Spain during World War II

During World War II, the Spanish State under Francisco Franco espoused neutrality as its official wartime policy. This neutrality wavered at times and "strict neutrality" gave way to "non-belligerence" after the Fall of France in June 1940. Franco wrote to Adolf Hitler offering to join the war on 19 June 1940 in exchange for help building Spain's colonial empire.[1] Later the same year Franco met with Hitler in Hendaye to discuss Spain's possible accession to the Axis Powers. The meeting went nowhere, but Franco did help the Axis—whose members Italy and Germany had supported him during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)—in various ways.

Despite ideological sympathy, Franco even stationed field armies in the Pyrenees to deter Axis occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish policy frustrated Axis proposals that would have encouraged Franco to take British-controlled Gibraltar.[2] Much of the reason for Spanish reluctance to join the war was due to Spain's reliance on imports from the United States. Spain also was still recovering from its civil war and Franco knew his armed forces would not be able to defend the Canary Islands and Spanish Morocco from a British attack.[3]

In 1941 Franco approved the recruitment of volunteers to Germany on the guarantee that they only fight against the Soviet Union and not against the western Allies. This resulted in the formation of the Blue Division which fought as part of the German army on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1944.

Spanish policy returned to "strict neutrality" as the tide of war started to turn against the Axis. American pressure in 1944 for Spain to stop tungsten exports to Germany and to withdraw the Blue Division led to an oil embargo which forced Franco to yield. After the war, Spain was not allowed to join the newly created United Nations because of the wartime support for the Axis, and Spain was isolated by many other countries until the mid-1950s.

Domestic politics

During World War II, Spain was governed by an autocratic government,[4] but despite Franco's own pro-Axis leanings and debt of gratitude to Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, the government was divided between Germanophiles and Anglophiles. When the war started, Anglophile Juan Beigbeder Atienza was minister of foreign affairs. German victories convinced Franco to replace him with Ramón Serrano Súñer, Franco's brother-in-law and a strong Germanophile (18 October 1940). After Allied victories in North Africa in summer 1942, Franco changed tack again, replacing Serrano Súñer with pro-British Francisco Gómez-Jordana Sousa in September. Another influential Anglophile was the Duke of Alba, Spain's ambassador in London.


Territories and colonies of the Spanish State in these years:
  •   Spain, Ifni, Spanish Sahara and Spanish Guinea
  •   Protectorate in Morocco
  •   Tangier International Zone

From the very beginning of World War II, Spain favoured the Axis Powers. Apart from ideology, Spain had a debt to Germany of $212 million for supplies of matériel during the Civil War. Indeed, in June 1940, after the Fall of France, the Spanish Ambassador to Berlin had presented a memorandum in which Franco declared he was "ready under certain conditions to enter the war on the side of Germany and Italy". Franco had cautiously decided to enter the war on the Axis side in June 1940, and to prepare his people for war, an anti-British and anti-French campaign was launched in the Spanish media that demanded French Morocco, Cameroon and the return of Gibraltar.[5] On 19 June 1940, Franco pressed along a message to Hitler saying he wanted to enter the war, but Hitler was annoyed at Franco's demand for the French colony of Cameroon, which had been German before World War I, and which Hitler was planning on taking back.[6]

Hitler and Franco during Meeting at Hendaye (23 October 1940).

At first Adolf Hitler did not encourage Franco's offer, as he was convinced of eventual victory. In August 1940, when Hitler became serious about having Spain enter the war, a major problem that emerged was the German demand for air and naval bases in Spanish Morocco and the Canaries, to which Franco was completely opposed.[7] After the victory over France, Hitler had revived Plan Z (shelved in September 1939) for having a huge fleet with the aim of fighting the United States, and he wanted bases in Morocco and the Canary Islands for the planned showdown with America.[8] The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote: "The fact that Germans were willing to forgo Spain's participation in the war rather than abandon their plans for naval bases on and off the coast of Northwest Africa surely demonstrates the centrality of this latter issue to Hitler as he looked forward to naval war with the United States".[8] In September, when the Royal Air Force had demonstrated its resilience in defeating the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, Hitler promised Franco help in return for its active intervention. This had become part of a strategy to forestall Allied intervention in north-west Africa. Hitler promised that "Germany would do everything in its power to help Spain" and would recognise Spanish claims to French territory in Morocco, in exchange for a share of Moroccan raw materials. Franco responded warmly, but without any firm commitment. Falangist media agitated for irredentism, claiming for Spain the portions of Catalonia and the Basque Country that were still under French administration.[9][10]

Hitler and Franco met only once at Hendaye, France on 23 October 1940 to fix the details of an alliance. By this time, the advantages had become less clear for either side. Franco asked for too much from Hitler. In exchange for entering the war alongside the alliance of Germany and Italy, Franco, among many things, demanded heavy fortification of the Canary Islands as well as large quantities of grain, fuel, armed vehicles, military aircraft and other armaments. In response to Franco's nearly impossible demands, Hitler threatened Franco with a possible annexation of Spanish territory by Vichy France. At the end of the day, no agreement was reached. A few days later in Germany, Hitler famously told Mussolini, "I prefer to have three or four of my own teeth pulled out than to speak to that man again!" It is subject to historical debate whether Franco overplayed his hand by demanding too much from Hitler for Spanish entry into the war, or if he deliberately stymied the German dictator by setting the price for his alliance unrealistically high, knowing that Hitler would refuse his demands and thus save Spain from entering another devastating war.

The UK and the US used economic inducements to keep Spain neutral in 1940.[11]

Memorial to the Spanish immigrants to France who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and in the French Resistance. Garden of the Rights of the Child, Saint-Denis

Spain relied upon oil supplies from the United States, and the US had agreed to listen to British recommendations on this. As a result, the Spanish were told that supplies would be restricted, albeit with a ten-week reserve. Lacking a strong navy, any Spanish intervention would rely, inevitably, upon German ability to supply oil. Some of Germany's own activity relied upon captured French oil reserves, so additional needs from Spain were unhelpful. From the German point of view, Vichy's active reaction to British and Free French attacks (Destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar) had been encouraging, so perhaps Spanish intervention was less vital. Also, in order to keep Vichy "on-side", the proposed territorial changes in Morocco became a potential embarrassment and were diluted. As a consequence of this, neither side would make sufficient compromises and after nine hours, the talks failed.

In December 1940, Hitler contacted Franco again via a letter sent by the German ambassador to Spain and returned to the issue of Gibraltar. Hitler attempted to force Franco's hand with a blunt request for the passage of several divisions of German troops through Spain to attack Gibraltar. Franco refused, citing the danger that the United Kingdom still presented to Spain and the Spanish colonies. In his return letter, Franco told Hitler that he wanted to wait until Britain "was on the point of collapse". In a second diplomatic letter, Hitler got tougher and offered grain and military supplies to Spain as an inducement. By this time, however, Italian troops were being routed by the British in Cyrenaica and Italian East Africa, and the Royal Navy had displayed its freedom of action in Italian waters. The UK was clearly not finished. Franco responded "that the fact has left the circumstances of October far behind" and "the Protocol then agreed must now be considered outmoded".

At Hitler's request, Franco also met privately with Italian leader Benito Mussolini in Bordighera, Italy on 12 February 1941.[12] Hitler hoped that Mussolini could persuade Franco to enter the war. However, Mussolini was not interested in Franco's help after the series of defeats his forces had recently suffered in North Africa and the Balkans.

Franco signed the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25 November 1941. In 1942, the planning of Operation Torch (American landings in North Africa) was considerably influenced by the apprehension that it might precipitate Spain to abandon neutrality and join the Axis, in which case the Straits of Gibraltar might be closed. In order to meet this contingency, it was decided by the Combined Chiefs of Staff to include a landing in Casablanca, in order to have an option of an overland route via Moroccan territory bypassing the Straits.

In 1945 the widow of the executed Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was awarded a pension for life by Franco's government, in recognition of the advice given to Franco by Canaris to keep Spain out of the war; "advice Franco took and was forever grateful for."[13]

Franco's policy of open support to the Axis Powers led to a period of postwar isolation for Spain as trade with most countries ceased. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who had assured Franco that Spain would not suffer consequences from the Allies, died in April 1945. Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, as well as new Allied governments, were less friendly to Franco. A number of nations withdrew their ambassadors, and Spain was not admitted to the United Nations until 1955.


Although it sought to avoid entering the war, Spain did make plans for defense of the country. Initially, most of the Spanish Army was stationed in southern Spain in case of an Allied attack from Gibraltar during 1940 and 1941. However, Franco ordered a gradual redeployment to the Pyrenees Mountains along the French border in case of a possible German invasion of Spain as Axis interest in Gibraltar grew. By the time it became clear that the Allies were gaining the upper hand in the conflict, Franco had massed all his troops on the French border and received personal assurances from the leaders of Allied countries that they did not wish to invade Spain.

Spanish Armed Forces during the war

At the end of the Civil War in April 1939, the Ministry of the Army and the Ministry of the Navy were reorganized, and the Ministry of the Air Force was established. The Captaincies General were reestablished, based on eight Army Corps in the peninsula and two in Morocco. In 1943, the IX Military Region (Granada) and the First Armored Division (August 20, 1943) were created within the General Reserve.

At the end of the Civil War, the Spanish (Francoist) Army counted with 1,020,500 men, in 60 Divisions.[14] During the first year of peace, Franco dramatically reduced the size of the Spanish Army to 250,000 in early 1940, with most soldiers two-year conscripts.[15] A few weeks after the end of the war, the eight traditional Military Regions (Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Burgos, Valladolid, and the VIII Military Region at La Coruña) were reestablished. In 1944 the IX Military Region, with its headquarters in Granada, was created.[14] The Air Force became an independent service, under its own Ministry of the Air Force.

Concerns about the international situation, Spain's possible entry into the Second World War, and threats of invasion led Franco to undo some of these reductions. In November 1942, with the Allied landings in North Africa and the German occupation of Vichy France bringing hostilities closer than ever to Spain's border, Franco ordered a partial mobilization, bringing the army to over 750,000 men.[15] The Air Force and Navy also grew in numbers and in budgets, to 35,000 airmen and 25,000 sailors by 1945, although for fiscal reasons Franco had to restrain attempts by both services to undertake dramatic expansions.[15]

During the Second World War, the Army in metropolitan Spain had eight Army Corps, with two or three Infantry Divisions each.[16] Additionally, the Army of Africa had two Army Corps in Northern Africa, and there were the Canary Islands General Command and the Balearic Islands General Command, one Cavalry Division, plus the Artillery's General Reserve. In 1940 a Reserve Group, with three Divisions, was created.[14]

Accustomed to a fixed-position war, without major strategic changes, the Spanish Army lacked the operational mobility of the armored units of large European armies, as well as experience in combined tank-infantry operations. The most modern tanks used in the Civil War had been the Russian T-26, the German Panzer I and various Fiat Italian tanks, already out of date by 1940.

On the main ships of the Spanish Navy; of the six cruisers, only four were operational: the flagship, the heavy cruiser Canarias, the light cruiser Navarra, the light cruiser Almirante Cervera, and the obsolete Méndez Núñez. The other two, the cruiser Galicia and the cruiser Miguel de Cervantes (both Cervera class), were in shipyards, without crew, undergoing refitting. The destroyers were of the Churruca classes and Alsedo classes. Some surviving ships included a few submarines which were C class and some Archimede class.

The Spanish Air Force had a few hundred fighters, mainly of Italian or German manufacture: Fiat C.R.32, Heinkel He 112, Bf 109, Fiat G.50 and Heinkel He 51. Among the bombers, the SM.79, SM.81, Junkers Ju 52, Heinkel He 111, Dornier Do 17 and Fiat BR.20. In addition, it owned Soviet-made aircraft, mainly Polikarpov I-15 and Polikarpov I-16, used in the civil war by republican aviation.

At the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Spanish Army had 300,000 enlisted men, 25,000 non-commissioned officers and 25,000 chiefs and officers in the Army. Their weapons were by now very obsolete, due to the rapid technological evolution that had occurred by the Allied and Axis armies during the war.

Operation Felix

Invasion plans of Nazi Germany and probable routes of British invasion[17][18]

Before Franco and Hitler's October 1940 meeting in Hendaye, there had been Spanish-German planning for an attack, from Spain, upon the British territory of Gibraltar, a British dependency and military base. At the time, Gibraltar was important for control of the western exit from the Mediterranean and the sea routes to the Suez Canal and Middle East, as well as Atlantic patrols. The Germans also appreciated the strategic importance of north-west Africa for bases and as a route for any future American involvement. Therefore, the plans included the occupation of the region by substantial German forces, to forestall any future Allied invasion attempt.

The plan, Operation Felix, was in detailed form before the negotiations failed at Hendaye. By March 1941, military resources were being ear-marked for Barbarossa and the Soviet Union. Operation Felix-Heinrich was an amended form of Felix that would be invoked once certain objectives in Russia had been achieved. In the event, these conditions were not fulfilled and Franco still held back from entering the war.[19]

After the war, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel said: "Instead of attacking Russia, we should have strangled the British Empire by closing the Mediterranean. The first step in the operation would have been the conquest of Gibraltar. That was another great opportunity we missed."[20] If that had succeeded, Hermann Göring proposed that Germany "offer Britain the right to resume peaceful traffic through the Mediterranean if she came to terms with Germany and joined us in a war against Russia".[19]

As the war progressed and the tide turned against the Axis, the Germans planned for the event of an Allied attack through Spain. There were three successive plans, progressively less aggressive as German capability waned:

Operation Isabella

This was planned in April 1941 as a reaction to a proposed British landing on the Iberian peninsula near Gibraltar. German troops would then advance into Spain to support Franco and expel the British wherever they landed.

Operation Ilona or Gisella

Ilona was a scaled down version of Isabella, subsequently renamed Gisella. Devised in May 1942, to be invoked whether or not Spain stayed neutral. Ten German divisions would advance to Barcelona and, if necessary, towards Salamanca to support the Spanish army in fighting another proposed Allied landing either from the Mediterranean or Atlantic coasts.

Operation Nurnberg

Devised in June 1943, Nurnberg was purely a defensive operation in the Pyrenees along both sides of the Spanish-French border in the event of Allied landings in the Iberian peninsula, which were to repel an Allied advance from Spain into France.

A Spanish volunteer of the Blue Division

Resupply of German submarines

Sources differ and list 25–26 cases of German submarines serviced in Spanish ports documented,[21] taking place between January 1940 and February 1944: 5 in 1940, 16 in 1941, 3 (2) in 1942, none in 1943 and 1 (0) in 1944.[22] Most were scheduled operations and 3 were emergency cases. The ports used were Vigo (7–8), Las Palmas (6), Cádiz (6) and El Ferrol (5). Overall, there were 1,508 tons of gas, oil and 37.1 tons of heavy oil pumped; in most cases there was also lubricants, water and food delivered, in some cases navigation charts and first-aid kits. Also 3 cases that were delivered are torpedoes.[23] In a few cases injured or sick German sailors were taken off the ship. Almost all cases were overnight operations, though two emergency repairs took a few days. There were four German supply ships (Thalia, Bessel, Max Albrecht and Corrientes) involved. In one case the replenishment operation was abandoned, as it turned out that the submarine in question was damaged and unfit for the process.[24] The Corrientes was the target of a limpet mine attack while at port in Las Palmas on 9 May 1940, but the damage was minor and she was back in service a few weeks later.[25]

Occupation of Tangier

Spanish troops occupied the Tangier International Zone on 14 June 1940, the same day Paris fell to the Germans. Despite calls by the writer Rafael Sánchez Mazas and other Spanish nationalists to annex Tangier, the Franco regime publicly considered the occupation a temporary wartime measure.[26] A diplomatic dispute between Britain and Spain over the latter's abolition of the city's international institutions in November 1940 led to a further guarantee of British rights and a Spanish promise not to fortify the area.[27] In May 1944, although it had served as a contact point between him and the later Axis Powers during the Spanish Civil War, Franco expelled all German diplomats from the area.[28]

The territory was restored to its pre-war status on 11 October 1945.[29] In July 1952 the protecting powers met at Rabat to discuss the Zone's future, agreeing to abolish it. Tangier joined with the rest of Morocco following the restoration of full sovereignty in 1956.[30]


The main part of Spain's involvement in the war was through volunteers. They fought for both sides, largely reflecting the allegiances of the civil war.

Spanish volunteers at an official act

Spanish volunteers in Axis service

Although Franco did not bring Spain into World War II on the side of the Axis, he permitted volunteers to join the German Army on the clear and guaranteed condition they would fight against Bolshevism (Soviet Communism) on the Eastern Front, and not against the western Allies. In this manner, he could keep Spain at peace with the western Allies, while repaying German support during the Spanish Civil War and providing an outlet for the strong anti-Communist sentiments of many Spanish nationalists. Spanish foreign minister Ramón Serrano Súñer suggested raising a volunteer corps, and at the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, Franco sent an official offer of help to Berlin.

Hitler approved the use of Spanish volunteers on 24 June 1941. Volunteers flocked to recruiting offices in all the metropolitan areas of Spain. Cadets from the officer training school in Zaragoza volunteered in particularly large numbers. Initially, the Spanish government was prepared to send about 4,000 men, but soon realized that there were more than enough volunteers to fill an entire division: – the Blue Division or División Azul under Agustín Muñoz Grandes – including an air force squadron – the Blue Squadron, 18,104 men in all, with 2,612 officers and 15,492 soldiers.

The Blue Division was trained in Germany before serving in the Siege of Leningrad, and notably at the Battle of Krasny Bor, where General Infantes' 6,000 Spanish soldiers threw back some 30,000 Soviet troops. In August 1942, it was transferred north to the southeastern flank of the Siege of Leningrad, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area. After the collapse of the German southern front following the Battle of Stalingrad, more German troops were deployed southwards. By this time, General Emilio Esteban Infantes had taken command. The Blue Division faced a major Soviet attempt to break the siege of Leningrad in February 1943, when the 55th Army of the Soviet forces, reinvigorated after the victory at Stalingrad, attacked the Spanish positions at the Battle of Krasny Bor, near the main Moscow-Leningrad road. Despite very heavy casualties, the Spaniards were able to hold their ground against a Soviet force seven times larger and supported by tanks. The assault was contained and the siege of Leningrad was maintained for a further year. The division remained on the Leningrad front where it continued to suffer heavy casualties owing to weather and enemy action. In October 1943, with Spain under severe diplomatic pressure, the Blue Division was ordered home leaving a token force until March 1944. In all, about 45,000 Spaniards, mostly committed volunteers, served on the Eastern Front, and around 4,500 died. Joseph Stalin's desire to retaliate against Franco by making an Allied invasion of Spain the first order of business at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, was not supported by Harry S. Truman and Winston Churchill. War weary and unwilling to continue the conflict, Truman and Churchill persuaded Stalin to settle instead for a full trade embargo against Spain.

Memorial of the Blue Division at La Almudena Cemetery, Madrid

372 members of the Blue Division, the Blue Legion, or volunteers of the Spanische-Freiwilligen Kompanie der SS 101, were taken prisoner by the victorious Red Army; 286 of these men were kept in captivity until 2 April 1954, when they returned to Spain aboard the ship Semiramis, supplied by the International Red Cross.[31][32]

Spanish volunteers in Allied service

An M8 Greyhound armored car of the US Army's 11th Armored Division entering the Mauthausen concentration camp. The banner in the background (in Spanish) reads as "Anti-fascist Spaniards salute the forces of liberation".[33]

After their defeat in the Spanish Civil War, large numbers of Republican veterans and civilians went into exile in France; the French Republic interned them in refugee camps, such as Camp Gurs in southern France. To improve their conditions, many joined the French Foreign Legion at the start of World War II, making up a sizeable proportion of it. Around sixty thousand joined the French Resistance, mostly as guerrillas, with some also continuing the fight against Francisco Franco.[34] Several thousand more joined the Free French Forces and fought against the Axis Powers. Some sources have claimed that as many as 2,000 served in General Leclerc's Second French Division, many of them from the former Durruti Column.[note 1]

The 9th Armoured Company comprised almost entirely battle-hardened Spanish veterans; it became the first Allied military unit to enter Paris upon its liberation in August, 1944, where it met up with Spanish Maquis fighting alongside French resistance fighters. Furthermore, 1,000 Spanish Republicans served in the 13th Half-brigade of the French Foreign Legion.[35]

In Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union received former Communist Spanish leaders and child evacuees from Republican families. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, many, such as communist General Enrique Líster, joined the Red Army. According to Beevor, 700 Spanish Republicans served in the Red Army and another 700 operated as partisans behind the German lines.[35] Individual Spaniards, such as the double-agent Juan Pujol García (code name GARBO), also worked for the Allied cause.

Bribes by MI6

According to a 2008 book, Winston Churchill authorised millions of dollars in bribes to Spanish generals in an effort to influence General Franco against entering the war on the side of Germany.[36] In May 2013 files were released showing MI6 spent the present-day equivalent of more than $200 million bribing senior Spanish military officers, ship owners and other agents to keep Spain out of the war.[37]

Resources and trade

Despite lacking cash, oil and other supplies, Francoist Spain was able to supply some essential materials to Germany. There was a series of secret war-time trade agreements between the two countries. The principal resource was wolfram (or tungsten) ore from German-owned mines in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Tungsten was essential to Germany for its advanced precision engineering and therefore for armament production. Despite Allied attempts to buy all available supplies, which rocketed in price, and diplomatic efforts to influence Spain, supplies to Germany continued until August 1944.

Payment for wolfram was effectively set against the Spanish debt to Germany. Other minerals included iron ore, zinc, lead and mercury. Spain also acted as a conduit for goods from South America, for example, industrial diamonds and platinum. After the war, evidence was found of significant gold transactions between Germany and Spain, ceasing only in May 1945. It was believed that these were derived from Nazi looting of occupied lands, but attempts by the Allies to obtain control of the gold and return it were largely frustrated.

Espionage and sabotage

The international station of Canfranc

As long as Spain permitted it, the Abwehr – the German intelligence organisation – was able to operate in Spain and Spanish Morocco, often with cooperation of the Nationalist government. Gibraltar's installations were a prime target for sabotage, using sympathetic anti-British Spanish workers. One such attack occurred in June 1943, when a bomb caused a fire and explosions in the dockyard. The British were generally more successful after this and managed to use turned agents and sympathetic anti-Fascist Spaniards to uncover subsequent attacks. A total of 43 sabotage attempts were prevented in this way. By January 1944, a Gibraltarian and two Spanish workers, convicted of attempted sabotage, had been executed.[38]

The Abwehr also financed, trained and equipped saboteurs to attack British naval assets. The Germans contacted a Spanish staff officer from Campo de Gibraltar, Lieutenant Colonel Eleuterio Sánchez Rubio, a Spanish army officer, member of Falange and coordinator of the intelligence operations in the Campo,[39] to establish a network of saboteurs with access to Gibraltar. Sánchez Rubio designated Emilio Plazas Tejera, also a member of Falange, as operations chief of the organisation.[40] The Spanish agents sank the armed trawler HMT Erin, and destroyed the auxiliary minesweeper HMT Honju, which resulted in the deaths of six British seamen on 18 January 1942, among them an officer from HMS Argus.[41][42][43] Plazas was assisted by the Spanish naval commander of Puente Mayorga, Manuel Romero Hume, who allowed him to beach a rowboat there.[38]

The Abwehr also maintained observation posts along both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, reporting on shipping movements. A German agent in Cádiz was the target of a successful Allied disinformation operation, Operation Mincemeat, prior to the invasion of Sicily in 1943. In early 1944, the situation changed. The Allies were clearly gaining the advantage over the Axis and one double agent had provided enough information for Britain to make a detailed protest to the Spanish government. As a result, the Spanish government declared its "strict neutrality". The Abwehr operation in southern Spain was consequently closed down. The rail station of Canfranc was the conduit for the smuggling of people and information from Vichy France to the British consulate in San Sebastián. The nearer border station of Irún could not be used as it bordered occupied France.

Jews and other refugees

In the first years of the war, "Laws regulating their admittance were written and mostly ignored."[44] They were mainly from Western Europe, fleeing deportation to concentration camps from occupied France, but also Jews from Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. Trudi Alexy refers to the "absurdity" and "paradox of refugees fleeing the Nazis' Final Solution to seek asylum in a country where no Jews had been allowed to live openly as Jews for over four centuries."[45]

Throughout World War II, Spanish diplomats of the Franco government extended their protection to Eastern European Jews, especially in Hungary. Jews claiming Spanish ancestry were provided with Spanish documentation without being required to prove their case and either left for Spain or survived the war with the help of their new legal status in occupied countries.

Once the tide of war began to turn, and Count Francisco Gómez-Jordana Sousa succeeded Franco's brother-in-law Serrano Súñer as Spain's foreign minister, Spanish diplomacy became "more sympathetic to Jews", although Franco himself "never said anything" about this.[44] Around that same time, a contingent of Spanish doctors travelling in Poland were fully informed of the Nazi extermination plans by Governor-General Hans Frank, who was under the misimpression that they would share his views about the matter; when they came home, they passed the story to Admiral Luís Carrero Blanco, who told Franco.[46]

Diplomats discussed the possibility of Spain as a route to a containment camp for Jewish refugees near Casablanca, but it came to naught without Free French and British support.[47] Nonetheless, control of the Spanish border with France relaxed somewhat at this time,[48] and thousands of Jews managed to cross into Spain (many by smugglers' routes). Almost all of them survived the war.[49] The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee operated openly in Barcelona.[50]

Shortly afterwards, Spain began giving citizenship to Sephardic Jews in Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania; many Ashkenazic Jews also managed to be included, as did some non-Jews. The Spanish head of mission in Budapest, Ángel Sanz Briz, saved thousands of Ashkenazim in Hungary by granting them Spanish citizenship, placing them in safe houses and teaching them minimal Spanish so they could pretend to be Sephardim, at least to someone who did not know Spanish. The Spanish diplomatic corps was performing a balancing act: Alexy conjectures that the number of Jews they took in was limited by how much German hostility they were willing to engender.[51]

Toward the war's end, Sanz Briz had to flee Budapest, leaving these Jews open to arrest and deportation. An Italian diplomat, Giorgio Perlasca, who was himself living under Spanish protection, used forged documents to persuade the Hungarian authorities that he was the new Spanish Ambassador. As such, he continued Spanish protection of Hungarian Jews until the Red Army arrived.[52]

Although Spain effectively undertook more to help Jews escape deportation to the concentration camps than most neutral countries did,[52][53] there has been debate about Spain's wartime attitude towards refugees. Franco's regime, despite its aversion to Zionism and "Judeo"-Freemasonry, does not appear to have shared the rabid anti-Semitic ideology promoted by the Nazis. About 25,000 to 35,000 refugees, mainly Jews, were allowed to transit through Spain to Portugal and beyond.

Some historians argue that these facts demonstrate a humane attitude by Franco's regime, while others point out that the regime only permitted Jewish transit through Spain. After the war, Franco's regime was quite hospitable to those who had been responsible for the deportation of the Jews, notably Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Commissioner for Jewish Affairs (May 1942 – February 1944) under the Vichy Régime in France, and to many other former Nazis, such as Otto Skorzeny and Léon Degrelle, and other former Fascists.[54]

José María Finat y Escrivá de Romaní, Franco's chief of security, issued an official order dated 13 May 1941 to all provincial governors requesting a list of all Jews, both local and foreign, present in their districts. After the list of six thousand names was compiled, Romaní was appointed Spain's ambassador to Germany, enabling him to deliver it personally to Himmler. Following the defeat of Germany in 1945, the Spanish government attempted to destroy all evidence of cooperation with the Nazis, but this official order survived.[55]

Japanese war reparations

At the end of the war, Japan was compelled to pay high amounts of money or goods to several nations to cover damage or injury inflicted during the war. In the case of Spain, the reparations were due to the deaths of over a hundred Spanish citizens, including several Catholic missionaries, and great destruction of Spanish properties in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. To that effect, in 1954 Japan concluded 54 bilateral agreements including one with Spain for $5.5 million, paid in 1957.

See also


  1. The number of Spaniards that served in the Second French Armoured Division in World War II remains disputed. The official French Annuaire des anciens combattants de la 2e DB, Imprimerie de Arrault, 1949 claimed there were less than 300 Spaniards.
  1. Weinberg, Gerhard. A World in Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 p. 177.
  2. The History Channel. "November 19, 1940: Hitler urges Spain to grab Gibraltar."
  3. Sager, Murray (July 2009). "Franco, Hitler & the play for Gibraltar: how the Spanish held firm on the Rock". Esprit de Corps. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08.
  4. "Opinion | Liberation in Spain". The New York Times. 31 October 1982.
  5. Weinberg, Gerhard A World In Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 page 133.
  6. Weinberg, Gerhard A World In Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 page 177.
  7. Weinberg, Gerhard A World In Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 pages 176-177.
  8. Weinberg, Gerhard A World In Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 page 178.
  9. Serrano Suñer, tragedia personal y fascismo político, Javier Tusell, El País, 2 September 2003: "Serrano ante él [Hitler] llegó a sugerir que el Rosellón debia ser español, por catalán, y que Portugal no tenía sentido como unidad política independiente."
  10. El último de los de Franco, Santiago Pérez Díaz, El País 7 September 2003
  11. Crawford, Timothy W. (2021). "8. Britain and the United States Neutralize Spain, 1940–41". Britain and the United States Neutralize Spain, 1940–41. Cornell University Press. pp. 133–156. doi:10.1515/9781501754739-010. ISBN 978-1501754739. S2CID 242358793.
  12. (in Italian) Quotation of Mussolini, Album di una vita by Mario Cervi at the Bordighera site. Accessed online 18 October 2006.
  13. Trigg, Jonathan (2019). D-Day through German eyes: How the Wehrmacht lost France. Stroude, Gloucestershire, England: Amberley Publishing. pp. 300, 301. ISBN 978-1-4456-8931-9.
  14. Muñoz Bolaños, Roberto (2010). "La institución militar en la posguerra (1939–1945)". In Fernando Puell de la Vega y Sonia Alda Mejías (ed.). Los Ejércitos del franquismo. Madrid: IUGM-UNED. 2010. pp. 15–55.
  15. Bowen, Wayne H.; José E. Álvarez (2007). A Military History of Modern Spain. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 114. ISBN 978-0275993573. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  16. López 2017.
  17. "As forças preparadas para a invasão (Portuguese)".
  18. Bill Stone. "Second World War Books: Operation Felix: Assault on Gibraltar". stone&stone.
  19. Shulman, pp. 66–67
  20. Shulman, p. 68
  21. Monte, Peter, U-Boats in Spain, [in:] Deutsches U-Boot Museum service; see also Juan J. Díaz Benítez, The Etappe Kanaren: A case study about the secret supply of the German Navy in Spain during the Second World War, [in:] International Journal of Maritime History 30/3 (2018)
  22. Díaz Benítez 2016, p. 16, see also Monte
  23. Díaz Benítez 2016, p. 16
  24. Monte
  25. Benítez, Juan José Díaz (2014). "El ataque contra el buque alemán Corrientes en el Puerto de La Luz en mayo de 1940". XX Coloquio de Historia Canario-Americana, 2014, págs. 1161-1170. Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria: 1161–1170.
  26. Payne 1987, p. 268.
  27. Payne 1987, p. 274, note 28.
  28. Beevor 2006, pp. 152, 464.
  29. "Reestablishment of the International Regime in Tangiers". Department of State Bulletin. Department of State. XIII (330): 613–618. 21 October 1945.
  30. "Final Declaration of the International Conference in Tangier and annexed Protocol. Signed at Tangier, on 29 October 1956 [1957] UNTSer 130; 263 UNTS 165". 1956.
  31. Candil, Anthony J. "Post: Division Azul Histories and Memoirs". WAIS - World Association for International Studies. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  32. Luca de Tena, Torcuato (1976). Embajador en el infierno (Ambassador to Hell). Barcelona: Editorial Planeta. p. 252. ISBN 8432051640.
  33. Pike, p. 256.
  34. Crowdy, Terry (2007). French Resistance Fighter: France's Secret Army. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1846030765 p. 13
  35. Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. London: Penguin Books. p. 419.
  36. Keeley, Graham (16 October 2008). "Winston Churchill 'bribed Franco's generals to stay out of the war'". Aftermath News.
  37. "MI6 spent $200m bribing Spaniards in second world war". 22 May 2013.
  38. Stockey, Gareth (2009). Gibraltar: A dagger in the spine of Spain?. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 151–52. ISBN 978-1845193010.
  39. Stockey 2009, p. 149.
  40. Ros Agudo (2005), pp. 232–234
  41. "Royal Navy casualties, killed and died, January 1942".
  42. "Russian Convoy PQ8, January 1942".
  43. HMS Erin ASW Trawler
  44. Alexy, p. 77.
  45. Trudi Alexy, The Mezuzah in the Madonna's Foot, Simon and Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0671778161. p. 74.
  46. Alexy, p. 164–165.
  47. Alexy, p. 77–78.
  48. Alexy, p. 165.
  49. Alexy, p. 79, passim.
  50. Alexy, p. 154–155, passim.
  51. Alexy, p. 165 et. seq.
  52. "Giorgio Perlasca". The International Raoul Wallenberg foundation. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  53. "Franco & the Jews". Hitler: Stopped by Franco. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2006.
  54. Nicholas Fraser, "Toujours Vichy: a reckoning with disgrace", Harper's, October 2006, p. 86–94. The relevant statement about Spain sheltering him is on page 91.
  55. Haaretz, 22 June 2010, "WWII Document Reveals: General Franco Handed Nazis List of Spanish Jews," , citing a report published 20 June 2010 in the Spanish daily El Pais.


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