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  You are in: Home > History > ‘Paracuellos’  

The Elimination of the ‘Fifth Column’ in Republican Madrid during the Spanish Civil War

Dr Julius Ruiz

In the Series

Studies in Spanish History 

Dr Julius Ruiz is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Edinburgh. He has written widely on the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. His previous books, published in English and Spanish, are Franco’s Justice: Repression in Madrid after the Spanish Civil War (OUP, 2005) and The “Red Terror” and the Spanish Civil War: Revolutionary Violence in Madrid (CUP, 2014).


“The issue of Paracuellos has become a crucial subject for the development of our research on history… Ruiz has given us a great deal of time to provide a rigorous investigation of the events… Thanks to Ruiz we can now say that Paracuellos was an atrocity committed by Republican leaders, or better put, those on the Republican side who violated the legality of the regime that they defended].” Jorge M. Reverte, El Pais, 2 July 2016

“Julius Ruiz has done a splendid reconstruction of those events [the Paracuellos massacres] with the erudition and knowledge that has made him essential reading on the repression in those years. A study that will survive the test of time.” Octavio Ruiz Manjon in El Cultural (El Mundo), 22 January 2016; the full review can be accessed in Spanish at

“Ruiz definitively shows that the crimes [of Paracuellos] were carried out by Spaniards and that it is absurd to minimise their responsibility by attributing the initial idea to the Soviets. Similarly, he establishes – we hope definitively – that the false prisoner evacuations and the executions on the bank of the Jarama [river] was an isolated event].” Sergio Campos, Revista de Libros, January 2016; the full review can be accessed in Spanish at

This book examines the most polemical atrocity of the Spanish civil war: The massacre of 2,500 political prisoners by Republican security forces in the villages of Paracuellos and Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid in November/December 1936. The atrocity took place while Santiago Carrillo – later Communist Party leader in the 1970s – was responsible for public order. Although Carrillo played a key role in the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, he passed away at the age of 97 in 2012 still denying any involvement in ‘Paracuellos’ (the generic term for the massacres). The issue of Carrillo’s responsibility has been the focus of much historical research. Julius Ruiz places Paracuellos in the wider context of the ‘Red Terror’ in Madrid, where a minimum of 8,000 ‘fascists’ were murdered after the failure of military rebellion in July 1936. He rejects both ‘revisionist’ right-wing writers such as César Vidal who cite Paracuellos as evidence that the Republic committed Soviet-style genocide and left-wing historians such as Paul Preston, who in his Spanish Holocaust argues that the massacres were primarily the responsibility of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD. The book argues that Republican actions influenced the Soviets, not the other way round: Paracuellos intensified Stalin’s fears of a ‘Fifth Column’ within the USSR that facilitated the Great Terror of 1937–38. It concludes that the perpetrators were primarily members of the Provincial Committee of Public Investigation (CPIP), a murderous all-leftist revolutionary tribunal created in August 1936, and that its work of eliminating the ‘Fifth Column’ (an imaginary clandestine Francoist organisation) was supported not just by Carrillo, but also by the Republican government. In Autumn 2015 the book was serialised in El Mundo, Spain’s second largest selling daily, to great acclaim.

List of Contents to follow
Reviews to follow

Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
340 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Release Date:
November 2016
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / $84.95
Paperback Price:
£24.99 / $39.95

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