Eighty years on, Spain may at last be able to confront the ghosts of civil warBreaking News
tags: Spanish Civil War
Around the Aragón battle sites, where George Orwell fought alongside the revolutionary Marxist militiamen of the Poum, small museums can be found chronicling the bitter fighting on that crucial front. In the southern port of Cartagena – the Republic’s naval base – a former air-raid shelter now houses a series of galleries portraying local experiences of the conflict. In Guernica, the Basque town bombed by German and Italian planes in April 1937 and portrayed in its agony by Picasso, there is a permanent exhibition devoted to the theme of peace. But nowhere is there a museum that attempts to tell the unexpurgated, tragic tale of Spain’s suffering between the summer of 1936 and April 1939.
“It is pretty astonishing,” says Paul Preston, the eminent British historian of 20th-century Spain, “that there isn’t a museum that tries to give the whole picture and represent all the sides to the civil war.” Preston sits on the international board of the Association of the International Museum of the Civil War (Amigce) which has formally asked Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, to provide a suitable building for such a museum. The project, which would be self-funding and non-profit, has the support of the Orwell Society in Britain and the relatives of International Brigaders around the world. It has also received a remarkable letter of support from the National Socialism Documentation Centre in Cologne, the largest regional memorial site for the victims of Nazi Germany.
But Spain is not Germany. The legacy of the past is more contested and considerably more complicated. “It is still so Manichean in Spain,” says Preston. “It’s still very much ‘those not with us are against us’. And there are still a lot of people who think Franco was wonderful.”
[But the younger generation is approaching this history differently.]
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