The IBMT has added its name to a letter of protest to the regional government of Aragón for its decision to repeal a Law of Democratic Memory.

The law allows funding for the excavation of mass graves of the victims of Franco during Spain’s civil war and the subsequent dictatorship.

Aragón is run by a coalition of the rightwing PP and far-right Vox parties. It took office last year following elections that saw the socialist PSOE-led administration removed from office.

Enacted by the then ruling PSOE government, the region’s 2018 Law of Democratic Memory commits the government to recovery the remains of civil war victims and return them to their families.

Many International Brigaders were killed in Aragón and their remains lie in unmarked graves. More than 150 British and Irish lives were lost.

According to historian Paul Preston’s ‘The Spanish Holocaust’, 8,523 supporters of the Spanish Republic were executed behind Francoist lines between 1936-39. An unknown number of Republican soldiers were also killed in the province, which straddles the Ebro in north-east Spain.

The letter of protest to the authorities in Zaragoza, the regional capital, was coordinated early in April by the Madrid-based AABI, Friends of the International Brigades.

‘We request the restoration of the so-called Democratic Memory Law of Aragón as a means of finding a way to close the wounds of the past,’ says AABI in its letter. 

As well as the IBMT, others signatories include International Brigade memorial associations in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia and the US.

The British Battalion saw action in Aragón at Belchite in the autumn of 1937, at Teruel early in 1938 and in the spring of that year in and around Caspe. At Teruel, fighting took place amid severe winter conditions (see main picture – courtesy of the Marx Memorial Library).

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