The Spanish Civil War (1936-39)
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© Cor Faber en Ellen Bijma Last update website march 2024
The weapontrade First about the two parties… On the one hand, there was the republic with a democratically elected government. Not the best government by the way. When the Spanish Civil War came out, new elections had already been held four times because people were constantly at odds with each other. On the other side the insurgents. The uprising was initiated by ex-General Sanjuro and General Mola. It was not until September, two months after the outbreak of the uprising, that Franco was elected general commander. From that moment on, the insurgents had about 80 percent of all weapons in their hands. Tanks, aircraft, artillery and the small arms and firearms. The government therefore had a dire deficit. It so happened that a single rifle had to be shared between as many as twelve soldiers. There was little improvement in the course of the civil war. Commissioners from Spain roamed the world, especially Europe, in search of military resources. But not only from Spain, also traders who first occupied themselves with other products, saw bread in the trade. As a result, you could encounter the strangest things and constructions. Non-intervention pact In August 1936, a month after the outbreak of the uprising, England and France initiated the non-intervention pact. No country was allowed to interfere in what happened in Spain, certainly not military or supplying resources. Some 28 countries signed the pact, including Germany, Italy and Russia. Nevertheless, those countries could be found militarily in Spain. Think of the Condor Legion of Germany: a contingent of bombers and fighter planes used, among other things, in the bombing of the place Guernica in 1937. Hitler and Mussolini chose the side of Franco, Stalin the side of the republic. So they have actually been fighting each other in Spain already. The trade As mentioned, often strange situations. A few examples… Guns were bought for which there was no ammunition and ammunition bought for which there were no rifles. But hey, trade is trade. Passenger aircraft were sold as bombers. “Then we just take the chairs out.” Aircraft were sold with a forged logbook. It looked as if such an aircraft had just been serviced and could fly again for 2,000 hours. That five planes (illegally) departed from France, but only four arrived, was of course no surprise. If one wanted to circumvent the non-intervention pact, planes first went by ship to the USA. From there to Mexico, which was not part of the pact. From there it went back to Spain by ship. It also happened that such a republican commissioner in England made an offer for, for example, airplanes. It would be considered and the commissioner had to come back the next day for the results. He was then told that a nationalist commissioner had made a higher offer. The Republican went over that. What he didn't know is that it had simply been a colleague of his own party or there had been no one at all with a higher bid. Many weapons that were traded were from the First World War, such as the Renault FT-17, but of course everything was welcome. It even seems to have happened that old front loaders from the time of Napoleon were sold. Russia has also supplied weapons to the Spanish Republic. He was paid for it in Spanish gold. According to reports, less than a fifth of weapons have been delivered, but the gold is still somewhere in Moscow. Germany also accepted payment for aid and weapons . This in the form of, among other things, iron ore, something that Germany did not have much of itself, but which was useful for the further construction of Hitler's war machine. Incidentally, at the beginning of the civil war, Germany also supplied weapons to the republic. After all, trade is trade. Daniel Wolf Special attention for this Dutchman... Wolf was a businessman who had become rich in the 1930s by selling railway sleepers to the Dutch railways. By the way, that was not easy because his competitors had made his life miserable. The wood for the railway sleepers that Wolf supplied came from the former Eastern bloc, countries such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Wolf therefore had a nice organization and network of contacts and front men there. So when he got wind of the arms trade, he decided to get involved in that as well. So it was he who also arranged the purchase and transport of 32 Renault FT-17 tanks from Poland, my grandfather's journey. Tanks dating from the First World War and from which a Polish general may have had a nice pocket money. Wolf died critically ill in New York where he had fled in 1941 because he was Jewish. His family would follow later, but he never saw his family again. Herman Langeveld and Bram Bouwens wrote a biography about Daniel Wolf. It should be clear: it was a mess and chaos on all fronts. In fact, little or nothing was organized centrally from the republic in Spain. Everyone just did what they wanted and as long as the businessmen made good money from it, they didn't want anyone to get involved in Spain.
The Renault FT-17 tank. Located in the National Military Museum in Soest