Category Archives: Outlets

In search of the missing

A BBC Radio 4 series, Spain’s Lost Generations, looks
at the ongoing legacy of Spain’s civil war and dictatorship. Matt Elton spoke to its presenter, 
Lucas Laursen 

Which groups of people does this series deal with, and what happened to them?

Our series deals with people killed or otherwise disappeared during the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship. More than 100,000 men and women are still missing. One episode focuses on people executed by Franco’s regime, and on the families who are only in the past decade or so recovering those remains from mass graves. The other is about people affected by the state-initiated theft of babies, which started during the war and continued through the early years of democracy. In some cases these people are now beginning to recover their identities and their families.

How did you find out about their stories?

Thanks to a growing civil society movement that began in the early 2000s, more Spaniards are learning where their lost loved ones are buried – or, in the case of some stolen babies, where they are now living. More than 8,000 bodies have been recovered from mass graves since the first exhumation in 2000, and we followed several families we met via those organisations through different stages of their journeys of recovery.

We recorded at a ceremony in Guadalajara, during which the organisation returned the remains of 22 people to living relatives. Unfortunately, I know of far fewer reunions of families with stolen babies, but we tried to follow some of those threads, too, and I suspect we’ll hear about more those in the future.

Are there any cases you found particularly striking or moving?

The most moving moments for me came when I met people who had lost family members. Some had been children during the war, while others had lost babies at the same Madrid hospital where my daughter was born. Meeting these people in person helped me experience how the human toll of the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship and the healing it needs are still unfinished.

What do these stories tell us about the wider legacy of the civil war?

I hope listeners will hear just how unfinished that business is. We spoke with government bureaucrats and policymakers, activists and legal experts, each with their own prescription for healing. The generation of people doing the recovering isn’t composed of those who survived the war or lived under the dictatorship, but the generation afterwards. That taught me something about how slow people are to overcome fear, and how slow democracies are to take root. Perhaps, after hearing these voices, listeners will have their own ideas about what it takes to mend a rift like Spain’s – and how important it is to avoid them in the first place.

First published by BBC World Histories: [pdf].

Listen to the radio documentaries for BBC Radio 4 here: Franco’s Disappeared and The Missing Children.



Spain’s rightwing splits hand election victory to Socialists



Spain’s centre-right People’s party suffered the worst defeat in its 30-year history, winning a mere 16.7 per cent of the vote as it was crushed between an insurgent far-right Vox party and the liberal anti-Catalan nationalist Ciudadanos.

Pablo Casado, who took over as PP leader nine months ago and has since steered his party sharply to the right and purged his party lists of associates of his predecessor Mariano Rajoy, admitted to the scale of the disaster. 

“The results were very bad,” Mr Casado said, pinning the blame on the fragmentation of the rightwing electorate and the refusal of the other two parties to agree to local pacts to maximise support.

Read the rest of this news story in the Financial Times: [html].

Socialists win Spain elections as far-right makes breakthrough

Ian Mount and Lucas Laursen in Madrid and Ben Hall in London

The governing Socialist party (PSOE) has won Spain’s general election, taking 123 seats and giving prime minister Pedro Sánchez options to assemble a majority potentially without the support of Catalan separatists. The Socialists won 29 per cent of the vote and gained 37 seats on the previous election in 2016 in a decisive victory over a weakened rightwing opposition which split into three with the breakthrough of the ultranationalist Vox, which took 24 seats.

Read the rest of this news story in the Financial Times: [html].



The Missing Children

Truth, justice, reparation.

If you walk through the Puerta del Sol, you might be forgiven for avoiding the crowd gathered here. At first, I found their story hard to believe. They say that hospital and adoption officials colluded to steal babies and traffic them throughout Spain for decades.

This 28-minute radio documentary, produced by Overtone Productions, and which I reported and presented, first aired on BBC Radio 4 on March 25th, 2019: [streaming link].

It is the second of a two-part documentary called Spain’s Lost Generations. The first part, which aired March 18th, focuses on the recovery of people executed by the regime of Francisco Franco.