1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Spain's parliament calls for Franco exhumation

May 11, 2017

Spanish lawmakers have voted in favor of moving the remains of dictator General Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum in central Spain. The site is regarded as a relic from Franco's reign.

Spanien Valle de los Caidos Valley of the Fallen
Image: Imago/ZUMA Press

Spanish lawmakers approved the motion calling for the reinterment of General Francisco Franco's remains from the mausoleum, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Madrid, which is seen by many as a relic of Spain's dictatorial past.

Lawmakers voted 198-1 in favor of the motion, with 140 abstentions by the conservative Popular Party (PP), which was founded by former members of the Franco regime.

The vote is symbolic and puts no obligation on the government to actually implement the removal of Franco's remains. It has, however, reopened the public debate on the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, one of the country's most painful periods.

A memorial to a dictator

Built by prisoners between 1940 and 1958 into the granite mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama, the controversial Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) monument also holds the remains of over 34,000 dead from both sides of Civil War in the late 1930s. Nearly a third of the victims have never been identified.

The harsh labor conditions led to the death of many of the prisoners.

Spanien General Francisco Franco in San Sebastian
Francisco Franco led Nationalists to power in 1939 with the aid of Hitler and MussoliniImage: picture alliance/EFE

General Franco governed Spain with an iron fist from the end of the Civil War until his death in 1975, when he was buried inside a basilica drilled into the side of a mountain at the Valley of the Fallen. The location was long used as a place of celebration for Franco anniversaries, which were banned 10 years ago.

Families of those killed during the Civil War complain that the fascist dictator should not lie in a monument next to victims of the conflict that brought him to power in the first place.

From glorification to reconciliation

Prior efforts to have the dictator's remains removed have had no real success. Franco's defenders say it would only open old wounds, while proponents claim the mausoleum keeps those very wounds open. More than four decades after Franco's death, reconciliation remains an elusive goal.

The partially state-funded Francisco Franco Foundation, run by the late dictator's 90-year-old daughter, Carmen, has pledged to fight any moves to have her father's bones exhumed or to have the site's function changed to become a civic memorial for all victims.

The motion approved by parliament on Thursday calls for the mausoleum to be "given a new meaning" so it no longer serves as "a place of Francoist memory" and instead embodies reconciliation.

Foundation spokesman Francisco Torres told the Associated Press news agency that "there is no better symbol of reconciliation than the Valley of the Fallen, with the dead on both sides treated with dignity."

The site has become a popular tourist destination with some 300,000 visitors annually.

ss/kms (AP, AFP)