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SPAIN: The Salamanca Blood Papers declaration

Tony Strubell of the Catalan Dignity Commission, based in Barcelona, has asked me to sign a petition about the "Salamanca Blood Papers", explained thus: "Franco's fascist army took the documents and archives of the Catalan republican Government and all worker organizations' archives to Salamanca for their scrutiny by the police in 1939 when he won the Civil War in which the Lincoln Brigade took part with great bravery. Given that today, 62 years later, these documents have not yet been given back to their rightful owners, and that the Salamanca European Culture City 2002 festivities organizing body has programmed a "War Propaganda" exhibition, between 5th October and 22nd December, the Catalan Dignity Commission would like to submit to you, and ask for your support for our declaration".

Let me say that the reference to the Lincoln Brigade makes me uneasy. I imagine that it was added to appeal to possible US signers, who presumably have the common, mistaken view that the "brigade" consisted of idealist democrats, when it fact it had a Stalinist agenda. This view was reflected this week when a meeting was held at Stanford to hear "its last surviving member"; an impassioned declaration asked students to attend. I do not know how many went; the Spanish Civil War is history for them, i.e. a bore.

The Declaration runs as follows: "Being aware of the origin of the documents that are to go on show and of the way in which they were obtained, and given that the Spanish Government ratified (June 9th 1960) the Hague International Agreement on the Protection of Cultural Goods in the Event of Armed Conflict (May14th 1954), which decrees the immunity of goods and the duty that binds holders to protect them from any form of forceful requisition or appropriation, resulting from international conflicts. Given that UNESCO'S International Archives Council has repeatedly stated that legitimate owners have the right to recover documents that have been taken as war spoil or stolen during an armed conflict (Resolution 46/10 of UNO's 1991 General Assembly). And given that from 1978 until today, the elected representatives of the Catalan people and the Catalan Parliament itself have unanimously voted (Resolution of May 18th 1989) and repeatedly demanded the return of the stolen documents -both public and private- we urge the Spanish authorities to: · Fulfill, without further delay, the agreement taken by the Spanish Government's cabinet (15th March 1995) which orders the return of the documents. · Suspend and withdraw from the Salamanca 2002 programme the exhibition "Propaganda en Guerra" (War Propaganda) until it has the support and consent of the Catalan Government and People".

The Dignity Commission asks us to return the signed petitions to ( This is surely a Basque address, and I wonder how the Basques fit into this. I wonder also how other regions feel about this. If the Catalans and the Basques get their papers back, other regions might want their too, e.g. Extremadura, where Franco´s troops committed a bloodbath in the bullring of Badajoz.

The issue is important. Orwell, whose Homage to Catalonia gives a distorted view of the Anarchists' role there, said "He who controls the past controls the future", which is the essence of our history textbook program. Salamanca is so clearly affiliated with Franco that it can scarcely be described as a suitable location for the archives. On the other hand, Catalan and Basque nationalists, even ETA, could use their control of the archives to distort history in their direction, which would be equally unscholarly and dangerous. It would also be unfortunate if the archives were scattered. The UN and UNESCO resolutions were meant to cover international, not civil wars. Perhaps Madrid would be a neutral location, but the Catalans and Basques would oppose this.

I cannot sign the declaration, since it might be interpreted as committing WAIS, which I cannot do. However, I will follow the matter with the greatest care. I am also asking Hoover Archivist Elena Danielson to collect whatever she can on the Salamanca exhibit, since Hoover already has a strong collection on the Spanish Civil War. I will turn over to the Hoover Archives anything I receive. Materials may be sent to me at Hoover Institution, Stanford University, CA 94305-6010.

Ronald Hilton - 3/1/02