First Person

Why for Some Spaniards the Wounds of the Civil War Never Healed


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Spaniards display a banner with pictures of people who went missing during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco as they take part in a protest in Madrid on Feb. 14.
Spaniards display a banner with pictures of people who went missing during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco as they take part in a protest in Madrid on Feb. 14. John MIlner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A new film traces the stories of people still seeking justice for Franco's crimes.

This past week, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that the remains of the late dictator Francisco Franco must be removed from the crypt he had built for himself outside Madrid and be reinterred elsewhere. Known as the Valley of the Fallen, the mausoleum is also a mass grave for some 33,000 people, most of whom died in the country’s civil war in the 1930s. It has long been a place of pilgrimage for the hard right. 

Franco’s fascist forces won the civil war, and he went on to rule Spain until his death in 1975. With the country’s transition to democracy came a general amnesty and an agreement on all sides to put the atrocities behind them—an idea that became known as the Pact of Forgetting.

But over the past 20 years, there’s been a rising call from the left to bring more attention to the victims of the dictatorship—and the war itself.

The push to remove Franco’s remains and to turn the Valley of the Fallen into a place of history and memory has been spearheaded by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party since its return to power earlier this year.

A new documentary titled The Silence of Others traces the stories of people who are still seeking justice for harms done under Franco. The film is co-directed by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar and debuts on PBS on Sept. 30. 

Carracedo is our guest on First Person this week.


About First Person:  Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.  See All Episodes


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