Archivo de la categoría: Boletines ARMH

Memoria Histórica | |
Publicado por ARMH

Missing in life

Last Saturday, 8th February the ARMH exhumed the body of a young boy from Ciudad Real. Killed on the 28th February 1943 in the provincial prison of Leon, his body was reburied later in the civil cemetery of Leon. According to the documentation gathered by ARMH researchers, José Almena Castro died from either a heart attack or tuberculosis, depending on which source is to be trusted. His family was contacted by the Association and applied for the exhumation of his body to a cemetery in his local area of Gargantiel. The family knew that José Almena had died in Leon but had never known the exact location of his burial.

The investigation began by looking into the list of victims buried during the dictatorship in the civil cemetery of Leon that had been made available by ARMH volunteers who had been working on research into the discovery of the remains of a teacher from las Omañas, Genara Fernández who had been exhumed by the ARMH in 2019.

The work lasted two days and was carried out by a multidisciplinary group of volunteers from the ARMH as well as the family of José Almena Castro.

José Almena Castro was born on 19th May 1922 in Chillón and in 1940 he was subjected to a show trial (case 8574/1940). On 23rd September of 1940 he was taken to the Party Prison of Chillon until the 20th March 1941 from then on he was kept at the Provincial Prison of Ciudad Real. He stood accused of handing weapons to guerrilla forces although a number of testimonies suggested that he may have been threatened to make such a delivery. Such information did not prevent the ruling of the 15th February 1941 that accused him of having conspired and collaborated with the guerillas.

The decision meant that he would be condemned to death for the crime of joining the rebellion although an immediate appeal was lodged meaning that he would instead face 30 years in prison. This prison sentence would be carried out not in Ciudad Real but in the Provincial Prison of Leon.

Within the Spanish prison system the bodies of prisoners were used as a means for learning about the limits of the human body as well as for punishment. Hunger was one of the most obvious manifestations of this concept. Scarce rations and bad conditions generated pain and suffering among the prisoners. Filth was added to these conditions reducing the incarcerated to little more than animals. Moreover, the dirty prisons created important health problems including fertile breeding grounds for all types of diseases and epidemics. These subhuman conditions were probably the reason why José Almena Castro contracted tuberculosis and died on the 28th April 1943.

Eventually he was buried at a site that was designed for the victims of the repression and for those disaffected with the regime such as Marcelino de la Parra, Genara Fernández or Lorenzo San Miguel or the guerrillas from El Bierzo Rafael Verdial and Severino Nieto.


The association has delivered the genetically identified remains of the Salamancan labourer Tiburcio Mateos Mateos to his family, he was assassinated by Falanagist gunmen on the 13th February August 1936. The day before he had been detained alongside three other men in their house and during a ‘transfer to Muñoz’ from their homes they were shot above the town of Boadilla (Salamanca).

Tiburcio was a day labourer and a union representative, when the Falangists entered his town he was just 26 years old. His remains were exhumed by a team of Association volunteers in the summer of 2018. The identification work was complicated due to the poor state of the conservation of the common grave which had been partly removed during previous burials in the cemetery nearby. Finally, thanks to anthropological work and genetic identification, Tiburcio’s remains can now rest in the place of his family’s choosing.


The ARMH is somewhat regretful of the fact that the 27th January Senate Act for Holocaust memorial comemorations did not recognise the participation of the families of the deported Republicans. Especially after taking into account that nearly 10,000 families have a relative that was deported to Nazi concentration camps with either the tacit or implicit knowledge of the Francoist authorities.

It is quite difficult to imagine an act of homage to the victims of terrorism in which the families of those affected are not the focal point and in which they don’t even particpate. But with the Republican victims, perhaps precisely because they are Republicans, they were marginalised during a commemoration that should have centered on their descendants.

Over the past two years, the Association has promoted acts of recognition for the descendendants of deported republicans in the autonomous parliaments of Spain and in the first few months of this year we have been working with the families of deportees to present their case before the Argentinian justice department (Querella Argentina) who have been investigating the crimes of the Franco dictatorship since 2010.

The ARMH also regrets that the Senate Act fails to condemn the Francoist dictatorship, the affiliated Nazism of the dictator and his alignment with Nazi authrorities during the deportation of Spanish Republicans, of whom close to 4,700 died in death camps and a large part of those that were liberated were unable to return to Spain.

The ARMH has applied to the Senate presidency as well as the Casa Sefarad (Jewish cultural centre based in Madrid) to work towards more inclusivity for the deported families in the Spanish Senate Act.

During the months of January and February reports from the deported families have been presented at the Querella Argentina for the first time. Twenty families from Galicia and another eleven from Madrid have taken part and we will continue the research and presentation of further reports in the following months.

Volunteers and researchers from the ARMH are spending months studying the cases of deportees to the German and Austrian concentration camps including: Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenchausen, Neuengamme.

We think that it can be some small comfort to the families that, for the first time, an official state department – in this case the National Judiciary of Argentina – is gathering so many previously unrecognised complaints from the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Victims whose terrible fates were well known by the Francoist state before they were sent to Germany. Their deportation took place even despite repeated attempts both by the German ambassador and the many families to change the destination of the Republican men and women.

The reports are being carried out by the families, researchers and volunteers from the ARMH alongside collaboration with experts Carlos Hernández, Benito Bermejo as well as the lawyer Ana Messuti.

In recent decades, politicians and political parties have been swept along by the symbolic power of mass graves, of disappeared people, of the democratic shame of having abandoned thousands of people that built democracy and universal suffrage with their bare hands. Thus politics has had to react to the past that is so painfully embedded in the present.

A democracy like ours cannot leave the disappeared in the ditches where they were buried, it cannot hide the pain of thousands of families who were constantly watched and punished by their repressors. This democracy should not allow the perpetrators of violence to benefit from silence, ignorance, the lack of public debate or the concealment of their actions in new textbooks in which the country’s true past is hidden. These are merely forms of tolerance for those who should be sat in front of a judge and should be made responsible for the atrocious crimes that they have committed.

But the elites of Francoism in Spain have maintained their strong grip over power in democracy, distributed across different spheres including politics, culture, economics, media and academia. The Law of Silence has acted like an invisible rule for decades and when reports from the disappeared weakened the silence, those in power argued that the Amnesty Law, passed in 1977, was a conquest and a victory for the opponents of the dictatorship when in fact it was simply protection for the executioners.

You can read Emilio Silva’s full article «Las urgencias de la Memoria Histórica (The necessity of Historical Memory)» in full at

Camilo de Dios Fernández, the last Galician to fight against Francoism from the guerilla armed forces, died on the 17th December in his house in Sandiás at the age of 87.

‘The problems of others always affected me more than my own problems. I’ve been through so much, if i had got upset and cried for every bad thing that had happened to me in my life … and so many things have happened to me from torture to hunger to misery to cold… then I would have had to have taken my life forty times over. And we never had that option’, explained Camilio de Dios in the documentary ‘Camilio: the last Galician Guerilla’

He became a guerilla at the age of 15 when he escaped to the mountains where he connected with the guerilla movement. Like his mother, Carmen Fernández Seguí, he was an intermediary for the guerilla forces. His father, Jesus de Dios, was the founder of the PCE (Partido Comunista Espanol – Spanish Communist Party) in Sandiás but had been killed whilst on the run in the mountains. He was held captive in many prisons but he spent most of his time in the Dueso jail. It was here that he heard the news of the death of his brother, Perfecto, at the hands of the Guardia Civil in Ávila whilst he was trying to escape to join his mother in France.

65 years after the assassination of his brother, Camilio de Dios managed to recover his remains along with the help of the ARMH. He is now buried outside the Chaherrero cemetery alongside the body of his brother Perfecto.

‘The exhumation of Perfecto left a great impression on me. It was something that I had wanted for a very long time. I had promised to my mother that I would do everything that I could to make sure that it happened. It was, therefore, a great satisfaction when everything came together. People who offered me their condolences seemed to be giving me a joyful embrace for having achieved what I had wanted’

If you would like a deeper understanding of Camilio’s history you can listen to his story and his testimony in the Vidas Enterradas program on Cadena Ser.

A plaque and monolith are to be placed in Mosteiro de Ribeira in tribute to María del Valle y a Salud Torres, both victims of the Francoist repression and defenders of equality and social welfare in the years of the Second Republic.

María del Valle y a Salud Torres had been detained and taken to the Bande prison. On the 29th October 1937 they were taken out and assassinated on the road without a thought. Their bodies were collected by a neighbour and buried in the Mosteiro de Ribeira cemetery.

At the family’s request, the Association attempted to recover their bodies last July, but the poorly conserved state of the local cemetery made it impossible. After the fruitless search, together we decided that the creation of a space of recognition at the place where they had been buried would be the best option and could act as a site of homage and remembrance.


The Association has sent out a letter to all Spanish dioceses asking that they exempt themselves from celebrating Mass in exaltation of the dictator Francisco Franco that takes place every year on the anniversary of his death. The Foundation, that takes the name of the general at the head of the 1936 coup, announced on their website that various Mass celebrations would take place on the 20th November, the date that marks 44 years since his death.

Every year at least twenty Catholic Mass’ celebrating the life of Franco, that we know of, take place across Spain. These are treated as acts of exaltation for a dictator who caused enormous amounts of pain to Spanish society and who assassinated thousands of civilians that still remain lost in mass graves and ditches. He was also responsible for the extremely harsh treatment of homosexuals, for whom he created a concentration camp and also for lesbians who were imprisoned in psychiatric centres where they were subject to electric shock therapy. Francoism stopped millions of people from exercising their own personal freedoms and forced them to exile themselves, to hide or to stop being who they were.

It is for this reason that we have once again asked that the Catholic Church end its homage to the man who has caused so much damage to Spain. Moreover, that they publicly recognise the fact that those who were in charge of the church formed an integral part of the Francoist dictatorial apparatus, investing in that Caudillo (Spanish word for Mafia like boss) meant that Franco could use their money ‘by the grace of God’. Now they should work like any organisation in any democracy for the defence of human rights; and therefore, to help the families of their victims to heal their pain.

Last November the Association carried out a petition to discover the origin of a number of jewels that were auctioned at Charlie’s Auction House. In the auction catalogue it was mentioned that they had belonged to ‘an important Spanish family’, after seeing the jewels it was confirmed that they had come from the family of the dictator Francisco Franco.

The ARMH registered a request with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in order that the Spanish ambassador in London could discuss the matter with the auction house and facilitate the uncovering of the paperwork and documentation that the house had on the origins of the jewels.

We have also requested that the presidential ministry responsible for National Heritage investigates the aforementioned jewels to see if they had, at any point, been under state jurisdiction.

Eventually, the jewels were auctioned, they reached a much lower value than the family had hoped. The presidential ministry has told us that the jewels could not be found in the National Heritage catalogue.

Memoria Histórica | |
Publicado por ARMH

The Victims’ Fight and the Exhumation of a Dictator

On the morning of the 7th October the search of the Los Grilles farm (also known as the Royal Pastures of the Casas de Don Antonio) began in Aldea del Cano (Caceres). This was the place which oral testimonies and bibliographies suggested as the clandestine burial ground of three of the victims of the Francoist repression. To begin with, as we said in the last newsletter, a survey was carried out with metal detection equipment with the sole intention of finding ballistic evidence that would specify that this was the correct area. The survey was carried out at the request of the families of the three victims: Bernardo Berrocal Bote, Modesto Rodríguez González and Diego Valle Barranco.

The victims were detained in Aljucén and executed on the spot in Los Griles in the municipality of Aldea del Cano on the 14th August 1936. Testimonies from neighbours in the area were able to identify a rock from the terrain in which bullet holes can be seen which would provide evidence that it was the execution area and also the place of burial. The ballistic evidence found with the detector seemed to verify the testimonies.


After five days of mechanic research, the result turned out to be negative, it was decided to extend the search area of the metal detectors with the aim of finding new evidence. After finding shrapnel and mortar remnants as well as hand grenades we arrived at the conclusion that this area had been a passing point for the Francoist troops travelling towards the town of Aldea del Cano and that there had been a skirmish here with anti-fascist troops owing to the amount of ballistic material found.

Both the family members and the Association want to continue investigating the case and resume the search in the future for the burial site of Bernardo Berrocal Bote, Modesto Rodríguez González and Diego Valle Barranco.


At the request of the families of Félix González Moreno, resident of Liria (Valencia), who died in combat and after further requests from the families of Cirilo Hernández Gonzalo y Aquilino Martínez Gonzalo, residents of Adobe (Guadalajara) , the Association began research into the circumstances surrounding the appearance of a grave at the bottom of a construction site in Masia in 2013. The Association had been made aware of this appearance after reports in the local media.

On the 14th February 2013 human remains were discovered during construction work with heavy machinery, during earth removal works next to an agricultural zone. The workers that had been present at the time reported it to the police immediately who quickly arrived at the scene of the discovery. Seeing that the remains could have potentially been from the civil war, the courts were notified without hesitation and then the decision was taken to notify the heads of Heritage of the Diputación General de Aragón (DGA).


The Association gained both the judicial report and the testimonial information of the finding from the owners of the land. Both sources suggested to us that not all of the bodies had been recovered from the construction site and that the work itself had been carried out without consulting an archaeological professional. For this reason, the ARMH decided to apply for the reopening of the grave to carry out the necessary excavation works and to find the human remains that could be left there. We were also informed that a number of boxes of human remains that had been taken out by mechanical excavation were in the custody of the estate. After complaining to local authorities the five boxes, containing personal objects and mixed remains, were delivered to us. They were, however, unordered and had not been kept in sufficient conservation conditions.

Despite a number of testimonies that told us that no human remains were left at the site after the action of the DGA in 2013, we were able to prove that this was not the case. Even during the first attempts a number of human remains and personal objects appeared – completely out of context. Everything was mixed and scattered across a number of different levels. Our intervention was carried out following the guidelines of current archaeological methodology yet we were only able to recover 3 bodies at the site which were only partially connected.

Once the exhumation work was completed, following comments from the farm’s workers, who were present during the work carried out by the DGA in 2013, our team went to a nearby illegal dump, where in 2013 three trailers of earth from the same area where the grave was located were dumped. Straight away, it was possible to verify that human remains were scattered in this dump. All the soil related to the mass grave was then sieved, and a large quantity of human remains, personal objects and ammunition (photo album with photographs of the intervention) was found, comparable in number to that delivered by the DGA in its boxes. This demonstrates yet again the poor work carried out in 2013.

With the recovered remains from the archaeological excavation alongside the remains in the custody of the Estate as well as those that appeared during the sieving of the illegal dump, it will be possible to carry out a detailed anthropological analysis. Although the poor conditions of the discovered bodies and artefacts will make it difficult to arrive at a clear conclusion. From here we will do everything possible so that those found in this place can have a dignified burial according to the human rights that should be guaranteed to all victims of francoist repression. The Association wants to emphasize that in spite of the intervention of both the Court and those in charge of the estate, the remains of these victims were removed, mixed and later thrown in a dump without any form of analysis or archaeological intervention. For this reason, the Association is forming a report on the actions of the Directorate of Heritage of Aragon.


On the 16th September of last year, we lost Ascension Mendieta. Asención rests now with her loving father Timoteo. Thanks to her struggle more than 30 families have now identified and recovered the remains of their loved ones in Guadalajara. She is remembered with words from Emilio Silva for her obituary.

In the above image she is seen watching over the body of her father, Timoteo Mendieta, after a long struggle to find and identify his body. Not a single government agency helped to give him a dignified funeral. As a child she had the misfortune of opening the door of her house to her father’s killers and to tell them that he was taking a siesta.

She had to stand by and watch as presidents and ministers told everyone that society had healed and all victims had been compensated. Rafael Hernando, a PP (Partido Popular) spokesman, even went so far as to say that people only remembered their parents when money was available.

But her love for her father, the strength of her dignity and her tireless struggle kept his memory alive. She celebrated her 88th birthday on board a plane taking her to Argentina where she asked for the justice that she had been denied in Spain. Here she managed to get the remains of her father identified so that she could give him a dignified burial at a civil cemetery in Madrid.

Her example shows the evidence of the impunity of Francoism and the neglect through which many victims have lived and many more still live through. As a woman she was much greater than her governments. Rest in peace.


With another year celebrating the International Day of the Disappeared, The Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (ARMH) organised a simple homage dedicated to the thousands of victims of Francoism. Sol Gómez, Javier Morán, Pedro Álvarez (Peta), Isamil, Esther Folgueral, Abel Aparicio, Nicanor G. Ordiz, Noemí Sabugal, Tote García, Alfonso Mantecón, Miguel Varela, Manuel Cuenya y Carlos Attadía all attended. J.A Robés took photos of the event and a mural from the graffiti artist Alto was unveiled. All photos can be seen through this link.

Alongside the planned events for the International Day of the Disappeared, The Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory (ARMH) organised the presentation and launch of a new book by José Cabañas (of La Bañeza) – Convulsions: Diary of Jaume Cusidó – a Republican Soldier – Catalan Prisoners in the ‘Gulag’ of Leon.

In another of the cases, we received two invoices from the General Directorate of Roads, more specifically from the Roads Unit of Leon (la Demarcación de Carreteras del Estado en Castilla y León Occidental). Within these invoices the concept of the work is «prospecting works with manual and mechanical means in order to locate and exhume human remains». Such a decision is disconcerting as it is a decision that seems arbitrary, we have asked for the same authorisation at other times and not been charged a fee. Specifying the charge is also difficult as at sometimes we have been charged more and at other times less. It is important to note that in the latter cases the fee must be paid prior to the search work, otherwise permission to carry out the searches is not granted.

As a result of the denunciations on our part, The Council of Ávila withdrew the charge on the grounds that it had been automatically covered and that there had been an error. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Fomento is trying to find a way of withdrawing their fees which date back to a decree from 1960 signed by Francisco Franco himself and the under-secretary of the presidency, Luis Carrero Blanco.

Important note for members and those that donate to us.

As of the September 12th 2019 we are now a Declared Public Utilities Association (Asociación declarada de Utilidad Pública). This means that we are recognised by the Interior Ministry and as such they accredit our work as pursuing general public interest and being socially representative.

What does this mean for our members and those that donate to us? Your membership fee could decrease by 75%

Does this have any practical impact? From the first 150€ of membership fee or donation you will receive 112.50€ back on your tax return. Therefore the ARMH receives 150€, of which 37.5€ come from you and 112.50€ are classed as an «indirect subsidy» from the Treasury.

The last three months have seen various outreach activities across a number of cities. All this is due to the hard work and collaboration of the volunteers of the Association.

At the Ateneo de la Calzada in Xixón, the story of Jaime Machicado Llorente, a member of the Galicia Battalion killed in O Acevo with his companions, was told. His relatives accompanied us to reconstruct and honor his history and struggle. We also talked about the development of exhumation work.

The Association also participated in the launch of Pilar Ruis’ autobiography ‘Cantos Rodados’ at the Casa de Mexico in Madrid. The book tells the story of a woman born in Tarancon, Cuenca, who at the age of 7 had to travel to Mexico with her family to escape Francoist repression.

In Chicago, Emilio Silva took part in a conference about the recuperation of historical memory in Spain. Under the title ‘Historical Memory in Spain: the Past That Never Happened’ the conference was supported by the University of Chicago and its Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies department.

The Association’s volunteers and collaborators alongside the Association of Veciños de Oza-Gaiteira-Os Castros also organised the presentation of Eloy Alonso’s photography project – As Foxas de Esquecemento (The Forgotten Graves) in A Coruña. The project was exhibited during October at the Forum Metropolitano in A Coruña. Around this exhibition there were talks and debates about historical memory.

The town of Redondela (Pontevedra) hosted the Francesc Boix exhibition. Francesc was a photographer from Mauthausen and there was a great deal of success and participation in the conferences that were organised around the opening of the exhibition.


The exhumation of the dictator Francisco Franco which has been demanded for years by his victims, was intended to normalise our democracy, banishing his body from State responsibility and privatising it – returning it to his wealthy family. Finally the taxes of the victims of the dictatorship would stop going towards financing the tomb of the dictator. Surely it is unacceptable that those that were punished by Franco have to pay for a tomb in his honour? In spite of this, the place where Franco has been buried (re-buried) is a luxurious pantheon that is on a property paid for by taxpayers; this is to say that we paid for his tomb when he lay in the Valley of the Fallen and we will continue to pay for it in his new burial place.

The fact that the Supreme Court has spent more time attending to the dictator’s family, to see what happens to their bones, than to the families of the more than one hundred thousand people that disappeared under Franco’s repression explains in a particularly graphic way the agreement that was signed during the transition to democracy from Franco’s regime. Within this we can see what has been referred to as ‘Sociological Francoism’, a Francoism that forms an intimate part of our cultural politics and emphasises our democratic fragility and the politicisation of State powers. This power bias goes much further than the judiciary but also reaches educational, media and diplomatic powers.

For 15 months we have seen the family of a dictator fighting, on a level playing field, with a democratic government, explains the lack of strength with which politics has confronted the dictatorship. The dictator’s family has kept its privileges intact for four decades; no government has investigated the origin of its fortune, the misappropriations, the plundering of national wealth or the political favors they have received during the democracy to multiply their wealth within the real estate bubble.

No government, to date, has paid tribute to the men and women who fought against the dictator, who put their lives at stake, who set aside their personal lives and who committed themselves to defending the return of a democracy in which the ballot box would be reopened to embrace ideas with which they might agree or be opposed to. All the governments of the recovered democracy have maintained an educational policy that manufactures ignorance about the recent past. And they are all complicit in the silent death of victims and witnesses so that in the future the dictatorship would be free from public knowledge of its terrible use of violence and its autocratic apartheid in which the victors enjoyed rights and resources of the state and the losers, defenders of democracy, survived in the depths of the social pyramid from which they could only emerge in most cases as part of the almost two million Spaniards who left the country in the two decades following the end of the Second World War. No government has worked to open the door of the courts to the victims of the dictatorship, the families of the disappeared, the tortured homosexuals, and women without rights, who were looted by Franco’s authorities or used as slaves by the large construction companies that often acted as a front for the dictator.

Whilst all this is going on, tens of thousands of men and women that built our first democracy lie in ditches, without anyone knowing the truth about them and without justice and reparation.

The full article by Emilio Silva can be read in the following link to the Open Tribunal of