Verdict on street names in madrid: fascist militia as name giver

A street in Madrid remains dedicated to a right-wing militia. The members of the division had sued against a name change.

Madrid is struggling with its history. For a moment, the fascists have won Photo: dpa

Los CaIdos de la Division Azul" – "The Fallen of the Blue Division" – will continue to be the namesake of a street in Madrid. This has now been decided by a court in the Spanish capital. The 15,000-strong fascist volunteer force supported Hitler’s Wehrmacht against the Soviet Union. Although it was founded during the Franco dictatorship, "it operated outside our borders and did not serve to glorify the dictatorship," according to the judge’s ruling. Therefore, Madrid’s mayor Manuela Carmena is not allowed to remove the name. The relatives of those Spanish militiamen filed the complaint.

The street name is one of a total of 52 that are to disappear forever from the Madrid city map with the help of the "Law of Historical Remembrance. Coup generals, fascists, battles and myths should be replaced by names of democrats, human rights activists and artists. Instead of the "Fallen of the Blue Division," the street in Madrid’s north was to commemorate the 192 victims of the Islamist bombs on commuter trains on March 11, 2004.

But renaming streets is a difficult undertaking. Not only in Madrid, where the conservative Partido Popular (PP) of government leader Mariano Rajoy and the right-wing liberal Ciudadanos voted against the plans. In Alicante, the PP achieved a local stop to the project in court. In Cordoba, the conservatives are collecting signatures so that the coup generals around the later dictator Francisco Franco can continue to adorn street signs.

Changing the names would "open up wounds" and "divide citizens," is how the PP justifies its rejection of the law. "I lived on Salvador Moreno Street for a long time," government leader Mariano Rajoy recounted of his childhood in Pontevedra, northwest Spain. "I don’t know why they took the street’s name. I still call it the same name I used to." General Moreno was responsible for area bombing of civilians during the Civil War. Now the street is named after the poet RosalIa de Castro.

The law commemorating the history came from Rajoy’s socialist predecessor, Jose Luis RodrIguez Zapatero. Among other things, it was intended to search for the more than 100,000 victims of the putschists and the dictatorship who still lie buried in mass graves and roadside ditches throughout the country. When Rajoy came to power at the end of 2011, he cut all budget items related to commemoration.

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