Civil War mass grave found
Victims of Franco concentration camp are the ‘forgotten dead’
By Alex Watkins A MASS grave has been found at the remains of the post-Civil War concentration camp of Albatera, which lies in an area that is now in the municipality of San Isidro.
The discovery was announced on Saturday at the 11th edition of the annual conference about the camp, organised by the coordinator of historical memory associations in Alicante (COAMHI).
Although official records claimed there were 1,600 prisoners at the camp and none died, survivors claim there were up to 10 times that number and many deaths.
Estimates indicate that from 10-30 people, who were mostly Republicans and anti-fascists, were shot but the most common causes of death were illness, dehydration and hunger.
Felipe Mejías - archaeologist and historian for a faculty of democratic memory set up by the regional government and each province’s universities – explained in an interview with eldiario.es that ‘the only way to find the dead is to ask people’.
Previous researchers had met with ‘fear and ignorance’ from the landowners but with help from ex-mayor Damián Sabater he got to speak with a worker and three landowners who had made grisly discoveries in the past.
In the 1950s a farmer dug up ‘a skull with hair and a scalp a metre and a half deep’; in another place there was ‘an arm with the bones still anatomically connected’; and another found a femur.
These had all been within an area about 700 metres long.
A government colonisation project brought settlers from elsewhere in Spain to work the Alicante land, who were told to ignore the bones of the dead from the war.
Other residents remembered having gone cycling to look for dates as children, and discovering an open grave with bodies, which was half filled in when they returned the next day.
When excavating the places Sr Mejías had been told about, he found ‘dark cement’ he is sure was lime, indicating that bodies could have been buried in layers on top of each other.
The farmworker also explained that in 1977 the government got him to dig drainage trenches but when several bodies were revealed the discovery was hushed up.
Also, the landowners’ children showed him bullet holes in some palm trees that still remain from shots fired by camp guards.
Sr Mejías now intends to carry out more in-depth research, including a survey with ground penetrating radar.
The final step, he explained, will be to excavate the area, locate the bodies and hand them over to their families.
Poet Marcos Ana was imprisoned in the camp - and survived to tell his tale