Franco's Nazi Haven

Paul Preston amplifies recent claims that Franco offered safe havens to fugitive Nazis

An eleven page document recently discovered in the archives of Spain's Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores lists more than one hundred active Nazis provided with asylum and new identities at the end of the Second World War. This merely confirms Spain's fervently pro-Axis role during the war. What comes as more of a surprise is the assertion recently by The Times' Madrid correspondent that 'The disclosure will excite historians and biographers of Franco, most of whom believed that El Caudillo kept a scrupulous distance from the seamier side of Hitler's wartime enterprise'. The correspondent's view is shared only by fervent partisans and hagiographers of the Spanish dictator.

Having won the Spanish Civil War with the assistance of Hitler and Mussolini, Franco was convinced of the invincibility of the Axis war machine. From the spring of 1939 until the fall of France a year later, he ordered frequent troop manoeuvres near the French border in Morocco and around Gibraltar by way of immobilising Allied forces. Detailed plans for artillery bombardments of Gibraltar drawn up on Franco's direct orders have recently been published in Spain. Immediately after the defeat of France, Franco seized Tangier, made threatening demands for territory in French Morocco and formally offered to join the German war effort. Having no need of another impecunious Mediterranean ally, Hitler curtly brushed aside the offer. However, reviewing his options, he met the Caudillo on October 23rd, 1940 at Hendaye near the French-Spanish border. More inclined to leave the Vichy French to guard their own empire, the Führer had to endure hours of Franco's dogged attempts to persuade him to bankroll Spanish belligerence.

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