Gratitude aplenty for Spain’s reconciliation

Many countries that have emerged from violent internal conflict – Colombia, South Africa, Tunisia, Cambodia, to name a few – have tried to mend their divided societies with a blend of justice and forgiveness for past atrocities. Then there is Spain. Its limited attempts to heal wounds from the Spanish Civil War have lasted nearly half a century since the end of the Francisco Franco dictatorship (1939-1975). The latest attempt is a new law, passed last month by a left-wing government, that aims to finally achieve national reconciliation.

The law would, among other things, devote state money to help families locate the remains of loved ones killed during the civil war (1936-1939). Up to now, the families have tried, with help from donors, to find an estimated 100,000 unmarked graves for people slaughtered by Franco’s nationalists. In sheer number of mass graves, Spain ranks first in Europe and third worldwide after Burundi and Cambodia, according to the United Nations.

The new official effort, said Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, will “settle the debt of gratitude that our country still owes to those who committed themselves to a democratic Spain.” Tracing the remains of anti-fascist fighters would help Spain “be at peace with its past,” as he put it.

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