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Post Violence in the Spanish Civil War
Created by John Eipper on 04/01/15 1:53 AM

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Violence in the Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA, 04/01/15 1:53 am)

It's always difficult to engage the issue of the Spanish Civil War without hurting someone, no matter how much care one takes. But it is even more difficult when some WAISers take what I call "dogmatic" positions claiming they, and only they, know the truth. I don't believe in dogma, and I don't believe in those claiming to have found the truth. History is about facts, and contemporary facts are not so difficult to find, and they cannot be hidden for long.

The Spanish Civil War was a tragedy and in tragedy people die. All civil wars are full of heinous crimes and all sides commit them.

But before examining who killed more and why, maybe it's worthy to start examining who started the killing and when. Spain's civil war didn't start in reality in 1936. In my view started much earlier, maybe on the Tragic Week of Barcelona, in 1909, a real confrontation between the Spanish military and the working classes, or in 1923 with the Dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera, or even on the very first day the inept King Alfonso XIII left the country by his own decision.

Again, before we see the actual killing in the Civil War, we should stop at seeing what happened at the Massacres of Castilblanco in 1931, and Casas Viejas in 1933, already under the "democratic Republic," without entering into the Asturias Revolution, in 1934, and without even taking into account the so many indiscriminate killings of conservative people, priests or nuns, and the burning and looting of so many churches and monasteries.

Maybe the military uprising wasn't justified but it is a blatant truth that injustice and social disorder call for radical attitudes. It happened in Russia in 1917, in France in 1789, and it will happen again and again. At first the military was not against the Republic, especially generals such as Mola, Cabanellas and Queipo de Llano; their flag was the Republican and even Colonel Yagüe, the "butcher of Badajoz," in his speech at Badajoz cried "long live to the Republic." What happened after October 1, 1936 with Franco taking over is another history.

The blatant truth is that the Republic failed to deliver, failed to be truly democratic and failed to provide justice and order. In my view, it was highly responsible for what happened.

I don't like to disagree with my friend Carmen Negrín (I consider her my friend), but not all killings on the Republican side were conducted by uncontrollable masses or disobedient people. The massacres at Paracuellos de Jarama, in November, 1936, were conducted on order of the Republican authorities. (I'm not going to argue if Carrillo was responsible or not.) As I said war calls for atrocities and injustice, and all sides commit them.

Certainly what happened after the war is execrable and maybe history would have spoken different of Franco if he had established some kind of general amnesty and allowed everybody to work together rebuilding the country, even stepping down and re-establishing the Republic, but I'm trying to understand that times were difficult and with Germany at the Pyrenees it wasn't so easy. Nevertheless to me the worst sin Franco ever committed was not to step down and not to restore the Republic, and to name as his successor a corrupt and Machiavellian person such as Juan Carlos has proven to be, helping the infamous Bourbon kings to return.

That a person who is not a king, neither a nobleman by birth, and whose only merit is just to have conducted a rebellion and won a war against a legal government, appoints as his successor, with the title of King, a third person, is just something never seen before in constitutional law anywhere in the civilized world.

As a final remark, yes, after the war the killing went on and on, even I will say until mid-fifties but is there anyone who can tell me what would have happened if the Republic had won the war instead?

Is there anyone who dares to say that no killings at all would have taken place?

Taking into account the high proportion of Soviet and Communist influence at all levels of the Republic by the end of the war, it is likely that massacres and "political cleansing" would have taken place on a scale never seen before.

The sad thing is that, as John Eipper says, the Civil War is still pretty much alive in the mind of many Spaniards. That goes without saying.

Antonio Machado's poem is always valid:

"Españolito que vienes
al mundo te guarde Dios.
una de las dos Españas
ha de helarte el corazon."

JE comments: Yes, the two Spains.  April Fools' or not, we dutifully re-mobilize two or three times a year to re-fight the Civil War.

Anthony Candil stresses the universal truth that war is Hell.  Anyone care to take a stab on the alternate outcome--a Republican victory?  To my mind, this never could have happened, for this simple reason that Italy and Germany were willing to do whatever it took to win, the Soviets already received Spain's gold, and the Western allies had no stomach for war.

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  • Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/02/15 3:22 AM)
    On April 1st, 1939, the Spanish Civil War officially ended as the armed struggle came stopped. What started then led Spain to what it is today.

    No matter what, I want to pay a homage to the young Americans who went to Spain to fight for their beliefs and in defense of freedom and democracy.

    Neither side was democratic nor free, unfortunately.

    The Lincoln battalion, also known as Abraham Lincoln Brigade, was formed by a group of volunteers from the United States, who served in the Civil War as soldiers, technicians, medical personnel and aviators fighting for the Republican forces.

    Of the approximately 2,800 American volunteers, between 750 and 800 were killed in action or died.

    Americans volunteered and arrived in Spain in 1937. The Lincoln Battalion was organized in January 1937 and initially fielded three infantry companies, two rifle companies and one machine gun company.

    On February 27, 1937, at the Battle of Jarama, near Madrid, the unit lost two-thirds of its strength, including their commander, Robert H. Merriman (who was badly wounded), in a futile assault on Nationalist positions. The battalion remained in combat and was slowly rebuilt while maintaining its front-line positions.

    On April 2, 1938, at the Aragón front, Merriman and his executive officer, Edgar James Cody, were either killed in action or captured and executed some hours later by Nationalist troops.

    Merriman made his way through the University of Nevada and joined ROTC. He was reportedly a friend of Robert Oppenheimer. He was professor of economics at the University of California, at Berkeley.

    Most American volunteers returned to the US between December 1938 and January 1939. American POWs, not many, were released after the fall of the Republican government, although the last POWs did not arrive in the United States until September 1939.

    Currently, there are four memorials dedicated to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as far as I know:

    The first is located on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.

    The second is located in James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

    A third memorial to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, California.

    The fourth memorial commemorates the students and faculty of The City College of New York (CCNY) who fought in the Spanish Civil War, including the thirteen alumni who died in that war. The memorial is located in the North Academic Center of CCNY.

    All my respects to them.

    JE comments: Detroit with its tradition of labor activism was home to several brigadistas. As late as the 1990s the survivors appeared at commemorative events.  According to Wikipedia, only one member of the brigade is left, 99 year-old Delmer Berg of California:


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    • Abraham Lincoln Brigade Veterans: David McKelvy White (Robert Whealey, USA 04/03/15 8:46 AM)
      To follow up on Anthony Candil (2 April), I have met four or five veterans of the Lincoln Brigade. I published a short biography of their first Commander, David McKelvy White of Marietta Ohio. I never met David, but I met his pallbearer, who came to Marietta from Brooklyn to bury White.

      James Norman (pen name) published his autobiography as a novel The Fell of Dark. His real name was James Norman Schmitt (born in Chicago). The plot of the novel was about the departure of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade after the Casado coup of March 1939. James Norman taught English at Ohio University in 1960s up to early 1970. I first heard of the term "premature anti-fascists" from him. He served in World War II in the Aleutian Islands, far removed from Europe. This stamp PAF on one's personnel folder was up to each Company Commander or Battalion Commander to promote or transfer the each GI at his discretion.

      J. Edgar Hoover, State Department Passport Division and HUAC regarded the ALB as "subversives" from 1936 until Hoover's death in 1972.

      JE comments: "Premature anti-fascist" is one of history's silliest political categories, but those who came up with it during WWII saw no irony.

      I found this image of David M. White's grave in Marietta, Ohio.  Ironically, Marietta is one of the most conservative towns in the state.  According to the ALBA archives, White committed suicide in 1945 because the Communist Party threatened to expel him for his openly gay lifestyle.


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  • Some Additional Points on the SCW (Carmen Negrin, -France 04/02/15 3:48 AM)
    Thank you Anthony Candil (1 April); you give me hope for some possible entente!

    Just a few points.  The Republican government's instructions for the Paracuellos prisonners was to take them to a prison in Valencia.

    The programme for the end of the war on the Republican side was summarized in the so-called thirteen points, which were later reduced to three, basically foreigners out, amnesty, and free elections.

    And last but not least, for John E, the gold went to USSR but came back to Spain in the form of arms, food, etc.

    As far as the Soviet influence goes, we have already discussed this many times. All I can say is that I have personally meet few communists from that period. They were rare in the circles of exiles that my grandfather continued seeing. The few exiles we knew who went to Cuba, for instance, ended up in Mexico when Fidel got into the picture. Not only that but the few who were, became socialists with time (including Carrillo, who left the PCE).

    So much for the Stalinist influence among at least one of the leaders!

    JE comments:  That was always my understanding about the Spanish gold.  The fundamental difference between Stalin's support of the Republic and Mussolini and Hitler's support of the Nationalists is that the latter extended credit:  to get repaid they had to win the war.

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    • Spanish Civil War Today (Enrique Torner, USA 04/03/15 6:38 AM)
      I have been exercising a lot of self-restraint during the latest, and very intense, discussion on the Spanish Civil War, because I am really behind on my grading. However, it has been hard!

      I'd like to limit myself to praise Nigel Jones for not letting himself be intimidated by the rest of WAISers, who have been defending the Republican side. I get very emotional when discussing the Spanish Civil War, as do most Spaniards, so I will limit myself to a conclusion that I share with Stanley Payne: that the Nationals killed more people than the Republicans, but the Republicans tortured more, despite what the movies portray. I wish Stanley Payne would join this discussion and balance the scales. Does he participate in WAIS discussions any more?

      Finally, a few comment/questions: Don't you see a parallel between the Spanish Civil War, the war against Islamist terrorism, and the internal, strong division, between Republicans and Democrats in the US? Could the US end up in a Civil War too? Isn't this nation equally divided?

      JE comments:  Stanley Payne is a steadfast patron of WAIS, including this year (thanks, Stanley!), but it's been a couple of years since his last post. 

      We'd love to hear from you, Stanley!

      I don't see any parallels between the SCW and the present Clash of Civilizations, as the former was a contest of ideologies (not of identities--although if we think about it, identity is ideological).  The US already had its civil war, as did Spain.  I'm pretty sure both nations learned their lesson and won't try another.

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      • Spanish Civil War; Thoughts on Civil War in General (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/07/15 5:56 AM)

        I do not have a dog in this fight, but I'd like to add an observation regarding the Spanish Civil War, and by extension the US Civil War, as John mentioned in Enrique Torner's posting of 3 April.

        I confess the only real knowledge I have on this subject comes from WAIS, although I taught ordinance and bomb tech courses to Spanish National Police/soldiers in the 1970s. And perhaps the only foreign film I was forced to watch in college that was not total trash was To Die In Madrid (Mourir à Madrid).

        This film started by showing a farmer going to his field in the fog, and after showing the SCW and atrocities on both sides, who joined and who slaughtered whom and the carnage, it concluded while rolling the credits with the same farmer going to his fields in the fog. His life and that of most Spaniards did not change one bit. Only who governed.

        I am never sure that any nation has learned any lesson from a Civil War--I remember being stationed at Ft Sill and spending more that a few Friday and Saturday nights partaking in and separating men in cowboy bars re-fighting the US Civil War. Usually it was over the causes of the war. And as I mentioned in a previous WAIS post, I have even seen fights break out outside Oxford over the cause and who was worse in the English Civil War--who committed the most atrocities, Royalist or Roundheads.

        What I suggest is Civil Wars are never resolved (and, as with most wars in general and civil wars, especially civil wars, the truth is murdered first). After the 50th anniversary they should be confined to history books and discussions such as this to once a year for two week max. No one will change their minds, and only animosity results.

        PS: I trust WAISers had the very best of Easter and all that it represents.

        JE comments:  I've sensed SCW fatigue from a number of WAISers, but the 1936-'39 period is probably the single strongest area of our historical expertise.  I agree 100% with Robert Gibbs that no one changes her/his mind, but this lack of resolution is precisely the reason the topic remains so vital today.  If there were consensus, then the war wouldn't flare up every few months.  And I never fail to learn something during our skirmishes.

        Bob Gibbs and I had a nice phone conversation yesterday.  Bob will be traveling soon to London, Prague, and Budapest.  I'll definitely be pestering him for comments and photos!

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    • Italy in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/03/15 7:04 AM)
      Considering that the Spanish Civil War is once again on the WAIS agenda, let me present some information on the Italian participation in this cruel war.

      Initially Italy supplied only armaments to the Nationalists. The first dozen S.81 airplanes arrived on 25 July 1936, then 12 GR.32 fighter planes arrived in August, along with five tanks. But after November 1936, the flow of Italian volunteers began, from the CTV (Corpo Truppe Volontarie).

      The Italian Air Force deployed 6000 men (including some civilian employees), the total planes used were 760, the destroyed enemy planes 700, and there were 175 casualties.

      The Italian Navy deployed 16 submarines (4 used by the Spaniards), 2 cruisers Eugenio di Savoia and Emanuele Filiberto, plus the cruiser Barletta that bombed the port at Palma de Mallorca. The Navy suffered 6 casualties, as its involvement was minor.

      With the Italian Army (CTV) a total of 75,000 served in Spain, with 3320 casualties. They dead remain in the military cemetery of Zaragoza.

      Being an army of "volunteers," some were unsatisfactory, and 591 were repatriated for disciplinary action and 3128 were repatriated because they were not physically fit.

      The CTV took about 20,000 prisoners, and this caused some controversy with the Nationalists.

      In fact, in order to protect the lives of the prisoners, the Italians refused to hand them over to the Nationalists except for some accused of war crimes. The same protection later in WWII was granted to the Jews. Anyway, this does not show the good side of the Franco forces.

      Some 3350 volunteers from Italy fought on the Republican side (600 became casualties). These included some future big shots in Italian politics, socialists such as Nenni (former close friend of Mussolini) and Bogoni, republicans such as Pacciard and Angeloni, and the anarchist Bernìeri. But most were communists such as Togliatti, Longo, Vidali, Di Vittorio, etc.

      By August 1936 two fighting groups were already in the lines. By the way, only 557 Soviet citizens (mostly political commissars) were in Spain.

      Some of these volunteers for the Republicans were common criminals escaping from the Italian jails.

      A friend of mine who wrote a book about the volunteers from Savona got in trouble because he refused to overlook the past criminal record of some of these "heroes."

      The captured communist volunteers were deported to Italy and put in the "confino" on some small Italian islands. On 8 September 1943 they were freed and could start their bloodthirsty terrorism within the partisan forces, which after all were mostly dominated by them.

      In the SCW Italy threw away 12 billion lire and many lives, just to hand Spain over to a small man like Franco.

      JE comments:  Very informative. I wonder if Eugenio could give us an idea of the number of "volunteers" who were actually conscripts?

      Does anyone know about the present state of the Italian cemetery in Zaragoza?  At least through 1975, they probably received the best care of any of Mussolini's war dead.

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      • Italy in Spanish Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/04/15 4:18 AM)
        I'm not going to pretend to know more than our friend Eugenio Battaglia (3 April) on the Italian intervention in Spain, but I can recommend a book from John F Coverdale: Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War (Princeton Legacy Library) and certainly from our fellow WAISer Paul Preston in his book The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge. Ángel Viñas has written extensively on the issue as well.

        My own interpretation: Mussolini's response to appeals for armed assistance from the Spanish insurgents following their failed military coup of July 17-18, 1936, which precipitated the civil war in Spain, was initially cautious. Only when he had assured himself, on the basis of reports from Italian diplomats, that neither France nor Britain nor Soviet Russia intended to intervene, did the Italian dictator give the green light, on July 27, for the dispatch of aircraft to assist in the airlift of pro-rebel Spanish Moroccan forces to the Spanish mainland, and arms and munitions to those fighting in Spain. His decision to intervene was made in the expectation that a small amount of Italian war material would be decisive for the rebellion. It was based, partly at least, on Franco's personal assurances to the Italian authorities, that victory for the rebels would be certain and quick, provided some outside assistance was forthcoming, and that with victory he intended to establish "a republican government in the Fascist style adopted for the Spanish people."

        Nevertheless the request for aid that finally provoked Italy's intervention in Spain came from the mastermind of the military uprising, General Emilio Mola. His envoys met with Count Ciano in Rome on July 24, 1936 and asked for urgent assistance, advising the Italians about the danger of French support to the Republic. On the other hand Mussolini assured former Spanish King Alfonso XIII that "Italy would not permit the establishment of a Soviet regime in Spain."

        With the recent election victory in Spain of the French Popular Front movement--in February, 1936--in mind, Mussolini was certainly worried that a victory for the left in Spain might encourage revolutionaries in France and Western Europe, including Italy. As he told his wife, Rachele: "Bolshevism in Spain would mean Bolshevism in France, Bolshevism at Italy's back and the danger of [the] Bolshevisation of Europe."  The Duce and Ciano continued throughout the civil war to regard their intervention in Spain as safeguarding Fascism in Italy, and as Count Ciano reflected later, in October, 1937: "At Málaga, at Guadalajara, at Santander, we were fighting in defense of our civilization and revolution."

        All along, Mussolini recognized and understood that Italy was providing more aid to Franco than was Germany. In supporting Franco by the commitment of military personnel, Italy far outdid their German collaborators. While sharing common ideological concerns over the Spanish conflict with Italy, the Germans during its course invested less in terms of military support for Franco both in terms of the number of personnel involved in Spain and in armaments supplied. In this connection, it has been variously estimated that the total cost of Italian war material amounted to between 6 billion and 8.5 billion lire ($120-$180 million) while for Germany the cost is variously estimated at between 412 million and 540 million Reichmarks ($70 million and $90 million).

        Throughout the duration of the civil war more than 16,000 Germans helped the Nationalist forces, although the maximum in Spain at any one time was 10,000. These forces included the "Condor Legion" dispatched in December 1936, which consisted of 5,000 tank and air personnel. At their maximum, Italian forces in Spain numbered between 40,000 and 70,000 troops, including air personnel, though more than 80,000 actually went to Spain. German casualties were very slight, amounting to no more than 300 dead. Italian losses were far heavier with around 4,000 dead and 11,000-12000 wounded.

        All during the Civil War Italy sent more than 70,000 men, as I said, of whom almost 6,000 belonged to the Italian Air Force, 45,000 to the army and 29,000 to the Fascist militia. Italy also supplied 1,800 cannons, 1,400 mortars, 3,400 machine guns, 6,800 motor vehicles, 155 light tanks, 213 bombers, 44 assault planes and 414 fighter planes. Mussolini became fully committed to the Spanish conflict, primarily for geostrategic reasons. The spectacle of a leftist revolutionary Spanish Republic, oriented towards France and the Soviet Union, would constitute an intolerable challenge to the Fascist concept of "Mare Nostrum."

        With regard to the conduct and progress of the war, both the Italians and the Germans experienced increasing exasperation with the attritional strategy of Franco and his military command. After the debacle of Guadalajara in March, 1937 contemptuously referred to as a "Spanish Caporetto" by critics of the Fascist regime, Mussolini, in particular, was highly critical of Franco's failure, as he saw it, to bring the Red forces in Spain to a decisive confrontation. Yet, in October he complained to the German Ambassador, Von Faupel, that while the Spaniards were very good soldiers they had no idea of modern warfare and were making "exceedingly slow progress" on the Asturian Front. Ciano was equally critical of Franco's military leadership, accusing him in December, 1937, in light of the Republican offensive to capture the city of Teruel, of missing "the most opportune moments and of giving the Reds the opportunity to rally again."

        From the outset both Hitler and Mussolini concentrated their support through Franco rather than any of the other Spanish generals. In intervening in the civil war in Spain both the Italians and Germans were highly motivated by ideological, strategic and economic considerations, but it was the first of these that initially drove their intervention and sustained it thereafter. The common struggle against Bolshevism, above all preventing a victorious communist republic emerging from the Spanish conflict, with its consequent encouragement for international communism and its negative ramifications for the advance of Fascism in Europe, produced in the words of Ulrich von Hassell, German Ambassador to Italy, "a sudden increase in the warmth of German-Italian cooperation."

        Franco's failure to break the stubborn resistance of the Republicans on the Ebro, during the summer of 1938, was a source of increasing concern to the Axis powers, particularly Italy. According to Ciano, Mussolini used violent language about Franco for "his flabby conduct of the war" and letting victory slip when he already had it in his grasp. He accused the Spanish leader of "serene optimism" in the way he conducted the war and advised that serene optimists "find themselves under a tram as soon as they leave home."  At one point Mussolini was inclined to withdraw all his ground forces but with Franco's agreement arrangements were begun to withdraw 10,000 Italian soldiers from Spain, a decision made easier by the withdrawal of the International Brigades on the Republican side during September, 1938.

        However the substantial arms deliveries provided by Germany in late 1938, along with further Italian reinforcements during the winter of 1938-1939 contributed to Franco's victory in Catalonia, and the capture of Barcelona in January, 1939 and eventually the fall of Madrid at the end of March, 1939.

        The intervention of Germany and Italy certainly prevented Franco's defeat, even if Soviet military aid gave initially to the Republic the means to beat back the initial advance by Franco's forces.

        The Spanish Civil War was important not only to Spain but also to the whole of Europe. Germany's involvement in that war was crucial to helping Franco's Nationalists claim control of Spain. Despite some historians' views as to a functional foreign policy, the evidence suggests that involvement in Spain was perfectly consistent with Hitler's foreign policy goal of distracting Britain and France and driving a rift between them, Italy, and the Soviet Union, all while Hitler was making plans for eastern expansion.

        The result of Germany's involvement in the Spanish Civil War was just that--Britain and France, although drawing closer together, moved further away from Italy and alienated the Soviet Union.

        Both Italy and to a lesser extent the USSR were subsequently drawn toward Germany. Furthermore, the Spanish Civil War and Britain and France's Non-Intervention policy led Hitler to begin to believe that he could manipulate the weak democracies to achieve his foreign policy ends. This led to an acceleration of his plans for eastern expansion, which in turn helped accelerate Europe's movement toward World War II.

        JE comments:  A good synthesis of events.  Franco seems to have frustrated his friends as much as he angered his enemies.  Although he would get the last laugh, outliving his "more competent" European sponsors by three decades.  When discussing Franco, I always return to the term "wily survivor."

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      • Italian Volunteers and Conscripts in SCW (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/04/15 6:44 AM)
        In John E's comments to my post of 3 April, he asked if I have an idea of how many conscripts were among the Italian volunteers in Spain.  I have no idea.

        The Italians at that time were full of patriotism and enthusiasm. The war in Spain was perceived as a "crusade" against the "Reds" who were assassinating political adversaries, bishops, priests and nuns, destroying churches and so on. Furthermore the barbarism of the communists in Italy during the "biennio rosso" 1919-1921 was well remembered.

        My father applied to volunteer. He had already applied to go to East Africa the year before, but was refused because he had just married with a baby on the way. For this same reason was again refused for Spain.

        I assume that there were more volunteers than were requested, so it was not necessary to send conscripts, but I really do not know for certain. Probably the higher-ranking officers were obliged to go, but they were happy to do this, expecting glory and promotions.

        Things were very different at that time.

        JE comments: I wonder who the baby on the way was? (Ha ha.) Eugenio saved his father from fighting in Spain. For that, I'd be eternally grateful!

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        • Letters of Italian Combatants in SCW; John Brademas (David Pike, -France 04/05/15 10:31 AM)
          I owe it to John Brademas, whom I first met at Stanford in 1964, and who had interviewed Spanish anarchists in Toulouse before me, for the contact to Federica Montseny that led me to Aurelio Chessa, custodian of the archives of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana held in Genoa. Chessa allowed me to rummage through the suitcases that were left behind by Giovanna Berneri, widow of the Italian philosopher whose murder could never be pinned, either on Mussolini or on Stalin, who had an equal desire to see him dead.

          In the suitcases I found letters written by Italian soldiers who had been sent to Spain by Mussolini and who had deserted in the field. One of these, written by a soldier to his fiancée, read:

          "You were right when you told me not to leave home. I thought we were going to work in Africa, as the draft card said. And so I joined up as a volunteer, not to fight but to work and earn 40 lire a day, as everybody in Italy said. Instead of that, it's all been a lot of hogwash."

          Camillo Berneri said of Guadalajara in 1937, in which Italian fascists were fighting Italian antifascists, that the Italian defeat was a victory of Italian antifascism. The Spanish ambassador to Paris, Luis Araquistain, had this to say about the battle:

          "The conduct of the Italian army in Spain, far from bringing discredit upon it, does it honor. Mussolini's troops are men first, and soldiers second. Why should they fight? Fighting would be the real crime. Italy can feel proud and not humiliated by such an army. The Latin race cannot produce robot-soldiers, and that is its virtue."

          JE comments: Presumably the robot-soldier reference was to the Germans.

          Once a WAISer always a WAISer, and former US Representative (and NYU President) John Brademas is a WAISer. To the best of my knowledge he is still on our mailing list, although I haven't heard from him since 2006.  I would be overjoyed to re-establish contact.

          Here's a bio from Prof. H, published in 1999:


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      • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (John Heelan, -UK 04/08/15 7:42 AM)
        It would be interesting to hear the view from Italy of the massacres apparently perpetrated by Italian troops in their taking of Málaga during the Spanish Civil War.

        JE comments: By "the view from Italy" I presume John Heelan means Eugenio Battaglia.  I'd also like to hear his comment.

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        • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Paul Preston, -UK 04/08/15 9:10 AM)
          In response to John Heelan (8 April), Málaga fell to rebel forces in February 1937 in large part thanks to the Italian forces under the command of Mario Roatta. A somewhat piecemeal campaign was turned into a spectacular success by Roatta's use of guerra celere (Blitzkrieg) tactics against the poorly defended city.

          The massacres that followed were not the work of the Italians but of the Spaniards under the command of General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano. An excellent account of the campaign from the Italian point of view can be found in the book by Roatta's second-in-command Emilio Faldella, Venti mesi di guerra in Spagna (Florence: Le Monnier, 1939). Its publication infuriated Queipo de Llano, who wrote a bitter letter of complaint to Faldella.

          JE comments:  I've just learned that don Ramón Candil, whom I met last November in Austin, took part in the Málaga campaign.  Son Anthony's account is next.

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        • My Father at the Taking of Malaga (Anthony J Candil, USA 04/08/15 9:17 AM)
          My father took part in the capture of Malaga in February, 1937. He hasn't told me about anything perpetrated by the Italians. On the contrary it seems that they behaved always in a very courteously and polite way, certainly not like the Nationalist Army.

          Most of the massacres everywhere were perpetrated by the Falange and the Guardia Civil anyway.

          JE comments: And thanks to the remarkable don Ramón Candil, I am but one degree removed from these events:


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        • Italian Troops and the Taking of Malaga (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/08/15 10:30 AM)
          It is my pleasure to provide John Heelan (8 April) with a view from Italy about the massacres following the conquest of Málaga, 8 February 1937, by 15,000 Nationalists and 5000 Italians against 40,000 Republicans, mostly anarchists.

          According to "Il sito Comunista" (http://www.sitocomunista.it/movimentooperaio/spagna/guerradispagna.htm ), a very detailed history of the SCW with many interesting photos, mostly of the International Brigades, all seen from a communist point of view, we read the following:

          "Alongside the Spaniards, nine motorized battalions of Italian Black Shirts went into action. Thus started a most ferocious manhunt in the half-destroyed town, the worst slaughter Spain had ever seen since the conquest of Badajoz. 4000 men were shot. Thousands of fugitives escaping toward Almeria were attacked by Italian planes.

          "Ciano, Mussolini's Foreign Minister, worried because his representative in Málaga had telegraphed that the repression by the Spanish Nationalists was of such a massive scale, that the population was angry and the heavy blame could fall on the (Italian) volunteers. Ciano ordered Ambassador Cantalupo to carry out an inquiry, but Franco opposed it. Franco himself was acting very cautiously, the locals (Spaniards) were furiously venting their rage. It was best not to irritate them."

          If a communist wrote this, I need not add anything else to excuse the Italians from any responsibility in the Málaga massacre. Maybe I can say that the planes attacking the retreating Republicans combatants (not civilians) were Spanish (not Italian). Beside that, I already mentioned in a previous post that the Italians had problems with the Nationalists when they did not hand prisoners over to them, because the Italians were worried about their safety.

          May I comment that the history of the Spanish Civil War, in primis the battle of Guadalajara, is the history most used (and changed) for propaganda?

          JE comments:  At least when it comes to Málaga, we have a consensus: Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia all agree that the Italians weren't involved.

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          • Malaga in SCW (John Heelan, -UK 04/09/15 4:15 AM)
            My thanks to Paul Preston, Anthony Candil, and Eugenio Battaglia for clarifying the non-role of Italian forces in the massacres following the taking of Málaga by the Nationalists.

            My further reading confirms Paul's point that the carnage was caused by Falangist and Guardia Civil squads (encouraged by Queipo de Llano) and as a result of German warships shelling the fleeing citizens.

            It seems that Málaga was a microcosm of the conflict with assassinations by the left wing prior to the the taking by Nationalist forces followed by countless executions with a minimum of justicial process afterwards. I also read (in agreement with Eugenio) that Italian diplomats were sickened by the massacres and asked Queipo de Llano locally and Franco centrally to stop the bloodshed. They were ignored by both.

            JE comments:  With slaughter coming from land, sea, and air, the Málaga exodus must have been beyond hellish.

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            • Norman Bethune and the Malaga Exodus (Paul Preston, -UK 04/10/15 2:02 AM)
              The Málaga exodus was recorded for posterity by the Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, who was one of the pioneers of battlefield blood transfusion during the Spanish Civil War.

              He took an ambulance to the road between Málaga and Almería and shuttled back and forth trying to save as many women and children as he could. The horrors that he and his crew witnessed are recorded in an outstanding memoir by his English driver T. C. Worsley, Behind the Battle (London: Robert Hale, 1939). Bethune's photographs were published shortly after in a pamphlet under the title The Crime on the Road:  Málaga-Almería. Anyone who wants to see the photographs of the refugees can download it in various digital formats at:


              JE comments:  Another excellent resource.  Want more images?  I hope Paul Preston will send us a link or two to the best general website for SCW photos.

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