London Review covers Spanish stolen babies

April 5, 2012
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Lorna Scott Fox writes in the London Review of Books about the first criminal persecution  in the massive scandal of stolen babies that began under Franco and continued into Spanish democracy:

According to lawyers for victim groups, as many as 350,000 babies were stolen from poor, single or left-wing mothers between 1938 and the late 1980s. Sister María Gómez Valbuena, who had links with a maternity clinic and put ads in the paper offering help to unmarried mothers, is the first person to be prosecuted for it.

The case against Sor María is unusual only in that it has got so far. In the last few years, hundreds of cases have been dismissed for lack of evidence: systematically destroyed records make it hard to prove how this traffic persisted long after democracy was restored. The WHO seems never to have noticed the surprising levels of reported infant mortality in Spain. The San Ramón clinic in Madrid allegedly kept a baby in a freezer to show mothers as the ‘corpse’. A culture of female submissiveness and respect for the Church prevented poor and vulnerable women from acting on their suspicions.

What became a business began as a Fascist experiment in biopsychiatry. In 1938, Franco set up a Gabinete de Investigaciones Psicológicas to conduct Nazi-inspired experiments on prisoners (men from the International Brigades, Republican women) to try to identify a ‘red gene’ or the ‘psychophysical roots of Marxism’. The precise nature of the experiments remains obscure. In 1939 it was concluded that children would have to be taken away from their degenerate (or executed) parents, and re-educated in nice Catholic families.

Read more here.

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