Download document


The Spanish Civil War

A good example of what redemption by Franco really meant could be found in the experience of Catalonia after the region's capture in January 1939. The formal parade into Barcelona was headed by the Army Corps of Navarre, led by General Andres Solchaga. They were accorded this honour, according to a British officer attached to Franco's headquarters, 'not because they have fought better, but because they hate better. That is to say, when the object of this hate is Catalonia or a Catalan.' A close friend of Franco, Victor Ruiz Albeniz ('El Tebib Arrumi'), published an article demanding that Catalonia needed 'a biblical punishment [Sodom, Gomorrah] to purify the red city, seat of anarchism and separatism as the only remedy to extirpate these two cancers by implacable thermo-cauterization'. For Ramon Serrano Sufter, Franco's brother-in-law and Minister of the Interior, Catalan nationalism was a sickness that had to be exterminated. The man he appointed as civil governor of Barcelona, Wenceslao Gonzalez Oliveros, claimed that the Civil War had been fought with greater fe­rocity against the regions than against communism and that any toleration of regionalism would lead once more to 'the putrefaction represented by Marxism and separatism that we have just surgically eradicated'.


Although those who escaped across the French border faced internment in unsanitary concentration camps, they were among the lucky ones. After Catalonia was occupied, the Mediterranean coast remained the last escape route. On 27 March 1939, with the Republic crumbling before the unopposed Nationalist advance, Colonel Casado together with some of his Defence Junta colleagues and their staff were taken on board a British ship at Gandfa near Valencia. The veteran Socialist leader Julian Besteiro decided that it was his duty to remain with the people of Madrid in the vain hope that he might somehow limit the vengeance of the Nationalists. He was imprisoned and died in the squalid prison of Carmona. Communists left in jail in Madrid by the Casado Defence Junta were shot when Franco entered Madrid. Efforts to organize mass evacuation were inept. Refugees gathered at the Mediterranean ports, where only a small proportion of them managed to avoid being herded into prison camps by the arriving Nationalists. Even those who reached exile were far from safe. Julian Zugazagoitia, Lluis Companys and Juan Peiro were captured by the Gestapo in France, handed over to Franco and shot. Largo Caballero spent four years in the German concen­tration camp at Mauthausen and died shortly after his release. Negrin, Prieto and other Republican leaders who escaped to Mexico spent the rest of their lives locked in sterile polemic about responsibility for their defeat. Manuel Azana died in Montauban on 3 November 1940.