On This Day: April 1st

On April 1st 1939 the Spanish Civil War officially came to an end. The war was fought between the Spanish Republicans and the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco. After 2 years and 8 months the conflict ended with Franco’s Nationalists victorious. This victory ended the Second Spanish Republic and ushered in the establishment of Fascist Francoist Spain.

The Spanish Civil War was a bloody and vicious conflict pitting the political Right and Left against one another, the conflict gave a reminder of Spain’s former colonial brutality. Cities such as Barcelona and Madrid were battlefields with bodies strewn aside and streets blown apart. This war was not only a civil war but a war that would impact European affairs at what became a tumultuous time in European and world history. Spain was one of the traditional European powers along with Britain, France and Germany; with Germany already Fascist along with Italy, Spain becoming Fascist was a daunting prospect for the rest of Europe. It was a particular issue for France as they would then border three Fascist nations, the potential for an invasion would have increased and anti-Fascist Europe would have been completely de-stabilised.

Only three powers truly saw the importance of the Spanish Civil War and its outcome, the outcome was of great importance for both the Left (The Soviet Union) and the Right (Nazi Germany and Italy). The Nazi’s and Italian Fascist’s sent thousands of troops and countless weapons to Spain to aid Franco’s coup. The potential for another power turning to Fascism was too great an opportunity for the Nazis and the Fascists in Italy, it would give the Right wing of Europe a large swathe of influence across Europe which would place further pressure on France and Britain.On the opposite side of the political spectrum was the Soviet Union who sent weapons and supplies to aid the Spanish Republicans. However Soviet aid was not as committed as the Fascist support, Stalin was content to keep the Fascists busy and wasn’t particularly interested in aiding the Spanish Republicans. The democracies of Britain and France the greatest European powers along with Germany held a position of non-intervention. They allowed Spain to fall to the Fascist regime as they didn’t want to aid the Soviet backed Republicans, due to the perceived Communist threat. Therefore the Spanish Republicans were left to fight a difficult battle against better armed and supplied forces, the result was inevitable for a long time.

By the end of March 1939 the final offensive was underway with the continued advancement of Nationalist troops and the retreating of Republican forces. On March 31st Nationalist troops occupied Almeria, Murcia and Cartagena, thus controlling all Spanish territory. On April 1st the civil war was over and all major powers except the Soviet Union had recognised the new Nationalist government. The outcome of the war had strengthened Hitler’s position in Europe and gave him another potential ally in General Franco. The participation and co-operation in the war by Germany and Italy strengthened their bond, this led to the Rome-Berlin Axis. The civil war had also shown weakness from Britain and France aswell as a heightened power and strength of both Hitler and Germany.

The Nazis did believe that Britain would intervene in the conflict, which even led to an escalation in aid by the Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists. However the intervention never occurred and a democratic nation in Republican Spain was sacrificed to Fascism. How different Europe could have been if the Republicans had won the war. Not only did the outcome of the war give Fascism further power and Hitler even more confidence, but it left a ravaged Spain in the hands of a brutal dictator. Franco remained in power for nearly four decades and directly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Franco had 100,000 Republican prisoners executed with tens of thousands more dying in concentration camps in the years after.

On April 1st 1939 democracy was lost in Spain and Fascism due to the better support and the lack of support for the Republicans, leading to one of the darkest periods in Spanish history.




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