- Title: "It was time," - 93-year-old survivor of Franco dictatorship on exhumation
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: SANCHEZ-ALBORNOZ READING A MAGAZINE
- Embargoed: 6th November 2019 17:59
- Keywords: former Spanish dictator Fransico Franco exhumation Spanish civil war Valley of the Fallen Nicolas Sanchez-Albornoz y Aboin
- Location: MADRID, SPAIN
- City: MADRID, SPAIN
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA002B2BJ8EF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: For one activist jailed by Spain's Fascists for his political views, Thursday's (October 24) exhumation and reburial of Francisco Franco's bones after decades lying in state marks a bittersweet moment.
Now 93, Nicolas Sanchez-Albornoz was forced as a prisoner of the Franco regime to help build the Valley of the Fallen, the mausoleum that has been the dictator's resting place since his death in 1975.
"It was time (to move him)," retired historian Sanchez-Albornoz told Reuters.
"We've waited many decades for (Franco) to disappear from this monument, which was the shame of Spain. All the dictators of Franco's ilk have vanished from Europe - Hitler, Mussolini - and were not honoured with such tombs."
In a carefully choreographed ceremony, Franco's remains will be removed from the Valley of the Fallen and reburied in a family plot under a plan ratified by a divided parliament and approved last year by Spain's Supreme Court.
In 1947, with the civil war that convulsed the country from 1936 to 1939 still fresh in collective memory, a military court sentenced Sanchez-Albornoz to forced labour for membership in an anti-Fascist student association.
Four months later he escaped to France with the help of compatriots exiled there who, he recalled, provided him with false papers, cash and a car they borrowed from U.S. novelist and liberal activist Norman Mailer, who was touring Europe at the time.
"Spain at the cusp of 1948 was still one huge jail," he said. "Driving down the road, there were military police barricades every 20 kilometres (12 miles) who would stop you and ask for your papers."
Sanchez-Albornoz was one of the lucky ones.
Many of his fellow prisoners died and were buried in the valley, along with other opposition activists, and he hopes the removal of Franco's remains might open the door to using modern forensic techniques to identify some other bodies it contains.
"Some might think that Franco's exhumation is the end of a phase. I see this as the beginning of one," he said in his Madrid apartment.
"Many more exhumations await, of those who were executed by the regime or moved there against or without families' permission. Families have requested their bodies be returned, so they can be buried with their kin, in their home towns."
Without such an effort, he believes Spain will struggle to come to terms with Franco's still divisive legacy.
And while he tolerates those who oppose the exhumation, his hostility towards Franco remains acute.
Sanchez-Albornoz views the millions of euros successive government have spent maintaining the mausoleum as an "inexplicable contradiction" between democracy in theory and practice.
He refers to the valley only by its pre-Franco name of Cuelgamuros and describes his relationship with it as "special."
Spain's governing Socialists have long sought to turn it into a memorial to the around 500,000 civil war dead.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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