New Database on the Civil War and the Franco Regime

August 27, 2020

Innovation and Human Rights was established in 2016 as a non-profit to provide information, supported as far as possible by documentary evidence, to enable people to discover what had happened to their relatives during the Spanish Civil War and afterward under the Franco Regime.

To achieve this we are putting together an online database ( of names of people who were killed, imprisoned, subjected to reprisals or whose lives were similarly affected by these events. The database now includes over 700,000 records, all of which are referenced to archives and academic research such as doctoral theses, articles, etc. In addition to helping the families of the victims to gain access to documentation about their relatives, we have other aims; to promote wider public knowledge and understanding of the purpose of archives; to encourage greater public access to the archives; and, by republishing material from the archives, to make their contents more widely available.

One of the most important sources for the database is the records of military judicial proceedings. It is not generally recognized that, in many respects, the Civil War did not end in 1939. The state of war, declared by the Francoists in July 1936, was extended until April 1948, so until that date all justice was military justice. As a result, people who had supported the legally-established Republic were court-martialed and subject to death sentences, execution, imprisonment, or forced labor.

So far, using data from the Ministry of Defence,  we have included the results of nearly half a million military judicial proceedings. These come from 11 of the 50 provinces in Spain. In the four provinces of Catalonia alone there were nearly 70,000 proceedings, and, as a result, 3,358 people were executed, most of them by firing squad. Seventeen women were among them, and the youngest was aged 20. Read here about Summary Military Proceedings against Women.

Records in the database are related to a particular event. Since they have usually been published in formats that are not readily accessible, we have converted them into spreadsheets so that the information can be included in the database. The database also has data from some of the 27 military archives in Spain and from published research, as well as from the list of missing people gathered by Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH), recipient of the fifth ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. Each dataset is accompanied by a description in Spanish, Catalan, and English as well as a similar description for each author or source.

There are, for example, over 130,000 personal records of soldiers in Disciplinary Labour Battalions or over 16,000 names of people sentenced to death whose sentences were revised by the Comisión Provincial de Examen de Penas (CPEP) and, as a result, were commuted to terms of imprisonment. Other datasets are smaller, like 1,000 names of people who were held in the ‘La Alcazaba’ Concentration Camp in the city of Selouane, at the time in the Spanish protectorate in Morocco (1913-1956); nowadays in Morocco; or even 150 names of soldiers who died in a surgical hospital located in a train.

The original idea for this project came as a result of coordinating a website about the bombings of Barcelona for our local TV station. This involved interviewing descendents of some of the victims. These people had only recently found out about the circumstances of their relatives’ deaths. In Spain archive records or access to them has never been a priority and, until 2013, Spain never had a Freedom of Information Act.   Although the Ministry of Culture maintains a database of the victims of political reprisals, silence about what happened in the war and under the dictatorship has been the rule in most families.

Our work is made possible by the generous efforts of a team of volunteers who devote part of their time to the project. We are journalists, historians, archivists, engineers, etc. We receive no public funds or subsidies and we rely on small research jobs and donations to pay for our expenses. We have signed agreements with various universities and institutions and are looking for funding and/or a technological partner to improve our record management.