For seven decades until 2001, an estimated 300,000 Spanish babies were abducted at birth and sold to affluent couples in Spain and abroad by a complicit network of medical, religious and administration officials. Mothers were separated from their babies immediately after delivery through various pretexts and later informed the child had died for health complications. They were not shown the corpse and were told the hospital would take care of the burial at no cost.
Their stolen babies were instead being sold to couples who could not have kids. They were either adopted or inscribed as biological children of their new parents, thanks to forged birth papers provided by the traffickers. Many ignore their real origins to this day.
A few years ago, some of the mothers finally found the courage to denounce the scandal. When they started looking for papers proving their babies’ deaths, they encountered blatant incongruences and tampered documents. In some cases, there was no proof that their children were ever born. Since then, exhumations of supposed stolen children have revealed empty coffins, adult body parts or remains whose DNA do not match those of the searching parents.
Spain’s judicial system—unwilling to confront one of the country’s darkest secrets—is systematically dismissing cases in spite of recommendations from the EU and the UN to investigate the issue seriously. Not a single person has been condemned so far. Victims have lost faith in local authorities and are now turning to international tribunals in their quest for truth and justice.
While a few have managed to reunite with their loved ones—mainly thanks to DNA testing services—the vast majority continue their search, determined to find them at all costs. Here are their unbelievable stories.
Words by Matteo Fagotto
Photographs by Matilde Gattoni