Historical walks through the 20th century Barcelona  



During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Poble Espanyol, The Spanish Village, a compendium of representative buildings from different Spanish regions created on the occasion of the 1929 International Exposition, was turned into a detention camp. Known as Work Camp No. 1, the centre was used to detain people arrested for supporting the military coup against the Republic, as well as deserters from the Republic army, militant anarchists and common criminals.

Poble Espanyol, work of the architects Ramon Reventós and Francesc Folguera, was to be demolished upon the conclusion of the 1929 Universal Exposition, but was eventually kept as it was well liked by the public. During the Civil War, it housed the Labour Camp Headquarters, which managed the Republican labour camps in Catalonia. The labour camps were set up in 1936 as a means to rehabilitate prisoners. The goal was to replace prisoners’ leisure time and idleness with work, which marked a qualitative improvement in the prison system. However, from 1937, with the creation of the Military Investigation Service (SIM) that coordinated the Republic’s intelligence services, the orientation of the camps changed and saw a toughening of conditions. Prisoners were forced to work in fortifications or in the construction of infrastructure.

Labour camp no. 1, established in Poble Espanyol, was the main detention centre in Catalonia. The grounds met the requirements to serve this function, since it was a good distance from the city centre and, as a walled enclosure, was isolated from the outside. The centre had two additional sites: the Palau de les Missions, also located on the hill of Montjuïc, and the Conciliar Seminary building on Carrer de la Diputació. It was mainly a place for regrouping prisoners that were later sent to other labour camps. Interrogations were often carried out in Poble Espanyol to obtain information on the prisoners’ activities before being permanently assigned to another camp.

According to testimonials, prisoners received proper treatment in this centre compared to other camps. Though some had to sleep in the open air in the main square in Poble Espanyol, most of them slept under a roof, they were allowed to work outside and were not mistreated by the security guards. In late January 1939, when Franco’s troops drew close to Barcelona, the camp’s prisoners were sent to the French border, accompanying the Republican army in retreat, as were 800 inmates from the Model prison.

Today, Poble Espanyol is a centre of recreation that brings together shops, restaurants and spaces in which to hold concerts and educational activities revolving around arts and crafts.

Address: 13, Avinguda de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.369167260, 2.146701672

  • Periods:
  • Second Republic
  • Civil War
  • Francoism
  • Transition