Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homage to the Butcher of Badajoz





The mayor of Burgos, a Spanish city situated in the Northern region of Castille-Leon, has allowed an exhibition to honour the figure of JuanYagüe, a Captain General of the Spanish army and one of Franco’s closest collaborators during the Civil War (1936-1939), to be held in a public building in the city. Its name will be Un hombre y el resurgir de Burgos, Yagüe (“A man and the rebirth of Burgos, Yagüe”, in Spanish) and will be hosted by his daughter, who owns a foundation dedicated to preserve the legacy of the person who was appointed as Minister of the Air Force after the end of the war and was given the nobility title of 1st Marquis of Yagüe.


Juan Yagüe will always be remembered for his role during the war. He is eventually known as “the butcher of Badajoz” for having conducted one of the most dreadful massacres of the conflict. On 14 and 15 August 1936, Francoist troops occupied the city of Badajoz, in the south-western region of Extremadura, during their northward advance. The troops under his commandment, mainly Moroccoan “Regulares” and legionaries started a mass-scale repression campaign against everyone who was supposed to fight within the loyalist troops, being supporter of the legitimate Republican government or even taking part in a protest. For these reasons, nationalist troops engaged themselves in a massive slaughter that would horror the foreign journalists who were covering the development of the war alongside fascist troops and triggered criticism even by some conservative intellectuals. 
 
There is no agreement amongst historians regarding the number of victims of the massacre, but it is estimated that between 1,000 and 4,000 people were executed at the bullring and in front of the cemetery. British historian and Hispanist Paul Preston quoted American journalist as saying that 2,000 people were killed only during the first two days of the occupation of Badajoz. After being questioned by Jay T. Withacker, Yagüe claimed that he ordered the killing because he did not want to leave enemies on the rear: “Of course we shot them –he said to me- what do you expect? Was I supposed to take 4,000 reds with me as my column advanced, racing against me? Was I expected to turn them loose in my rear and let them make Badajoz red again?”, he said.

This army official was also well-known for having driven some of the most important offensives of the Spanish civil war, including the occupations of Belchite, Caspe and Lleida. He and his troops also had an important role on the Battle of the Ebre (25 July – 16 November, 1938), the longest and one of the deadliest confrontations of the war. He would also be one of the officials who entered in Barcelona on the aftermath of the occupation of the city on 26 January 1939.
By supporting such homages, the authorities in Burgos are flagrantly violating the Spanish law on historic memory, which expressly forbids any expression of appraisal of those who took part in the coup d’État and the subsequent dictatorship. Once again, the victims of the conflict and Franco’s regime will be publicly disrespected by an official institution.

Anna Ferrer Gil
@fg_anna

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