This article paints a picture of events and situations in Spain over three periods: - the Spanish Civil War, the start-up, course and end - the period of the dictator Franco's rule - the period after Franco to the present The article does not pretend to be complete, but should give an impression of these periods. With the declaration of victory by Franco on April 1, 1939, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) ended. It started on July 18, 1936 with a military uprising in Spanish Morocco aimed at committing a coup d'état and overthrowing the government in Madrid. And so the dictatorship of General Franco began. A dictatorship that would last until his death on November 20, 1975. Also a dictatorship that may not be called a totalitarian regime, but it has had many characteristics of it. The Spanish Civil War The build-up to the Spanish Civil War How did the war get this far? A war doesn't start with the first shot. Somewhere before that, unrest has already arisen. How far back in time do you have to go to understand why the Spanish Civil War came about? You can actually go back centuries. The people of Spain had been oppressed and exploited all along. In fact, in power was an elite: large landowners and also the Catholic Church. Incidentally, the latter was also the largest owner of land and the power of the church was to be found everywhere in society. Only church marriage was allowed, divorce was not. Education was also in the hands of the church and clergy were paid by the state. It is sometimes claimed that even the atheists in Spain were and are Catholic. At the beginning of the 20th century, not much had changed. Spain was actually still alive in the Middle Ages. In agriculture there was hardly any mechanization and there was industry, but only sparsely in the regions of Catalonia and the Basque Country. The army also had a high status and you can count yourself among the elite. The army had grown somewhat out of its strength: At one point there was one officer for every five soldiers. But in the 1920s it started to heat up in Spain, there was social unrest because the common people couldn't take it anymore. This has been going on for some time in other countries. At the end of the 19th century, many things had already changed in the social field in various western countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Also think of the Russian revolution in 1917, where the population no longer took it. Socialism, communism and anarchism began to take root in Spain. Communism last but not least, because Stalin's Russia sent people to Spain to gain and exercise influence. Stalin made good use of the social unrest and would be pleased if his influence in Spain became great. That country could become a kind of satellite state. Controlling access to and from the Mediterranean Sea will certainly have played a role there. On communism and anarchism. At least the two are fundamentally different. While communism requires a central government, anarchism completely lacks this. Everyone has an equal say. There is, of course, much more to say about this. The ever-present urge to become independent began to play a role again in the regions of Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country. After all, there are always people who use anxiety to make themselves look better. Spain may be geographically one country, but as far as the different regions are concerned, it is not. It is a collection of countries with often a very different culture and mentality. It has always been and still is. In 2017, Catalonia once again declared its independence and once again the government in Madrid took strong action. Whether you agree or not, it's understandable from the government's side. If one were to accept that independence, the Basque Country, for example, would also seize the opportunity, perhaps following the Catalan example. In 1931, Spain changed from a monarchy under King Alfonso XIII to a parliamentary democracy. It was known as the 2nd Republic. The 1st was from 1872 to 1874. It turned out to be a total failure and the country became a kingdom again. In 1931, King Alfonso XIII was expelled and went into exile in Portugal. According to some accounts, he left because, he is said to have said, he "was afraid of plunge Spain into civil war". Free elections took place and a left-wing socialist government came to power. A lot changed... - from then on the church had to pay its priests itself. Education was taken away from the church (within two months 10,000 new schools opened). - civil marriage was introduced, divorce was now allowed. - women were given the right to vote. - landowners had their land taken and given to agricultural labourers. - the army was reorganized. Some 8,000 officers were sent home. While retaining their income, they were afraid of an uprising. Spain had to become a modern socialist state. All this happened in a period of two years, at least as far as it worked. Far too soon, the elite resisted fiercely. In 1932, General Sanjurjo staged a coup attempt that failed. We will come across this general again later as one of the initiators of the 1936 uprising. Incidentally, Sanjuro received a very angry letter from Franco about that attempted coup; yes, the same one who later led the Spanish Civil War and came to power as a dictator. New elections had to be held in 1933 and that resulted in a right-wing conservative government. But the unrest only grew. More churches were burned, more clergy raped, tortured and murdered. As well as landowners who were lynched in revenge. Political assassinations were the order of the day. One strike followed another. In 1934, Catalonia declared itself independent, again and again, and like all other times, with a heavy blow by Madrid. The Basque Country was given extensive autonomy, even had its own money for a year in 1935. In 1934, a strike also broke out among miners in the Asturias region, on the north coast of Spain. That strike was brutally broken, directed by, there he is again, Franco. Soldiers from Spanish Morocco also took part in crushing the strike, soldiers who played a decisive part in Franco's victory in the eventual Spanish Civil War. That breaking of the strike ultimately cost around 1,600 people's lives. Spain was falling apart! The course of the Spanish Civil War And so the army intervened. The uprising was initiated by two men: ex- General Sanjurjo and General Mola (Sanjurjo was killed in a plane crash two days after the uprising broke out. The same happened to Mola on June 3, 1937). Although he was already involved in the preparations, Franco was actually brought in later. At the time of the uprising, he was governor-general in the Canary Islands. After about two months, the uprising developed into a veritable civil war. Only then was Franco appointed commander in chief. Already in the early stages, Franco received military aid from Germany and Italy. They saw benefits in that aid, like a fascist Spain. The government, on the other hand, received military aid from Russia. That country also saw advantages, such as a communist Spain and did not want to lose its efforts of the years before it. In fact, the mentioned countries have already been practicing in Spain before the Second World War. You can think of the bombardment of the town of Guernica by the German Condor Legion on April 27, 1937. Pablo Picasso made his world-famous painting about this. Mussolini wanted to participate with "big brother" Germany, for Germany there were economic and military reasons behind it: Hitler was paid for his help with, among other things, iron ore and other materials that Germany hardly had itself. In this way the war machine could be built up further and faster. It would also be nice if Spain became an ally for the impending war. That didn't quite work out, Spain never took part in the Second World War, but it did help, among other things in the form of opening the ports to German ships so that they could be supplied. That concept is known as nonbelligerent. The Spanish Civil War and the Netherlands The Netherlands also became unintentionally and unofficially involved in the civil war. Around 650 Dutchmen left for Spain to join the International Brigades fighting against Franco's troops. They lost their Dutch citizenship, which means as much as handing in their passports, no benefits, no voting rights and a work permit required. Not that there was much work in that period because of the global crisis, but they certainly didn't stand a chance. These volunteers came mainly from communist circles, but also adventurers and people who wanted to escape the Dutch justice decided to take a chance. Incidentally, there were also volunteers who sided with Franco, especially from heavily Catholic Ireland. Let it be clear, not only Franco's troops, but also the troops on the side of the government have behaved anything but neat. Thus, both sides carried out summary executions and other misdeeds that are now considered war crimes. Conflict between communists and anarchists in Barcelona A striking event took place from April 23 to May 8, 1937 in Barcelona. Although communists and anarchists fought on the side of the republic, it was a kind of civil war within a civil war. Both sides clashed. Not so strange in itself. After all, both ideologies have a principle of equality, but there are also fundamental differences between the two ideologies. For example, communism requires a central authority, within anarchism this is completely lacking. In fact, the two sides were engaged in a power struggle that then erupted in Barcelona. Battle of the Ebro The Battle of the Ebro lasted from July to November 1938. The initiative lay with the republicans. The Nationalists had succeeded in dividing the Republican territory in two with a passage to the Mediterranean. The intention was to reconnect the two areas and thus deprive the nationalists of access to the sea. It ended in a heavy defeat for the republicans, such that the road to the northern Barcelona was now also open to Franco's troops. It was the final blow to the republic. In Catalonia, a stream of refugees is starting to try to flee to France. Women and children in particular go to the border on foot, usually with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. Of those who succeed, there are still areas in France where they live. The international involvement and lack of it You might think that the Spanish Civil War was a local Spanish event. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several months after the outbreak of the uprising, many countries decided not to get involved. France initially opted for the republican side, but soon withdrew that support and also closed the border with Spain. Mussolini's Italy took a wait-and-see attitude, fearing a conflict with France, but after that French decision they chose Franco's side. Not interfering with events in Spain prompted a non-intervention pact initiated by Great Britain and France. It was also signed by Germany, Italy and Russia. Not that those countries adhered to that, Germany and Italy sent all kinds of things to Spain to help Franco. Russia did the same, but as aid to the republic. After all, Stalin had already invested a lot in an attempt to make Spain communist and did not want that to be in vain. Germany had its own reasons. Airplanes were relatively new to warfare, and Hermann Göring wanted to know what airplanes could do. He therefore sent bombers and fighters, the Condor legion, to Spain. They practiced, among other things, so-called carpet bombing, that is, throw as many bombs as possible to completely destroy as large an area as possible and see what that terror has for psychological consequences on the population. There were also experiments with incendiary bombs, also something new. The town of Guernika in the Basque Country became the most famous example of this terror, although it was not the first. Pablo Picasso turned the event into a world famous and large painting. But the non-intervention pact didn't work, it turned out to be a paper tiger. When Germany was asked about the activities in Spain, this was flatly denied. Questions were also asked in the English lower house. Questions to which there was no response and which were simply ignored. The end of the Spanish Civil War On March 30, 1939, Madrid was the last to surrender. The inhabitants have become mellow and the war can no longer be won. On April 1, Franco proclaims victory and Franco's dictatorship begins. Spain is no longer a democratic republic. All countries are falling over each other to recognize this new government. Memos to take this into account were already circulating in the Netherlands before that time. That would have been no different in other countries. Franco receives congratulations from the Vatican on his victory. The era-Franco Spain holiday destination In the 1960s, Spain became a much-visited holiday destination. Tens of thousands, also from the Netherlands, moved to the country for sun, sea and sand. But behind the facades of that imaginary world dramas were going on that the holidaymakers were not aware of or did not want to know about. General Franco's terror was in full swing and was jealously concealed as much as possible. The image of a friendly Spain had to be preserved. The reality for the Spaniards, however, was very different. Concentration camps Concentration camps were already built during the Spanish Civil War. Opponents of Franco were housed there. The conditions were not much different from the (later) concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Although there was no mass destruction, many people died from exhaustion, starvation and the arbitrariness of camp guards. There was torture and murder. In 1938 there were already more than 190 such camps with about 170,000 prisoners that year. At the end of 1939, that number rose to between 367,000 and half a million. After 1939 a few more camps were added. The last camp was closed in the late 1950s. This had everything to do with Franco wanting to change the image of his country. Robbed children During the 36-year dictatorship, a total of some 300,000 children of leftists were taken from their parents and placed with mostly wealthy Francoist families for a fee. The network of persons and organizations that carried out this must have been many tens of thousands of persons. Immediately afterwards, these were children of women from prisons. Later, the parents were also told that the son or daughter had died shortly after birth. They were then told that the baby had already been buried and the parents should be glad they didn't have to pay the cost. As a result, the necessary birth certificates are also false. The mastermind behind it all was psychiatrist Antonio Vallejo-Nájera, born in 1889 and the very first professor of psychiatry at a Spanish university. He died in 1960 as a man, especially by Franco. Between 1965 and 1985, many Spanish archives were destroyed. They wanted to avoid that incriminating documents would become public after Franco's death. Only in that last year, 1985, the government decided that no more archives could be destroyed. It turns out that the trafficking of children actually continued into the 1990s. That stopped because the adoption laws became stricter. That it could go on for so long was because the network that dealt with it still existed and was active and still making a lot of money from it. It wasn't until the 2000s that rumors of stolen children started to swell. However, it would take until 2012 before action was taken with the arrest of a nun from the network. Proclamation of monarchy As early as 1947 Franco declared Spain a monarchy again. In practice, however, nothing changes. Franco does not appoint a king, Spain simply remains a dictatorship under Franco. Vatican Concordat In 1953 Franco concludes a concordat with the Catholic Church. A number of things are recovered such as tax benefits and legal power. Later, in the 60s and 70s, this decreases and the church even provides support for strikes, etc. Opus Dei The Catholic organization Opus Dei gains authority at government level, including posts at the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Luis Carrero Blanco He makes the statement before parliament: "God bestowed on us the immense favor of an exceptional leader, a gift such as you may expect from Providence only every three or four centuries." Carrero had already become minister under Franco in 1957 and vice president of the Council of State in 1967. Six months after his appointment as prime minister, he was killed in an attack by the Basque terrorist group ETA. An 80 kilo bomb is placed under the road he often drives along. The explosion is so powerful that the car is thrown over a four-storey building. The other two occupants are also killed. Riots, strikes In the early 1960s, social unrest started in Spain. The common people no longer accept Franco's rule. Riots and strikes break out among students and workers alike. It starts with a strike by the approximately 2,000 workers at the railway workshops in the northern Spanish Beassain. It is the beginning of a long, almost succession of strikes that lasted until 1975. Students are also protesting and on strike. Breaking that resistance, unlike workers' strikes, was quite easy. Workers could harm the economy, students had little or no problem with this. In a reasonable number of cases the workers are also met or strikes are broken less hard (less hard did not mean that it was done with a soft hand and meeting the demands completely was never an issue). From dictatorship to parliamentary monarchy On November 20, 1975, Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teodulo Franco y Bahamonde Salgado Pardo, or Francisco Franco y Bahamonde for short (in Spain it is customary to also put your mother's surname in your name. In the case of Franco this is so Bahamond). He is buried in the Valley of the Fallen, a monument he previously had built about 40 kilometers north of Madrid. Also in this monument are about 46,000 people buried, forced laborers, but also republicans who can be proven to be Catholic. Construction started in 1941 and was completed in 1959. On June 24, 2019, Franco is removed from his mausoleum and reburied next to his wife in the Mingorrubi cemetery. This was certainly not without a struggle due to opposition from the supporters of the dictator. Two days after Franco's death, Spain unofficially becomes a monarchy again: King Alfonso XIII's grandson, Juan Carlos I, ascends the throne. Although he is a staunch supporter of Franco and his regime, he quickly tends to restore democracy. Under great national and international pressure, Spain is prevented from becoming a dictatorship again. Economic interests naturally play a major role in this, as does the opposition from Spanish society. A dictatorship can no longer be sold in these modern times, is the opinion in high circles in Spain. It was not until December 29, 1978 that Spain officially became a constitutional monarchy. Spain after Franco Amnesty law In 1977 an amnesty law is passed. The law should prevent people from Franco's time from being prosecuted. It is certainly plausible that the first ideas and designs were conceived before 1975. Many people from that time were still active in political circles in that year and after, and the establishment of a democracy should of course not lead to being charged, let alone convicted. Coup attempt On January 23, 1981, another coup attempt was made in Spain. Former Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero stood with two hundred supporters, brandishing a pistol in parliament. Shots were actually fired, albeit as a warning and intimidation and not aimed at people. In 1978 he had already made a failed attempt. King Juan Carlos, however, held his ground and gave a firm televised speech. In the uniform of the commander-in-chief, he ordered the soldiers to return to their barracks and the coup failed. Spain joins NATO During Franco's rule, attempts are made to have Spain join NATO. There is great resistance to this within the allies. Of course Spain is at the gateway to the Mediterranean, but as Britain is already the boss in Gibraltar, it is not seen as a necessity that Spain should become a member. The fact that Spain is still a dictatorship also plays an important role. In 1982 Spain is admitted to NATO. Last statue of Franco In 2005, thirty years after his death, the last statue of Franco in Madrid was removed on the mainland. It will take until 2009 that the very last statue is removed in the Spanish city of Melilla, an enclave near Morocco. Act on Historical Remembrance In 2007 the "law on historical memory" was passed. From now on, victims of the Franco regime can claim recognition and compensation. In addition, extensive research can now be done on the relatives of victims and they can obtain information about the final resting place of their loved ones and family. They also want to put an end to the glorification of Francoist heroes. Street names will be changed and other public expressions will be banned. In many churches still hangs the emblem of the Falange (the fascist party), a bundle of arrows. If a church wants to keep its subsidy, it must be removed. In Madrid, conservative parties in the city council are pushing back when it comes to changing street names. Six-year attempt to bring someone to justice In 2012, an attempt is made to prosecute someone who had had people tortured, murdered and disappeared during Franco's rule: Juan Antonio González Pacheco alias Billy el Niño (Billy the Kid). Since it is not possible to sue in Spain, it is tried through international law from Argentina. There is no cooperation from Spain and Spain even threatens to sever diplomatic ties with Argentina if they continue. They also go so far as to block a video conference with a judge in Argentina. After six years of toil, they have given up for now. An impressive documentary was made of this attempt, which was released in 2018: El Silencio de Otros (The Silence of Others). My research in Spain In 2016 I went to Spain for research, among other things to visit the area where my grandfather's adventure took place. But also to get an idea of ​​the current situation. You will find a report of that visit under the My activities button. A few impressions are as follows. Spain is still divided into two groups: pro- and counter-Franco. In cafes in small towns like Pendreña, across the bay from Santander, portraits of Franco and Primo de Rivera (leader of the Falange, the fascist party) still hang brotherly side by side on the walls. An appointment with an older person was also canceled twice. Out of fear, it was said. The impulse to be careful who you talk to about the Franco era is still there, almost a conditioned reflex. A mother and daughter are resting on a bench in the upper town of Santander, a great opportunity to start a spontaneous conversation. Mother of more than ninety years old can tell that as a 10-year-old girl she experienced the entry of the Italians in 1937. As a thank you, a monument has been placed nearby in honor of the "liberators". Both she and her daughter know how to tell that all that digging in the past must come to an end. I ask why that monument is still there. The conversation ended abruptly, apparently wrong question (the monument was actually removed in 2017. When I asked the municipality where it has gone, I got the answer that I didn't need to know). In 2016, on a terrace in a small town near Bilbao, Basque Country, I was told by my host that it is not wise to pronounce the name Franco too loud here. Also taking pictures is not appreciated here. In fact, he tells me that if he stood up now and shouted that "we're going to Madrid to blow things up", he would immediately take that trip along with 40 or 50 people. Although ETA has given up the armed struggle, such feelings are still very much alive in the Basque Country. The terrace where we sit turns out to be a former meeting place of the same ETA. If you want to read the report of My Journey to the Spanish Civil War, click here (check your download folder if you don't see it here). Present - the state of affairs Spain is currently still divided to the bone, a division that will certainly last for several generations, if it can ever come to unity. When you want to talk to people in Spain about Franco and the Spanish Civil War, you will almost certainly be asked which side you are on. If that's the wrong answer, the conversation is usually over. It can also happen that you have to run quickly for understandable reasons. It also happens that appointments with older people are canceled at the last minute for fear of talking. That impulse dates from the time when it was dangerous to talk: watch who you talk about what. But a third group is now also emerging: young people who do believe it all and think that it is something from the past, which should stay there. At the end of 2019, Spain will go to the polls for the fourth time in four years. The earlier formation of coalitions always fails. This time, however, they manage to form a government and the PSOE and Podemos become the two main parties. Prime Minister Sanchez manages to turn some important matters from the Franco past into a coalition agreement. He promises that he will continue the path of 'reparation, justice and remembrance for the victims of Francoism'. October 31 will also be 'Remembrance Day for all victims of the Franco regime'. Efforts will also be made to return all property looted during Franco's rule to the rightful owners. A lot of work is already being done in excavating and identifying victims. This will be further intensified. The same goes for replacing street names and other references, something that certain and predicted parties continue to resist tooth and nail. The desire for independence also continues to play a role, especially in the regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. Recently in 2017, Catalonia declared its independence in vain. The fifth time in three centuries and again with the result that Madrid intervened hard and President Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest. Not surprising: if the Catalans were successful with their independence, the Basque Country and Galicia would make an attempt (again) in no time. Spain may be geographically one country, but in practice it is certainly not. It is a total of all kinds of cultures, customs and sometimes even a completely different language. Basque is a striking example of this. The language is not even like any other language in the world. Its origin is attributed to an extinct medieval language, Aquitanian. Basque is no longer spoken by everyone in the Basque Country at the moment. It, like Catalan and other languages, was banned during Franco's reign. In schools, children were instructed that if they heard the language spoken at home, they should report it, with predictable consequences. Spain has changed for the better since Franco's time. Yet the echoes of those days still resound or there are things that still have everything to do with the Franco era. Something that Spain will have to deal with for generations to come.
The Spanish Civil War
General Franco
King Alfonso XIII
José Sanjurjo
Emilio Mola
Emblem Nationale Brigades
Gernika by Pablo Picasso
Mausoleum Franco
Last statue of Franco is being removed in Morocco
Billy El Niño