In Spain, the new “Law of Historical Memory”
mandates the location and exhumation
of the mass graves holding half a million victims
of the Spanish Civil War’s political genocide.
The bodies of the dead, buried in trenches,
have lain there for at least seventy years.
Their families have searched for them in vain.
Thirty years ago, with the end of Fascist rule,
Spain decided to leave the past unknown,
to forget the war that tore Spain apart
and foreshadowed the larger war to come.
Now Spain acknowledges its bloody past.

In Russia, seventy years after the Great Terror,
the names of thousands of victims of the purges
are read aloud in Moscow in a public ceremony,
as descendants and survivors remember their dead.
More than twelve million Russians were slaughtered
to consolidate the power of the Soviet state.
Those not executed outright in prison corridors,
or tortured until they confessed to imaginary crimes,
were sent to concentration camps to die in secret.
Hidden archives, smuggled out of the camps,
and memories published by those who survived
have revealed the depths of degradation to the world.

A French priest is interviewing witnesses
to Nazi genocide in Ukrainian villages.
More than six decades ago, starving children
were forced to dig mass graves to hold
the bodies of unnumbered murdered Jews.
Europe’s Holocaust survivors tell their stories
and memorials have been dedicated to the dead
as memories are being shared with the living.
Guilt, buried with the bodies, returns to life
as nations start to overcome their shadowed past.
How many decades will our country need
to confront the truth of all that we have done?

Copyright 2008 Dorothy Miller Gutenkauf

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