Children were the main victims of the Spanish Civil War , which produced massive displacements of the civilian population, in which children were the most affected.
Children had to be removed from the war to avoid the physical and psychological consequences. To this end, the government of the Second Republic carried out expeditions to evacuate minors, with the participation of several countries and international humanitarian aid organisations .
In Europe, France was the country that took in the most Spanish children with around 20,000 minors; around 5,000 children arrived in Belgium; around 4,000 in England; around 3,000 in the Soviet Union; Switzerland took in around 800 children. Outside Europe, Mexico received 455 minors, the so-called Morelia Children.
The vicissitudes of the Civil War and World War II turned many of the evacuated children into forced exiles, as they were temporarily or permanently unable to return to Spain.
This was the case in Mexico, whose government did not recognise Franco's regime and placed obstacles in the way of the children's return. In the case of the "Russian children", they were repatriated to Spain in 1956.
In a virtual exhibition, the CDMH is displaying documentation on the more than 50,000 Spanish children evacuated during the Civil War to protect them from the consequences of the war. The exhibition displays three types of documents: records of the children evacuated from the northern front, letters written by the children to their families and photographs of children evacuated to the Soviet Union:
The government of the Second Republic created different organisations during the Civil War to carry out the tasks of evacuating minors, two of which stand out in particular:
The OCEAR was created in February 1937 by Federica Montseny , Minister of Health and Social Assistance. It was dissolved in January 1938 and its responsibilities were transferred to the Ministry of Labour and Social Assistance.
In January 1938, the General Directorate for Evacuation and Refugees was created within the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. Its first head was the Republican Eladia Farando Puigdollers . It was in operation until the end of the Civil War.
Mexico took in around 500 Spanish children in response to an appeal by the Ibero-American Committee for Aid to the Spanish People and the Committee for Aid to the Children of the Spanish People . The Committee was set up by Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas , and chaired by his wife Amalia Solórzano Bravo.
After the end of the Spanish Civil War, with the victory of Franco's army, the situation became complicated for the children of Morelia. The Mexican government of Lázaro Cárdenas had supported the Second Republic and did not officially recognise Franco's government.
As a result, most of the children from Morelia stayed permanently in Mexico, with only 61 returning to Spain under different circumstances.
By the end of 1939, most of the Spanish children evacuated to the different host countries because of the Civil War had already been repatriated to Spain.
However, the children sent to the Soviet Union suffered the consequences of World War II and had to be repatriated later than the rest of the host countries.
The most negative aspect was the prolonged separation that ended up breaking family ties, as many young people experienced the sensation of being in the presence of strangers when they were reunited.
The so-called "Children of Russia" returned to Spain in 1956 and 1957, together with the expeditionary members of the Division Azul , with the aim of being admitted to international representative bodies. The International Labour Organisation was the vehicle for bringing the Spanish and Soviet governments closer together to negotiate repatriation to Spain.
The Order of 22 March 1957, issued by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior, created the Coordinating Commission for Repatriated People. Its function was to coordinate activities to incorporate repatriated people from Russia into Spanish life, as well as orienting them and solving their legal, political and economic problems.
The main collections and documentary series held at the AGA for the study of the evacuation and repatriation of minors are:
Reference code: 52/02080 - 52/02884 (85 boxes)
11,324 nominative files.
Reference code: 51/21108 - 51/21131 (24 boxes)
Contains inventory of photographs of children's colonies in Spain and abroad.
Reference code: 44/11057 - 44/11085 (29 boxes).
Reference code: 17194 - 17200 (7 boxes).
Together with the Coordinating Committee for Repatriates, the National Trade Union Placement Service, with its Work to Combat Unemployment, was responsible for managing the job placement and follow-up of the last repatriates from the Soviet Union.