Spain Had a Stolen Generation, Too

I know a little about Australia's Stolen Generation, but NPR's article titled "Thousands of Children Stolen During Franco Rule" was the first I'd heard about Spain's. According to reporter Jerome Socolovsky, more than 12,000 Spanish children were taken from their homes during Francisco Franco's dictatorship. Franco's regime was noted for being suspicious of Spanish women, many of whom were embracing the new rights and roles afforded them by the Republican government that held power prior to the Spanish Civil War.

Socolovsky cites historian Richard Vynes, who says that a state psychiatrist devised a theory that these liberated women were "morally degenerate, and should not be allowed to raise children." Children were placed in orphanages or in the homes of pro-Franco families. Their mothers' fates are unclear; some were killed, others imprisoned or sent to labor camps.

The article profiled Ushenu Ablana (now 79 years old), who was taken by the regime after his father was imprisoned and his mother surreptitiously disposed of -- how, he doesn't know. Ablana spent years in many different orphanages, where he was taught the virtues of fascism and endured tuberculosis, starvation and molestation. He doesn't talk about his experiences very much, and that's pretty common throughout Spain: No one says much about this aspect of Franco's regime.

Spain is razing the last statues of the former dictator. The country is also examining mass graves that date from the 1930s Spanish Civil War as well as launching an official inquiry into the stolen children.

For comparison's sake, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology on Feb. 13, 2008, to members of Australia's Stolen Generation. At least 100,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their homes from 1910 to 1970 in an effort to phase out the land's indigenous culture.

For more, read:

What was Australia's Stolen Generation?

How Dictators Work

Spanish Civil War