Paracuellos massacres

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Paracuellos Massacres
Location Paracuellos del Jarama, Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
Date November–December 1936
Target Right-wing civilians and military
Attack type
Mass execution
Deaths Highest currently cited: 4,021, minimum: 1,000,
Perpetrator Republican 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.


Thousands of political prisoners and military personnel had been incarcerated in Madrid since before the start of the war in July 1936 (around 5,000).[1] Many of them had been captured during the failed rising of the Montaña barracks in western Madrid. These prisoners came under the control of the newly created Junta de Defensa de Madrid (Committee for the Defence of Madrid). This was an emergency committee left in charge of the city on November 7, after the Republican government led by Francisco Largo Caballero evacuated Madrid for its new (temporary) capital in Valencia.

A large percentage of these prisoners were taken out of prison in so-called sacas (extractions), 33 in total, between November 7 and December 4, as the Nationalists launched their assault on the Madrid. The Republicans feared the presence of so many potentially hostile prisoners in their rear during the battle. These 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.[2] However, the responsibility of Carrillo in the massacre is much debated.

According to the historian Javier Cervera, the sacas carried out to move prisoners to other locations didn't result in executions, and these prisoners were re-located further away from the front, to Alcalá de Henares.[3] 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, or, more indirectly, from the Soviet advisor Mikhail Koltsov.[4]

Mass Shootings[edit]

A majority of 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 at a fast pace until November 10, when they were temporarily halted after the anarchist Melchor Rodríguez (who opposed executions) became 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 spead of the executions and they 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 Santiago Carrillo.[5][6]

Henny's Attempted Murder[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, north-east of Madrid. Henny had with him 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 National air force for the attack, but on December 21 it was revealed that Dr. Henny's plane was shot down by Soviet-built airplanes with Russian pilots.[7]

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

Victims and Death Toll[edit]

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

Among the victims were Federico Salmón, a former conservative labor 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 Ricardo de la Cierva y Codorníu, a lawyer and father of the historian Ricardo de la Cierva y Hoces were also executed.[8][9]

The number of those killed at Paracuellos is still controversial. In 1977, figure of 12,000 deaths was cited by the right wing journal El Alcazar and the list of names was published in the book Matanzas en el Madrid Republicano, by César Vidal,[10] although 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.[11][12]

Other historians have put the death toll at between 2-3,000; Hugh Thomas: 2,000;[13] Beevor: at least 2,000;[14] Ledesma: 2,200-2,500;[15] Julián Casanova: 2,700,[16] and Javier Cervera, over 2,000.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London. p. 463
  3. ^ CERVERA, Javier. Madrid en guerra. La ciudad clandestina, 1936-1939. Madrid, 2006. Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4731-4
  4. ^ Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil War (1999), p 133
  5. ^ CARRILLO, Santiago. Memorias, Barcelona, Planeta, 1999. ISBN 84-08-01049-2
  6. ^ SCHLAYER, Felix. Matanzas en el Madrid republicano, Madrid: Áltera. ISBN 84-89779-85-6. Online Fundación Generalísimo Franco.
  7. ^ VIDAL, Cesar. La guerra que gano Franco. Madrid, 2008. p.256
  8. ^ Causa General (List of mass killings committed by Republican loyalists compiled after the war by the Francoist state, in Spanish) Causa General
  9. ^ Paracuellos, 7 de noviembre de 1936, El País, 5 November 2006 (in Spanish)
  10. ^ Vidal 2005: p 327-375
  11. ^ Jackson, Gabriel.(1967). The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1936-1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. p.326
  12. ^ Preston, Paul. (2006). The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution&revenge. Harper Perennial. London. p.186
  13. ^ Thomas, Hugh. (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. London. p. 463
  14. ^ Beevor, Antony. (2006). The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Penguin Books. London. p.173.
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ Cervera, Javier (2006), Madrid en guerra. La ciudad clandestina, 1936-1939, segunda edición, Madrid: Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4731-4. p93