|Who were those executed by firing squad?
Local history has too often been undervalued. These criticisms don't have any foundation if we talk about recording history in a way that begins with anectodes and is a simple chronological exercise. We've gone too long without local history and we need a new generation of researchers. It's about time that local history returned to take the place that it should never have lost: as the basis for history in general. Only by knowing the details of events can we understand so many of the mechanisms which have moved our country's history, and that of others.
The experience started by Francesc Abad with regard to his work on El Camp de la Bota, is a magnificent example of the fundamental importance of research at the local level. It began by looking at Josep M. Solé i Sabaté's magnificent piece of work on The franquist repression in Catalonia, 1938-1953, which was contrasted to the official list of those executed by firing squad. Through local research we've been able to discover in detail who the victims of the franquist repression were and find out about them through first hand sources, who were often friends and relatives.
By combining research into documents with local history on everything essential regarding this sensitive issue, we've been able to produce something that only started out as a straightforward report. In all the towns and villages where this revealing project was undertaken, we now know who was killed, what they did, who their family were and what people thought of them. Our description of them is so life like that it really affected visitors' consciences. We can't be indifferent when one of those executed, whilst still young and with a whole lifetime ahead of them, looks at us, through their potrait, with vivacious eyes.
As well as the human and family side of the victims' story, research gave us certain elements which from a historical point of view are of greater value. We now know their political views, which trade union they belonged to, which posts they held and which associations or societies they belonged to.
Moreover, local documents have shown us what the victims were accused of. In addition to violent crime, the reports drawn up to accuse them also spoke critically of their moral conduct, religious beliefs, rebellious nature, which in these cases was an indication of fighting for the The Republic and, most of all, whether or not they could be considered "dignified enough to live in the new Spain".
The methodology employed was similar in all the cases looked at. Firstly, relatives still alive were found. This was done thanks to investigations into the census and registers on the population in each town from about 1939 to the present day. This gave us acces to people, often children of those executed, who gave us first hand information about their dead relatives. They gave us personal documents and photographs which we included in the exhibition and on the web. In the majority of cases, however, the repression of relatives after the war, fear and changes of address, meant that a lot of documents were destroyed or lost. We have to also remember that in everyday life photography was expensive and uncommon and something kept for special occasions. That's why, in many cases, we were lucky to find even just one photo.
These first hand testimonies were recorded and included in the exhibition. Once many relatives had gotten over their reservations about speaking about their tragedies, which in many cases they had hidden for many years, they gave us a sensitive and moving picture of what they remember.
The investigations into witnesses who are still alive was completed with research into documents. Among their resources, the municipal archives have documents of great importance on the repression, which have often not been worked on by researchers. In addition to documents that give us details on these people and their activities (population censuses, personal documents, contributions, etc.) many archives hold the reports drawn up on those brought to trial.
These reports were drawn up by an important falangists in the town using information provided by informers, who in the majority of cases didn't hesitate in giving their name. Quite often it was the mayor who brought these reports together and sent them to the appropriate military tribunal. In some cases the chapel or the police could also draw up these reports. The research into documents was completed with details on prisoners' backgrounds that are held in the National Archive of Catalonia.
We can come to interesting and important conclusions from this analysis of the information gathered for this project. In some cases we can bring forward reliable proof for things that we already suspected and for which we had certain pointers. In general, we can verify that the victims of the repression hadn't done anything wrong and that in no case could the summary penalties to which they were condemned be justified. There were few who could be accused of violent crimes and who didn't leave. It was for this reason that it was necessary to punish someone even if it meant that it was done arbitrarily. In the few cases that people were found to be guilty of committing murder, not one deserved neither the treatment they received, nor the non-impartial judicial process that they were subjected to.
The people shot at El Camp de la Bota had different ideologies to eachother and different political and trade unionist leanings in varying degrees. However all of them had one thing in common and that's the love they had for their families which made them stay and put their lives at risk. They were not aware of the danger.
They were convinced that they had done no wrong and that they couldn't be exiled. They were wrong. In the eyes of the franquist regime anyone who was in favour of the Republic was an enemy and was treated as one. Local ministers, mayors, villagers, workers. All of them were shot by firing squad once they'd been unjustly tried. As the informers wrote: "They were not dignified enough to live in the new Spain". That was not the Spain that they wanted and so they fought and gave their lives. From their deaths and that of thousands of others came decades of darkness for everyone.