In Spain, A Criminal Ring Of Nuns And Doctors Stole Hundreds Of Thousands Of Babies

Throughout much of 20th century Spain, a criminal network of doctors and nuns stole anywhere from 40,000 to 300,000 babies from their mothers at birth, constituting one of the most horrific yet least known events of the Franco dictatorship.

Franco

Picture taken during the Spanish Civil War in the late ’30s of General Franco (C) with Chief of Staff Barroso (L) and Commander Carmenlo Medrano looking at a map. Image Source: STF/AFP/Getty Images

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Inside Semana Santa, One Of The World’s Strangest Easter Celebrations

On the Sunday before Easter, many Catholic countries begin celebrating Semana Santa, or Holy Week, an elaborate religious observance that will last until the day before Easter. Among the festival’s many rituals, the solemn street processions held in the main participating cities arrest the eye with their intimidating aesthetics and aura of mystery:

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Procession Salamanca

In the Roman Catholic world, Semana Santa marks the commemoration of the Passion of Christ. The week-long holiday is dedicated to the remembrance of Biblical events, from Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to his burial following the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. - Wikimedia Commons

Marbella Spain Cross

The festival takes place on the last week of Lent, just before Easter. It includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. - Flickr

Pprocession Salamanca

During Holy Week, religious brotherhoods and fraternities perform penance processions in the streets of observing cities as a spectacular expression of popular piety. - Wikimedia Commons

Procession Malaga

Most of the Semana Santa traditions and brotherhoods have their origins in medieval times, although a number of them were created during the Baroque period and recent centuries. - Flickr

Brotherhood Procession

Any Catholic person can become a member or “hermano,” but family tradition has a significant influence on the choice of, and acceptance into, one of the brotherhood circles. - Flickr

Closeup Clothes

Most participants in the parades wear the traditional penitential robe, or nazareno. - Flickr

Capirotes Valladolid

The shapes and colors of the garments vary according to the fraternity and procession, although purple is favored in a number of locations. - Wikimedia Commons

Capirote Salamanca

The nazareno outfits involve a tunic and a long, conical hood with a pointy tip, called capirote or capuchon. - Flickr

Capirote Closeup

In the Middle Ages, the dissimulating robes and masks allowed participants to show penance while concealing their identity. - Flickr

Capirote Daimiel Spain

The hermanos often hold large crosses to recreate Christ’s ordeal. - Flickr

Semana Santa Penitents

Penitents may also occasionally walk barefoot and wear chains or shackles around their ankles. - Flickr

Procession Women Guatemala City

They are normally followed by women dressed in black who carry processional candles. - Flickr

Procession Roman Soldiers

Other members of the processions dress up as soldiers of the Roman Legion. - Wikimedia Commons

Astorga

The fraternities carry giant floats with Biblical sculptures representing scenes of the Passion, called pasos, on their shoulders. - Flickr

Float Salamanca Spain

Some of the pasos have belonged to the brotherhoods for centuries, and many are artworks created by renowned Spanish artists. - Flickr

Procession Malaga Spain

In Spain, the largest and most famous Semana Santa processions are found in the cities of Cartagena, Málaga, Seville, Valladolid, Zamora, and Léon. - Flickr

Capuchones

The celebrations in 23 cities around Spain have been declared of international tourism interest, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. - Wikimedia Commons

Procession Bilbao

The region of Andalusia is known to host more “glamorous” processions, while those of Castile and Léon generally have a more somber atmosphere. - Flickr

Procession Quito Ecuador

Outside Spain, Semana Santa is actively celebrated in Catholic European countries such as Italy, Portugal and Malta, and in Hispanic countries around the world, including those of South and Central America (pictured above: Quito, Ecuador) and the Philippines. - Wikimedia Commons

Guatemala City, Semana Santa Procession

Men carrying a heavy paso float in Guatemala City. - Flickr

Philippines

In the Philippines, the proceedings take on an altogether more extreme and sinister turn: some participants engage in deep self-flagellation and actual cross nailings, despite those practices being condemned and banned by the church. - Boston.com

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What We Loved This Week, Mar. 13 – 19

The witch doctors of Sierra Leone, tiny structures built by insects, Texas’ female gun owners, European border photography, history’s most famous betrayals.

Witch Doctors Sierra Leone Teeth

Image Source: VICE

Spending A Week With The Witch Doctors Of Sierra Leone

Witch Doctors Sierra Leone

Image Source: VICE

When an American thinks of a physician, images of stethoscopes and syringes often come to mind. In Sierra Leone, at least among self-proclaimed witch doctors, things are a bit different. These unconventional medics often use black magic and herbal medicines to cure the sick, and claim that they can curse or even kill their enemies.

Intrigued by their practices, a VICE reporter went down to Sierra Leone to visit these doctors, all of whom are members of the National Council of Traditional Healers, and learn more about their craft. Check out her photographic documentation of the trip at VICE.

Witch Doctors Sierra Leone Pointing

Image Source: VICE

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The Tragic Heroism Of Gisella Perl, “The Angel of Auschwitz”

Forced to work for the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz, Gisella Perl risked all to save as many lives as she could. This is her incredible, heartbreaking story.

Gisella Perl

Gisella Perl with a baby. Image Source: Wikipedia

We have previously shared the story of Stanislawa Leszczyńska, a midwife at Auschwitz who delivered almost 3,000 babies while imprisoned in the concentration camp.

But while Stanislawa delivered infants, another Jewish medical professional risked her life to save the lives of other women in Auschwitz: a gynecologist named Dr. Gisella Perl. Under the watchful, evil eye of Dr. Josef Mengele, Perl realized that in order to save the lives of the women in her care, she could not safely deliver babies like Stanislawa. Instead, Perl performed abortions.

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