Spanish civil war

republican poster 1937

the Spanish civil war was delivered between July 1936 and April 1939 between the republican government of Spain and the Putschisten under general Francisco Franco. It ended with the victory of the trailers Francos and its until 1975lasting dictatorship, the so-called Franquismus.

Table of contents


the causes for the outbreak of the war are in the extreme sociopolitical andto find cultural distortions in the Spanish society. The country suffered 19 since center. Century numerous violent conflicts, which remained unresolved. They accumulated up and were intensified, as after the defeat in the Spanish-American war the reputation of the old institutions to a large extenthad been lost. The few trailers of the second republic had succeeded in neither improving the serious social bad states to set still for the advocates of an authoritarian state State of something against.

Spain was affected by several structural breaks:

  • the completely underprivileged positionthe land and the industrial workers, partially radical social pagings
  • the argument aimed at itself around the cultural monopoly of the catholic church
  • the tendency of the Basques and Katalanen meeting on violent resistance, from Madrid to emanzipieren
  • control lacking of the militaryby the government, its alienation from far parts of the society and its role as “state in the state”.

In newer Spanish history peaceful solutions had hardly a tradition. Thus catholic nationalistic, civil liberal and socialrevolutionary groupings stood itself inin relation to long enmity. Because of the economic crisis in Spain and the changing situation in Europe by arising fascism the situation was intensified appreciably.


after initial enthusiasm lost the 1931 created second republic rapidlyat support. The traditional elite at times of dictatorship and monarchy was afraid an endangerment of their privileges and their cultural self understanding. The laizistische orientation of the first government and the encroachments against church mechanisms encouraged it in this attitude. They turnedagainst all reforms, which an improvement of the general life circumstances promised.

Rapidly also the workers turned against the republic. After the social reforms did not prove as penetrationable and the new right government a hard course hit 1934, sawthe organized workers in the new parliamentary system of government nothing else as a continuation of the old repressive policy.

The Anarchisten had fought the republic nearly from the outset; the before reformistic socialist trade union UGT swivelled from disappointment over the government alliance alsothe republicans starting from 1933 on a revolutionary course over and „the dictatorship of the Proletariats publicised “. Relevant parts of the socialist party PSOE set against it further on a co-operation with the liberals.

The republicans, who got ready to, Spain umzugestalten, setmany important reforms only halfheartedly over. Width of parts of the middle class were afraid a dominance of the workers and were ready to support a dictatorship. For many Spaniards the Antiklerikalismus and the excesses were against the catholic church a crucial reason, the republicto reject. In addition the efforts of the Catalan and baskischen middle class pushing after autonomy came to leave the kastilisch dominated central state.

1932 took place a first Putsch, which was only badly implemented and defeated by an anarchist general strike. At the end of of 1933 broke thosefirst coalition, which one of the right parties tolerated and selected center government followed. It amnestied the Putschisten, cancelled the reforms and intensified the situation of the Lohnabhängigen. A linking like also the liberals understood this as declaration of war. In October 1934the radical socialists as well as the civil Catalan government proclaimed the rebellion. Because of insufficient Vorberitungen and the refusal of the Anarchisten this attempt failed. However in Asturien one could offer considerable resistance to the government , that had proclaimed the martial law. Under general Francisco Franco was however brutally struck down the collection. There was 78% civilians over 1.300 dead ones, of it. Followed a broad wave of arrests, which seized also liberals and socialist leading politician, and a censorship, by which the left newspapers were affected. The CEDA, the katholizistische collection movement, which sympathized in parts with European fascism, pushed to power, failed however because of the president. Meanwhile the officers colluded, in order to prepare a new Putsch.

At the end of of 1935 was also the second coalition because of internal Querelen anda financial scandal at the end. In order to use the Mehrheitswahlrecht this time for itself, socialists, republican, liberals Katalanisten, the stalinistische PCE and the left-communist POUM - an alliance, the Frente popular formed people front. They by the baskischen nationalists and that were supportedAnarchisten, which formulated this time no choice boycott. On the other hand the national front from CEDA, monarchists, a landed property he party and the Karlists stood. Between them the parties of the center, which possessed hardly more meaning.

To 16. The elections ended to February 1936 with a scarceVictory of the people front. For parts that rights had to exist the republic thereby stopped. Despite one stresses moderate government program came it to spontaneous land occupations. Aufrührerische scenes took place again and again, which were partly by force suppressed by the armed order forces.The strikes accumulated themselves up. The recent fascist Falange exercised purposeful terror, against which the state showed up powerlessly.

Meanwhile the officers planned almost publicly the Putsch. Their activities were ignored by the government, that consisted only of liberals, to a large extentor only slightly punished. With a fight against the Putschisten it would have had to arm the trade unions, which wanted to prevent it if possible.

On the high point of unrests became to 13. July the monarchistic opposition leader Calvo Sotelo by member of the Guardia deAsalto and the civic guard murder, which was meant on a republican second lieutenant as act of revenge for a Falange assassination attempt. Its death induced the Karlists to support the Putsch with their paramilitärischen federations.

When the rebellion began, above all the workers carried outResistance. Where they were successful, they reacted with a revolution, which was carried mainly by the Anarchisten. This saved provisionally the existence to the republic. From the Putsch became a civil war, which came already soon into the international relations network of Europe, whichthe process of the events crucially to affect should.


initiated by a military revolt in Morocco began to 17. July 1936 the military rebellion against the government of Spain. The Putschisten supported itself, beside parts of the Spanish military on that iberischen peninsula, for which Spanish colonial troops in North Africa (an army of Moroccan mercenaries) hoped and to attain fast control of the capital Madrid and all important cities. In the following days each soldier was placed before the decision, forwhich side it wants to fight. 80% of the Offizierscorps, the majority of the NCOs, but only 4 division generals, decided for the Putsch. Francos nephew, a Air Force officer, was shot for its holding to the oath on the republic by the Putschisten.

The government troops had the majority of the generals, two thirds of the navy and half of the Air Force on their side, but could not them the absence of an intact officer and Unteroffizierscorps in the crucial first months not compensate.

The Putschisten achieved sooncontrol of the cities Sevilla, Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Córdoba, Saragossa, Oviedo as well as of Galicien, Mallorca and the Carlistic Navarra; they failed however in the provinces Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona,Seat of 70% of the Spanish industry and at the majority of the population. Thus the Putsch had actually failed. It followed instead a civil war dragging on to 1939. To 28. Franco troops drew March 1939 into Madrid; the warbecame at the 1. April 1939 officially as terminated explains.

Leader Militärput was a general Sanjurjo, which had already failed 1932 with a Putsch and therefore at that time in the Portuguese exile was. On the return flight from the exile had an accidentthe general deadly, which led to a power vacuum with the national Spaniards. This was terminated by a Triumvirat of the generals Franco, Mola and Queipo de Llano. Francisco Franco was finally intended for the provisional head of state and upper commander (Generalisimo) of the armed forces.

Anarchistische Parade
Anarchist parade

war parties

both bearings were very heterogeneous in their composition, which led often to problems. On sides the insurgent one fought parts of the army, among them many maurische mercenaries, the Carlistic militias (Requeté) and the Falange, thoseuntil 1937 still relatively independent command structures kept. They were supported by German and Italian deliveries of material. The Italians sent with the C.T.V. also an own 80,000 men strong Unterstützungscorps, the German Fliegercorps Legion CONDOR. The Germans possessed crucial influenceTeacher at the infantry and officer schools. Also from Portugal, the USA and Ireland (catholic Legion) received the insurgent support. Opposite them those stood the government loyal for remained troops, Social Democrats, socialists, communists and anarchosyndikalistische groups. A substantial supportthe government troops received Freiwillige from the foreign country, who often fought despite combat experience lacking and stood in their rows also some famous writers by the international brigades. They were supported by the Soviet Union with substantial deliveries of material.

thatinternational aspect

the Spanish civil war possessed a weighty international aspect. Since it reflected the ideological conflict lines of Europe and brought the continental power constellation in motion, the war process and the fate of the republic hung crucially of the attitude of other European powersoff. On fascist powers Italy and Germany supported side openly the Putschisten, while the liberals democracies France and Great Britain a policy of nonintervention practiced and so that the triumphant advances of the insurgent beneficiaries. The Soviet Union against it supplied the republic until 1938to develop with weapons and advisors, whereby it did not leave anything unversucht to push the government their stamp open the position of the before insignificant Spanish kp and to cancel the social revolution. The latter happened both for ideological and strategic reasons. One wantedthe favour of the liberals of capitalistic powers win, which Stalin in the argument which can be expected tried to draw against fascism on its side. Thus Spain became a military and political laboratory for the smoldering system competition in Europe, inthe Second World War flowed. The selected Spanish government became an early victim of the Appeasement - attitude of the prominent democracies, which was owed not least an anticommunist calculation. The Putschisten would have never so far come without the intervention Mussolinis and Hitler,could however their complete instrumentalization by Rome and Berlin avoid.

the fascist states

for the LV regime was the civil war a new battleground in the world-wide conflict against the “bolshevism”. After an urgent request for assistance Hitler had the Putschisten spontaneouslywith the necessary means supports. Apart from the loudly spoken ideological component above all strategic and military reasons for the LV commitment opened themselves. Spain should be governed by no regime, which would face the German Reich hostilely. Here played alreadyHitler's war visions a role. This before the background that starting from July 1936 France likewise possessed a people front government, whose Vorgängerin had operated already first approximations to the Soviet Union - which found an end however on British and pressure relating to domestic affairs soon. In additionhere first technical experiences with the munition could be made, which one wanted to use the Air Force, which accompanied from 1937 to all military operations of the rebels with its devastating air raids on the whole continent - everything in front. In addition economic motives came:Spain possessed a set of raw materials, which were relevant for the armaments industry and which one wanted to acquire oneself by agreements with the Franco regime. Competitor here was Great Britain.

Apart from the German Reich also Italy interfered in the Spanish war happening, andto far larger extent than the German side, with which for Mussolini beside the Abessinienkrieg a second stage for military trials of strength darbot itself. That could be only quite Hitler, had it nevertheless hereby a larger clearance in Central Europe, above allin Austria. The sociopolitical block building, which released the civil war, actually accelerated the Zusammengehen of the two fascist states. In Rome one, differently than the Germans, had already known in the apron about the intentions of the Spanish generals. The not inaugurated Mussolini however hesitated first with a support, until him the reactions of other powers let appear an intervention than harmless.

the European democracies

Great Britain already played since beginning 18. Century in the Mediterranean area an important role.But because of the problems of the Empire and the reduction of its military potentials after the First World War one wanted to adhere as without loss as possible to the continent. Particularly the 1931 created new republic regarded with the British (like also US-American ) elite not very muchwas, since one it socialist tendencies suspected and the results of the social revolution the interests of British businessmen affected directly. Thus the conservative elite preserved sympathies for the Putschisten, since these left the ownership structures untouched. With the policy of nonintervention Spain should quasi“neutralized”, the conflict to the iberische peninsula limited and the country neither nor to a military asset of the fascist competitors become “communist”, that questioned the continental order. Despite not insignificant tensions intensified itself the trade relations between the Empireand the Franco regime, particularly after the income of the Basque country.

60% of all Spanish foreign investments came from France. Here also a similarly arranged government prevailed in July 1936, so that the neighboring country almost offered itself as ally for Spain. Was actualthe third republic coined/shaped by a pazifistischen basic attitude just as split as the Spanish and therefore badly weakened. Width of parts of the civil camp were clear on sides of the Putschisten, while the left one sympathized with that world-wide as a legally recognized government. Overto deliver not to have, Paris dared the civil war in the own country not to send direct assistance particularly since one wanted to commit oneself closely with regard to foreign policy at Great Britain. The controversy went across the government and split the entire public opinion. It reflected- more strongly still than in Great Britain - the social polarization in the country against. Apart from the strategic weakness it in the long run not possibly made this internal blockade Paris to come a neighbouring parliamentary republic the assistance.

the Soviet Union

the Soviet Unionas at that time only communist state 1935 its over the Komintern into the west completely now, changing into the geostrategic defensive, an alliance with the parliamentary democracies had given up and aimed at exported confrontation course to the world. The open support for thoseRepublic came therefore only then into rolling, when it became clear that the Western powers would not use themselves for the Spanish republic and the fascist states had brought already long their means in the play. Also later raids of the Soviets, London andParis to a procedure against Italy and the German Reich to induce, failed and isolated Moscow appreciably. This development is the most important condition for coming off the Hitler Stalin pact in such a way specified of 1939.

Over Stalins of exact motives to intervene in the civil war,still one speculates. It stands firmly that the Soviet Union (beside Mexico) remained the only potent ally for Madrid and the republic came thus actually into the dependence on Moscow. However the Soviets were with the assignment of credits muchmuch less readily as fascist powers opposite the insurgent ones. The nearly exclusive Soviet commitment had serious consequences relating to domestic affairs for the republic. The ascent of the Spanish kp, those followed the social revolution hostilely deliberately was and above all membersin the central layer and in the small middle class won. Right socialists and liberals found into the PCE an ally. Military affairs was completely dominated by the communists. Thus the balance of power in the republican camp shifted away from the revolution in the course of the warto authoritarian power control, which could not stop the fall of the second republic however.

the war: 1936

last hopes for a fast end became to 21. July, which destroys fifth day of the rebellion, asthe nationalists the naval basis El Ferrol in northwest Spain conquered. The encouraged other fascist countries of Europe for support Francos, which had already taken up contact on the day before to Germany and Italy. To 26. The Axis powers decided to assist July the nationalists.

The Axis powers rendered financial help from the outset to Franco. Its nationalistic forces achieved with conquest Toledos to 27. September a further important victory. Later Franco explained itself two days as the Generalísimo (Generalissimus) and Caudillo (leader). The nationalists beganin October a large offensive direction Madrid. The increasing resistance by the government and the arrival of Freiwilliger from the Soviet Union brought the advance however to 8. November for standing. In the meantime the government had itself to 6. November of Madrid, out outthe combat zone, after Valencia withdrawn.

The Axis powers recognized the Francoregime after the release of the nationalSpanish soldiers included in the fortress of Toledo to 18. November officially to and to 23. December dispatched own “Freiwillige” to Italy, over for the nationalistsfight.

the war: 1937

also by the Italian troops and colonial troops from Morocco intensified forces tried Franco in January and February 1937 Madrid to conquer again, failed however again. Málaga became to 8. February conquers and to 28. Francos troops Guernica entered April, two days after bombardment by Luftwaffe. Afterwards however the government began to resist with rising efficiency.

In May the government began a campaign for back conquest Segovias, around Francoto force to withdraw troops from the Madrid front and to stop so their advance. Mola, Francos deputy commander, became at the 3. June with an aircraft crash killed and at the beginning of of July even began the government a strong Gegenoffensive with Brunete in the area ofMadrid, in order to relieve the capital. The national Spaniards could reject these however with some difficulties and under employment of the Legion CONDOR.

Afterwards Franco could regain the initiative. It could penetrate Santander and Gijón in Aragón and conquered the cities,which the elimination of the north front meant. To 28. August recognized the the Holy See Franco, under the pressure Mussolinis, on, and at the end of November went the government, when the nationalists threateningly close approached at Valencia, to Barcelona.

the war:In

January and in February the two parties fought to 1938 for the possession of the city Teruel, whereby the nationalists them starting from that 22. February to keep final knew. To 14. The nationalists broke April to the Mediterranean through, onthe same place where the Spanish legend shape El Cid once in the fight against the Mauren the Mediterranean to have reached is. The republican area was thus divided into two parts. In May the government asked for peace, but Franco required thoseunconditional surrender and continued in such a way the war.

The government began now a large offensive, in order to interconnect their areas again: The Ebroschlacht began to 24. July and lasted up to 26. November. The offensive was inFailure and specified the final exit of the war. Franco struck back eight days before year end, by muster strong forces for an invasion Kataloniens.

the war: 1939

Franco signed in Burgos at the 1. April 1939 thatKatalonien conquered end

of the civil war the nationalists during the first two months of the yearly 1939 within shortest time. Tarragona fell to 14. January, Barcelona to 26. January and Girona to 5. February. Five days after the last resistance becamein Katalonien broken.

To 27. The governments of Great Britain and France the Francoregime recognized February officially on.

Only Madrid and some other centers remain to the government forces. To 28. March fell Madrid, by Franco friendly forces (the notorious “fifth column “), at Franco. On the following day Valencia gave up likewise, which had borne nearly two years under the bombardment of the nationalists. When the last republican forces had given up, Franco at the 1 announced. April the victory.

Social revolution

two eye-witnesses over their impressions of the social revolution:

  • And then, when we around the corner in RAM-blow (the main traffic vein of Barcelona) in-bent, an enormous surprise came: suddenly the revolution before our eyes spread. It was overwhelming. It was, as if we would have landed on a continent, which differed from everything, what I had so far seen.“- Franz Borkenau
  • one had the feeling in one era of the equality and liberty to have suddenly emerged.Human natures tried to behave itself like human natures and not like a Rädchen in the capitalistic machine.“- George Orwell

in of mostly in the CNT organized Anarchisten and Anarchistinnen - as well as the 20,000 Mrs. that Mujeres Libres, which found to areas controlled by POUM trailers linking opposition (Aragón, Katalonien), additionally to military successes, an extensive social revolution . Workers and agricultural workers collectivized Landbesitz and industry and set advice in parallel to (notfunctioning) government. Both the PCE and the democratic parties were against this revolution. With the progressing of the war it succeeded to regain the government and the communist party of their entrance to Soviet weapons control of war-important production.This happened both diplomatically and by force. During the notorious May days hundreds or thousands anti-fascist fighter killed 1937 each other with the fight for control of strategic points in Barcelona.

A key figure of the Anarchisten was a Metallarbeiter Buenaventura Durruti,that was already shot 1936.

why Franco?

Before the outbreak of war probably in the national camp nobody would have counted on the fact that general Franco would manage the Spanish state for 39 years.

The political opinions of catholic, the twomonarchistic currents (Alfonsinos, Carlistas), conservative republicans, Falangist and Kleinbauern were indeed very different and therefore were the rebellion first also as purely military collection planned without inclusion of political groups. This could not be maintained any longer, than the Putschinto the civil war changed. After the death of general Sanjurjo formed so under the presidency of the generals Franco, Mola and Queipo de Llano one out military existing defense junta with seat in Burgos, during monarchists and Falange their own command structures,Milizeinheiten, academies and propaganda organs kept or based again.

This was not harmless for the continuation of the war, because the conservative monarchists, catholic and Agrarier did not have much in common with the socialrevolutionary Falange and it came both to heavy differences intothe leadership level and to excesses against those in each case different side. In this situation the junta decided to appoint a provisional head of state and Commander-in-Chief general Franco. Around the contrasts to overcome these 1937 the Traditionalisten and the Falange combinedto Falange Espanola Tradicionalista, the Spanish unit party until 1975. Who expressed itself against this combination, appeared pretty often in the exile or in a Spanish message somewhere in Latin America. Starting from 1937 there was also a technical junta, a kindCivil board of directors, which dedicated itself to the non-military tasks.

Why now thus Franco? General Franco understood it differently than the republic Spaniards to combine the different parties on itself. Even if being the monarchists disappoints many because of being missing the restoration, the Falangebecause of the being missing social revolution, which could combine conservative republican because of appearing the dictatorship Franco nevertheless all on the smallest common denominator: Value of the church, private property, nationally guided reconciliation between employer and takers, authoritarian korporative structures, tradition assumption of Spain thatcatholic kings

for this Franco stood and large steps would have been not possible, without bouncing a group, which had supported the national camp.

historical evaluation

Schwarzweißbild mit liegendem Pferd und Soldat. Pressebild (1938) aus Teruel.
black-and-white picture with lying horse and soldier. Press picture (1938) from Teruel.

Thosehistorical evaluation of the Spanish civil war precipitates partially very differently. For the defenders of the Spanish republic on Spanish, English and French read out desperate assistance call may stand, that the large Cellist Pablo Casals during a concert in Barcelona to 17. October 1938 over the radio to the democratic states of the world arranged and its light view by the further course of history on the Furchtbarste to be confirmed should:

Making it itself not the crime guiltily, the murder at that SpanishTo watch republic doless. If you permit it that Hitler in Spain triumphs, you will be the next, which will fall its insanity to the victim. The war will will seize Europe, the whole world completely. Come our people to assistance!

On the other side evaluations stand like that of the American historian Stanley G. Payne, whose book was “The Spanish civil, was summarized as follows the Soviet union and Communism ” by Antony Beevor (in: “The Time Literary Supplement” of 11. March 2005, quotes in the “world” of 15. March 2005):

[the book supplies a new estimate…] large myth, after which the Spanish civil war was a fight between democracy and fascism. [...] [The most important aspect…] is the deterring reminder that many left leaders welcomed the prospects on a civil war. They believed erroneously that a conflict would lead to a substantially faster victory of the revolution than the Russian civil war, above all, because they assumed that themAssistance would from the outside get. Were they thoughtless in relation to erwartbaren terrible suffering, or were it revolutionary obsession? In any case one was it a terrible false estimate, which led to a fundamental dishonesty. The war in Spain was never a war betweenliberals democracy and fascism… There were only two possibilities: a stalinistische dictatorship, which all their rivals would have zerschmettert within that linking, or which cruel - reactionary, military and klerikale - regime with superficially fascist finery, that the victorious Franco zuwegebrought.

From Soviet view the concept of the people front, which had decided the Komintern 1935 , was used for the first time here, as fascism in Europe should be stopped by co-operation communist, more socialistically, as well as non-fascist civil forces under postponement thatsocial revolution with development reformerischer policy.

On the part of the trailers of the Anarchosyndikalismus, the left-Marxist POUM or trotzkistischer groups lay straight the error for social revolution to have changed over not immediately and instead partial co-operation with civil forces searchedto have.

The question, whether a social revolution would have had success in view of the reality of fascism in Spain and Europe, remains open.

See also: Guernica, history of Spain, list of foreign participants in the Spanish civil war


  • Walter L. Bernecker: “Anarchy mash and civil war. To the history of the social revolution in Spain 1936-1939 ". Hamburg 1978.
  • Roll ago L. Bernecker: War in Spain 1936 - 39, scientific book company 1936-39, Darmstadt 1991, ISBN 3-534-08021-1
  • Pierre Boué, Émile Témime: Revolution and warin Spain. History of the Spanish civil war, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 1987,
    1. ISBN 3-518-07718-X
    2. ISBN 3-518-27718-9
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger: The short summer of the anarchy. Buenoventura Durrutis life and death; Novel, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M. 2002, ISBN 3-518-36895-8
  • Harry Fisher: Comrades. Report oneUS-Interbrigadisten in the Spanish civil war, Pahl Rugenstein, Bonn 2001, ISBN 3-89144-284-X
  • Patrik of ZurMühlen: Spain was their hope. The German left in the Spanish civil war, Dietz, Berlin, 1985, ISBN 3-8012-3012-0
  • George Orwell: My Katalonien. Report on Spanish the civil war, Diogenes Verl., Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-257-20214-8
  • Heleno Saña: The dear ore acres revolution. The Anarchisten in the Spanish civil war, edition Nautilus, Hamburg, 2001, ISBN 3-89401-378-8
  • Augustin Souchy: Night via Spain. Anarcho syndicalist in revolution and civil war 1936-39. A factual report., Although Verl., Grafenau 1992, ISBN 3-922209-51-3
  • Hugh Thomas: The Spanish civil was, Penguin PAPER-bakes, London, 2003 (original of 1961), ISBN 0-14-101161-0
  • Pierre Vilar: The Spanish civil war 1936-1939, car brook, Berlin, 2002 (original under the title La guerre d'Espagne 1936-1939 for the first time appeared to 1986), ISBN 3-80312-334-8
  • Boris Pawlowski: “The Rhetorik of the prejudice - languagecritical investigations to the German literature on Spanish the civil war 1936 - 1939”, electronic thesis, Kiel, 2001, observably under:


of films

  • Country and Freedom (1995) of Ken Loach
  • “Vivir la Utopia” (1997) of Juan Gamero documentary film with interviews from 30 anarchist fighters (ran also on Arte).
  • Five Patronenhülsen (1960) of franc Beyer
  • The Spanish Earth (1937) of Joris Ivens
  • La lenguade read mariposas (1999) from José Luis Cuerda
  • El Perro Negro: Stories from the Spanish civil was (2004) of Péter Forgács
  • Sierra de Teruel (1939, 1945 appeared new under the title L'Espoir) of André Malraux

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