Spain must not honour dictatorship, says ex-Franco prisoner
Nicolás Sánchez-Albornoz was one of 20,000 political prisoners forcibly conscripted to build what became known as the Valle de los Caídos, a monument to the fallen of the Spanish Civil War where Franco has his own tomb.
Seventy years ago, prisoner Nicolás Sánchez-Albornoz fled from the building site of a sprawling monument that now houses the remains of Spain's dictator Francisco Franco, in a daring escape later made into a film.
One of 20,000 political prisoners forcibly conscripted to build what became known as the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), the 92-year-old said he was "delighted" that the government recently announced it would exhume Franco.
"In no European country has a similar tyrant been given recognition," he said from his country home near the city of Avila, not far from Madrid.
"It's an act of rationality," added the historian who after his 1948 escape lived in exile in Argentina and the United States until 1976, months after Franco's death.
Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to November 1975 when he died, is buried in the valley just outside Madrid in an imposing basilica carved into a mountain-face, with a 150-metre (490-feet) high cross that can be seen kilometres away towering over it.
"A democratic regime cannot honour a dictatorship," said Sánchez-Albornoz whose father Claudio was a minister in Spain's Second Republic that was crushed by Franco and his supporters in the 1936-1939 civil war.
Nicolás was a young student when he was detained in the spring of 1948 for trying to restore an activist student organisation. He was sent to the valley where construction of the monument had been underway since 1940.
Franco had wanted it to be a place of "reconciliation" between Spaniards who had fought each other so bitterly during the war, filling it with the bodies of thousands of supporters and Republicans alike when it was finished in 1959.