Stealing Babies, in Franco’s Spain and the Junta’s Argentina

The stories exposing how Franco’s government and the Catholic Church sold babies has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention.

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men – Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona – discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren’t their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call “father” was on his deathbed.


After months of requests from the BBC, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk to me about Spain’s stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr Nunez replied: “Without a doubt”.

“How many?” I asked.

“I don’t dare to come up with figures,” he answered carefully. “But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many.”

Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

But this story–detailing how the Argentine Victoria Montenegro was raised by a Colonel who boasted of his heroism torturing and killing subversives, only to find out the man who raised her had tortured and killed her own parents–is equally shocking. But has gotten little attention.

In 1992, when she was 15, Colonel Tetzlaff was detained briefly on suspicion of baby stealing. Five years later, a court informed Ms. Montenegro that she was not the biological child of Colonel Tetzlaff and his wife, she said.

“I was still convinced it was all a lie,” she said.

By 2000, Ms. Montenegro still believed her mission was to keep Colonel Tetzlaff out of prison. But she relented and gave a DNA sample. A judge then delivered jarring news: the test confirmed that she was the biological child of Hilda and Roque Montenegro, who had been active in the resistance. She learned that she and the Montenegros had been kidnapped when she was 13 days old.

At a restaurant over dinner, Colonel Tetzlaff confessed to Ms. Montenegro and her husband: He had headed the operation in which the Montenegros were tortured and killed, and had taken her in May 1976, when she was 4 months old.

The stories, by themselves, are stunning. But they both share the complicit role of the Catholic Church, aiding dictators with a perverse notion of family to fight “subversives.”

Good thing we don’t live in a country where churches try to align with the government to combat “subversives” within the country, huh?

11 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    It’s so wonderful that the Republicans all seem to be running for president based on a platform that includes doing just that. And they really don’t seem to see where it goes, even with all the bad examples in front of them, including the shari’a-law countries they like to scream about.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    [Note for webmaster’s “It’s Hung Up” file: When I disallowed it the site resumed loading instantly.]

  3. Jeff Kaye says:

    I hadn’t seen the Spain story today. Glad to see you covering this, though many will find the depravity very difficult to swallow. One turns their head, but we must look, must understand, and make sure this doesn’t happen here… and it definitely could.

  4. posaune says:

    @Jeff Kaye: It IS happening here. Witness the story (and I’ll look for the link) about a mother in CT who used her babysitter’s address to register her son in a better neighborhood school (i.e., safer, fewer guns, drugs, etc.). The school district has a bounty system for reporting non-residents ($300), and the mother was reported, charged with a felony theft (20 yr sentence). Her kid was “seized” by CPS & placed in foster care. The babysitter? She had been living in public housing & charged with abetting a felony, kicked out of public housing, and HER children were placed in foster care!

    As an aside, note that numerous kids of Congress reps in DC are “allowed” to attend DCPS, free of charge, even though by law Congressional reps must have a primary residence in the home state. And when we adopted an out-of-state child and brought the child home, (still in foster care status, technically), DCPS position, iterated by their counsel, was that our child was not entitled to ANY education because the child was not a DC resident. It was resolved, quite well in fact, but it took $8,000 in attorney’s fees to do it.

  5. rugger9 says:

    The corruption has gone through the Roman Catholic Church since Constantine stopped persecutions. The Curia, especially under Benedict, has moved towards the Pharisee viewpoint, and Popes have never really withdrawn from their claims made explicit in Unam Sanctam [obsolete when made due to the already pervasive corruption in the Church then]: everyone must submit to the Pope to reach salvation. So, while there are many priests, monks, nuns, sisters and lay folk who do walk the life intended by Jesus, they aren’t running things.

  6. rkilowatt says:

    Dead Sea Scrolls were suppressed for over 40 years. For an introduction to the background of the ongoing situation, and the direct influence of “religious authority”, see Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Baigent and Leigh. The actual background is nearly overwhelming in scope.

    For history’s sake, the data in the book was vetted by, IMO, a most outstanding and credible authority.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The behavior is appalling. For perspective, however, it might help to consider that until relatively recently, a Catholic bishop’s job was to counsel politicians and collect taxes, not to tend to his flock. Jesuits, after all, defeated the Franciscans and their emphasis on poverty and doing good works for humanity rather than sit in ermine-robed splendor contemplating wealth, concubines and political influence.

    The good deeds of individual priests and orders aside, and there are many, the church is an institution of power that reflects – it doesn’t lead – the moral standards of the powerful it succors or competes with.

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