In the name of the Association for the Memory of the Immolated for the liberty of Catalonia and in our state as relatives of the victims of Franco’s regime, we are present here in the splendid city of Mollet
for the inauguration of the present exhibition, after having been in other towns in our land.
Taking advantage of this occasion, we would like to express our recognition of the author of this magnificent and documented exhibition, presented with lots of care and delicate sensitivity: Mr. Francesc Abad.
We are the ones who still walk in life as repositories of memory, of suffering, of the immensity of the pain of the past. We are without doubt the survivors of the saddest and most shocking episode, the most sordid of the repression perpetrated by Franco’s dictatorship, during and after the civil war.
We remember how in the first few weeks after the occupation of Barcelona by the franquists, the sensation of suffocation and stifling heat that surrounded us, gave the impression that the whole of Catalonia and Spain had turned into a captive state. With numerous concentration camps throughout the course geography of our land, with hundreds of thousands of prisoners, with already existing prisons or ones converted so as to house many people only accused of military crimes or belonging to the enemy, the Republic.
The repression was devastating. It was so brutal that as well as involving the murders of thousands of people, it destroyed the lives and futures of a lot of families, leaving tens of thousands without their spouses and widowed. It left children orphaned and parents without their children, sowing the seeds of pain and desolation in every corner of the nation, in every city, village and even the smallest settlements. Nobody was free!
And this is what happened here in this peaceful city. Lots of citizens of Mollet and Parets were sent to prison; and if we look at the lists in this exhibition we’ll also find the scars left by the ferociousness of Franco’s regime with respect to the killing of Republicans who believed the proclamations of the dictator, “that he who doesn’t have blood stained hands…”. It was all a trap. A lie! All a lie! They were killed. Killed by the state, by the franquist state and by the grace of God.
As an example, among the various cases that I could mention, I pose the case of Josep Fortuny i Torrents. A brilliant man, well known since very young, in the height of the era of the monarchy; in the era of Primo de Ribera’s dictatorship, who in proclaiming the Republic on 14 April 1934, took part as an important member of the first town council. He was elected town councillor again in the 1933 elections taking over as a local politician. He was detained and imprisoned in the boat, Uruguay, for a few months in October 1934, during the height of the “Bienni Negre”, and re-elected on 26 February 1936 as deputy mayor and proclaimed as mayor a few weeks later. A man ahead of his times, noble and decent, outstanding in local politics, especially in everything that favoured workers and the lowest classes, evidence of his work that, like that of his compatriots, continues giving fruits in this extraordinary, avant-gardist and progressive city.
I ascertain that we maintain in our memory the ruthless form in which our parents and our relatives were subjected to summary court martial by Military Tribunals, supported by the dictator, full of hate, without any knowledge of what justice or equity or even pity was.
Shortly after the death of the dictator, some of those who had waited so long for this moment met in the church of Pompèia in Barcelona in the middle of 1976. Thus, we became the promoters of this Association. We also continued holding meetings in the room that the Jesuits gave us in the annexe to the church of Saint Michael.
We named the Association, we designed our objectives and drew up the statutes that allow us to have the freedom to do what we want and to get to work. We started with the essentials, which we believed were most urgent and viable, to organise and give dignity to the “Fossar de la Pedrera” and so as not to bury anyone else there. This we achieved with time and not without effort and difficulties. In fact, we have achieved all that we have proposed with the goodwill of everyone, especially that of Pere Fortuny, who has been the soul and the main impulse behind the current figures of our Association; pioneer behind the associations for the victims of the repression under Franco, with very good relations with and an excellent understanding of the main political institutions and officials of Catalonia and the Central Government of Madrid.
But we haven’t been able to achieve everything that we proposed.
Soon after taking our first steps, we realised that, despite the fact that so many had achieved status and become notable within the field of political power, what we considered to be our priority wasn’t our priority. With time and little by little, new and subtle political measures were put into place in order to do something without doing much.
The civil servants who had been victims of the ousting that had gone on for being responsible for political crimes were given back their former posts; the same occurred with former Republican soldiers, former pilots; people widowed by the war, political prisoners and others without satisfying anyone; On the whole it was concluded with such modest purposes, considered with very little care, that to remember it causes fear and pity.
And even more so when one compares it with the splendid help and satisfaction promoted with the situations that arose after the war and the dictatorship. Although the measures taken deserved our approval and all our respect, compared to others, one can deduce that it concluded with different parameters being used to decide the measures.
With the dictatorship gone and 30 years after democracy was re-established, the debt that needs to be settled with the dictatorship is still pending. During the 40 years of dictatorship we always believed that once the democracy was put into place that the moral, political and legal recognition of the victims of Franco’s regime, would be quickly achieved, including the retraction of summary court martial sentences given by the Military Tribunals without any legal validity nor democratic legitimacy, as is confirmed by prestigious and well-known jurists like Mr. Jiménez de Parga and Mr. Martín Pallín, amongst others. For further justification, not long ago, Professor Vicens Navarro of Pompeu Fabra University said that Professor Melefakis of the University of Colombia in the United States, a world authority on contemporary European history, pointed out that Franco’s dictatorship was one of the bloodiest and most brutal in Europe in the twentieth century, and he added that more people were killed during peace time than during the Italian fascist dictatorship, with a ratio of 10,000 to 1, a figure that sums up the genocide under Franco’s regime in our country. To add more references, among the different international institutions that have condemned dictatorship under Franco, it is necessary to firstly take into account the General Assembly of the UN on 9 February 1946 which condemned the illegality of Franco’s regime and highlighted that the dictatorship committed crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.
Finally, last July 5, the European Parliament condemned Franco’s dictatorship in the 70th anniversary of the military coup against the Republic.
Thanks to time, the events and the changes that have arisen since the transition, since not very long ago we have believed that we are reaching the end of the road, and that finally the silence, the amnesia and the forgetting will be overcome.
Until very recently the official recognition of the anti-franquist movement had been scarce and at times it seemed that it had been completely forgotten, with a few exceptions that were of value, but ephemeral, as they didn’t have the resonance or the informative answer that they deserved.
With the last change in government we believed that the panorama that had surrounded us until that moment would change. And so it did.
Suddenly, a lot of initiatives arose with force that had a big impact on the left, a lot of politicians, and anti-franquist associations, as much on those that already existed, as on those that newly arose and gave freshness and strength so as to give the impetus to a grand shared project: the Democratic Memory or the Historical Memory.
Over the last two tears, the great task of investigating past history has been brought to an end. Official institutions, especially the Ministry for Institutional Relations in Catalonia and the Vice-President of the Central Government in Madrid, more than anyone, and an ensemble of anti-franquist associations, have worked with enthusiasm and will. Among the various consultations, I would like to point out that our Association was one of the first to be cited in the month of February last year in Moncloa, with the Inter-ministerial commission named by the Government with the aim of concluding the study and collection of all the information needed to elaborate the project for the law for Historical Memory.
After this, frankly, we were left satisfied and hopeful enough to go the right way.
Although everything seemed to be going along nicely, on three occasions the Government didn’t meet the deadlines that it had given itself.
To sum up, with more than a year in delays, the government approved the project for the law last 28 July, renouncing the inclusion of the promise to retract the court martials under Franco’s regime, even when the Government had compromised itself to give moral and legal satisfaction and public restitution of honour to the victims. Obviously we admit that despite all the finishing touches and things removed from the initial proposal, it is the first time that an executive has given such wide recognition to the victims of the dictatorship. It is thankful but for us it’s not enough and disheartening.
We would like to protest that this proposal for the law frustrates us greatly. This is not the law for the Historical Memory that we have always claimed and that they have repeatedly promised us.
We consider it to be a clear failing on the part of the government, which has defrauded the hope that was given to the victims of the dictatorship. We have to recognise that the Government has missed a great opportunity to give an effective solution and settle the debt that Catalonia and Spain have with the past.
Although we still have the hope that the proposal for the law presented by the Executive could be rectified by Parliament.
If this doesn’t happen, then our claim will go on, and if we don’t achieve it while we are alive, the next generation will continue our work.
Meanwhile, we will go on remembering our dead with pride and with our heads held high and with total dignity.