26 Oct, 2021 @ 17:15
1 min read

Dozens of Spanish Civil War victims found in mass graves in northern Spain

Belchite Pixabay Creative Commons

THE grim task of exhuming, identifying and reburying dozens of victims of the Spanish Civil War has started after two mass graves were found.

Archaeologists discovered the bodies at a cemetery in the town of Belchite in the province of Zaragoza.

So far 15 bodies have been found in one of the graves, with diggers estimating that there could be a total of 150 bodies in the two pits.

Belchite Pixabay Creative Commons
Belchite ruins as they are today. Picture: Pixabay

Around 400 men and women from the town – population 3,000 – and surrounding areas were executed during the 1936 to 1939 conflict. The skeletons so far uncovered are of men and women aged from 20 to 40 years-old.

Belchite was also the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, which included British and other foreign troops in the Republican’s International Brigade on one side and Franco’s rebel forces on the other. A total of up to 5,000 people are thought to have been killed in the 15 day battle, although no official figures were released.

The houses were bombed to pieces, the churches burned and many of the townspeople died amidst the carnage.

Glass Plate Mono Negative
The first batch of British prisoners released by General Franco on their return to London. Many of the men were captured on the Belchite front. Pictured is John Croll being welcomed on his arrival at Victoria. 25 October 1938. Cordon Press

The Republicans took the town in 1937 but Franco’s forces retook it in 1938.

Franco ordered the townspeople to build a new town a few hundred metres away and declared the ruins of the old town stand as a monument to the power of the Nationalists. They still stand as a ghost town giving an insight into the devastation of the war.

An estimated 130,000 people are buried in unidentified mass graves throughout Spain.

Of those, 90,000 died during the Civil War, and around 40,000 were executed after the war.


Dilip Kuner

A father of three with extensive newspaper experience, including UK
national papers, Dilip has lived in Spain for 26 years


  1. For the author’s consideration; first please clarify your article’s use of the word ‘s British “Troops”. The British army nor its “troops” fought in the Spanish Civil. Those that went, were “Volunteers”, not British troops. Secondly, characterizing Franco’s “Nationalist” forces as “rebels” seems a bit off or incomplete as well. Anyway, if you have a desire, there is an interesting article which may shed some light on your opinions, incredibly published recently in the normally left leaning and sympathetic Guardian, called “the Secret History of Britain’s Spanish Civil War Volunteers”.

    Location : Andalucia
  2. Oh, and I almost forgot. But as it is not possible to edit my earlier comment, another question for you. Who exactly (i.e. which side) bombarded and destroyed the city of Belchite? Was it the 80,000 heavily armed (tanks, artillery, air support, etc) anarchists and communists of the Republican forces who had surrounded the city and bombarded it for days, or the 7,000 nationalist forces that held out until reinforcements could arrive? Hence the real reason for Franco’s monument left behind “as-is” for all the world to see – the city destroyed by the Republicans, and to honor of the 7,000 vastly out-numbered men who defended it. History is not as simple as the comic book media portrays.

    Location : Andalucia

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