The Monastery of Ucles, now one of the most famous cultural centers of Castile-La Mancha, was first a hospital and then a prison in the post-war years. More than 400 people became victims of war and Francoist repression in the area. This Saturday, the Association for the Restoration of Historical Memory organized a flower tribute and a performance by singer-songwriter Juanjo Anaya at the new cemetery. “We will meet to remember what some want to silence and honor the memory and dignity of these victims,” ARMH stressed.
In the city of Cuenca, one of the most important on the road between Madrid and Valencia during the Civil War, victims from 27 provinces, from Cadiz to Tarragona, rest. Victims of Franco’s victory were also identified in more than 100 cities in the provinces of Cuenca and Colmenar Viejo. “The Ucles Monastery remains empty after the coup d’état, and incoming and outgoing units occupy it as military barracks. In October, the Columna del Rosal is installed, especially its artillery, and they are there for several months,” explains Maximo Molina from ARMH Cuenca.
Then what was one of the most important monasteries of the Order of Santiago began to function as a military hospital. The hospital, which will become one of the largest in the area. Ucles, located a few kilometers from Tarancon, is strategically located and is one of the largest in the area. It functions as the first rearguard for the evacuation of the wounded from the front of the Battle of Madrid in October 1937, as well as from other battles such as the Battle of Jarama.
From patients to prisoners
In addition to hundreds of soldiers from different provinces, victims of the bombing of the city of Tarancon were buried in the hospital cemetery. However, with the arrival of the Francoist troops, it became a concentration camp and gradually a central prison, which functioned until December 1943. It was in La Tajona that the burials of prisoners, so famous for the fact that there was a bread oven, were carried out.
“When the war ends, soldiers who cannot leave turn from patients into prisoners. All medical personnel are arrested, including an Englishwoman from Manchester who refused to leave the scene. Even the first manager of Ucles Town Hall was arrested, José María Gines Ferrer, a doctor who was the manager of this place in the first days after the end of the war,” explains Molina. Ukles was “a big prison for prisoners”. “Before that, there were judicial district prisons,” he says. There is also “weak” news that it was a concentration camp.
Between 2005 and 2007, there were campaigns to locate, delineate, excavate and exhume graves in the three sectors into which the site was divided, the association told the Spanish government. In the southern sector was the burial place of the old hospital; in the northern sector there were large pits and fort burials. Finally, in the central sector there were pits for those executed from prison. Work promoted by ARMH has recovered the remains of more than 400 victims, but has not continued beyond 2012.
ARMH regrets that the situation is “not very encouraging” due to the lack of support from both the Community Council and the Spanish government. “The slowness of the central government, which contributes only money, as happened in 2006 and in subsequent years, de facto today facilitating the transformation of memory into a commodity, while claiming that the state will intervene, when at the moment it is only outsourcing, very liberal Yes, but the law of democratic memory is dragging on and on,” they criticize.
Molina explains to this medium that there were 72 applications for identification, of which 36 had already been delivered “at various times”. “The last time was in March 2012,” he recalls. “There are more than a hundred remains that need to be analyzed for DNA,” he says. In addition, from four other families, people died in the hospital, not in prison. Their data must be compared with the remains of the other 149 who died in the hospital, which were exhumed. There is also the fact that “he completely stalled after the zero budget of Mariano Rajoy, and the situation continues to this day,” he criticizes. “This is a wasteland of the historical memory of Castile-La Mancha,” concludes the association.
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