The new mayor of Barcelona has been accused of conducting a historical witch hunt after banning memorial services for supporters of General Franco, which have taken place since the 1940s.
About 100 supporters of the nationalist uprising led by Franco in 1936 were shot by firing squad in Barcelona on the orders of the left-wing Republican government.
The Catholic Mass was due to be held tomorrow, the anniversary of the start of the Spanish civil war in 1936, which Franco’s nationalist forces won in 1939.
Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor, banned the mass at the city-owned Montjuic Castle, the barracks where the Franco supporters were executed, claiming that it contravened the 2007 Law of Historical Memory, which was introduced by the socialist Spanish government. The law made acts celebrating or memorialising the Franco dictatorship illegal.
The ban was condemned by Xavier Trias, a former mayor of Barcelona from the conservative Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party, who said: “This creates conflicts where there are none. This Mass has been celebrated for decades. It is an error to ban it.”
Nearly 80 years after it ended, the civil war still divides the country, largely because the 1977 Amnesty Law banned any prosecutions relating to the conflict on either side and its aftermath. As such, remaining grievances have festered because they have never been allowed to be aired in the courts.
Antonio Mendes, 52, from Madrid, whose grandfather was a doctor in Franco’s forces, said: “They are trying to eradicate history and pretend that it never happened. It is as if the Germans wiped out any mention of the Nazis. It is a historical witch hunt on the part of the left.”
Carme Fusté, from the Friends of the Montjuic Castle, said: “This was just a Mass to remember all those who died, regardless of ideology.”
Relatives of those who fought for Franco claim that a series of new left-wing mayors are conducting a “historical witch hunt”. Manuela Carmena, the mayor of Madrid, has ordered about 150 streets, plazas and public areas with names linked to the Franco regime to be removed to conform with the historical memory law.
However, the Francisco Franco Foundation, which preserves the memory of the dictator who died in 1975, has threatened to sue any mayors who remove any Francoist street signs.
The foundation has called for the Historical Memory Law to be repealed because it “only serves to divide Spaniards and manipulate history”.