attacked by the Republican side.
Olga Alvaro, Guadalajara, Spain

Because you little bitches believe in God
words attributed to Republican militia

All of my grandparents suffered losses in their respective families during the Civil War, to both Republican and National militias...

My own maternal grandmother was forced into the local church next to a dozen other teenage girls by a Republican militia. Held against their will for almost two weeks, they had to witness how their house of worship was desecrated, the militiamen urinating and defecating on the altar. All the girls - still virgins - were systematically raped and beaten.

For the rest of each day, they were forced to serve their torturers as maids. When my grandmother's best friend risked yet another beating by numbly asking "Why are you doing this to us?" she was sneered at, but obtained this answer: "Because you little bitches believe in God"...

Spaniards... saw themselves caught up between the two extreme factions that made equal contributions to the horrors of our Civil War and the forthcoming dictatorship which for 40 years smothered people like my father, who was imprisoned for his opposition to the regime, or every woman in my family, who, according to the patriarchal regime's rules, had extremely limited access to gynaecological care and zero access to birth control, were not allowed to file complaints for domestic violence by the police, couldn't be seen by a priest without a headscarf on and by law required written permission from their men in order to catch a simple bus out of town, Saudi Arabian style...

If religious victims must be beatified, let's make sure to choose those innocent ones who didn't turn their religious beliefs into a political weapon and were not in connivance with Fascist Franco. If Franco's victims must be commemorated, let's make sure they didn't belong to extreme, violent, Communist or Anarchist factions of the old Republic... We can't risk leaving our 20th Century hanging, unresolved, nor transformed into a strictly left wing-friendly fairy tale as it is currently happening more often than not...
Laura Reijers-Martin, Eindhoven, Netherlands

My father and grandparents lived in Madrid from 1933 to 1936. My grandmother who was living on Cervantes Street #24, saw how they attacked the doorman from the Catholic school my father was attending across the street and set fire to it. This prompted my grandmother to return to Cuba since my father had dual citizenship and was about to be drafted to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Miguel Aparicio, Venice, USA


My mother lost several relatives in the fighting, her parents fled to France, and she became a refugee, fleeing from Bilbao to the UK with several thousand other Basque children at the tender age of 12 after the Guernica horror. Her views reflected, I believe, those of most Spaniards who lived through those times: "let's move on and forget the recriminations".

Visiting Spain these days one can see that from a position of great power the RC church has become rather inconsequential, particularly amongst the younger generation. For the Vatican to stir up horrid memories and recriminations amongst the following generations smacks more of internal politics and a need to re-affirm its influence than any desire for "healing" or whatever it is that they claim to be attempting...
Mike Powell, Hong Kong

I had a Republican grandfather from my father's side who was killed fighting in the Pirineos Aragoneses. My grandmother died soon after of a heart attack. My other grandfather (my mother's side) was not into politics but was jailed in Alicante for three years (1936-1939) by the Republicans because he was a wealthy businessman. My great grandfather was killed by the Republicans in Alicante as most of his friends and other family members. The three little kids of my grand-aunt were stolen by the Russians and taken in a ship out of Spain and she was able to recover them when the Russian ship stopped in Oran (Northern Africa) and a friend French diplomat got them. Wars are all bad. Civil wars are the worst...
Maria DR, Los Angeles, USA


The grandfather of my ex-partner was killed by the right-wingers in front of his wife and children. Then she hung herself in front of her children. The Vatican is still siding with those who destroyed a legitimate and democratic government. Those who killed priests were wrong but were reacting to centuries of oppression.
Manuel Navarro, Alicante, Spain

I always wonder why nobody seems to remember those killed after the post-war, anonymously accused of being "Reds", taken by force from their beds early in the morning and shot in front of their families. They were thousands, among whom were several members of my family. Also those who didn't want to collaborate with the regime, like my granddad, and lost everything. Most of them were working people who wanted just to have a normal life in such horrible times. Funny enough that now people are still using rojos and fachas to define others... more than 40 years later. How sad.
Alicia, London, England

I had a cousin killed by the guardia civil because he spoke against Franco. They took him to a cemetery, shot him and dumped him in town as a message to everyone else. Franco was a Nazi. Should they remove all Nazi-Fascist symbols? No, future generations need to see the Fascist eagle up as a reminder of what can happen if you sell your souls to one man. Should they remove Franco from his grandiose tomb at the Valle de los Caidos? Yes!...
Robert Herrera, Brooklyn, New York City, USA


My uncle was on one side and my father on the other. None of them really understood politics or played any major role in the civil war. Most people were like my father and uncle. They followed their basic instinct and basic needs, such as food, shelter and family security (most people with no knowledge of what is going on would do the same thing today). There were many rights and many wrongs done in the name of being right. It is easy to show who did bad things on any side. There were bad things done on both sides. What can the new generations (or old ones) accomplish by bringing out rotten thoughts? We have to look forward...
Antonio Bejarano, Miami, USA

I am an American who is the son and grandson of exiles. My whole mother's family from her father's side were swamped by the hunger and blood of the Celtic region of Spain, Asturias, where daily bombs or constant battles happened just before the Civil War and early Civil War years. My great uncles suffered the most trying to keep their families safe while other families divided and hated because of political differences. It was dreadful.

Looking at the defects of the Catholics will not heal. After all, the Catholics have done also a lot of good and are working on healing the wounds. No religion has the whole truth after all. They are like political parties. Let's just see the best in everyone...
J Santos Barros, West Hollywood, Ca

My grandfather was "almost" killed during the war. He was on the Republican side, but he was Catholic. He hid this fact from his co-fighters. He ended the war as a colonel and he would have been executed. But during the war he had helped two nuns to pass to the Nationalist side. The nuns recognised him and he saved his head.

It is an excellent thing for me to commemorate those that have sacrificed their life for the faith. Those that were Catholics on the Republican side, the democratically elected government side, had the option to hide their ideas, to move to the other side or to be executed: what a democracy!...
Jose Soto, Paris, France

One of my grandfathers was member of a leftwing Union. He was almost executed. He was pardoned. My other grandfather was a rightwing military member. Like many Spaniards, we carry a past on both sides, and now with Zapatero's government they are reopening some wounds that were nearly healed after the Spanish Transicion in the 1970s and 80s. I'm 32 years old and I don't care about the Civil War! I'm thinking about the future.
Diego, Madrid, Spain

Civil War legacy divides Spain
18 Jul 06 |  Europe
Timeline: Spain
04 Sep 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Spain
04 Sep 07 |  Country profiles


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