Monday, December 13, 2010


The numerous cases of babies that went missing shortly after their birth during the Franco era in Spain have now led the chief prosecutor of the nation’s High Court to write to the Ministry of Justice demanding a full investigation.

The cases date from 1940 and continued to just after Franco’s death in 1980. The chief prosecutor, Javier Zaragoza, has sent a letter to the minister of justice, Francisco Caamaño, to propose that the ministry opens a special office to handle the cases of those who believed their children or brothers and sisters have disappeared and to then seek a solution to their claims.

Zaragoza has called for an “administrative” investigation for the alleged crimes committed between 1940 and 1980. He wants the Ministry of Justice to locate the whereabouts of children reported missing and to investigate the false death certificates that were given to parents by hospitals at the time of supposed demise of their child – these parents suspect a false identity was then created for the baby.

Spain has introduced the ‘Ley de Memoria Histórica’ which was approved by parliament in 2007 but whilst it deals with the victims of the Civil War (1936-39) and during the era of the dictator Francisco Franco (1939 – 75) it does not include the children who disappeared during the ‘Franquismo’ period.

The letter from the chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza was sent to the ministry just 15 days after he’d met with the families of the Grupos de Afectados de Clínicas de Toda España that had reported “hundreds of cases” of snatchings of recently born babies from Spanish clinics where the parents were told their infant had died.

However the actions of the chief prosecutor has been criticised by the Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoría Histórica that represents the families of those who were victims of the Franco era. In a communiqué the association says the case should be far more that an “administrative” investigation. It points to: “the theft of the babies that have been kidnapped and these boys and girls are kidnap victims” and that has not been stated in the prosecutor’s letter. It is obvious a serious crime is involved; hence it should be a “criminal” investigation.

The Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has previously stressed the need to investigate these thefts of children and opened a brief case in 2008 which suggested that 113,000 babies disappeared during the Civil War and the years of ‘Franquismo’. Garzón’s investigation was brought to a halt after the extreme right went to court to seek a ruling he had no competence in the matter. Garzón was suspended from his post on a temporary basis in May of this year – but the judge spoke out about the systematic kidnapping of the children of Republican prisoners who for more than 60 years have not had the minimum investigation into their case.

Garzón is of the opinion that there could have developed a system for the disappearance of minors, the children of Republican mothers (the dead, prisoners, executed, exiled or simply disappeared) for several years from 1937 to 1950, which at the time were carried out under the umbrella of apparent legality. The official records speak of 30,000 children being adopted during the 40s and 50s with cases largely handled by religious institutions.

Of course those responsible are now either very elderly or deceased and the records, if they exists, will be in archives. However many of the children will still be alive but unaware of their true identity or that their parents and brothers and sisters are searching for them.

(Photo: Baltasar Garzón)

(A version of the above article appeared in the Morning Star on December 12 2010)

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