Valle De Los Caídos - Controversy


Presenting the monument in a politically neutral way poses a number of problems, not least the strength of opposing opinions on the issue. The Times quotes Jaume Bosch (politician), a Spanish Jewish far-left politician and former MP seeking to change the monument, as saying: "I want what was in reality something like a Nazi concentration camp to stop being a nostalgic place of pilgrimage for Francoists. Inevitably, whether we like it or not, it's part of our history. We don’t want to pull it down, but the Government has agreed to study our plan."

The charge that the monument site was "like a Nazi concentration camp" refers to the use of convicts, including Popular Front war prisoners, trading their labour for a conviction redemption: "The drilling of the Risco de la Nava was undertaken by San Roman, an affiliate of the incumbent construction company Agroman. The workforce was provided by the despair and hardship of the post war period. These were joined by Republican prisoners who were promised a conviction redemption for risking their lives working on the monument construction..., which in 1943 amounted to six hundred . Other sources allege up to 20,000 prisoners and allege forced labour took place.

The 1940 Spanish law however did not allow for forced labour, but recognized the possibility of voluntarily redeeming two days of conviction for each working day to reduce the burden of a large convict population that included many war and political prisoners. This benefit was increased to six days when labour was carried out at the basilica with a salary of 7 pesetas per day, a regular worker's salary for that time, with the possibility of the family of the convict benefiting from the housing and Catholic children schools built on the valley for the other workers. Only convicts with a good behaviour record would qualify for this redemption scheme, as the works site was considered to be a low security environment. The motto used by the Spanish Nationalist government was "el trabajo enoblece" ("Work ennobles").

According to the official programme records, 2,643 workers participated directly in the construction, some of them highly skilled, as required by the complexity of the work. Only 243 of these were convicts. During the eighteen-year construction period, the official tally of workers who died as result of accidents during the building of the monument totalled fourteen. Despite this, Communist and other anti-Francoist parties in Spain continue to use a higher death toll among both paid ordinary and convict workers at the shrine.

Since 2004, the socialist Spanish government, which has been following a state-wide policy of removal of Francoist symbols from public buildings and spaces, has had an uneasy relationship with a monument that is the most conspicuous legacy from Franco's rule.

Political rallies in celebration of the former dictator are now banned by the Law of Historical Memory, voted on by the Congress of Deputies on 16 October, 2007. This law dictated that "the management organisation of the Valley of the Fallen should aim to honour the memory of all of those who died during the civil war and who suffered repression". It has been suggested that The Valley of the Fallen be re-designated as a "monument to Democracy" or as a memorial to all Spaniards killed in conflict "for Democracy". Some organisations, among them centrist Catholic groups, question the purpose of these plans, on the basis that the monument is already dedicated to all of the dead, civilian and military of both Nationalist and Republican sides.

Read more about this topic:  Valle De Los Caídos

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