Memory Without Borders: ARMH (3)

February 3, 2013

Image of one of the exhumation guestbooks, courtesy Oscar Rodríguez and Jonah Rubin.

Jonah Rubin is a young scholar working on his PhD thesis in Anthropology at the University of Chicago.  If all goes well, in a couple of years, his work, tentatively titled  “‘All of Spain is One Big Mass Grave’: Death, Memory, and Democracy Seventy-Five Years After the Spanish Civil War” will take its place on a growing shelf of scholarly books that explore what is arguably the most important grass-roots movement of Spain’s still unfinished transition to democracy.

Having been a participant/observer in several exhumations of the mass graves of victims of Franco, Jonah has had access to the guest books that are set up at each site, so that villagers and visitors can spontaneously jot down their thoughts and impressions.  Perhaps more than any other kind of document, these musings convey the importance of the work of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH).

Chillon (Oct/Nov 2011)

On this sunny autumn Sunday morning, the members and volunteers of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory continue their tireless work to recover the dignity of those neighbors of Chillón, who were shot and killed at dawn on 06/03/1939 in this place.

(At this time we visit a couple of the Guardia Civil to see how they work). Slowly but surely, like laborious ants, they continue to excavate the soil to remove the bodies.

30/10/2011 JM

Few associations deserve the respect and consideration of all. The ARMH is one. Thanks for your work.


I am the daughter of granddaughter of Alfonso Capilla and just to know that my grandfather never knew his father or my mother her grandfather, to me, too, breaks my heart.


Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you for the excellent work done by the ARMH to recover the bodies from the mass grave of those 9 men who died defending freedom. As I approached the grave, I thought of all of those (parents, siblings, spouses and children) who died with the hope of justice. Well, 72 years later, it has arrived.

Thank you very much. David

I’m Luis MC. Like many others these days, I live in anguish and uncertainty seeing how, little by little, the remains of my great-grandfather and his companions appear from the bowels of the earth where they were thrown. But unlike many, I am living this as something completely new, since for much of my life I had no knowledge of what happened here, and even once it was known, my family did not commonly talk about this topic. In recent days, I have learned completely, or at least in large part, the sadness and grief felt by my grandfather and aunt and mother during these years watching their feelings come to the surface with the recent events and so today I give my full support to all those


Finally, I decide to write a few words in this guest book, I’ve been thinking all week about what to say. There comes to mind a myriad of feelings that have come in these days, here in El Contadero: The meeting of the nine families, anecdotes, memories that are not among us, etc … in one sentence that is very symbolic and that has dominated all who have passed through here these days: “We have wept for joy and laughed with sadness.”

That joy of seeing, meeting and knowing our ancestors and that they can eventually be recovered, and sadness because it reminds us of the fact that the indescribable happened June 3, 1939 and the worst things that came later, the lives widows and children of victims have lived, and parents in some cases.

Today it is the last day of exhumation, and I can say that there has been a bond created between the nine families. It has strengthened even what as it has been around for 72 years. We have met the new generation of grandchildren and great-grandchildren [of the victims], but more importantly another family has joined, which is the ARMH. Starting today, every time we address the issue of 9 of Contadero or every time a family remembers this story, a part of it will be Marco, René, Javi, Nuria, Cristina, Alex, Merche, Verena, François, Lore, David, Jorge and the Belgian girls. Thank you very much to everyone on behalf of the families, thank you very much to everybody in the name of Marcelino Agudelo, Alfonso Capilla, Isidoro Castillo, Bernardino Gallego, Pablo Madrid, Manuel León, Patricio Mata, Manuel Puebla and Julio Segador. Now, consider this as a way of providing justice for the horrible “Crime of Contadero” and a tribute to these 9 people, their widows, parents and children.

Luis MMO, grandson of Julio Segador.


I have witnessed today an emotional event that has touched me deeply. I, a victim of Nazi Germany, did not have the chance to say goodbye to my family, who were killed in concentration camps. Thus, today’s event in Chillón is, in some ways, a substitute for what I could not live. I am very impressed and moved by the work done by the youth of the ARMH.

We must fight against oblivion. May ontinue in this endeavor!

HN, May 1, 2012.

Exhumation in Villanueva de Valdueza Oct 2011

Well, I hope that with a bit of luck we can recover the remains of my relative, whom they killed unjustly . I wish to show my gratitude to the ARMH for the marvellous and selfless work, on behalf of Antonio.

José Antonio

Exhumation in Joarilla de las Matas, August 2011

Finding souls without life is always sad, but in this case, your work will make many families happy, who after so many years will find their loved ones.

Congratulations and thank you very much! You work has fascinated me.
Cristina R., age 19 Joarilla de las Matas

After ten years of searching for my grandfather, Gerardo Tovar Gris, each new find is a ray of hope for returning to “life” those from whom it was wretchedly seized in a premeditated and demented executed political plan.

The labor you are doing in not just commendable, but also a necessity for definitively writing the historical map of our country.


I am the German husband of Ana Isabel González who, for many years now, has been searching for her grandfather, Gregorio. Thank to the work of the Historical Memory, we will probably soon have him. It will be to to the great credit of these volunteers, if they achieve that future generations might have consciousness about this darkest chapter in history. Being here, I feel amazed and overwhelmed at the same time.


It seems good to me that these people are working so hard to recover the people who lost a relative so many years ago.

Paula Herraz, 13 years old.

The people of the Lands of Campos are in solidarity with this great Association; people like you revive memories, stories that we should always have with us and transmit them from generation to generation. The People should construct their own history.
A countryman from Villamontiel de Matas. Victor A. C.


One Response to “ Memory Without Borders: ARMH (3) ”

  1. Lois Wilson on February 6, 2013 at 9:48 am

    My daughter, a Canadian student of human osteology, was a volunteer in 2012 with the ARMH. Her work opened my eyes to an almost forgotten period of history, one whose actors deserve our recognition. It pains me to know that the US and Canada have not officially recognized the first volunteers who stepped up to fight fascism. It pains me even more to know that the ARMH, due to loss of funding in the face of the current economic situation in Spain, may soon have to shut down the important work it has been doing with the professional leadership of a small team assisted by various volunteers. I urge all those who can to make donations so this healing work can continue.