Still at war over 'crusade';International News;News amp; Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00

Paul Rigg on the literary legacy of the conflict that saw 'traitor' teachers shot by Franco.

REPRINTS of old schoolbooks from the Franco era must rank as unlikely best-sellers, but people who were at school during the general's rule have been buying them up.

Now a new book is taking advantage of their keenness to understand and come to terms with their fascist past.

Called Ensenanar historia con una guerra civil por medio (Teaching history either side of a civil war), it reveals the way history was rewritten after the civil war.

The book comprises two conflicting accounts of the period. One, a history textbook, was written in 1933 by a teacher, Daniel Gonzalez Linacero. His book, Mi Primer Libro de Historia (My First History Book) spoke about the role of ordinary people in bringing about social change.

Linacero's ideas had no place in the newly-emerging state that was to be founded on patriotism, religious duty and obedience. The 33-year-old teacher was shot by Franco's advancing army.

When the civil war ended in 1939 the dictator oversaw the writing of a quite different version of Spanish history. This account, Manual de Historia de Espana, is the other half of the new book.

Teachers suffered terribly in the civil war. In 1937 the head of the Spanish education service claimed that: "Seventy-five per cent of teachers are traitors to the national cause. A cleansing process needs to take place."

Soon after these words were spoken, teachers were sacked and schools were shut down as Franco tightened his grip on the country.

Franco shaped the thinking of succeeding generations. In school, children had to sing militaristic songs glorifying the falangists. They learnt that in 1936 criminals had been driving the country to ruin when "our glorious and unbeaten Franco rose up and took back the motherland".

As the Catholic Church took advantage of the new regime to open up its own schools, pupils were taught that "Jews propagated their false religion by martyring Christian children with horrendous torture - for all this the people hated them."

Pedro Esteban, who was at school during the dictatorship and now teaches in Madrid, said: "The education I received reminds me each day of the importance of teaching people to think more critically. When I was young I used to call the civil war 'the crusade' or 'the war of liberation' - I had no other terms to describe it.

"At least children today are given the words to allow them to think more objectively."

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