By Tom Dare
HORRIFYING FOOTAGE from the late 1930s showing how Spain was used as a testing ground for the weapons of the Axis powers during the Spanish Civil War has resurfaced today, on the anniversary of Generalísimo Francisco Franco declaring himself the leader of Spain.
The video, taken over the course of the brutal conflict which left nearly one-million dead, shows innocent civilians running for cover as German and Italian planes drop hundreds of bombs on those cities in Spain that remained loyal to the government during Franco’s fascist uprising.
The footage also shows the complete devastation that followed the bombings, with Spanish cities effectively leveled in some cases. Clips show displaced people wandering the streets aimlessly, while other show mothers weeping as they carry their children through the wreckage.
The clip has re-emerged today on the anniversary of General Franco declaring himself the 38th leader of Spain following one of the bloodiest civil wars in modern history.
The war, which lasted for the better part of three years, was originally intended as a quick coup d’etat by Franco and his allies. The General had become disillusioned with the way Spain was being run during his time in the military thought that with his allies he could seize control of most of the major Spanish cities in one swift movement. However, this proved to be far from the case.
Franco’s initial rebellion only succeeded in capturing the cities of Sevilla and Cadiz, both in the South, with the Republican government remaining in control in the major northern cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. So the future dictator turned to fellow fascists Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini for aid.
They responded in force, with Germany answering the call within days of the initial uprising. Hitler’s regime provided both air and armored units to Franco and his allies, with approximately 600 planes and 200 tanks, as well as around 16,000 men over the course of the war. Italy also played a major part in the war, providing its navy, 50,000 men and a substantial number of planes, machine guns, rifles and tanks.
With only Russia coming to the aid of the Republican government the tide quickly turned in the war, with city after city falling to Franco and the nationalists. The death knell was finally sounded for the Republicans when the nationalists seized Barcelona on January 26, effectively meaning victory for Franco’s forces. Although it would take until March for Madrid to fall, Franco has done what he had set out to do. Historian Patricia Knight perhaps best summed up the reasons behind Hitler’s actions when she said:
“At the Nuremberg Trials, Goering claimed that the chief motive of Germany was to use Spain as a testing ground for the German air force, but this seems to have been a very minor reason. Hitler’s thinking had much more to do with promoting a favourable balance of power in Western Europe and using a Nationalist-run Spain to weaken France, allowing Germany to expand unopposed into Eastern Europe. His main aim was to prevent the emergence of a Spanish-French bloc which might be directed against Germany.”
Franco went on to rule over Spain for nearly 40 years after his victory, with only death ending his reign in 1975