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Spain: ICRC president hands over Spanish Civil War documents

27-10-2008 News Release 08/192

Geneva (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, is in Spain today to officially hand over to the government a set of copies of documents from the organization's archives relating to its activities during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Mr Kellenberger will hold talks with the secretary of State for foreign affairs, Ángel Lossada Torres-Quevedo, before travelling to the Historical Memory Documentary Centre in Salamanca to participate in a handover ceremony hosted by the minister of culture, César Antonio Molina Sánchez.

" Our archives contain some 80,000 items, including around 600 photographs, that bear witness to the efforts of the ICRC and the Spanish Red Cross to alleviate the suffering of victims of the Spanish Civil War, " said Mr Kellenberger. " We hope that these documents will be of use in Spain's efforts to conduct research on and preserve the memory of this tragic period in its history. "

The documents include reports on prison visits by ICRC delegates and correspondence between the ICRC, the parties to the conflict and the two Spanish Red Cross societies (Republican and Nationalist) that existed at the time. The photographs show victims of aerial bombardments in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, Red Cross distributions of food and milk, evacuations of wounded people, visits to prisoner and labour camps, and children evacuated to France.

The Spanish government first requested copies of the ICRC documents during a visit by Mr Kellenberger in 2005. An agreement on the publication and use of copies of the archive documents was signed the following year. Joint teams of ICRC and Spanish experts then carried out an inventory and made digital copies of documents relating to the Civil War and the period until 1966. More recent files remain classified.

In August 1936, one month after the start of the Civil War, the Spanish Red Cross offi cially asked the ICRC to protect and evacuate children separated from their families. Over the following three years, the ICRC and both Spanish Red Cross societies registered 30,000 requests to trace missing persons and handled over five million Red Cross messages, helping family members separated by the war to stay in touch. ICRC delegates also visited and registered some 89,000 prisoners. The organization's relief activities focused on providing support for medical services.

  More information on the ICRC's activities during the Spanish Civil War
  For further information, please contact:
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24