One of the more intriguing aspects of blogging is the comments one receives. Most posts, at least on this blog, receive no more than a handful of replies, but they tend to be thoughtful, articulate and often complimentary, for which I’m appreciative.
There is of course, the occasional anti-Semitic rant, which seems to be nothing more than boilerplate rubbish sent out on a semi-regular basis to posts that, say, identify the Nazis for what they were: A genocidal regime led by a ruthless tyrant and an array of sycophants. These mindless rants are easy enough to identify and delete, however.
Sometimes, though, one gets a comment that is both odd and intriguing.
I recently received a comment on a story that I posted back in November 2011 regarding then-ongoing debate about what Spain should do regarding the resting place of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
At the time, there was discussion about whether Franco’s body should be removed from Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, a sensitive historical site near Madrid, and reburied elsewhere.
The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and memorial conceived to honor those who fell during the Spanish Civil War. It contains the remains of nearly 34,000 individuals.
Despite the fact that my post contained no commentary either way on whether Franco, who died in 1975, nearly 40 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, should be buried among the victims of the brutal conflict, someone, albeit rather late, took umbrage with the fact that I deigned to touch on the controversy.
“Mind your own business and we shall mind ours; don’t poke your Pinocchio nose into everything,” they wrote, although I did take the liberty of cleaning up the comment to make it easier on the eyes. (The original can be seen in the comments section here.)
I have to assume that this individual is either from Spain or has close connections to Spain.
As I detailed in my respond, the Spaniards forfeited the right to keep the whereabouts of Franco’s remains an internal matter when they allowed German, Italian and Soviet forces to hone their military skills on the Iberian Peninsula during the Spanish Civil War, in a prelude to the events of 1939-1945.
Also, given that Franco’s repressive regime, which was characterized by concentration camps, forced labor and executions, especially among political opponents, is estimated to have claimed 200,000 to 400,000 additional lives, which makes the events of 1936-39 and the decades afterward more than just a local issue.
As for what drove this individual to comment now, after nearly three years, all I can figure is that it’s related to increased scrutiny of Germany’s role in Spain during the Spanish Civil War recently, with some calling for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to apologize for her nation’s involvement in the conflict.
Merkel, who was in Spain this week for a short visit with Spanish leaders, should use her time in that country to “settle the historical debt for the crimes of the Condor Legion,” according to a statement by Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which provides support to the victims of the Franco regime and researches the brutalities committed in that period.
The Condor Legion – a unit composed of volunteers from the German army of the Third Reich – served in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Franco-led Nationalist faction. It directly contributed to Franco’s victory over the Spanish Republicans, according to Deutsche Welle, a German broadcasting service.
“The country you lead has an enormous debt to the victims of the Franco dictatorship,” the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory wrote in an open letter to the German chancellor.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the Spanish Civil War presented an opportunity to test new weapon systems, especially for the air force. The so-called Condor Legion air force unit achieved notoriety by bombing the northern Spanish town of Guernica in 1937, an event memorialized by a Pablo Picasso’s painting.
As for the fate of Franco’s remains, that remains a point of controversy.
In November 2011 a Spanish commission charged with giving direction regarding the conversion of the Valley of the Fallen to a “memory center that dignifies and rehabilitates the victims of the Civil War and the subsequent Franco regime,” rendered a report recommending the removal of the remains of Franco remains to a location to be chosen by his family, but only after first obtaining a broad parliamentary consensus for such action.
That decision was based on the fact that Franco had not died in the Spanish Civil War and that the purpose of the Valley of the Fallen was to be an exclusive resting place for those who had died in the conflict, which claimed an estimated 500,000 lives.
However, shortly before the report was issued, the conservative Popular Party won the 2011 General Election with absolute majorities in both Spain’s Congress of Deputies and Senate.
The following summer, Spanish Vice President Soraya Saenz de Santamaria stated during parliamentary questioning that his government had no intention of following the recommendations of the commission with respect to the removal of Franco’s remains.
In October 2012 a motion placed before the full Senate calling for the removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen was rejected by the Popular Party majority and the matter is now seen as dead in the water.
(Top: Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, center, meets with German dictator Adolf Hitler, right, in Germany. Not pictured: Millions of their victims.)