Civil War, 1936-1939 Spain 1945-1949

Spain in World War II, 1939-1945

The Spanish Civil War ended on March 28th 1939 with the surrender of the republican forces around Madrid. Over 200.000 had fallen victim to the war, a number including both those fallen in battle and those executed on both sides, suspected of supporting the other side. Another half million had fled Spain.
FRANCISCO FRANCO, who now assumed a presidency which virtually meant dictatorship, had the task of rebuilding a country. Thousands of those who had supported the republic were incarcerated in LABOUR CAMPS (from where many did not return). The autonomy of Catalonia and of the Basque Country was cancelled, publications in Catalan language forbidden. In Franco's Spain it was advisable to be unpolitical. Franco reshaped the FALANGIST party, incorporating other political elements such as the Carlists, Franco was called the CAUDILLO (leader), his Falangists wore blue shirts (imitating in style Italy's Faschists and Germany's Nazis).
Franco's rule was heavy-handed, and many Spaniards resented it, many suffered for their opposition. But for the first time in decades, political stability had returned. The economy, after years of fratricidal war, returned to normality.

Then, just a few months after the Civil War had ended, World War II broke out with the German invasion of Poland (Sept. 1st 1939). Then, on May 10th 1940, the PHONEY WAR on Germany's western front ended with the German invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France, which was defeated after a campaign lasting only 6 weeks. On June 14th 1940, Spanish troops occupied the city of TANGIER in Morocco, hitherto a free city under international control. Franco offered Hitler a Spanish entry into the war, if he would agree to an expansion of the Spanish colonial holdings in Africa (Spain demanded all of French Morocco, parts of Algeria and an expansion of Spanish Guinea). Hitler did not accept these terms; when Hitler and Franco met at HENDAYE (Oct. 23rd 1940), plans were made for a German-Spanish campaign against GIBRALTAR ("Operation Felix"). In February 1941 the Germans suggested the operation to be started; Franco hesitated, pointing out that Spain was not yet ready; Germany soon after launched the Balkans and North Africa campaigns.
When Germany launched the invasion of Russia in June 1941, Franco identified himself with the German cause. He promoted the formation of a volunteer force, the BLUE DIVISION (Division Azul), later renamed the BLUE LEGION (recalled in August 1944). Spain also sent an estimated 100,000 workers to Germany to help keep up her industrial production.
Spain thus obtained a position neutral toward Britain and the US, while in an (undeclared) war with the USSR; Stalin decided to accept the situation and not to declare war on Spain. German-Spanish relations were friendly; Vichy France repatriated tens of thousands of Spanish republicans who had sought refuge in France, many of whom went straight to the Labour Camps. A trail of refugees beginning in Vichy France crossed the Pyrenees and Northern Spain, leading to Lisbon, from there the refugees hoped to cross the Atlantic. Spanish authorities did little to interrupt this trail.
In November 1941 US forces landed in French-held North Africa, then late in 1942 the Axis lost the Battle of El Alamein, early in 1943 the Battle of Stalingrad; the invasion of Italy and the Italian armistice followed later that year. Franco's Spain, staunchly pro-German, now moved toward stressing neutrality. Luckily, neither side was willing to press Spain too much, as Germany was more than busy holding on to it's positions in North Africa and at Stalingrad, and the Allies did not want to see a pressured Spain join the ranks of the Axis. However, the western Allies had no love for Falangist Spain, and the stronger their position became, the more they dictated conditions to Spain.
On June 6th 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy; in August, Allied troops landed in the Provence. The Germans could not hold on to France, by the end of the year it was liberated and Spain surrounded by territories liberated by the Allies. In Free France, a Spanish GOVERNMENT-IN-EXILE was formed, under president JOSE GIRAL. Guerilleros crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. DON JUAN, Count of Barcelona and descendant of late King Amadeus XIII., called for Franco to step down. The United Nations called for it's member governments to recall their ambassadors to Spain until this country elected a more democratic government. Franco found his country diplomatically isolated.

Spanish losses in World War II are estimated at 12,000 military and 10,000 civilians. After the Civil War had ended early in 1939, the Spanish economy recovered very slowly. Food shortage lasted throughout the war. While the authorities blamed outside factors such as damage caused during the civil war and an extended drought, the main reasons were mismanagement of the economy by a military bureaucracy ignorant of and disinterested in economics, by an ambitious, yet irrealistic policy aiming at AUTARCHY (in imitation of Italy and Germany). The contribution of c. 100,000 Spanish workers to fill the gaps in Germany's industrial workforce, in combination with the men enlisted in the Blue Division, may have had an impact, too. Many of the industrial workers with special skills, the technicians and engineers, had been among the supporters of the republic and were regarded with extreme suspicion, and excluded from the decisionmaking process. Thus, the management of Spain's economy was extraordinarily inefficient. Exports suffered from an overvalued Peseta. Imports were tightly regulated. Unemployment figures dropped from 475,000 in 1940 to 170,000 in 1944. State expenses about doubled in the course of the war, from 5,594 milliard Pesetas in 1940 to 10,400 milliard Pesetas in 1944.
A consequence of the inefficient state-controlled economy was the flourishing BLACK MARKET.

Commemorative Medal for Spanish Volunteers (Blue Division), from Wehrmacht Awards, informative; an uncritical site
Biography of Jose Giral, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Biography of Francisco Franco, from Spartacus Schoolnet
World War II fatalities, from Phil's World War II Page
Autarky, 1939-1959, from SiSpain
Review of Carlos Collado Seidel, Spanien - Zufluchtsstaette fuer Nationalsozialisten 1944-1947 ? (Spain, haven for Nazi refugees, 1944-1947) by N.J.W. Goda, review in English
L'Espanya Franquista 1939-1975, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
DOCUMENTS The Spanish Government and the Axis, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School, Documents from 1940 to 1943, also from World War II Primary Sources Homepage, from a US Government Publication, 1946
Hitler's Directive concerning Gibraltar, Nov. 12th 1940, from Political Development in Gibraltar
Photo : Franco and Hitler meet at Hendaye, from INA (Institut National de l'Audiovisuel), comment in French
Ein Kleiner Ausschnitt aus meinem Leben, by Gert Hoffmann, memoirs of an Austrian exile who had fought for Republican Spain in the Spanish Civil War and then stayed on in French internment camps/ in Vichy France; on the situation of Spain and the Spaniards; on Hendaye; in German language; enter program, click 1940, scroll down
Contemporary documents (mostly newspaper articles) on Franco, from Spartacus Schoolnet, scroll down (mainly on civil war)
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, Dictatorship, 1939-1975, in : P. Pierson, The History of Spain, London : Greenwood 1999 KMLA Lib.Sign. 946 P624t
Francisco J. Romero Salvado, Twentieth Century Spain, Politics and Society in Spain 1898-1998, NY : St. Martin's, 1999, 219 pp.; KMLA Lib.Sign. 946.08 S182t
Joseph Harrison, The Spanish Economy : From the Civil War to the European Community, Cambridge UP 1996; KMLA Lib.Sign. 330.946 H318s
B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics, Europe 1750-1988, N.Y. : Stockton Press, 1992
Article : Spain, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1945 pp.653-655 (on events in 1944) [G]
Article : Spain, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.722-726, 1943 pp.673-675, 1944 pp.648-651, 1945 pp.662-664, 1946 pp.684-687 [G]
Article : Spain, in : New International Year Book, Events of 1940 pp.706-710, 1941 pp.619-624, 1942 pp.657-663, 1943 pp.604-608, 1944 pp.586-591, 1945 pp.563-568 [G]
Article : Spain, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.480-482, 1941 pp.447-449, 1942 pp.425-427, 1943 pp.420-422, 1944 pp.341-345 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 19th 2007

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