The Sunday Read: ‘Taken Under Fascism, Spain’s “Stolen Babies” Are Learning the Truth’

The Daily

Nov 6 2022 • 1 hr

The phenomenon of babies stolen from hospitals in Spain, once shrouded in secrecy, is now being spoken about.

The thefts happened during the end of the regime of Francisco Franco, the right-wing dictator who ruled the country until 1975, and even today the disappearances remain a subject of mystery and debate among scholars.

According to the birth mothers, nuns who worked in maternity wards took the infants shortly after they were delivered and told the women, who were often unwed or poor, that their children were stillborn. But the babies were not dead: They had been sold, discreetly, to well-off Catholic parents, many of whom could not have families of their own. Under piles of forged papers, the adoptive families buried the secret of the crime they committed. The children who were taken were known in Spain simply as the “stolen babies.” No one knows exactly how many were kidnapped, but estimates suggest tens of thousands.

Nicholas Casey relates Ana Belén Pintado’s discovery, after the deaths of her parents, that she was a “stolen baby,” and considers the web of culpability and the tricky question of blame, as Spain reckons with its past.

This story was written by Nicholas Casey and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

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