61 Spanish Civil War mass graves found in old hospital

Battle of the Ebre soldiers unearthed as 20,000 soldiers of conflict still remain in unknown burial places

Image of a mass grave found in Móra d'Ebre, on January 4, 2021 (by Jordi Marsal)
Image of a mass grave found in Móra d'Ebre, on January 4, 2021 (by Jordi Marsal) / ACN

ACN | Móra d'Ebre

January 6, 2021 12:37 PM

Archeological excavations led by the Catalan government in the past three weeks resulted in the discovery of 61 Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) mass graves found in the same site in Móra d'Ebre, southern Catalonia, near a hospital used during the Battle of the Ebre by the Republican side.

They were found near a country house, mas de Santa Magdalena, which hosted injured soldiers between July and October 1938, in an improvised hospital directed by the New Zealander doctor Douglas Jolly, who pioneered battlefield medicine.

So far 13 corpses have been found, but the unearthing of the mass graves is still underway, so archeologists believe that this figure could surpass 100.

Medical equipment such as bottles, glass containers and splints from those days have also been discovered in the site, as well as substances such as hyoscine, morphine and serum.

The first corpses found are in the first grave excavated, and they are in odd positions – experts believe that they might have been among the last ones buried before the Republicans rushed out of the place before their defeat in the battle.

"This is not a single, big mass grave, but several long, narrow ones," said the director-general of the Catalan government's historical memory department.

20,000 corpses still unearthed

The corpses' DNA will be extracted, and if any coincides with the DNA bank of relatives the government owns, some will be able to be identified – yet, it is unlikely, but it is one of the hopes, as well as a notebook from a doctor in the hospital were the names of around 30 deceased soldiers are written.

The Catalan government has been especially looking for and unearthing Civil War graves since 2017, when the foreign ministry launched its first 'Mass Grave Plan' – so far, 34 sites with mass graves have been unearthed and 339 corpses found since then.

Yet, 20,000 people from the Spanish Civil War are thought to still be buried in at least 527 mass graves in Catalonia, over 80 years after the end of the conflict.

Battle of the Ebre

The Battle of the Ebre is largely considered the longest and bloodiest battle of the Spanish Civil War. It lasted five months, and it’s said that the waters of the Ebre River ran red from the tens of thousands of casualties.

It provided fascist general Francisco Franco a crucial military victory that paved the way for his ultimate triumph in 1939. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people from both sides lost their lives, including soldiers as young as 17 years old.