The Spanish Civil War (1936-39)
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© Cor Faber en Ellen Bijma
Part 2: developement and conclusion Spain was falling apart and so the army intervened. The uprising was initiated by two men: ex-General Sanjurjo and General Mola (Sanjurjo was killed in a plane crash two days after the outbreak of the uprising. Mola suffered the same on June 3, 1937). Although he was already involved in the preparations, Franco was actually brought in later. At the time of the uprising, he was governor-general in the Canary Islands. After about two months, the uprising developed into a veritable civil war. Only then was Franco appointed commander in chief. Already in the early stages, Franco received military aid from Germany and Italy. They saw benefits in that aid, like a fascist Spain. The government, on the other hand, received military aid from Russia. That country also saw advantages, such as a communist Spain and did not want to lose its efforts over the years. In fact, the mentioned countries have already been practicing in Spain before the Second World War. You can think of the bombardment of the town of Guernica by the German Condor Legion on April 27, 1937. Pablo Picasso made his world-famous painting about this. Mussolini wanted to participate with "big brother" Germany, for Germany there were economic and military reasons behind it: Hitler was paid for his help with, among other things, iron ore and other materials that Germany hardly had itself. In this way the war machine could be built up further and faster. It would also be nice if Spain became an ally for the impending war. That didn't quite work out, Spain never took part in the Second World War, but it did help, among other things in the form of opening the ports to German ships so that they could be supplied. That concept is known as nonbelligerent. The Spanish Civil War and the Netherlands The Netherlands also became unintentionally and unofficially involved in the civil war. Around 650 Dutchmen left for Spain to join the International Brigades fighting against Franco's troops. They lost their Dutch citizenship, which means as much as handing in their passports, no benefits, no voting rights and a work permit required. Not that there was much work in that period because of the global crisis, but they certainly didn't stand a chance. These volunteers came mainly from communist circles, but also adventurers and people who wanted to escape the Dutch justice decided to take a chance. Incidentally, there were also volunteers who sided with Franco, especially from heavily Catholic Ireland. Let it be clear, not only Franco's troops, but also the troops on the side of the government have behaved anything but neat. For example, both sides carried out summary executions and other misdeeds that are now considered war crimes. Conflict between communists and anarchists in Barcelona A striking event took place from April 23 to May 8, 1937 in Barcelona. Although communists and anarchists fought on the side of the republic, it was a kind of civil war within a civil war. Both sides clashed. Not so strange in itself. After all, both ideologies have a principle of equality, but there are also fundamental differences between the two ideologies. For example, communism requires a central authority, within anarchism this is completely lacking. In fact, the two sides were engaged in a power struggle that then erupted in Barcelona. Battle of the Ebro The Battle of the Ebro lasted from July to November 1938. The initiative lay with the republicans. The Nationalists had succeeded in dividing the Republican territory in two with a passage to the Mediterranean. The intention was to reconnect the two areas and thus deprive the nationalists of access to the sea. It ended in a heavy defeat for the republicans, such that the road to the northern Barcelona was now also open to Franco's troops. It was the final blow to the republic. In Catalonia, a stream of refugees is starting to try to flee to France. Women and children in particular go to the border on foot, usually with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. Of those who succeed, there are still areas in France where they live. The international involvement and lack of it You might think that the Spanish Civil War was a local Spanish event. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several months after the outbreak of the uprising, many countries decided not to get involved. France initially opted for the republican side, but soon withdrew that support and also closed the border with Spain. Mussolini's Italy took a wait-and-see attitude, fearing a conflict with France, but after that French decision they chose Franco's side. Not interfering with events in Spain resulted in a non-intervention pact initiated by Great Britain and France. It was also signed by Germany, Italy and Russia. Not that those countries adhered to that, Germany and Italy sent all kinds of things to Spain to help Franco. Russia did the same, but as aid to the republic. After all, Stalin had already invested a lot in an attempt to make Spain communist and did not want that to be in vain. Germany had its own reasons. Airplanes were relatively new to warfare, and Hermann Göring wanted to know what airplanes could do. He therefore sent bombers and fighters, the Condor legion, to Spain. They practiced, among other things, so-called carpet bombing, that is, throw as many bombs as possible to completely destroy as large an area as possible and see what that terror has for psychological consequences on the population. There were also experiments with incendiary bombs, also something new. The town of Guernika in the Basque Country became the most famous example of this terror, although it was not the first. Pablo Picasso turned the event into a world famous and large painting. But the non-intervention pact didn't work, it turned out to be a paper tiger. When Germany was asked about the activities in Spain, this was flatly denied. Questions were also asked in the English lower house. Questions to which there was no response and which were simply ignored. The end of the Spanish Civil War On March 30, 1939, Madrid was the last to surrender. The inhabitants have become mellow and the war can no longer be won. On April 1, Franco declares victory and Franco's dictatorship begins. Spain is no longer a democratic republic. All kinds of countries are falling over each other to recognize this new government. Memos to take this into account were already circulating in the Netherlands before that time. That would have been no different in other countries. Franco receives congratulations from the Vatican on his victory.
José Sanjurjo
Emilio Mola
Emblem Nationale Brigades