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Post Guernica Questions
Created by John Eipper on 04/05/13 2:58 AM

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Guernica Questions (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 04/05/13 2:58 am)

With reference to the 4 April post of Angel Viñas on Guernica, I have some questions.

How can it be proved that Lt. Col. von Richtofen wrote lies even in his own diaries, his biographer being at fault and that the various sources contradicting Herbert R. Southworth are distortions, manipulations and simply lies? Is this not the usual case in which the new Victors (by way of revenge on the old Victors) are rewriting history? For instance it is very difficult to agree to a falsification, at that time, of the diaries of Richtofen.

Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to read the Southworth book, but from what I have read I know the following:

The bombing of Guernica happened at 16.30 on April 26, 1937, and the first report was from a British correspondent in Bilbao George L. Steer, published in the Times on April 28. This report mentions a bombing by German airplanes destroying the town with a huge number of dead and injured on a market day. Of course it was a second-hand report.

According to several authors in Italy (Messori, Mensurati, Petacco and Marizza), it is reported that with the German airplanes there were also 18 Italian planes, three bombers Savoia Marchetti 79 (gobbo volante--flying hunchbacks with three motors), plus as an escort 15 double-wing CR 32s, for a total of 27 airplanes.

It is very doubtful that 12 bombers (assuming also that the German planes were all bombers) could completely destroy a town. In fact, it is reported that the planes were assigned only to bomb the railroad station, roads and the bridge of Renteria.

According to the above authors, the famous market in which so many people were supposed to arrive from the countryside was held only in the morning, and moreover on that day the market had been cancelled by order of Francisco Lozano, local representative of the Basque Regional Government. The town was considered of military importance, being close to the front lines and an important center of communications. There were also two ammunition factories. Anyway it is said that only seven bomb craters were found inside the town.

The great destruction is indicated as mostly due to the destruction carried out by the withdrawing Republican forces, the scorched-earth strategy used so effectively in WWII by the USSR, while the number of dead and injured is drastically reduced.

Indicative of the fishy stories about Guernica is the famous painting of "Guernica." It is reported that the work was painted by Picasso in 1935 in memory of the bullfighter José Gómez Ortega "Joselito," then sold as a painting to remember Guernica.

JE comments: It's definitely time to read Ángel Viñas's new edition of the Southworth book (La destrucción de Guernica). Hasn't the narrative that the retreating Republicans destroyed the city been thoroughly debunked by now? If so, when did it originate?

I've heard these types of questions before on the Guernica bombing, but never this alternative version of Picasso's "Guernica." The work does have a bull in it.

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  • Guernica Questions (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/05/13 7:32 AM)
    I thank Eugenio Battaglia for his questions of 5 April. That von Richthofen manipulated his diary is very simple to prove. You only have to compare his entries and the report he wrote to Berlin on 28 May 1937 about the effects of bombing of Spanish cities in the Vizcaya Front. This report was discovered several years ago by the German historian Prof. Stefanie Schüler-Springorum in a Nebenarchiv near Berlin of the Federal Military Archives in Freiburg. She was very kind and put it at my disposal. In my 1977 essay on the responsibilities involved in the bombing I had already expressed some doubt about the historical accuracy of von Richthofen's diary on the basis of internal inconsistencies.

    In one occasion, of little historical significance today, von Richthofen mentioned that he had changed a particular entry. I imagine this was not the only occasion he did it.

    I don't usually raise criticism before being reasonably sure of my facts.

    I cannot enter into discussions with Eugenio if he has not even read Southworth´s book (published in 1977). Eugenio's numbers and arguments are simply wrong. Southworth wrote a 500-page book to analyse the recurrent lies and distorsions which have been monnaie courante on the Guernica affair since 1937. His work went up to 1975. I´ve continued his analysis until 2012.

    I suggest to Eugenio and interested WAISers to compare von Richthofen's diaries, his report to Berlin and a letter written by him to Gen. Kindelan, chief of the Francoist Air Force, on 9 August 1937, which I have reproduced photographically in my update of Southworth´s.

    On Guernica German and Italian planes dropped within four hours 31 metric tons of explosive and incendiary bombs. (In the rupture of the Vizcaya front all along on 31 March 1937, all German, Italian and Spanish involved dropped 66 tons.) This mixture had been proven to be the most efficient one for destroying a town of the characteristics prevailing in Northern Spain which were similar to those found in Germany´s neighboring countries (i.e. France, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands). This was one aspect the Germans wanted to examine thoroughly. One can imagine why.

    So as to give Italians their due, I would like to inform Eugenio and interested WAISers that von Richthofen and his staff found that the Italian technique of bombing (Koppelwurf) was more "efficient" than the German one ("Reihenwurf"), provided that there was no antiaircraft defense and the objective could be adequately covered from the air.

    That Eugenio dare to say that the destruction was carried out by retreating Republican forces shows that he is completely unaware of the facts. This legend was put forward by Franco himself on April 27, the day following the bombing. It built the cornerstone of the Francoist mythology. Nowadays very few, if any, serious historian hold it.

    That Eugenio further asserts that Picasso´s painting was done to honor Joselito is, in my view and with all due respect, absolutely unpardonable. So as to mark a difference here, I remind WAIS colleagues that I haven´t thought for a minute to participate in the Via Rasella discussion.

    For the history of Guernica as an iconic symbol of 20th century art, I refer to the book by Gijs Van Hensbergen. It´s widely known and easily available in English.

    JE comments:  I thank Ángel Viñas for walking us through the von Richtofen diary saga, as well as for addressing Eugenio Battaglia's other questions.  I hope I'll be forgiven if I ask Ángel if he can tell us where the "Joselito" hypothesis originated.  Why, since the Francoists regarded Picasso as a decadent communist anyway, would they bother with trying to attach a new meaning to "Guernica's" creation?

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    • Picasso's "Guernica" (Paul Preston, UK 04/05/13 5:14 PM)
      Apart from endorsing everything that Ángel Viñas says on the bombing and the responsibility for it (5 April), I would like to say something about the painting. The fact is that the report by George Steer which announced to the world what had actually happened at Guernica was reprinted in full on 29 April in the French Communist daily, L'Humanité, where it was read by Pablo Picasso.

      At the time, he was working on a commission by the Spanish Republican government to provide a mural for the great Paris Exhibition being planned for the summer of 1937. Prior to the news of the destruction of Guernica, his series of preliminary sketches had concerned the relationship between the artist and his model in the studio. Nevertheless, he was already deeply affected by the harrowing accounts by the French journalist Louis Delaprée of the bombing of Madrid. Now, on 1 May 1937, even more shocked by the news of Guernica, he abandoned this project and began work on what would become his most famous painting.

      I would urge anyone with any doubts about the history of the painting to read two of the classic accounts by Gijs van Hensbergen, Guernica. The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon (London: Bloomsbury, 2004) and by Herschel B. Chipp, Picasso's Guernica. History, Transformations, Meanings (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988). The influence of the articles of Louis Delaprée on Picasso's thinking has been analysed as part of ongoing research on Delaprée by Martin Minchom, of which an advance can be found in his article "The truth about Guernica: Picasso and the lying press," The Volunteer, 9 March 2012. I write about both George Steer and Louis Delaprée in my book We Saw Spain Die. Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War (London: Constable, 2008), and there is an excellent full-scale biography of Steer by Nick Rankin, Telegram from Guernica. The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent (London: Faber & Faber, 2003).

      I wish I knew what it is about the Spanish Civil War that makes people think that they can say whatever they like without much in the way of knowledge. Ángel Viñas and I have spent ninety years between us studying the war, and we are still reluctant to say things without solid proof.

      JE comments:  I'm grateful to Paul Preston for the bibliographical references.  Why does the Spanish Civil War continue to inspire such wildly varied interpretations?  Might it be due to the ideological--not national, or cultural, as in the US Civil War--nature of the war itself?  Another factor is no doubt the "victor's privilege" of writing history.  In the case of the SCW, the first 36 years of official history belonged to the Francoists; since 1975 the "victory" in the war of history has gone to the Republic.

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      • Picasso's "Guernica" and Bullfighting (John Heelan, UK 04/06/13 4:12 AM)
        WAISer Spanish Civil War historians Ángel Viñas and Paul Preston have rebutted Eugenio Battaglia's suggestion (April 5) that the origin of Picasso's "Guernica" was an earlier homage to the famous child prodigy torero José Gómez Ortega ("Joselito"). Although Picasso was an aficionado of the corrida, in common with most Andaluces, it would have been surprising for him to paint such a homage to Joselito some 15 years after his death. Why not Belmonte? However, it could be equally argued that perhaps he was preparing for the Spanish Pavilion Paris World Fair two years later. Do we know the date he was commissioned?

        Although I am no aficionado of tauromachy, I needed to study it and Surrealism as part of my work on García Lorca (a devoted aficionado of bullfighting and bullfighters) and the culture of Spain generally in the 1920s-'30s. Picasso commented on Guernica, "What ideas and conclusions you have got, I obtained too, but instinctively unconsciously."

        So relying on Picasso's comment--and without wishing to enter the debate about the origin of the painting--I can see elements of the corrida such as the bull, the screaming horse, the fallen man (maybe the picador) being trampled, a broken sword and a staff--maybe the pic. Perhaps Picasso unconsciously used these elements of violence to express his horror at the events of 26 April 1937?

        Further of interest in my own sphere of interest, I have just discovered that Joselito was killed during his alternativa (i.e. final qualification as a matador de toros), in which he was accompanied by his own brother-in-law, Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, later the subject of Lorca's world famous Elegy, and Belmonte himself.

        JE comments:  It just so happens that this week and next, we're studying García Lorca in my Spanish Lit and Culture class at the College.  Wish I could fly John Heelan in for a guest lecture or two, but that would break the Departmental budget.

        It's chilling to realize that Lorca had already been murdered by the time Picasso painted "Guernica."

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        • Picasso's "Guernica"; Ilya Ehrenburg (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 04/08/13 11:37 AM)
          On "Guernica," the Republican Government commissioned a mural for the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Art in January 1937. In his studio on the Rue des Grands Augustins in Paris, Picasso sketched preliminary drawings for the mural that would eventually become known as Guernica on 1 May--the largest May Day demonstration in that city's history. For about 10 days the painter was drawing compositional studies for the mural, and on 11 May he approached the canvas for the first time.

          The first photograph taken by Dora Maar, a French photographer, poet, painter and Picasso's mistress (during that year he painted her portrait, seated), whom he met in January 1936, shows the raised arm and clenched fist of the Spanish Republic. The work was finished between 4 and 10 June. Picasso himself delivered it to the Spanish Pavilion. Ilya Ehrenburg, the Soviet writer who was probably the first of the Soviets to visit Spain in 1931 and who knew Picasso for over six decades, recalled that when asked about his approach to art Picasso used to say: "[The Impressionists] wanted to show the world as they saw it. It doesn't excite me. I want to depict the world in such a way as I imagine it."

          JE comments: I've always been intrigued by the figure of Ilya Ehrenburg, who managed to be in the thick of all things Soviet yet somehow survived Stalinism and lived to a relatively old age. (He died in 1967.)  IE was one of the Argentine writer Elías Castelnuovo's "handlers" during his visit to the USSR in 1931.

          Perhaps Boris Volodarsky might be able to shed light on Ehrenburg's longevity in such difficult times.

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      • Thoughts on Spanish Civil War Historiography; Southworth's Brush with the Paris Police (David Pike, France 04/07/13 6:40 AM)
        Paul Preston raises another interesting question (5 April). What is it about the Spanish Civil War, and Guernica in particular, that excites and impels people to write even when they have read virtually nothing about the subject? It is as if the normal restraints that intelligent people feel about matters they little understand are relaxed, unhooked, abandoned whenever the word Guernica gets into a heading. Eugenio Battaglia, whose postings on Italy I read with the greatest interest, writes (April 5) that he hasn't read Southworth's account but he will do so sometime, and in the meantime he'll tell us what else he's read.

        I would guess that Eugenio has read Brian Crozier's account. Crozier attended WAIS's 1996 Stanford Conference on War Crimes and War Criminals, which Ronald Hilton and I co-organized. Crozier at that time held the distinguished title of Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which is a story in itself. Crozier had announced just before the conference that he had discovered a document proving the guilt of the Republicans in the destruction of Guernica and would present it at the conference. The world held its breath. Crozier was among the first to speak. The document he now exposed was ... none other than the dead horse of Sir Archibald James, published in 1937 and now brought to Stanford to be given a final flogging.

        This new inquiry into the historiography of Guernica revives some memories. Ronald Hilton's WAIS posting of November 22, 1999 has been reissued. Our founder referred to Pierre Vilar as "not pleasant, a sour Marxist." I am sorry that Pierre Vilar is dead. I would like to write to him again to congratulate him on overseeing the destruction of the tape-recording of his Closing Address at the First International Conference on the Spanish Civil War, held in Barcelona in April 1979. Vilar was at his best: "Stalin remains the model for society everywhere." He chose me as target for his only personal attack. In his conclusion he cried: "¡El anticomunismo, es el fascismo!" A ground-swell ran through the Paraninfo. Vilar cried out again; with mounting passion, "¡El anticomunismo, es el fascismo!" Pandemonium.

        The same inquiry has opened up other recollections. Paul Preston described, in his obituary to Herbert Southworth, how it went that day when Herbert fell afoul of the Paris police. Paul wrote, "It looks as though HRS went downstairs to join the casseurs." Well, no. What happened is this. He was already in the street when he saw a woman being brutalized by the police. He intervened. The police told him they were the police, now scram. He didn't scram. He said exactly this: "I don't care who you are. You don't beat up an unarmed woman." So they beat him too, broke his arm, took him away in a truck. They asked him who he was. He told them he was an historian. That really made it worse. He was not allowed even to phone his wife Suzanne. When he finally got home he sent a report to Nixon's ambassador to Paris. He might as well have saved his time.

        Eugenio Battaglia has since then switched his attention to the bombing of civilian targets in the Second World War, asking if Churchill's first raid on Berlin in summer 1940 was the first of such attacks. Should we suppose that the destruction of Warsaw in 1939 and that of Rotterdam and so many other cities and towns in spring 1940 was just so much Allied propaganda? Does Eugenio really believe that killing civilians in their millions was something that Hitler agreed to only because he was provoked?

        Having said this, let me repeat that I really enjoy reading Eugenio's postings on life in Fascist Italy.

        JE comments:  Cold Warrior Brian Crozier died on August 6, 2012, at the age of 94.  Here is his obituary in the National Review:


        In this Christmas Day 1999 post, Prof. Hilton speaks of Crozier as a WAIS Fellow, although I have not been able to locate any old postings under his byline:


        I'd like to learn more about the 1996 WAIS conference (my first WAIS event came five years later, in 2001).  Prof. Hilton wrote that during the gathering, a rat bit an electric cable and plunged Stanford into darkness.  That must have been one powerful rat.  Does David Pike remember the particulars?
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        • Thoughts on Spanish Civil War Historiography (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/07/13 10:16 AM)
          I think that Paul Preston and David Pike (5 and 7 April) have raised very important questions regarding the Spanish Civil War. Certainly so from a Spanish perspective, but perhaps from a general viewpoint as well as far as the work of historians is concerned.

          My personal feeling is that for many foreign (i.e. non-Spanish) historians, although not for all, of a previous generation the SCW was basically interpreted in the light of the Cold War. Brian Crozier was one of them. So was Bolloten. Their work was grist to Franco´s mill and they were fêted, or even distorted (Bolloten) without shame in Spain. Anti-communism was the key word.

          One could surmise that US operational needs in the American-led cultural and intellectual struggle against the USSR also played a role. Franco was after all saved by the American embrace, and who wants to embrace a bloody dictator with unforgettable Fascist origins? The Francoist interpretation as a "crusade" against the communist forces of evil suited everyone. Its echoes are still around us.

          In fact, the Civil War arose out of a civic-military rebellion against the moderate and some would say prescient reforms undertaken by the bourgeois Republicans and Socialists in 1931-1933 and resumed after February 1936.

          At this particular moment one new vector became operational: Fascist military support for the conspirators. Mussolini had shown an antagonistic streak against the Spanish Republic since 1931. He entertained in Rome Spanish military and civil conspirators. He agreed with them in March to give military and economic support. He financially supported the Spanish Fascist party (Falange). He established a network of intelligence agents in Spain. He accepted negotiating with the conspirators the supply of modern war matériel (war planes). I surmise that this may have happened as early as March 1936, because it was then that the well-known financier Juan March made available vast sums of money for buying this matériel. The negotiations came to a conclusion on 1 July 1936. I have the honor (or dishonor) to have publicized the agreements and the detail of war supplies. They raise important issues for understanding the origins of the civil war and even Fascist foreign policy of the times.

          From the very beginning, Francoist propaganda was used to obscure the facts. The military rebellion was said to prevent the sliding of Spain into the abyss of left-wing led revolution, pushed to the brink obviously by the Communists. And the war was against the bloodthirsty "Reds," supported by Moscow all the way.

          This interpretation was put to good effect in the 1950s and '60s by an amalgam of former Trotskyites, Socialists, bourgeois Republicans and sundry Communist renegades. All of them coincided in looking for scapegoats to explain the Republican defeat and found them in Moscow policies, in Socialists gone over to the Communists, in Negrín, in all except in those dynamics, both international and domestic, which explain the defeat.

          In reality the SCW showed how a part, and a not insubstantial part at that, of the Spanish people instead of caving in to Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, and in face of the appeasement policies of France and the UK, preferred to resist fascism with weapons before it was too late. Something that no other people in Europe had so far ever done or were to do until September 1939. This was their honor and, in the Cold War period, their disgrace.

          Ah! if Eugenio Battaglia would like to contest my allegations regarding Italy, I´ll be happy to oblige him.

          JE comments:  So far in this very interesting discussion, we haven't heard from Carmen Negrín.  I hope she will send her thoughts.

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          • Spanish Nationalists and Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/09/13 4:28 AM)
            As a contribution to our Spanish Civil War discussion, I too have a book to recommend. It is only of local history, yet it gives a telling account of how the discussion of the SCW has been politicized: Antifascisti Savonesi e Guerra di Spagna by Antonio Martino. Martino's book covers the Communists of Savona province who went to fight with the Red International Brigades in Spain. The book is politically correct; in fact it was edited by the Istituto Storico della Resistenza. The text is so correct, in fact, that the author was invited by the editor not to mention that some of these freedom fighters were convicted of ordinary (not political) crimes.

            About the Italian involvement in the prelude to the SCW, in 1932 a Spanish monarchic delegation met with Italo Balbo (not with Mussolini), who made some foggy promises not kept, as the delegation was referring to the Golpe of General José Sanjurjo y Sancanell, which immediately failed.

            On the other hand, on March 31 1934, another monarchic delegation met Mussolini in Rome asking for help, to which Mussolini promised one and half million pesetas, as well as machine guns and bombs. For sure they received half a million pesetas, but no weapons were ever delivered to them. Later, several hundred young monarchists came to Italy to be instructed in modern weaponry.

            In those years the Partito Nazionale Fascista was financially helping some Fascist Parties in Europe, including the Spanish Falange, with a monthly subsidy which varied from 25,000 to 50,000 pesetas. However such money stopped during the war in Eastern Africa.

            On July 19 1936, General Franco contacted the Italian Military Representative in Tangier to discuss the possible purchase of some planes to transfer troops. Franco sent Luis Bolin to Rome. On July 22, Bolin was received by Galeazzo Ciano, but initially Mussolini refused any sales, with the excuse that the planes were not available. However in the days immediately following, news arrived in Rome about France supplying arms to the Republic. Therefore on July 25, Mussolini authorized the sale of 12 S.81 planes, paid with one million pounds sterling by Juan March Ordinas.

            By the way, we may call the Falange and Josè Antonio Primo de Rivera (killed on November 1936) Fascist, but Franco should not be called a Fascist. He was only a right-wing military man with many of the worst personal defects--arrogance and selfishness among them.

            JE comments: I'm doubtful that Mussolini only authorized aircraft sales to Franco as a response to French arms shipments to the Republic. Didn't Italy even supply arms to the Nationalists on credit--payments for which the Italians were only too happy to accept after Mussolini was long gone?  I'm working here from my memory of Gerald Howson's excellent book, Arms for Spain.

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            • Spanish Nationalists and Italy (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/09/13 1:43 PM)
              I thank Eugenio Battaglia for his info regarding the Savona communists (9 April). As he can easily understand, I haven't got the faintest idea about that episode. I simply note for the record that the criminalization of International Brigaders is a common feature of many books on the subject based on police files of the Fascist (and many non-Fascist) countries where they fled from to fight Fascism in Spain.

              As far as Eugenio´s long discourse on Fascist support to the Spanish conspirators against the Republic, I must say that he doesn't say anything new.

              The agreement of 31 March 1934 between Mussolini and a melange of Carlists, Monarchists, and military fellows has been extensively studied. It came to light in 1937 when a copy was found in Madrid by the Republican police. The Italian minutes of the meeting have long been dissected.

              One mistake however: so far as I know, the Italian vector in the August 1932 failed coup by Sanjurjo has not yet been elucidated. If Eugenio knows of any work which has done, so I'd be extremely grateful to him for telling me.

              The weapons promised in 1934 were indeed not sent, although the final proof hasn't been forthcoming and there's some room for speculation. What is known is that the suggestion to supply a part of them made by Col. Senzadenari of the Air Ministry in 1935 was apparently refused. They were in any case what in Spanish is conversationally called "el chocolate del loro" (i.e. the amount of chocolate a parrot can swallow, predictably not a great deal indeed).

              The financing of Falange via the Italian Embassy in Paris was discovered by Max Gallo in the early 1970s and suitably distorted. I gave full details in my book La Alemania nazi y el 18 de julio (Nazi Germany and the rebellion of 18 July 1936) in 1974. It led to an uproar.

              This clarified, from this point on everything Eugenio says are old stories.

              Starting possibly in March 1936, Spanish monarchists launched themselves into a frantic round of negotiations with the Italians. We don´t know yet much about this, but my hypothesis is that the Air Ministry took the lead and put them in contact with one of Italo Balbo´s pet companies, the Società Idrovolante Alta Italia (SIAI), of Savoia Marchetti fame. The SIAI acted not only for its bombers but also for other companies, since it negotiated with the supply of Fiat CR32, and even a few seagoing bombers. Four contracts were duly signed on 1 July 1936. The first one was to be fulfilled in July with the other three following in August. This is exactly what happened.

              This episode is analyzed in a more than a 100-page essay in Los mitos del 18 de julio, ed. Francisco Sánchez Pérez, Crítica, Barcelona, 2013 where the contracts and the matériel involved are duly reproduced photographically.

              Mussolini´s green light for the export of the first contingent was delayed until 25 July. The fellow who signed the contracts on behalf of the conspirators, Pedro Sainz Rodríguez, went then to Rome to explain what had happened in Spain after Sanjurjo´s death. The request by Franco, through other channels, caught Mussolini by surprise and he didn´t know how to react. That wasn´t the scenario foreseen in Rome.

              Ciano was apparently left in the dark, whether by design or by accident. In his diaries he told his own experience.

              The war matériel contracted for would be equivalent to more than 300 million euros at today's prices.

              My point is that since 1931 (or 1932) until the rebellion, Mussolini kept on a track of aggression towards the Spanish Republic. As soon as the circumstances permitted, he decided to go ahead. This, unfortunately, happened when the aggression in Abyssinia was over and Mussolini became free to look for other prey. He found it in Spain. This had nothing to do with the French selling or not selling weapons to the Spaniards. (They didn´t until somewhat later, when the flying into Morocco of Italian planes could no longer be disguised.)

              Was Franco a Fascist? Let´s say that he found Fascism more congenial than other doctrines. After 1945, showing off as a Fascist in the international scene had become somewhat démodé. His regime, however, kept alive, until the very end, significant Fascist features.

              JE comments:  As always, my thanks to Ángel Viñas for these extremely informative explanations.  El chocolate del loro?  I've just learned a new Spanish idiom!  Chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats (theobromine poisoning)--I wonder if this is also the case for parrots.  If so, it's best to keep their intake to a minimum:  Polly don't want a candy bar.

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              • Ciano Diaries (Robert Whealey, USA 04/10/13 6:37 AM)
                I have a question for Ángel Viñas concerning the Galeazzo Ciano "diaries" for July 1936: In the English language edition, the diaries begin on 1 January 1937. Are there now Spanish or Italian unpublished versions from Ciano's papers for the July 1936 story? My 1989 book covers this same story about these Italian-Spanish talks which Eugenio Battaglia and Ángel Viñas have just discussed. I do not disagree with this updated review by Ángel in any way, except that his comment on Ciano in 1936 was new to me.

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                • Ciano Diaries (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/11/13 6:04 AM)
                  In response to Bob Whealey´s post of 10 April, I must offer my apologies. I wrote from memory. The Italian edition I have of the Ciano's diaries also starts in January 1937. I didn't have my essay before my eyes. The book, published last month, has just arrived here in Brussels. Ciano was approached apparently by one of the most illustrious liars and extensive producers of Francoist propaganda, Luis Bolín. In fact, it was Sainz Rodríguez and his direct boss, Antonio Goicoechea, who delivered a memo to Ciano on 25 July. They were the key persons for unblocking the Italian decision. Their memo, in which they obviously immediately supported Franco's request to Rome via the SIM in Tangier, was found by the Italian historian Marco Carrubba, who allowed me to use for my own work. Again my apologies. One must never stop being all too careful.

                  JE comments: Paul Preston (next in queue) has also sent a note on the Nationalists' pre-war contacts with the Italians.

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                  • Ciano and the Murder of the Rosselli Brothers (Nigel Jones, UK 04/11/13 9:07 AM)
                    I would like to ask such experts as Paul Preston and Ángel Viñas what evidence there is for Count Ciano's direct responsibility for the double murder of the anti-fascist brothers Carlo and Nello Rosselli in 1937.

                    Carlo Rosselli, a non-aligned moderate socialist, was the founder of the exiled "Justice and Liberty" movement from his place of exile in France, and also fought with the Italian Matteotti Battalion (named after the Socialist deputy murdered by fascists in the early days of Mussolini's rule) in the Spanish Civil War.

                    After suffering a breakdown in health in Spain, Rosselli went to the Normandy spa of Bagnole sur l'Orne to recuperate, where he was joined by his brother Nello. Both brothers were shot and stabbed to death in a nearby woods by a gang from the French fascist underground organisation the Cagoule, who were acting under orders from Rome--probably at the personal behest of the Foreign Minister Ciano. The Cagoule's reward for the double murder--like the Carlist Requetes who were similarly equipped with Italian arms before the SCW--was a consignment of Italian machine guns subsequently seized by the French police.

                    Those inclined to see Ciano as some sort of hero for his later opportunistic opposition to his father-in-law might reflect on the fate of the Rossellis, which brings to mind the old proverb about those who live by the sword also dying by it--or in Ciano's case by a botched Italian firing squad.

                    The Rosselli murder is the basis of the novel The Conformist by Alberto Moravia, who was distantly related to the brothers. It was filmed by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1970.

                    Incidentally, the leader of the Cagoule hit squad who murdered the brothers was a violent thug named Jean Filliol. After an infamous wartime career as boss of the Limoges Milice, during which he probably collaborated with the Germans in preparing the notorious massacre of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in June 1944, Filliol was mysteriously spirited to Spain where he was protected and employed by the L'Oreal perfume and cosmetics conglomerate (whose founder Eugene Schueller was one of the major financiers of French fascism)--like many other French fascists. Filliol lived to a ripe old age and died in his bed.

                    JE comments: An interesting new angle to our discussion. The Rosselli brothers have only come up in passing on WAIS; see for example this Roy Domenico post from October 2006:


                    I don't know much about Count Ciano other than his singularly dysfunctional family (shot for treason by his father-in-law; didn't Saddam Hussein do the same thing to his daughters' husbands?).  Has Ciano been historically "rehabilitated," as Nigel Jones suggests, because of his role in removing Mussolini in October 1943?
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                    • Ciano and the Murder of the Rosselli Brothers (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/11/13 2:44 PM)
                      In response to Nigel Jones's question on Ciano and the Rosellis, I was obliged to delve deeply into my library.

                      In Morten Heiberg and Manuel Ros Agudo, La trama oculta de la guerra civil, Barcelona: Crítica, 2006, p. 80, the connection with Ciano was mentioned by Santo Emanuele (head of the third section, counterespionage, of the SIM, Torino) in his trial in 1944-45. He is reported to have stated that the idea of killing the Rosellis "was thought up in the political circles around Ciano." Further on, he indicated that the decision was "obviously taken by Ciano only." He specifically exonerated Mussolini.

                      Both authors treat this assertion with the utmost caution.

                      On the other hand, Mauro Canali, Le spie del regime, Bologna: Il Mulino, 2004, has abundantly shown that the OVRA had long encircled the Rosellis and infiltrated some agents into their most intimate circle of friends.

                      Giordano Bruno Guerri, Galeazzo Ciano. Una vita, Milano: Mondadori, 2001, argues that in February 1937 Ciano recommended that the "Italian renegades" in Spain fighting with the Republicans be executed. After the occupation of Catalonia, several Italians fell prisoners to the Francoists. Mussolini ordered to have them shot ("I morti non racontono la storia").

                      Guerri (p. 249), writes that the operational order was given from Torino by a guy named Roberto Navale, under Emanuele. The distinguished Italian historian Gaetano Salvemini had no doubt whatsoever that the boss behind the order was Ciano. Further circumstantial evidence doesn´t permit Ciano to get out of the loop.

                      A gentleman and a courtier.

                      JE comments:  A most fruitful trip to Ángel Viñas's library; at my house I usually cannot even find the book I'm looking for.  Seriously, it's an honor to have Ángel provide answers to questions like these--and in less than a day!  Thank you, Ángel.

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                      • Murder of the Rosselli Brothers; Moseley's *Mussolini's Shadow* (Paul Preston, UK 04/12/13 1:14 PM)
                        I agree with Ángel Viñas (12 April); the scholarly consensus and indeed the post-war trials point to the responsibility of Ciano for the Rosselli murders.  For those who want an account in English, see Stanislao G. Pugliese, Carlo Rosselli: Socialist Heretic and Antifascist Exile (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1999) pp. 218-25.

                        The novelist Alberto Moravia was cousin to the Rosselli brothers, and used family information for his novel on the murders, Il Conformista, which was turned into an excellent movie by Bernardo Bertolucci. Carlo Rosselli's son John (Giovanni) was a distinguished historian of Italian opera and for many years a much-admired writer for The Guardian. The obituary published in the paper casts some light on the family history:


                        Nigel Jones (12 April) refers to the excellent book by Ray Moseley. In case it is of interest, I attach my review of the book from the Times Higher Education Supplement:

                        Ray Moseley, Mussolini's Shadow. The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano (London: Yale University Press, 1999)

                        Without in any way diminishing the horror unleashed by the fascist dictators in the 1930s, considerable insight can be gained by analizing their activities in terms of the behaviour of adolescent bullies. The preening and posturing of Mussolini and Hitler are obvious enough cases. Moreover, like most playground thugs, they had a willing circle of acolytes egging them on. The lackies of Hitler are relatively well-known to a wide Anglo-Saxon audience, Hermann Göring, Joseph Göbbels, Heinrich Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and others having been the object of best-selling biographies in English. The same is true of more critical, or ‘grown-up', figures like Erwin Rommel, Ulrich von Hassell and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. In contrast, Mussolini's playmates are an unknown quantity for all but the specialist reader. Books in English on Italian fascism tend to be concerned either with the Duce himself or else with broad aspects of fascist rule--cultural life, foreign policy, the position of women and so on. There have been exceptions--Harry Fornari's life of Roberto Farinacci, the violent militia leader, and Claudio Segre's book on Italo Balbo, the Duce's aviation supremo--although neither reached a broad general audience.

                        Germany aside, the key collaborators and those who encouraged--or restrained--the misdeeds of the dictators are not well known. Outside Spain, few know of the crucial role of Ramón Serrano Suñer in creating the Francoist state and handling the Caudillo's relations with the Axis. Even less well-known are Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco who, for thirty years, was his right-hand man, or Laureano López Rodó, the architect of the economic development of the 1960s. In the case of Italy, there is an alarmingly long list of crucial figures worthy of biographical study. The diplomats, Dino Grandi and Filippo Anfuso, the prominent Fascist Party luminaries Achille Starace and Giuseppe Bottai, the generals Rodolfo Graziani and Mario Roatta, immediately come to mind. Of infinitely greater importance than all of them, however, is one Italian fascist, neglect of whom is puzzling, not to say shocking.

                        Galeazzo Ciano was the man who married the boss's daughter and became the Duce's right-hand man. He became Foreign Minister while still in his ‘adolescent' phase and bears major responsibility for the disastrous adventurism of Mussolini's foreign policy between 1936 and 1940. In coming to terms with the consequences of that policy, he would repent, become a critic of his father-in-law and eventually die aged forty-three for trying to bring about his down-fall. He was also the author of a set of vividly written diaries which are a totally indispensable source for the history of fascist aggression. It is hardly surprising then that Ciano has been the subject of three major biographies in Italian. The first, aptly called The mistaken life of Galeazzo Ciano was published in 1962. By the editor of the monumental collected works of Mussolini, Duilio Susmel, it is steeped in deep knowledge of the personal relationships of the fascist establishment. The second, published in 1974, is a fascinating personal memoir of the young Galeazzo by a close friend, Orio Vergani. The third, published in 1979, is a thorough and readable work of scholarship by the journalist Giordano Bruno Guerri.

                        Given the existence of these crucial works, together with Ciano's diaries, and the memoirs of many of his contemporaries, it seemed only a matter of time before an English biography would appear. In fact, two decades after the appearance of Guerri's standard work, and more than fifty years after the publication of the diaries, this long-awaited book has appeared thanks to Ray Moseley, chief European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Specialists familiar with the three Italian works mentioned above and with the published diplomatic documents will find little here that is startlingly new. However, even they will welcome Moseley's colourfully readable and deeply intuitive account of the most swaggering and adolescent of Mussolini's close cronies.

                        Gian Galeazzo was born on 18 March 1903 in Livorno, the son of Admiral Costanzo Ciano, a naval hero and leading fascist who would be designated by Mussolini to be his successor. A strict father, the Admiral forced his adolescent son to wear a sailor suit to make him too embarrassed to visit whorehouses. Yet, in the words of Orio Vergani, Costanzo ‘encouraged him along the road to Fascist virility'. To his father's chagrin, Galeazzo's health was not good enough for him to enter the Naval Academy and, after dabbling in journalism and the theatre, he ended up in the diplomatic service. In the second half of the 1920s, he served as vice-consul in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Peking. Wherever he went, the handsome playboy had plenty of sexual entanglements. It was even rumoured that, in China, he had had an affair (and possibly impregnated) Wallis Warfield Spencer (later Mrs Simpson). He was recalled from China in August 1929 because Mussolini's brother, Arnoldo, who had been entrusted with finding a husband for the Duce's wild daughter, Edda, had heard that he might be eligible. Galeazzo and ‘the mad filly', as she was known, hit it off, had a whirlwind courtship and were married on 30 April 1930. While Edda was certainly attractive and intelligent in her own right, the fact of her being the Duce's daughter may well have influenced the handsome young man's decision to abandon his pleasurable life of serial liaisons.

                        If it was a gamble for him, it certainly paid off. After the wedding, Galeazzo resumed his diplomatic career in China, being successively Consul-General in Shanghai then Minister Plenipotentiary in Peking. In 1933, he returned to Rome as chief of the Duce's press office and by 1935 was Minister of Press and Propaganda. The process was under way whereby he would become the most influential collaborator and confidant of his father-in-law. He clinched his fascist credentials by serving as a bomber pilot in the Ethiopian war. By June 1936, Galeazzo had risen to be the Duce's Foreign Minister and the accomplice of some of his most spectacular misjudgements. He was an enthusiast for the disastrously costly Italian intervention in Spain, which he followed on a map with boyish glee. He was the gushing emissary to Hitler who took the lead in involving Italy in the fateful alliance with the Third Reich. Ciano also played a crucial part in encouraging Mussolini's decisions to attack Albania, enter the Second World War and invade Greece.

                        Moseley recounts all this lucidly and with telling use of personal anecdote to create a likeable portrait of a man who was weak and riddled with contradictions. The affable Ciano could appear dashing but the effect was spoiled by high-pitched nasal voice, flat-footed waddle and his misplaced efforts to mirror Mussolini's inflated chest and jutting jaw. Generous and warm-hearted, he was easily led. He was courageous but he was also arrogant, vain and cruel. Corrupted by his early success, frivolity often suffocated his native intelligence. Much is made by Moseley of the later redemption of the young Ciano's decadent irresponsibility. In this elegantly ethical interpretation, Ciano is seen to ‘stand apart from the gaggle of ruffians, psychopaths and buffoons with whom he had been associated, for he would break with the man he had adored, struggle to keep Italy out of the war, and try to stave off the catastrophic consequences he had helped to set in motion.' In the last resort, Ciano failed but there was a certain grandeur in his attempt to correct his early mistakes. His real importance lies in the diaries and papers saved by his wife which implacably exposed the petty jealousies and infantile point-scoring that characterised the dealings of the fascist leaders. His story is worth the telling and Moseley tells it well.

                        JE comments:  And Paul Preston can really review a book.  Now I understand Ciano in all his contradictions.  Has anyone in WAISworld read son Fabrizio's personal memoir, Quando il nonno fece fucilare papa (When Grandpa had Daddy Shot)?

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                    • Galeazzo Ciano (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/11/13 2:58 PM)
                      Some small comments on Nigel Jones's post of 11 April:

                      The firing squad that shot Ciano was not botched, but was a regular firing squad organized by the new Republican Fascists, who did their best to keep Mussolini out of the Ciano problem, because they were sure that if Mussolini became involved he would have pardoned his son-in-law.

                      The "golpe" in which Ciano participated to remove Mussolini was on July 25, 1943. The fascists who ousted Mussolini were then ousted by the "golpe" of the King.

                      As far as I know, no one has had the idea of rehabilitating Ciano. The poor guy was disliked by all, fascists and antifascists.

                      There is also another story about the Rosselli brothers, that they were killed because they had the intention of returning to Italy, disgusted by what they had seen in Spain at the hands of the communists and they wanted to present proofs about that. I hope my WAIS colleagues will not scream in response to this interpretation.  It is just another circulating story that I, for sure, can neither prove nor endorse.

                      The murderers of Matteoti Amerigo Dumini and Co. were arrested by the police, and following a trial they were put in jail. Also there are several theories on who was/were the big shot(s) behind those who ended up in jail--oil interests, enemies of Mussolini's peace efforts towards the socialists, etc. These murderers were again put on trial after 1945.

                      JE comments: Ángel Viñas (11 April) has convinced me that the Rosselli brothers were murdered on Ciano's orders. Does the alternative narrative given by Eugenio Battaglia suggest that Communist agents murdered the brothers in France, to spare future embarrassment? Such theories, even if unfounded, can be fascinating.

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                      • Execution of Galeazzo Ciano (David Gress, Denmark 04/12/13 1:48 AM)

                        As those who have seen the newsreel of the execution of Ciano in Verona in January 1944, as I have, can attest, it was a by-the-book fucilazione alla schiena, a shooting in the back, such as Italian law prescribed for traitors. The condemned men were tied to chairs placed with their backs to the execution squad.

                        Ciano played a minor part in the coup against Benito Mussolini in the night of July 24-25, 1943. He had been sidelined by his father-in-law, the Duce, as ambassador to the Vatican, in February. The main agent of the coup was Dino Grandi, a former foreign minister, ambassador to London, and minister of justice or, as the Italians so significantly put it, Ministro de Grazia e Giustizia, minister for reprieval and justice.

                        Grandi, who had long since stopped believing in Mussolini as a savior of his country, hoped that toppling Mussolini by a vote in the Fascist Grand Council would impel the King to appoint a new prime minister able and willing to make peace with the Allies. Unfortunately for Italy, the King appointed the sleazebag, turncoat, and opportunist Pietro Badoglio, who had been conspiring in his ineffectual way too. Badoglio was so terrified of the Germans that he had the amazing gall to announce, the day after Mussolini's fall, that "the war continues," i.e. on the German side. Whereas Grandi had thought that a better prime minister, such as the venerable Marshal Caviglia, would immediately send him, Grandi, to Madrid to speak to his old friend, the British ambassador there, Samuel Hoare, Lord Templewood. Who knows what might have happened? In the event, Badoglio fumbled along until the Germans had occupied most of Italy, such that, when the inevitable surrender happened in September, the Allies had to fight a wholly unnecessary and bloody 18-month war up the peninsula. Had Grandi got his way, the Allies could have been put on the Brenner in August 1943, the war might have ended that year, and Stalin wouldn't have gobbled up Eastern Europe.

                        It is a cause of lasting regret that I did not take the opportunity of meeting Grandi, who was still alive in early 1984 when I visited his home city of Bologna. But then, what would I, then utterly ignorant of recent Italian history, have had to say to him?

                        About Ciano's execution, Mussolini was very well aware of its timing. He knew all about it and approved up to the last minute, despite the desperate appeals of his daughter Edda, Ciano's wife, who never forgave her father for not stopping the execution. Contrary tales, such as that Mussolini regretted it, are a myth, or rather, Mussolini may well have regretted it afterwards, but he did nothing to stop it, which he could have done.

                        I am quite willing to believe, in fact I do believe, that the Rosselli brothers were not killed on Ciano's orders--such a thing would be entirely out of character, including being far out of his authority, for that soft, feeble man--but by Communists. I do not take Ángel Viñas's faith (11 April) in his sources for this as seriously as he does. The other story makes far more sense to one such as myself, who has spent quite a lot of time looking into modern Italian history.

                        JE comments:  If Grandi had succeeded in orchestrating peace with the Allies earlier in 1943--might this have significantly shortened the war?  This is a WWII alternative scenario I've never heard before.  One might respond that it could have gone the other way:  had the Germans been able to shorten their lines in Italy, they could have thrown more resources into Eastern Europe.

                        On the topic of the Rosselli brothers, Ángel Viñas's account of Ciano's involvement seems pretty air-tight to me--especially the Emanuele testimony.  Why would Emanuele not blame the communists if he had nothing to lose by doing so?

                        Nigel Jones (next in the queue) has also sent a comment on the Ciano execution.

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                        • Who Killed the Rosselli Brothers? It Wasn't the Communists (Nigel Jones, UK 04/12/13 12:47 PM)

                          I can assure David Gress (April 12) that it certainly was not the Communists who killed the Rosselli brothers, but the French fascists of the Cagoule (more properly called the Committee for Social revolutionary Action-CSAR), acting on behalf of the Italian Fascist regime--though whether Ciano himself gave the direct order is uncertain.

                          I have researched the subject in some depth, and have even visited the scene of the assassination--now marked by a memorial, but otherwise little changed--near Bagnole de l'Orne in Normandy.

                          Not only are the names of the murderers known, but some were put on trial for the crime in post-war France and made full confessions.

                          For more on the Cagoule (a subject in which I am deeply interested) I can recommend a remarkable book Murder on the Metro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France by two US historians, Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite (University of Louisiana Press). Though focussed on the unsolved stabbing of the eponymous Laetitia--an Italian-born good time girl who got too close to the Cagoule via her lover--in the Paris Metro, the book also delves deeply into the Cagoule and their crimes, and indeed into their continuing influence in contemporary France. It's a fascinating read.

                          I yield to no one, as David knows, in my detestation of Communism, but this is one crime that can't be pinned on them.

                          JE comments:  Yes.

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                      • Execution of Galeazzo Ciano (Nigel Jones, UK 04/12/13 2:11 AM)
                        Eugenio Battaglia (11 April) states that the firing squad that executed Ciano "was not botched." With respect I beg to differ.

                        His assertion made me, like Ángel Viñas, dig deeply into my library, which produced the following testimony from a German officer who witnessed the shootings:

                        "The firing squad [thirty men, six to each prisoner] took up their position in two rows fifteen paces behind the prisoners [who were tied to chairs with their backs to their killers], their small Italian rifles loaded and at the ready. At the word of command the men simultaneously opened fire on the five prisoners, the front row kneeling, the back row from a standing position...

                        "After the first salvo four prisoners fell to the ground, taking their chairs with them while one [Pareschi] remained sitting on his chair quite unaffected, to judge from his posture...The men lying on the ground had been so inaccurately hit that they were writhing and screaming. After a short embarrassed pause a few more shots were fired from the ranks of the firing squad at the man still on the chair and the others on the ground. Finally the ceasefire was given and the men were finished off with pistols by the commander of the squad [Nicolo Furlotti] and a few other militiamen."

                        "A German diplomat who was present said 'It was like the slaughtering of pigs.'

                        "Ciano was hit in the back five times from the first round [volley] but was not killed. He fell to the ground, his body contorted, and murmured, 'Oh, help! Help!' Furlotti rushed up and fired a shot into his temple, and then another. Ciano lay dead..."

                        From Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano, by Ray Moseley (Yale UP: 1999).

                        There is in fact rather gruesome footage of the executions on YouTube shot by a German UFA cameraman at the scene, in which Ciano, dressed in a long fawn overcoat, can be clearly seen writhing on the ground after being hit by the first volley. Not for the squeamish.

                        If that isn't botched, I'd hate to see an efficient Italian execution.

                        JE comments: It's been a gruesome morning on WAIS! I'm not going to look up the YouTube link, but I'm sure it can be found easily enough.

                        What is meant by a "small Italian rifle"?  The 6.5 mm Carcano round may be on the small side, but this didn't prevent it from being used to devastating effect in November 1963.  I also just learned that ancient Carcano rifles played an important role in the 2011 Libyan civil war that overthrew Gaddafi.

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                • Spanish Nationalists and Italy (Paul Preston, UK 04/11/13 6:16 AM)
                  Apart from unpublished material in the Italian archives, a lot of what Bob Whealey is looking for (10 April) is available in the relevant volumes of the published diplomatic documents:

                  I Documenti Diplomatici Italiani, 8ª serie, vol. IV (10 maggio-31 agosto 1936) (Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato/Libreria dello Stato, 1993)

                  I Documenti Diplomatici Italiani, 8ª serie, vol. V (1 settembre-1 dicembre 1936) (Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato/Libreria dello Stato, 1994)

                  There is also key documentary material in Alberto Rovighi and Filippo Stefani, La partecipazione italiana alla guerra civile Spagnola, 2 vols, each in two parts Testi & Allegati (Rome: Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito, 1992-3).

                  For those who want to read about this in English, the story of Franco's contacts in Morocco with the two senior Italian officials, the Minister Plenipotenitary in Tangier, Pier Filippo De Rossi del Lion Nero, and the military attaché, Major Giuseppe Luccardi, is recounted in my chapter "Mussolini's Spanish Adventure: From Limited Risk to War" in the book that I edited, The Republic Besieged: Civil War in Spain 1936-1939 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996).

                  There I recount that when Luccardi's reports were passed to the head of Military Intelligence, General Mario Roatta, he showed the telegrams to his assistant Colonel Emilio Faldella, who claimed in 1972 with the full benefit of hindsight, that he had commented prophetically, "Spain is like quicksand (come una sabbia mobile). You put your hand in and your whole body disappears. If things go badly, we'll get the blame; if they go well, we'll be forgotten. But we must do something without being openly committed."

                  Of course, Ángel Viñas's recent researches have taken this story much further with his discoveries about earlier contacts and contracts.

                  JE comments:  I have nothing deep to add to Paul Preston's very useful references, except to reflect on "sabbia mobile":  sounds a lot like Verdi's "La donna è mobile," one of the all-time great tenor arias.

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              • Thoughts on the Spanish Civil War, from Anthony J. Candil (John Eipper, USA 04/11/13 7:03 AM)

                JE:  Our reader in Austin, Anthony J. Candil, sends this contribution to our Spanish Civil War discussion:

                First, I should stress that my views on the SCW are based on my own research. I should start by saying that my own father, Ramón Candil, still alive, took part in the war and--as a young nationalist officer--entered in Málaga with the Italian troops in February 1937.

                Of course Franco was not fascist; he was "francoist," but Franco didn't count much in the beginning. Keep in mind that he hesitated very much to join the rebellion until the very last minute. General Mola was the real brains of the military coup, but he died, or was killed, later on. We could discuss at great length what happened to Mola.

                It is true that the Monarchists tried since the very beginning to overthrow the Republic.  Plotting and conspiring is what the Bourbon royals do best, like today--nothing is new. The Monarchists sought help in Italy. After all, in spite of Mussolini, Italy was a kingdom. However, it was to no avail. Mussolini despised the Spanish monarchists from the bottom of his heart.

                The fascist party Falange Española also sought help in Italy, but Mussolini never trusted them completely, and he was right not to do so. José Antonio Primo de Rivera was certainly a true leader, but of a kind perhaps out of time. He wouldn't have been a puppet in Italian hands, but he died too, or was allowed to die (we could discuss this also). However, he was a nobleman, son of general Miguel Primo de Rivera, who carried out a coup d'etat for the benefit of king Alfonso XIII. Primo de Rivera Sr. was not a monarchist, and was convinced that what Spain needed was neither a monarchy again nor a Republic of the kind the Second Spanish republic was.

                I'm not surprised by what Eugenio Battaglia has found in Savona, although I haven't heard of the book he mentions. But yes, it is a fact that many of the Italian brigadisti were simple criminals or thugs just trying to find a better way for them in Spain, and not only the Italians, but also many of the Eastern Europeans who joined the International Brigades. These are facts, not necessarily built up by Franco's police as Angel Viñas suggests. We don't have to make saints of all the people who integrated the International Brigades. In a way these guys were "freedom fighters," not all of them fighting for the right cause, and as many British and American volunteers quickly discovered, the Red Star and the Hammer and the Sickle were not symbols of freedom and democracy, were they?

                There were many common thieves and thugs too among the Nationalists, especially within the Foreign Legion (la Legión), as well as the Moroccan troops. But certainly nobody can qualify as such the German volunteers of the Legión Cóndor or the Italian regular soldiers who fought for Franco. They could be labelled many other things perhaps, but not thieves or common criminals.

                I agree with Eugenio Battaglia on the issue of Mussolini finally sending aid to the military rebels when he heard France was ready to do so, or already sending it. Mussolini was quite reluctant to send any help at the beginning and when he did, it was because he was expecting the Nationalists to become a kind of satellite or fully to be committed later on to the Italian cause, which never was the case.

                The Italians were not held in high esteem by Franco, and I strongly believe in the rumors that at the outcome of the Battle of Guadalajara--March 1937--they were making toasts at Franco's HQ, in Burgos, on the failure of the Italian Volunteer Corps (CTV). This certainly showed very bad taste, as for better or for worse, many Italians--from both sides--lay dead on the plains of Guadalajara after the battle.

                Anyway, the Spanish Civil War was a tragedy of colossal proportions and one that should, and perhaps could, have been avoided. Before the war, Franco was just a two-star general, of a poorly equipped army, but after the war he became ruler and dictator of Spain for almost 40 years. But at the same time I do believe it is about time we start recognizing the facts and forgetting about "official" history, no matter from where the "official" word is coming. There is nothing more aberrant for true historians than an "official" history or "establishing history by law," as the Spanish government did in 2004. History cannot be made "official."

                And getting back into history, I'd like to mention, and it is my view only, that when trying to blame someone for the Spanish Civil War, we cannot blame either Franco or the Republic; this would be too simple. The one really to blame is the corrupt monarchy that has been ruling Spain since 1713, and the one that was reinstated by Franco, initially in 1947, confirmed in 1969, and finally implemented in 1975, without consulting the Spanish people. No matter what the present monarchy established in Spain, it is just Franco's legacy and Spain won't be free until Spaniards get rid of it.

                This is my honest and simple view.

                JE comments: Interesting points from Anthony Candil, who lays the blame for the SCW on the Monarchy.  As I'm addicted to personal historical narratives, I'd love to know more about Anthony's father's experience as a Nationalist officer.

                I'm also interested in learning about Spain's "official" version of the SCW, established (by decree?) in 2004.  Is this an Aznar or a Zapatero history? The latter took power in April 2004, and the two PMs would definitely have been on different sides of the SCW.

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                • Thoughts on the Spanish Civil War, Response to Anthony J. Candil (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/12/13 2:36 AM)
                  Well, I disagree with Anthony J. Candil (11 April) on several points. But first of all I take, perhaps objectionably, the liberty to recommend that Anthony bring his knowledge and readings up to date. History is not based on opinions solely.

                  1. Franco took advantage of the new doctrine of Fascism, not only in its Italian variety but also in its stronger and darker German version, to establish a Fascist regime. After 1945, it was impossible to present such as a radiant future for Spain. Some scarcely persuasive substitutes were found, in particular the truly startling concept of "organic democracy." It lasted until 1975.

                  2. It is not true that Franco hesitated in joining the rebellion until the last minute. He knew about it from the beginning. He prepared his garrison in Tenerife in May. He is likely to have made up his mind by mid-June. I recommend Anthony to have a look at my book La conspiración del General Franco (2012).

                  3. Mola was killed in a rather stupid airplane accident on June 1937. There was no need for Franco to have him killed. Mola did not represent a danger for him any longer. He had given up any wish for high command by mid-July.

                  4. Primo de Rivera was executed by the Republicans. German naval codes show that Franco expressed his conviction to the German military mission in Salamanca in October 1936 that Primo was not quite his old self. If Primo's father had not have been a Monarchist we would not understand the course he followed. He certainly did not supplant the Monarchy nor establish a Republic. There weren't any other options at that time.

                  5. I don´t know whether Mussolini despised the Spanish monarchists. One can deal with people one despises. In fact, it happens frequently. In any case the conspirators acted under the nominal command of Gen. Sanjurjo, head-to-be of the rebellion.

                  6. One thing any student of history learns in his/her first year is not to read history forward. In the 1930s many people thought that the liberal-capitalist order was on its last legs and that the USSR embodied the future. As for the discoveries American volunteers made in Spain, I´m curious. Many subsequently abhorred Communism. Others remained communists. Most believed that fighting in Spain was equivalent to fighting for democracy. I believe they were right. Franco was not a democratic future.

                  7. As far as criminals are concerned, Anthony should read Paul Preston´s book The Spanish Holocaust. In his very first secret instruction for the rebellion, Gen. Mola stated that the envisaged action must be extremely violent. In his instructions for the 7th Division he requested that exemplary punishment should be meted. On 20 June 1936 he emphasized that all military personnel who did not rebel would be treated as an enemy. The rebels started Europe´s bloodbaths of the 1930s.

                  8. I strongly recommend Anthony to make sure that he is in possession of the relevant facts. It is not a matter of opinion that Mussolini was reluctant to send war matériel first. It is a matter of analysis. One has to explain why the SIAI agreed on 1 July 1936 to send within the same month 12 SM 81, 10,000 (2 k), 500 (50k), 1,500 (100 k) and 100 (250 k) and sundry other armaments. Further shipments were contracted for August. I refer to my essay "La conninvencia fascista con la sublevación y otros éxitos de la trama civil", en Los mitos del 18 de julio. In September I´ll publish a book (Las armas y el oro) dealing with comparative supplies of war matériel by the three major intervening powers (Italy--the most eager one--Germany, and the USSR). Supplies are proxies for the actual interest shown by the dictators in the Spanish scene.

                  9. The roots of the civil war have produced a very extensive literature. I am a bit surprised that Anthony coincides with the most extreme interpretation of Spanish integrism, whose proponents find the ultimate roots in the establishment of the Bourbon Monarchy. I doubt that this thesis would find much favour with historians, Spanish or foreign, today.

                  10. Perhaps Paul Preston would like to give his more authoritative point of view.

                  In response to John Eipper's question: there's no "official" version of the SCW nowadays. There was an official canon during the Franco years. It was put on the altars by the meritorious Servicio Histórico Militar in a series which would comprise several volumes. The first one, the antecedents, was published in 1945; the second one, dealing with the rebellion ("el Alzamiento") was censored and never saw the light; as a poor substitute a brief history was published around 1966.

                  Variations of this canon were extremely abundant during the Franco years. Policemen, military officers, clerics, hacks, and complaisant academics made a living retelling and enlivening them. Herbert R. Southworth, El mito de la cruzada de Franco (1964), is still the best analysis of that canon in its time of splendor. Not only bits but whole chapters of this canon still permeate the stuff which in primary and secondary schools passes as history in many Spanish schools.

                  What the Zapatero Government did was quite different: it offered, via the Ley de memoria histórica, among other things a very feeble possibility to illuminate the horrors of the past through very modest assistance to historical research and, critically, through funding the exhumation of the unmarked and unknown graves where many of the victims of the White Terror lay buried. I hasten to add that the current conservative Government, taken refuge behind the politics of austerity, has enabled the budget to save 5 million euros on such irrelevant activities.

                  JE comments:  My thanks to Ángel for this thorough and informative analysis.  When Ángel has the chance, I'd be grateful to learn more about Franco's concept of "organic democracy."  Sounds good in theory, but the practice definitely came up lacking.  Did "organic democracy" have an economic (i.e., autarkic) component?

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                • My Father in the Spanish Civil War; from Anthony J. Candil (John Eipper, USA 04/13/13 5:24 AM)
                  JE: Anthony J. Candil (Austin, TX) has followed up on his post of 11 April:

                  My thanks to John E for posting my last message.

                  On his last question, I have to say that the so-called "Ley de la Memoria Histórica" (Law for the Historical Memory) was established by former president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2004. I know many people will disagree with me, but I think it was an unnecessary measure that ultimately led to reopening buried memories and wounds, once again validating the poem of Antonio Machado about the "two Spains." Spain in 2004 was much in need of many other key reforms, in my humble view, and a review on the immediate and close past shouldn't have been a priority. Today as far as I know that law is still standing, and money much needed elsewhere is being devoted to whomever wants to review the history and write it again, especially if it favors the Republican side. This is just my view.

                  On the issue of Prime Ministers Zapatero and Aznar being so apart, I'm not so sure. Keep in mind that José María Aznar even managed to say once that his favorite historical person was no other than Manuel Azaña, the president of the Republic, something that neither Zapatero nor even Felipe González ever dared to say. But yes, of course, Aznar and Zapatero were different and very apart. And I don't like either of them. I think both did poorly as Prime Ministers.

                  On the issue of my father, Ramón Candil. I can tell you that his story is fascinating, and I only came to know about it recently. He never said anything to me nor to anyone.

                  Let me tell you briefly. He started the war as a Republican, a very young corporal in the Infantry Regiment "Castilla 3," in Badajoz, where he has enlisted as a volunteer in late 1935. In July 1936, he was about to start medical school at the University of Sevilla, where his uncle Fernando Candil was a professor at the Law School. His father--my grandfather Antonio--was a civil servant working at the Ministry of the Interior (then Ministerio de la Gobernación), but due to his affinities and links with the Guardia Civil, he was put in jail at the Convento de San Agustin, Badajoz. It's a complicated story.

                  My father was the personal secretary those days of the commanding officer of the Regiment (who kept his unit loyal to the Republic), Colonel José Cantero, who was later on executed or killed in action. There's always an ongoing debate on this.

                  On August 14, 1936, my father was away from his Regiment, trying to provide some relief and help for his father who was still in jail. My father was quickly taken prisoner by a patrol of la Legión (probably from Castejón's column) and later on sent to the infamous Plaza de Toros (bullring), from where he was finally freed two or three days later by his own father and on orders of Lieutenant Colonel Yagüe himself. My father saw many executions. Certainly he was lucky to survive, but he wasn't left many options. Later on as he was about to enter the university, he was sent to one of the many war military academies established by the Nationalists (Academias de Transformación), and by the end of 1936 he was already a very young second lieutenant (alférez) in the Nationalist Army in time to be sent to the capture of Málaga alongside the Italian forces.

                  Later on he participated in many battles, even at the attempt to land in Cartagena. He ended the war being promoted and much decorated, being just barely 20 years old. But that's another story.

                  He never spoke to anybody about his experience; never wanted to. But now while he's still with us I'm trying to put his memories in order.  I'm trying to write a book on those August days, when Franco's forces took over the city of Badajoz. Not everything that has been published conforms to that reality, my father says.

                  JE comments: Civil wars are so tragic (and so fascinating) because your choice of side was often determined by chance. The story of Ramón Candil's arrest by the Franco forces is a case in point. My thanks to Anthony for sharing his father's story.

                  I'm sure there is an extensive bibliography on the Nationalist "Academias de Transformación." Any recommendations from our SCW experts?  Few things strike me as scarier than re-education camps.

                  The massacres of Badajoz receive extensive coverage in our colleague Paul Preston's masterful We Saw Spain Die.  See also Paul's WAIS post of 25 November 2012:


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    • Picasso's "Guernica" (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/06/13 3:43 AM)
      I thank John Eipper for his question about the Joselito legend concerning "Guernica" (5 April).  My answer is that I don´t know. However, one could say that Francoist historians have traditionally been very dismissive of the painting. The latest obiter dictum I know dates from 1999 and was given by the former Franco´s court historian, former head of the censorship department of the Ministry of (Dis)Information, and former (and fortunately brief) Minister of Culture, professor Ricardo de la Cierva: un "cartelón descomunal" (a poster larger than life).

      This worthy gentleman characterized the jury which sat on Herbert Southworth's PhD thesis as "a jury of ignoramuses appointed by the Sorbonne." The thesis director was the eminent French historian, and specialist in Spanish and Catalan history, professor Pierre Vilar.

      JE comments:  Vilar's Historia de España was my first (serious) introduction to the topic.  I read it during my semester in Granada in 1985.  As a budding Latin Americanist, I was surprised how little attention Vilar's book gives to the Spanish colonies in the Americas.

      In an interesting 1999 WAIS post to mark the passing of Herbert Southworth, Prof. Hilton interjected a parenthetical comment into Paul Preston's tribute, in which RH characterized Prof. Vilar as a "sour Marxist."  Unfortunately, it seems WAIS took no note of Prof. Vilar's death four years later:


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    • Guernica, London, Dresden (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/06/13 4:26 AM)
      I thank Ángel Viñas (5 April) for his explanations about Guernica. I understand that the new revised edition of Southworth is the best on the event, while the others should be considered obsolete.

      I hope that Ángel will forgive me if when finding contrasting versions of historical events, I tend always to doubt about the versions of the victors, as by my personal experience they are quite often embellished. Perhaps only the Romans spoke well of their enemies, but that was because the better they were portrayed, the better the Romans who defeated them would seem. Presently, the victors are the good while the losers are the bad, which is extremely wrong because a defeated (but not wiped out) enemy should turned into a friend. Otherwise, how can peace be made? Furthermore, in a situation of conflict not yet degenerated into an open war, it is self-defeating to consider the other as bad or Satan. In such conditions, how can it be possible to have a dialogue?

      For instance, all the world cries about Guernica, but who remembers Dresden, a thousand times worse, and who remembers how the bombing of the German/British towns started? Let's forget of all the bombings that I witnessed in my hometown in Italy as a boy.

      When the Germans started bombing military installations in England, Hitler prohibited any type of attack on civilians, but the Britons bombed towns in the Ruhr. On the night of 25-26 August 1940, the British attacked Berlin in retaliation for a couple of bombs that fell by mistake on the outskirts of London, for which it was reported that the German Radio expressed its regrets. Again there was a bombing of Berlin in the first hours of the 29th, with 10 civilian deaths. On September 4 Hitler made a speech in which, at the end, he forcefully expressed the threat that if the British were going to attack German towns, he would give the order to heavily attack London, etc. The same night the British airplanes, as per Churchill's orders, again bombed Berlin, so this resulted in the bombing of London and so on.

      JE comments: WAISworld has a number of survivors of the London Blitz (Siegfried Ramler, John Heelan, David Pike). Do they accept Eugenio Battaglia's suggestion that Hitler would have refrained from bombing civilians if the British hadn't done so first? This interpretation strikes me as a reach. WWII was a total war, and civilian targets would have come under attack sooner or later. It was precisely at Guernica that the world first saw the demoralizing terror of aerial bombing, and that April day in 1937 probably sealed the fate of Dresden, London, Berlin--and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is the reason (besides Picasso's painting) that Guernica is still remembered with such intensity.

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      • Guernica, London, Dresden (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/06/13 12:25 PM)
        Well, in response to Eugenio Battaglia's comments on the Blitz, Dresden, WWII and so on (6 April), it would take me a long time to reply. Let us stick to our respective guns.

        The threat of bombing open cities was very real in the 1930s. Also the fears. German, American, and Italian theorists (among others) had written long and hard about the demoralizing effects of terror bombardments. Apart from some scenarios outside of Europe, the best illustrations came during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica wasn´t the first case. It was preceded by Madrid and some other cities in Barcelona and Valencia. In the Basque country by Durango and Eibar.

        What made Guernica a cause celèbre was the realization that almost a whole town had crumbled under German bombs (HMG only learned a few days later that Italian planes had also participated). This realization came into the public discussion because of the reports filed by British journalists to their London and New York media. Afterwards, Guernica was followed by more intensive bombings of Valencia and Barcelona.

        HMG didn´t delay in sending exploratory missions to assess the effects of the raids and the efficacy of the countermeasures in place. The British authorities were obviously aware that it would be good to learn something about them in a foreign country.

        The fact remains though that the Luftwaffe was the first air force to experiment with combinations of bombs, different methods of dropping them and the attacking of open towns with a view to their destruction.

        It isn´t a simple coincidence that the guy behind the carrying out of the bombing was Lt. Col. von Richthofen, who put two and two together, drew the necessary lessons for the future and was immediately called upon to apply them to Warsaw (yes, Warsaw) in September '39.

        The Germans were ready for terror attacks and they would have carried them out in any case. Why not?

        However, as many historians of WWII have shown, the diversion of the Lutwaffe to London instead of sticking to radars, radio stations, airfields and the RAF may have cost Germany the battle of Britain. It had become a total war, as the Germans ultimately wanted (no need to analyze master Goebbels´s famous speech in the Sportpalast about "wollt ihr den totalen Krieg).

        JE comments:  Ángel Viñas mentions some aerial bombing scenarios outside of Europe prior to Guernica.  I'm curious as to where.  Did the Japanese use this tactic in their invasion of Manchuria?  How about the Italians in Ethiopia?
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      • Memories of Savona Bombing in WWII (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/07/13 4:05 AM)
        In response to JE (6 April), I was not suggesting at all that Hitler would have refrained from bombing civilians if the British hadn't done so first.  I just wrote what happened. I detest Hitler, but unfortunately Italy was allied with him, as the US was allied with Stalin.

        I just want to say something about my memories of the bombing: it is the most exciting experience when underway, and the most horrible afterwards when digging out the injured and dead people.

        Savona was bombed for the first time from the sea by the French fleet on June 14 1940. The first attack from the air was again from the French two days later.  One plane, a Swordfish, was shot down.

        Several other attacks occurred. On October 6 a British submarine shot two torpedoes which ended up on the beach. On February 14, 1942 the British decided to attack civilian targets from the air, and on February 22, Sir Arthur Harris declared that the terror would escalate until the end of the war.  From that date the intensive bombing of Savona began. As defenses, several bomb shelters were constructed.

        When the sirens began to blow, day or night, we escaped. My mother would grab some possessions and open the windows, hoping that the blast of the air from the explosions would not break the glass, while I tried my best to secure the Italian flag in my room so that it would not fall. I was convinced that if the flag fell under bombardment, the Italian army would suffer another setback.

        If not at school or at home doing schoolwork, I would stay with some friends near the shelter. My mother remained at home, either cooking or working as a tailor. When the sirens sounded, we would wait to look at the planes before going inside, but in the late part of the war, we would seek shelter only if the planes were few. If they were numerous we did not care, as that meant they were going north towards Germany.

        In the summer of 1944 we went to the outskirts of Savona to a country house with other people. The owner of the house was the father of the two girls I wrote about in an earlier post, who were killed when they wandered into a minefield a few days after the end of the war. When the planes arrived, we usually hid under a huge fig-tree, as some pilots enjoyed machine-gunning anything that moved. From there it was possible to see the planes arriving, diving, discharging the bombs with the subsequent explosions and fire. It was all very fascinating to my young mind.

        Of course it was also possible to see the fire of the antiaircraft batteries. I would always hope for some good shots, but apparently this did not happen often. Some planes were supposedly hit and crashed into the sea, while another fell on the hill on the other side of our town. The pilots died in the crash and were buried with full military honors in the Cemetery of the White Cross of Altare.  Per the orders of General Farina of the division San Marco of the RSI, all soldiers, Italians, Germans, Americans and also Partisans, were buried with dignity. Now it is mostly a cemetery of the RSI, but some Partisans remain, so on April 25th, the day of St. Mark, at 0900 there is a ceremony for the partisans and their families while at 1000 there is a ceremony of the RSI soldiers and their families. After the surrender, General Farina was saved by the Americans, as the partisans wanted to kill him at Cadibona near Altare. See my previous post on this subject.

        During the night there was always a lone plane called "Pippetto," which from time to time would drop a bomb. This served to keep people awake and disturbed.

        When the houses of my relatives were destroyed, my mother and I went there. They were safe but many other people were crushed under the walls and people were digging them out. It was terrible.

        Most of the people in the shelters were just hoping that the war would end soon one way or another. They believed what Radio London was promising. Radio London started with the first note of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, giving news, orders in code to the partisans and stating that the Allies were fighting not Italy but Mussolini, while their armies would withdraw the day after after the "liberation." Well the Diktat (peace treaty) proved that the war was against Italy while foreign troops are still here, but this is another story. There were still people who were siding with the RSI, but most of them at the end of the war disappeared in two ways--some were killed and others changed flag.

        In the air above Savona there were never RSI (or German) fighters. The few remaining planes were in Po Valley.  The best pilot, Visconti, was killed by the Partisans but he is well remembered in the National and Air and Space Museum in Washington and in the Ellis Island museum as the Italian Air Ace.

        JE comments: Many thanks to Eugenio Battaglia for these memories of an experience no child (or adult, for that matter) should ever have to go through.  Eugenio's boyhood memories are remarkably similar to those of John Heelan during the London Blitz; here is John's post of of 13 August 2011:


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  • Guernica Revisionism (Henry Levin, USA 04/06/13 10:20 AM)

    I am surprised to read the Fascist-sympathizing view of Guernica. Are the proponents of such interpretations trying to convince us that the Germans and Italians sent their warplanes over the city to provide entertainment and peaceful overflights for the pleasure of the denizens? And then the spoilsport Republicanos decided to destroy the city to bespoil the good deeds and wishes of the Nazis and the Italian Fascists? Normally, one does not send dive bombers to entertain a civilian population. This fantasy of denial and rewrite of history aimed at blaming the victims is unacceptable.

    JE comments:  Ángel Viñas has sent a post on how Guernica was used as a test case for the Germans to gauge the effects and effectiveness of aerial bombardment.  It was a "learning opportunity" that would be put to brutal use in WWII.   Stay tuned.

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