Work begins to recover the remains of 60 victims of the Civil War in the Begoña cemetery

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This exhumation project is carried out within the framework of the agreement that the Basque Government and Aranzadi have for the recovery of persons disappeared in the Civil War.

An archaeological team from the Aranzadi Society, under the umbrella of the Gogora Memory Institute and the Bilbao City Council, has begun work to recover the remains of the mortal victims of the Civil War buried in the Begoña Cemetery, from Bilbao. This cemetery has been closed since 2003 and, currently, the Bilbao City Council is exhumating all the remains in order to turn this space into a public park, within the framework of the project called ‘Begoñako Argia’.

This Saturday they have come to the beginning of the tasks Beatriz Artolazabal, Minister of Equality, Justice and Social Policies of the Basque Government, and Juan Mari Aburto, mayor of Bilbao, along with relatives of victims who may be buried in that place. They have been accompanied by José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz, vice-counselor for Human Rights, Coexistence and Cooperation; Aintzane Ezenarro, director of the Gogora Institute for Memory, Coexistence and Human Rights; Asier Abaunza Councilor for Works, Urban Planning and Strategic Projects of the Bilbao City Council; and Paco Etxeberria and Lourdes Herrasti, members of the Aranzadi Science Society.

Minister Beatriz Artolazabal has reaffirmed the commitment of the Basque Government to try to recover the largest number of people who disappeared during the Civil War. “We will continue to try to clarify the truth so that all families can finally close their mourning. “In some of these cases, the exact location of the bodies is unknown.

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He has highlighted the presence of an octogenarian, accompanied by her grandson, after learning this week from Gogora officials that her father died in the battle of Artxanda on June 14, 1937, just a few days before the fall of Bilbao. His burial would have taken place in Begoña, according to the historical documentation of the Sopuerta Civil Registry, although his name does not appear in the books of this cemetery.

Based on the investigation on fatalities of the Civil War in the period 1936-1945, promoted by Gogora, in that location the remains of 60 people are buried, civilian victims and combatants. Among them are cases of victims whose families do not know the place and date of their deaths, so the counselor Artolazabal has made an appeal for families who do not know the whereabouts of their relatives who died in the war to contact Gogora.

The head of the Basque Country for public policies on historical memory has encouraged other families who believe they have war victims buried in this cemetery to contact Gogora.

The mayor of Bilbao Juan Mari Aburto has referred to the Begoña Light project, developed by the Aranzadi Science Society and financed by the Bilbao City Council. It is a project that ranges from research and dissemination to scientific training in the field of historical memory, from the symbolic enclave of Begoña, “the best possible setting to host a science and knowledge project.” The mayor thanked “the meticulous and always respectful work” that Aranzadi is developing in the exhumation process, and the Basque Government and Gogora “for an essential work for the repair and memory of those who fought for democracy, because the light of their I remember it will always stay on. “

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The Begoña Cemetery, closed in 2006, was in operation between 1813 and 2003 (date of the last burial) and, in addition to its value in terms of Historical Memory, houses a set of great interest for the study of funerary architecture from the late 19th century and 20th century.

Both the councilor Artolazabal and the mayor of Bilbao have made reference to the inter-institutional collaboration what makes this project possible; collaboration between the Basque Government and the Bilbao City Council and public-social cooperation thanks to the agreement between Gogora and the Aranzadi Science Society.

60 fatalities of the Civil War

The documentation extracted from the Civil Registers, the parish books and the records of the cemetery itself in the period 1936-1945 (made available to the public through the database of fatalities of the Civil War) indicates that there are 60 people War victims buried in the Begoña cemetery.

According to this investigation, combatants and also civilian victims, killed in bombardments, would be found. Specifically, it is known that some people who died in the bombing of the Cotorruelo factory-refuge, on April 18, 1937, were buried in that cemetery.



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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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