Civil War mass grave found

Vic­tims of Franco con­cen­tra­tion camp are the ‘for­got­ten dead’

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - News - Awatkins@cb­news.es

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

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