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Government to dig up six more Civil War era mass graves

Located in Lleida and Tarragona provinces, they will be excavated by September of this year


31 May 2019 05:35 PM



The Catalan government will open six Civil War era mass graves as part of its Mass Graves Plan to recover and identify victims of the Francoist regime by comparing their DNA to that of possible living relatives. The Spanish Civil War took place between 1936 and 1939, leaving an estimated 114,000 victims lying in mass graves all over Spain.

The six grave sites that will be dug up in Catalonia by September 2019 are located in small towns in the provinces of Lleida and Tarragona: Alguaire, Batea, Foradada, Salomó and Caseres, which is home to two of them.

The first of the sites to be opened in 2019 as part of the government’s Mass Graves Plan was in the Lleida town of Alguaire, where work recovering the bodies of five victims was carried out this past week.

Granddaugher of Franco victim contribution

The site itself was discovered thanks to the efforts of Divina Salvia, granddaughter of Republican town hall councilor Faust Salvia who was executed by Francoists following a swift trial by court-martial in April 1938.

Salvia had long suspected that her grandfather’s remains could possibly be located at the site and, as such, brought it up with the Catalan Justice Department’s Democratic Memory Directorate General who decided to look into the case.

Catalan Justice Minister Ester Capella visited the Alguaire mass grave on Friday, where she was able to speak to Salvia and offer her a document nullifying the 1938 court-martial’s rebellion charges for which her grandfather was sentenced to death. Salvia, however, will have to wait for DNA results to determine whether one of the five bodies that has been recovered is indeed her grandfather’s.

In the two years that the Catalan government’s Mass Graves Plan has been in place, 17 sites have been opened and 290 bodies have been recovered. Before that, in Catalonia between the time of the transition to democracy following Dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975 and 2017, only 28 mass graves had been opened and 58 bodies recovered.

Spain is yet to implement a country-wide government-sponsored program to dig up Civil War era mass graves and has been criticized by the United Nations in the past for its failure to do.


  • Archeologists at work digging up a Civil War mass grave in Alguaire, Lleida (Oriol Bosch/ACN)

  • Archeologists at work digging up a Civil War mass grave in Alguaire, Lleida (Oriol Bosch/ACN)