Paracuellos massacres

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Paracuellos massacres
Part of Spanish Civil War
20070519 - Vista del cementerio de Paracuellos.jpg
Paracuellos cemetery memorial
LocationParacuellos del Jarama and Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
DateNovember–December 1936
TargetRight-wing civilians and military
Attack type
Mass execution
DeathsHighest currently cited: 12,000, minimum: 1,000 [1][2]
PerpetratorRepublican troops and militiamen

The Paracuellos massacres (Spanish: Matanzas de Paracuellos) were a series of mass killings of civilians and soldiers by the Republican faction of the Spanish Civil War. It took place before and during the Battle for Madrid during the early stages of the war. The death toll remains the subject of debate and controversy.


About 5,000 political prisoners and rebel military personnel had been incarcerated in Madrid since before the start of the war, in July 1936.[3] Many of them had been captured during the failed rising of the Montaña barracks, in western Madrid. The prisoners came under the control of the new Junta de Defensa de Madrid (Committee for the Defence of Madrid), an emergency committee left in charge of the city on November 7, after the democratically elected Republican government, led by Francisco Largo Caballero evacuated Madrid for its temporary capital, Valencia.

Many of the prisoners were taken out of prison in so-called sacas (extractions), 33 in total, between November 7 and December 4, as the rebel Nationalist forces launched their assault on Madrid. The Republicans feared the presence of so many potentially hostile prisoners in the rear guard during the battle. The extractions were ordered in writing by the Republican authorities in Madrid, often in documents signed by Segundo Serrano Poncela, Deputy for Public Order, working directly under the supervision of the young Communist politician Santiago Carrillo.[4] However, the responsibility of Carrillo in the massacre is much debated.

According to historian Javier Cervera, the sacas that were carried out to move prisoners to other locations did not result in executions, and the prisoners were relocated, farther from the front, to Alcalá de Henares.[5] At Paracuellos, however, a massacre resulted. According to British historian, Antony Beevor, the order to kill the prisoners most likely came from the Spanish Communist José Cazorla Maure, or, more indirectly, from the Soviet advisor Mikhail Koltsov.[6]

Mass shootings[edit]

Most prisoners, who were told they would be set free, were taken by trucks to fields outside Paracuellos del Jarama and Torrejón de Ardoz, where they were shot and buried in mass graves. The first shootings took place before dawn on November 7, and continued fast until November 10, when they were temporarily halted after the anarchist Melchor Rodríguez García, who opposed executions, became the head of the Madrid prison system.

The executions resumed on November 14, when Rodríguez resigned, and did not stop until he resumed the post, in early December.

From the early days, news spread of the executions, which were denounced by foreign diplomats based in Madrid, including the consul of Norway and the German ambassador, Felix Schlayer, who talked about the issue with Carrillo.[7][8]

Attempted murder of Henny[edit]

On December 8, a plane carrying Dr. Georges Henny, an envoy sent by the International Red Cross, on his way back to France was shot down over Pastrana, northeast of Madrid. Henny had a report on the Paracuellos massacre that he planned to present during a meeting of the League of Nations in Geneva. The Republican authorities blamed the Nationalist air force for the attack, but on December 21, it was revealed that the plane was shot down by Soviet-built airplanes with Soviet pilots.[9]

Henny spent four months in hospital and was unable to deliver his report. Louis Delaprée, a French journalist who traveled in the same plane, who died weeks later because of his injuries, blamed General Aleksandr Mikhailovich Orlov, the Soviet NKVD's rezident in Spain, for the incident.


Most of those killed in the Paracuellos massacre were civilians, soldiers or Catholic priests.

Among the victims were Federico Salmón, a former conservative labour minister in 1935, the noted politician Jesús Cánovas del Castillo and a football player with Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid, Monchin Triana. Pedro Muñoz Seca, a famous writer and monarchist, Mateo García de los Reyes, a retired admiral, and the lawyer Ricardo de la Cierva y Codorníu, the father of the historian Ricardo de la Cierva y Hoces, were also executed.[10][11]

The number of those killed at Paracuellos is still controversial. In 1977, a figure of 12,000 deaths was cited by the right-wing journal El Alcazar and a list of names was published in Matanzas en el Madrid Republicano, by César Vidal Manzanares,[12] but many of the bodies were never found.

The minimum figure cited is around 1,000 deaths, by Gabriel Jackson in 1967 and Paul Preston in 2006, but this is considerably lower than the estimates of most modern historians. Jackson mentions around 1,000 on 6 and 7 November.[13][14]

Other historians have put the death toll at between 2,000 to 3,000; Hugh Thomas: 2,000;[4] Beevor: at least 2,000;[15] Ledesma: 2,200-2,500;[16] Julián Casanova: 2,700,[3] and Javier Cervera, over 2,000.[17]

Many of the victims are buried at Cementerio de Los Mártires de Paracuellos (40°30′42″N 3°32′49″W / 40.5116°N 3.547°W / 40.5116; -3.547).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, Gabriel.(1967). The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1936-1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. p.326
  2. ^ Preston, Paul. (2006). The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution&revenge. Harper Perennial. London. p.186
  3. ^ a b Julía, Santos; Casanova, Julían; Solé i Sabaté, Josep Maria; Villarroya, Joan; and Moreno, Francisco. (2006). Víctimas de la guerra civil. Ediciones Temas de Hoy. Madrid. p.134
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London. p. 463
  5. ^ Cervera, Javier. Madrid en guerra. La ciudad clandestina, 1936-1939. Madrid, 2006. Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4731-4
  6. ^ Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil War (1999), p. 133
  7. ^ Carrillo, Santiago. Memorias, Barcelona, Planeta, 1999. ISBN 84-08-01049-2
  8. ^ Schlayer, Felix. Matanzas en el Madrid republicano, Madrid: Áltera. ISBN 84-89779-85-6. Online Fundación Generalísimo Franco.
  9. ^ Vidal, Cesar. La guerra que gano Franco. Madrid, 2008. p.256
  10. ^ Causa General (List of mass killings committed by Republican loyalists compiled after the war by the Francoist state, in Spanish) Causa General
  11. ^ Paracuellos, 7 de noviembre de 1936, El País, 5 November 2006 (in Spanish)
  12. ^ Vidal 2005: p 327-375
  13. ^ Jackson, Gabriel.(1967). The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1936-1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. p.326
  14. ^ Preston, Paul. (2006). The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution&revenge. Harper Perennial. London. p.186
  15. ^ Beevor, Antony. (2006). The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Penguin Books. London. p.173.
  16. ^ Espinosa, Maestre; García Márquez, José Mº; Gil Vico, Pablo; and Ledesma, José Luis. (2010). Violencia roja y azul. España, 1936-1950. Editoríal Crítica. Barcelona. p.233
  17. ^ Cervera, Javier (2006), Madrid en guerra. La ciudad clandestina, 1936-1939, segunda edición, Madrid: Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4731-4. p93