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Spanish Illegal Adoptions

Updated on October 17, 2012
General Franco
General Franco

Spanish illegal adoptions are nothing new. It's being going on since the times of Franco who ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 - 1975. What is new is the frightening revelation of how doctors and nuns and priests kept a lucrative network of baby stealing going after Franco's death in 1975, disrupting and the lives of thousands of families.

Spain didn't regulate it's adoption services until 1987, and even today there are suspicions that illegal adoptions took place after this date.

What is of vital importance now is that Spain offers DNA testing to every mother still living who lost a baby in the past, and that a national database is set up to re-unite families.

With the breaking news that up to 600,000 babies may have been stolen in recent years,comes the realisation that possibly every young person between the ages of 20 and 40 must be asking themselves if their parents are really their parents, especially when they lack family traits.

There is a very grave danger that brothers and sisters may be intermarrying, with all the future genetic problems that could bring to their offspring.

People need to know their background, family history and where they came from. A simple blood test can tell them this, but only if a national Database carrying the genetic information of their parents is available. The Spanish illegal adoptions of the last century need to regularised.


Love him or hate him, Franco rose to power after the Spanish Civil War which was fought in 1936 - 39. He brought stability to a what was then a republican but unstable Spain. According to historians, Franco (full name Francisco Franco Bahamonde) wasn't strictly a fascist but could be mistaken for one. So determined was he to suppress the republican movement, he stole babies from women he had imprisoned for being communist sympathisers, and sent them to places where they could be brought up with his idealism.

Only now are we hearing stories of how this came about.

In the early years of Franco's rule, his motivation for removing babies from communist sympathisers was politically motivated, after taking advice from his chief psychiatrist, Antonio Vallejo-Nagera, who championed Nazi theories that Communism was a mental illness caused by the wrong kind of environment.

Franco's government passed laws in 1940 that, to ensure that families that did not have ideas considered ideal [ie, supporters of Spain's defeated republic] did not have contact with their offspring.

In 1943, records show 9,000 children of political prisoners had been removed to state-run orphanages, and in 1944 that total had risen to more than 12,000.

The practice later became an organised racket, continuing through Franco’s 1939-75 rule and possibly as late as the 1990s. Effecting Illegal adoptions became a major secondary income for a lot of people who should have known better - people respected in the community, doctors, nurses, nuns and priests.

There was a lot of money to be made from effectively stealing babies and selling them on to childless, desperate couples.

Prospective adoptive mothers were told to fake pregancies in preparation for their new arrival.

Birth certificates were forged, even DNA testing was falsified and worst of all, unsuspecting families were condemned to a lifetime of sorrow, grieving for a baby who, as it now turns out, was simply stolen.

Some heartbreaking stories of people affected the the Spanish illegal adoptions

Emilia Giron wanted to call her second son Jesus, but in the hospital he was taken from her to be baptized and was never returned.

At the time she was imprisoned by Gen. Francisco Franco's regime, in the early 1940s, after the country's bitter civil war.

"My baby is not registered as having been born, died or even as being stillborn. She simply does not exist, but I heard her cry," said Ana Páez, 51, who travelled from Barcelona to Madrid to attend a petition being handed to Spain's Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido, asking for an investigation into the alleged theft and subsequent sale of a test case of 261 children.

Lawyer Enrique Vila, speaking on behalf of the National Association of People Affected by Irregular Adoptions (Anadir) said "An estimated 600,000 children may have been taken from their mothers at birth and given to couples who usually paid to adopt them".

Páez added that she wants the daughter she says was born in 1981 at the Vall d'Hebron hospital to be added to the other cases that campaigners want investigated by the courts.

"I want to know where she is," she said. "I have cried for her often and I want her to know that I didn't give her away, that she was stolen. Now I know I am not the only one."

Adela Alonso, 70, said: "The same thing happened to me in Valladolid in 1967. I heard that baby cry, but two days later they said he was dead and had buried him."

"I want him to know that he has two brothers and lots of cousins."

Estefania Anguita, 24, wanted to know what happened to her twin sister, Amanda, born at La Alianza clinic in Barcelona in 1986.

"We were both born healthy, but two hours later they said she had died. The hospital said it buried her. There are five more cases from the same hospital."

"We were told that there is no register, that our case simply does not exist," said Antonio Moreno, who was searching for a sister born at a clinic in Terrassa, near Barcelona, in 1967.

Barcelona, Spain:
Barcelona, Spain

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Valladolid, Spain:
Valladolid, Spain

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La Línea, Spain:
La Línea, Spain

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Cristina Diaz supposedly holding her dead grandson.  It was not unknown for hospitals to keep a dead baby in the fridge to show to grieving families.
Cristina Diaz supposedly holding her dead grandson. It was not unknown for hospitals to keep a dead baby in the fridge to show to grieving families.

Last November, Spain's media carried the horrendous story of Cristina Diaz Carrasco's missing brother.

He was born in La Línea hospital in Huelva in 1967.

Shortly after his birth, he was supposed to have died.

His mother, coming from the north of Spain, allowed him to be buried in the grounds next to the hospital.

Every year the whole family travelled the whole length of Spain to lay flowers at his grave.

In 1980 works were carried out at the cemetery and when his grave was moved, his coffin was nowhere to be found.

It has since transpired that there is no record at all of his birth, death or internment.

"As late as 1949, official documents of the ruling Falange party gave detailed instructions on how children born to their former enemies then exiled outside Spain were to be kidnapped and brought back across the border for re-education. Their names were then changed to ensure no further contact was possible.

But by the 1960s what had begun as a politically motivated state policy slowly morphed into a more straightforward adoption trade – in some cases with the state's connivance. Parents were simply told their infants had died shortly after birth, and the babies were then sold on to families."

No-one knows how many babies were stolen. Records were not kept or destroyed and in the reign of Franco, people did not speak out the way they would today. The scale of this crisis is unprecedented in any western nation. My voice now joins ANADIR to demand that a national DNA database is set up AS A MATTER OF PRIORITY. These families must be identified, for the sake of the health of future generations.

If any government person from any country in the world reads this, please push the Spanish government into thoroughly investing the Spanish illegal adoptions.


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    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from UK

      I can't really help you there, but I hear that the Mormons in the USA are really good at tracing ancestry. Google them and if they can't help, you may find another organization that can. are the Spanish organization set up to help re-unite lost families through illegal adoption, you could try their site too. It's in Spanish, but you can use Google translate to read it if you don't speak the language. Good luck!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @ izzyM, i am trying to find my father, who i am told was adopted from spain, i dont know weather it was a legal adoption or not. i would also like to try and find his mothers family in spain

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from UK

      There is still no national database set up for DNA testing, but I'm sure there will be avenues open for you to find your father without it. I am unclear from your comment if you are trying to find your father's family (perhaps for him) or if you are trying to find your father. If it is your father and he was adopted in the UK, then check the national registry database of births, marriages, deaths and adoptions, if you know his name.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i wonder how i would go about being tested, aparantly my father was born in spain to an unmarried woman and adopted into the UK, i am searching for my father and his biological families

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Franco also sent troops abroad to steal the children of republics who had fled Spain, and stole their children too - bringing them back to be brought up in State-run orphanages where they were no doubt brain-washed. It's all only coming out now. Terrible!

    • moncrieff profile image


      7 years ago from New York, NY

      What an interesting subject! I've never heard of that side of the Spanish fascist regime... I knew that a lot of the Republicans' children were evacuated to other countries (like the USSR) but the state-controlled birth falsifiation is horrible indeed!


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