This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Weeks 133 – 137: 1 – 28 February 1939

February 1

Prime Minister Negrín, holding a meeting at Figueres Castle, suggests a surrender to Franco, on one condition – those left living would be respected and they  could vote on how a new government would be formed. Franco does not accept this surrender.

February 2

The Nationalists who took Barcelona have made the 100 kilometres hike north and take Girona, which no longer has any Republican protection.

Nationalists take Girona

February 3

The Nationalist troops from Girona hike another 15 kilometres north, to catch up with any refugees still trying to escape to France. They are now only 50 kilometres from the border to France, and will close the border once they arrive. German planes are still bombing refugees from the air.

February 4 

After a month of fighting, the Valsequillo Offensive comes to end, as Nationalist forces around Peraleda del Zaucejo on the Extremadura/Andalucia border recapture all the area the Republicans had initially captured. At one stage, the Republicans had 500 square miles of land taken, though none had any strategic benefit, and the Nationalists have quickly taken it all back. The Republicans have suffered 6000 deaths and casualties, only 2000 for the Nationalists in an utterly pointless battle.

February 7

The island of Menorca, still held by the Republicans, is captured by the Nationalists by ship, with no resistance. Mallorca has been Nationalist-held for most of the war, and now the smaller island of Menorca is simply brought into the fold. Only one person is killed, but the Republicans start planning  a coup with Prime Minister Negrin.

February 8

All Republican troops are ordered to get to the border and are now also allowed to cross into France, along with the hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to reach the border. On foot, or on carts or trucks, Republican Spaniards are facing sleet and snow to try to reach France.

Refugees crossing at Le Perthus

February 9

The Nationalist troops finally reach the border into France. Between 400,000 to 500,000 Republican refugees have survived to get into France. The Republican president Manuel Azaña, Prime Minister Juan Negrín, Republican Army chief of staff Vicente Rojo, and Catalonian president Lluís Companys and his Catalan government have all made it over the border. Most people have crossed in the region have crossed at Le Perthus, but Prime Minister Negrín crosses back into Spain.

Refugees crossing at Le Perthus

February 10

The final Republican troops of General Modesto’s Army of the Ebro cross into France, just in time, as the border into France is totally sealed by Nationalist troops. Anyone still on the Spanish side has to side with the Nationalists, or would be killed or oppressed. With Catalonia totally in Nationalist hands, the Republicans have lost 200,000 troops and the entire Catalan war industry. But the Republicans still hold thirty percent of Spain, and their Prime Minister is back in the country and confident they can continue to resist.

Refugees heading for the brutal refugees camps in France
February 12

The 10.30am train arrives in Xàtiva Railway Station, sixty kilometres south from Valencia, carrying the 49th mixed brigade of the Republican army, to be transferred north. The station was also filled with family and friends of the troops when five Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers arrive from Mallorca and drop twenty 250kg bombs from 13,800 feet. The bombing makes a direct hit on the train, killing 129 people, 109  instantly. Most are troops, though 14 women and three children are also killed. A few surviving troops are still sent on to join other brigades, as the 49th was too decimated to continue with any plans. Another 200 people are injured in the brutal attack.

Bombing Xativa from the air

February 13

From Burgos, Franco publishes his Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas (Law of Political Responsibilities). The law states that anyone who opposed the Nationalist rebellion and coup in July 1936, and anyone a member of any Republican party from October 1934, is guilty of military rebellion (ironically). As the law is backdated to 1 October 1934, all Republican sympathisers and members can be prosecuted for aiding the Republican rebellion (again, how ironic).

The Ley de Responsabilidades Políticas punishes people with fines ranging from 1000 pesetas through to confiscations of all assets. Anyone prosecuted could also be punished with restriction of movement and activities, forced to live where appointed and possible loss of Spanish citizenship, depending on their level of Republican association. Anyone dead or disappeared (either as refugees in France or those killed and dumped in the war) will have their remaining family members prosecuted on their behalf.

Between 1939 and 1945, 500,000 people, dead or alive, will be prosecuted, some two percent of the population.

February 27

Both France and Great Britain  decide to end their role in the Non-Intervention agreement and recognise Franco and his Nationalist government in Burgos. With the threat of European war, and half a million Spanish refugees in the south, France has their border with Spain blocked, with Franco’s ally Germany also causing strife. France needs to focus on itself and endorses fascism in Spain, as Germany and Italy have done throughout the war.

Britain has less reason to endorse Franco. Labour leader Clement Attlee, Leader of the Opposition, is furious with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s decision. He stated, the first voice to do so, that Britain was hypocritical after almost three years of “non-intervention,” yet their lack of intervention is instead the thing that has helped fascism spread through Europe.

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This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the month’s events. Things get lost in translation – Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. The more the world remembers, the better. All photos and captions are auto-linked to source for credit, and to provide further information.

This Week in Spanish Civil War History – Week 10: 19 – 25 September 1936

Week 10: 19 – 25 September 1936

September 19

The island of Mallorca has been in Nationalist hands again since September 12, when the Republicans retreated away from the beaches of Punta Amer and Porto Cristo, after a month of fighting to regain the island. With all Republican militia gone from the Balearic Islands area, Ibiza is captured by the Nationalists with swift action, with no fighting taking place.

September 20

The island of Formentera, the most southern of the Balearics, is taken easily by the Nationalists. All the islands of the Balearics are now in Nationalist control, with the exception of the northern island of  Menorca. The Balearic Islands are small, but a good strategic location for aircraft to be based, for bombing the coastal cities such as Barcelona and Valencia. Italian planes are primarily based there for such activities heading to the mainland.

franco-jong

Franco, September 1936

September 21

The leaders of the Nationalist forces (and boy, are there many) come to an agreement that Francisco Franco will be the ‘supreme commander’ of the rebels. He is stylised the Generalissimo. Naming Franco the leader will have a huge impact on the direction and success of the rebels.

Meanwhile, in Toledo…

Ongoing destruction of the Alcázar

September 21

The bombing of the Alcázar has left it all but destroyed. Communication has been cut off between the Nationalists inside and their support outside, and a retreat is made by outside forces, as there is little left to defend. The ongoing battle is symbolic of the war now, and used in propaganda, and so the Nationalists still refuse to surrender.

September 22

The Republicans continue to attack the building and its rubble, unaware that the garrison inside has abandoned much of the Alcázar.

September 23

A 5am raid on the Alcázar surprises the Nationalist garrison inside with dynamite and grenades. The Nationalists are now all gathered in the interior courtyard of the Alcázar, most of the building collapsed around them. Tanks arrive during the morning to continue pounding away at the Alcázar, but returning Nationalist reserves arrive to fight back the Republicans for yet another day.

September 24

Franco decides, against the advice of his German counsel, to delay his siege on Madrid. Instead, with his troops continuing their march north to the capital, Franco decides to send them to Toledo to save those Nationalists inside the Alcázar. The siege has only a few days left, yet will be a bloody battle, slaughter ending its dramatic fighting. The troops of Spanish Legionnaires and vicious Moroccan soldiers are only a dozen kilometres away now.

NB – there will be a ‘This Week in Spanish Civil War History Extra’ post on the Alcázar on September 27

Damage has made the Alcázar unrecognisable

Also…

September 24

The Nationalist Junta (the National Defense Committee who control and rule over the Nationalist-held areas) decide to annul all the agrarian reforms which have taken place since the February 1936 election, in which the Republican’s Popular Front won. Most agrarian reforms involved the distribution and redistribution of agricultural lands, and rules regarding the rights of rural workers. They’re the people suffering the most, before and during the war, and their rights are once again decimated to nothing.

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This is not a detailed analysis, just a highlight (lowlight?) of the week’s events. Feel free to suggest an addition/clarification/correction below. All photos are linked to source for credit