The identity of a soldier who was sent to a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War before being executed because he was loyal to the Republican government has been revealed thanks to the discovery of two rusty rings found on his remains in a common grave.
The rings were found on the index finger of the bones of a man buried in the common grave of the cemetery of the city of San Fernando, in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz, where experts and archaeologists have been working to identify remains since 2016.
Francisco Javier Perez Guirao, president of the Association for the Recovery of Democratic, Social and Political Memory of San Fernando (AMEDE), told Real Press in an exclusive interview that it is believed that the common graves located in the cemetery contain the remains of 229 people who were executed since the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) until 1940.
So far, 108 bodies have been recovered, and only three have been identified, as they are pending the results of DNA tests to confirm their identity.
Perez Guirao explained that “all of them are men and it is believed that most of them are soldiers, as San Fernando had a military population and one of the walls of the cemetery was used as a place to execute those who were loyal to the Republic and not to the nationalist band that started the war.”
The workers are using a list written by Jose Casado Montado in the book Trigo Tronzano, which bears the names of people who were executed in the city – including the mayor and his three children – by the troops of dictator and military general Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. The author used a church document on which priests had written down the names of those who had been executed.
The rings were found in grave number seven, in which two bodies appeared to have met with violent death, as according to Perez Guirao, these common graves were also used by poor people who could not pay funeral costs.
The body of the man was face up and the rings were located on his index finger. Other items were also found , including a key, a buckle, and a few buttons. The rings had one inscription each saying Alberto and Dionisia.
Checking the names on the list with those two inscriptions and the date of the execution, a soldier who was married with a Dionisia Ros was found to be listed, so the body was identified in the preliminary steps, with DNA tests expected to further confirm the remains.
This soldier was called Alberto Garcia Martinez, and he was from Cartagena, in the south-eastern Spanish region of Murcia. When he was 43 years old, he was executed at 6 am on 18th June 1940 at the wall of the cemetery as he was loyal to the Republican government, which had been beaten by the Francoist supporters, who had won the war.
He was one of the soldiers of the boat Almirante Valdes, one of the military vessels that did not join the coup d’etat against the Republican government. It is said that its trip started in Cartagena in March 1939 with Tunisia as its destination and then it went to Cadiz.
Perez Guirao explained that “Tunisia was a neutral place agreed between Franco’s supporters and the Republican government, which felt the war was lost.”
But the boat arrived in Spain and all the members of the crew were caught as prisoners, carrying them to a concentration camp located in Rota, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, and a year later, they were executed.
It is believed that Alberto was executed for being loyal to the Republican government instead of the new nationalist band.
Perez Guirao explained: “There were a lot of people who were not given a trial, and if there was a trial, all that was needed was a weak witness and they would be sentenced to death only because they were deemed subversive elements.” He added: “Theys were exterminating their rivals.”
After the body was found, with bullet wounds consistent with those of an execution, and the name of the victim became known thanks to the rings, the association asked for help from a similar association located in Murcia which shared the finding on social networks in order to find the descendants of this man, who died leaving two children, named Maria Mercedes, 9, and Alberto, who was 17 months old.
Finally, Alberto’s grandson was located. Perez Guirao said: “The family are surprised and are still processing the information”.
Perez Guirao explained: “We need to give them time to deal with this information”, as they were not searching for him as other families have been trying to do.
There are still a lot of bodies to be identified in that common grave, but this story of Alberto only highlights the fact that the executions kept on going after the war was over.