Wednesday, August 10

The grandson of a person shot by Franco: “I know where he is, it is unfortunate that we have not been able to remove his remains”

On the morning of February 8, 1939, the surrender of republican Menorca was imminent. After the defeat in the battle of the Ebro and with the Negrín government in exile, the island’s military commander, Luis González Ubieta, negotiated with the representative of Francisco Franco, Fernando Sartorius y Díaz de Mendoza, Count of San Luis, a deadline to deliver the island.

The Balearic Government approves a plan to exhume all viable mass graves in the archipelago

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In a cabin on the British battleship HMS Devonshire, the national side’s envoy promised a “bloodless surrender.” A few hours later, 450 republicans left on board the same ship, heading for exile in France, and another 150 on the Carmen Pico, heading for Algeria. Many others stayed on land looking at the silhouette of the last ship disappearing into the mouth of the port, without being able to escape.

The count broke his word. Shortly after the tricolor flag was lowered, three battalions from the rebel side began the Francoist repression against those who could not or did not want to flee, while Italian aviation attacked Maó in the worst bombing that the city suffered since the beginning of the war.

“It is reasonable to bury with dignity”

The first death that morning was Marcelino Rodríguez Álvarez, commander of the republican garrison of Ciutadella. He is from Cáceres of humble origins, from a family with a military and military tradition of vocation. No recognized political affiliation. He was shot in his office, from behind, and buried in a mass grave that is still waiting to be exhumed today, somewhere near the old Ciutadella cemetery.

His grandson, Marcelino Rodríguez Tudurí, attends regarding the recent announcement by the Balearic Government to complete the Map of Mass Graves of Menorca: “I think it is good that the map is created. In my family we always knew where my grandfather is buried, it is very unfortunate that we have not been able to go to remove his remains after so many years, and like us, many other families. I have no political affiliation, but I think it is reasonable to be able to bury relatives with dignity.”

That night in February 1939, the war in Menorca ended, but a dark period of reprisals, denunciations and settling scores for old grudges began. According to the calculations of historians and relatives, more than 200 people were executed after the surrender of the island. Miquel López Gual, historian and co-founder of the Asociación Memòries de Menorca, affirms that “the map of graves seeks to put names and surnames on these stories”.

López Gual defends the need to make amends to the victims: “It sounds logical that, after so many years, the families of the victims of reprisals can recover their relatives, however there is an intention to argue against this initiative that speaks of ‘recognition of all victims’. The truth is that the victims – and there were, because it was a war and it was dramatic – on the national side do have their awards, their plaques and their mausoleums, while many others who were executed after the conflict continue in the ditches.” For him, “no dead person is worth more than another, everyone must be recognized and there are families who are still waiting.”

“During the Franco regime the silence was deafening”

On the stage boards of the Orfeón de Maó, Floreal Barber, leader of the Socialist Youth, sang and acted, purely for pleasure, in the years before the war. Shortly after the night of February 8, 1939, he was arrested, shot and buried in a mass grave near the Es Castell Cemetery. His exact whereabouts are unknown.

His great-nephew, Lluís Sintes, is 66 years old and is a lyrical singer based in Tarragona. When he turned twenty, he set foot for the first time on the stage of the same Orfeón as his great-uncle to sing. Then many people – among them Floreal’s widow – saw in him the appearance of his ancestor, as Sintes himself narrates: “Without referring to what had happened, they told me that he was so similar to him… We almost had the same age when they shot him and when I got up on that stage.” “No one told me anything about what had happened. During the Franco regime the silence was deafening. Total. With the arrival of democracy I was reconstructing the history of Floreal, part of my history after all”, he explains to

Floreal Barber was one of the republicans who remained on land after the surrender of the island, watching the figure of Devonshire disappear on the horizon, like the promise of an exile that never came. The tragedy of the war and the demonstration that collective memory initiatives are key to reparation and justice are made flesh in the story of Lluís Sintes, who also had relatives on the other side.

“My paternal grandfather was a national soldier and was imprisoned on the Atlante ship. He spent many months without knowing if one day they would come looking for him to shoot him, as indeed happened with some prisoners of the republic. The problem is that in 1939 there was no longer a war and if we don’t settle the debt towards those who died after the conflict, there will never be that healing of wounds that is so much talked about”, says Sintes.

“I remember the contrast between my two family branches when I was a child. In one there was joy and a welcoming atmosphere. In another I especially remember the silence, my grandfather was a tailor, always working, never gave an opinion on anything. I learned about Floreal’s story when he was over thirty years old and all I know is that he was shot and buried in an area outside the cemetery, a place for non-Catholics”.

The government project

Within the framework of the official announcement of the creation of the Map of Graves of Menorca and after the sanction of the new Democratic Memory Law, sources from the Balearic Government assure that they trust that it can begin to be executed at the end of the year. “Once the project has been put out to tender and the Research Plan submitted to the Graves Commission has been approved, the group of researchers will have one year to execute it, and this must be approved by the same commission,” these sources clarify.

For his part, Vice President Juan Pedro Yllanes affirms that “it is an important step to deepen our democracy and bring justice and reparation to the victims of Francoism, who have spent 40 years of dictatorship and 40 of democracy waiting for someone to remember they”.

Perhaps with this policy some of the damage caused by absences, exiles, silences can be repaired. Perhaps in this way, Marcelino and Lluís, like so many other Menorcans, can give their families a well-deserved rest in peace.

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