Franco's victims fight again in a war of the obituaries





MADRID -- As Spain prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first mass terror bombing of a civilian population, the German and Italian attack on Guernica during the Spanish civil war, an extraordinary battle is taking place through the country's obituary columns.

It began with the decision last year by the family of Commander Virgilio Leret Ruiz, General Franco's first victim, to commemorate his death. It is a process that has brought back the language and the painful memories of a struggle that pitted the left-wing republican government against a military-led fascist rebellion -- with its tragic consequences.

In the years of dictatorship that followed Franco's victory in 1939, relatives of the republican dead were prevented from publishing their obituaries. Now, amid huge soul-searching in Spain over the war, the belated obituaries have dredged up accusations and enmities long since buried.

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