The Spanish Civil War and the Rise of Francisco Franco
April 1, 1939
While the Holocaust was spreading in Europe, Spain was suffering over it’s own problems. You see when Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1496, they united Argon and Castile, the largest kingdoms of Spain, they also started a long line of kings and queens. Now the eventual breakdown of of the monarchy was slow and painful, and it lasted 462 years. After losing the monarchy under Isabella II, it was restored under her son, only to lose it again under her grandson, King Alfonso XIII. Under great pressure from Spain’s growing movement for democracy, Alfonso allowed for free elections. When the people voted for a republican style government, Alfonso fled the country, and in his place, republican leaders took control.
The republican leaders wrote a constitution and elected Spain’s first president, however the people wanted their king back. Why? It was about this time that the Great Depression had hit, and many of the citizens were suffering. This cause a great division in Spain, those who supported the new republican government on the left, and those who wanted a king on the right (In Spain the republicans are on the liberal left, to those in America). Each side grew and attracted other various groups. With the left attracting, liberals, socialists, and communists it became the Popular Front. And the right attracting conservatives, army leaders and generals, the Roman Catholic Church, and Fascists it became the National Front. The beginning of the Spanish Civil War occurred when the right-wing Spanish army declared war on the Popular front, on July 17, 1936. The National Front chose Francisco Franco as their leader, he was a general in the Spanish army.
Francisco Franco was born into a military family,so when he joined the military he quickly rose up in ranks. In honor of his high rank, the best man at his wedding was none other than King Alfonso. So when Alfonso fled Spain, the republicans who had seen Franco’s growing power, ordered him off the mainland to a post on the Canary Islands. As mentioned, this didn’t stop the Spanish army from turning to him and naming him their “Generalissimo.” Though he was not a Fascist throughout his entire career, he was a member of a Fascist party called the Falange. Franco was as persuasive, and full of promises as Hitler, and own his own concentration camps. Speaking of Hitler, he admired Francisco, and offered Nazi assistance to the right-wing.
One main reason he did this was to test out new weapons. Hitler chose the small town of Guernica, to test out his weapons, and as most men were out fighting in the civil war, the bulk of the victims were women and children. On the fateful day of April 26, 1927, German warplanes bombed Guernica killing 1,600, and those not killed by the bomb were shot. In memorial Pablo Picasso expressed his feelings in a black, white, and blue painting simply titled Guernica.
After three years, many battles, thousands of political executions, and the loss of half a million lives, the republican leaders surrendered to Franco on April 1, 1939. After this Franco’s power was unshakable, he abolished the constitution, and allowed only one party which was an extension of Falange. When it came to WWII Hitler and Mussolini happily invited Spain to join them, however it was to spent from it’s own civil war. Franco’s regime lasted 36 years until his death, and really it was both oppressive and successful. Oppressive in that 100,000 to 200,000 of Franco’s political enemies were killed. However it was successful for being the only fascist-style government to survive WWII, and restoring prosperity to Spain. Before his death in 1975, he appointed the grandson of Alfonso XIII, Juan Carlos. Carlos ironically reversed all of Franco’s policies, restoring the Spanish parliament. It remains a democratic monarchy today under their son, Felipe VI who inherited the throne in 2014.