Alicante: The execution that awaited the delivery | Spain


Carmen Soriano Gambín, shot in August 1941.
Carmen Soriano Gambín, shot in August 1941.Juan Martinez Leal

Sisters Carmen and Rosario Soriano Gambín, two young people from Callosa de Segura (Alicante), were tried in 1939 by a Francoist military court, accused of having participated in the murder of a municipal guard. Both were sentenced to death and Rosario was shot immediately. Carmen, pregnant in her 20s, was not taken to the wall until August 1, 1941, after giving birth and breastfeeding her daughter for a time. When he died he was 22 years old. His body has just been exhumed in a common grave in the Alicante cemetery, along with that of other reprisals, the first to appear in the province after numerous excavations.

The strong influence of the Church in the Franco regime and the “tremendous power” that the priests wielded in the prisons may be the causes that the authorities allowed Carmen to give birth, according to the historian Miguel Ors, before she was executed. his capital punishment. “They would not have allowed her to have an abortion,” she maintains, “and the priest would not have allowed them to shoot her pregnant,” says the expert, because “the baby was not to blame for anything.” However, his case is very rare, if not unique, at least in Alicante. In the province, only 20 women were shot compared to 605 men and Ors has no record of other pregnant women sentenced to death.

Carmen’s body was in grave 20 of the Alicante cemetery, one of the two that are currently being excavated with the participation of the Department of Democratic Quality of the Generalitat Valenciana, the City Council of Aspe (Alicante) and the local association Cinco Ojos. . Her remains have been the easiest to identify “and they have already been exhumed,” says archaeologist Jorge García Fernández, from the Drakkar Consultores company and co-director of the excavation, “since she is the only woman buried in the grave.”

“Carmen belonged to a left-wing family,” recalls the historian Miguel Ors from Elche, who specifies that one of his brothers died during the war, on the front lines. Initially, the Gambín sisters were tried by a republican people’s court before the war ended. They were accused of “having been involved in the death of a municipal guard,” although they were acquitted.

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Trench 20 of the Alicante cemetery.  They are being exhumed by the Cinco Ojos association together with the Aspe (Alicante) City Council and the Department of Democratic Quality of the Generalitat.
Trench 20 of the Alicante cemetery. They are being exhumed by the Cinco Ojos association together with the Aspe (Alicante) City Council and the Department of Democratic Quality of the Generalitat.

In 1939, after the victory of the Franco rebels, the new authorities arrested them again, claiming the same motive, although this time they were sentenced to death. Rosario was shot shortly after the sentence. With Carmen, “they waited for her to give birth to her daughter,” who was given to her widower, Roberto Fernández, says Ors. “He had to leave town and did not return until he was very old,” he says. Carmen died on the wall on August 1, 1941. “If the families were attentive and claimed their children or grandchildren, they gave them to them,” says the historian. It is also the case that Carmen’s widower had no pending account with Franco’s justice.

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In the same grave 20, together with the young woman from Callosa, another 13 reprisals were thrown, located by the Aspe City Council and the Cinco Ojos association. The deceased also came from other towns in addition to Aspe and Callosa, such as Ibi, La Unión (Murcia) or Madrid.

Nine of the 14 planned bodies have already been exhumed. “All but two are buried in pine wood boxes,” says García Fernández, “and three of them have projectile holes in the skull and another in the sternum.” These signs of violence seem to confirm that they are condemned to death “imprisoned in the Alicante adult reformatory”, the current courts of the city, and “later shot in the Rabasa military barracks”, facilities that are still in use. . Then they were taken, “already corpses”, to the cemetery, “says the archaeologist.

Predictably, eight of them are from Aspenses who took part, directly or indirectly, in “the lynching of the Calpena family,” says José Ramón García Gandía, a professor at the University of Alicante. The events took place on July 7, 1937. Ramón Calpena, “an important espadrille industrialist”, was arrested by Republican forces along with his son Luis and his son-in-law Javier González. They were accused of encouraging military rebellion. The businessman was locked up in Totana and later “sent to his town under house arrest.” As soon as they got home, the three were harassed by some of their fellow citizens, “who hated them for social and work reasons,” says the historian. The two Calpena died in the altercation. The son-in-law survived.

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“The Republic tried to find out what had happened,” specifies the expert, but several suspects were acquitted after passing through the Espionage Court of Valencia and another court in Alicante. “They lost the opportunity to do justice, but in the middle of the war they did not allow themselves to lose prominent political and union representatives,” continues García Gandía. At the end of the Civil War, however, the Franco regime returned to this same issue. “They brought together the main suspects with senior local officials,” asserts the expert, “including the socialist mayor Pascual Cánovas Martínez”, who had actually tried to prevent the murder of the Calpenas. Cánovas was shot and thrown into the same grave 20 in the Alicante cemetery.

The same excavation has been extended to pit 26, where the current mayor of Aspe, Antonio Puerto (United Esquerra del País Valencià), trusts that a dozen more Aspenses, shot on June 26, 1941 can be identified. ” His remains will be transferred to a guarded laboratory that we have installed ”, advances the first mayor,“ so that they can be identified by their DNA ”. In the same grave, 25 people were thrown, 22 of them reprisals and from Aspe, Callosa de Segura, Orihuela, La Romana, Alicante, Torrevieja, Benissa and Elche. “Most of the bodies are piled up and removed,” explains the co-director of the work, “but two skulls and a sternum have projectile holes.”

Francisco Alcolea Cremades, whose remains have been exhumed in Alicante and who has been identified by his glass eye.  Image from the family album of his grandson, Francisco Alcolea Torá.
Francisco Alcolea Cremades, whose remains have been exhumed in Alicante and who has been identified by his glass eye. Image from the family album of his grandson, Francisco Alcolea Torá.

A glass eye kept in a pocket

Upon reaching the wall of the Rabasa barracks in Alicante where he was to be shot, Francisco Alcolea Cremades put the glass eye by which everyone knew him in a pocket of his pants. Farmer, militiaman, member of the PCE, UGT and the Los Convencidos agrarian cooperative, married and with three children aged three, six and 12, was one of the residents of Aspe (Alicante) accused of instigating the lynching of the Calpena, although until the last moment he defended that he had nothing to do with it, but that at the time of the events, he was sulfurizing his fields. On June 26, 1941, he was shot and later buried in grave 20 of the Alicante cemetery.

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The glass eye, a kind of “hand-painted cornea”, has facilitated its identification, according to historian García Gandía, co-director of the excavation. “We found it next to a leg,” he explains. “Although there are no textile remains, we have interpreted that he kept it in his pants before the execution,” he adds. The investigator communicated the finding to the Alcolea Cremades family, who preferred “to wait for the DNA analysis,” says Francisco Alcolea Torá, the convicted’s grandson, whose name is the same as his grandfather. “The lab report is missing,” he declares, “but it’s certainly a break for the family.” “Now we can bury him next to my grandmother,” he continues.

Francisco lost his eye in France, where he worked as a farmer, details his grandson. “He was a militiaman and fought with the Alicante Rojo battalion on the Guadalajara front,” he recalls. In 1937 he returned to his town, Aspe, located in the Republican area, “to work his land, probably vineyards for table grapes,” Alcolea Torá adventure. At the end of the Civil War, he was arrested at his home. “My father remembers that he hid and saw how they mistreated him and took him away,” says the grandson. He was sentenced to death for “propagandizing the red cause”, seizing farms and being “promoter of the murder of the Calpena”, according to the summary.

“My grandfather appears in several testimonies of the trial,” continues his grandson, “it seems that he was in several places at the same time on the night of the lynching.” The family suspects that the main motive that led to his death was being “a friend of Francisco Alcaraz,” a prominent member of the communist party in Aspe, a fleeting mayor and a possible instigator of the crime. “My grandfather lent him money to leave Aspe and go to the port of Alicante,” he explains, “where he embarked on the Stanbrook”, The famous last ship that sailed from the city loaded with Republicans bound for Oran (Algeria), one day before the end of the Civil War. After passing through the Aspe and Novelda prisons, to which his wife, Francisca, brought him clothes and food, he was finally taken to Alicante, where he was shot and buried in the common grave.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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