Revenge and Reconciliation

Longevity, not magnanimity, was the hallmark of the victorious Franco. Paul Preston reviews the legacies of the Civil War in the Spain the General ruled for nearly forty years.

The Spanish Civil War came to an end fifty years ago. Nevertheless, it is a subject which can still fill lecture halls and sell books, more vividly remembered than other equally tragic episodes along the road to Hitler's war in 1939. That the memory of Spain's agony lingered longer and more painfully than did that of the Nazi dismemberment of Austria, Czechoslovakia or Poland is not just because of the near thousand days of the Spanish Civil War. The sheer duration of the violence in Spain helps account for its impact but even more telling was the fact that horrors which later became commonplace occurred for the first time there. Above all, however, the intensity with which the Spanish conflict is recalled is linked to the longevity of General Franco. That is most obviously true within Spain itself where his dictatorship made unrelenting efforts to keep alive the bitter legacy of the war for its own political benefit. Yet it is also the case in the Western democratic world where the fact that the Caudillo survived his own blatant bids to be part of the Axis world order was an affront to opponents of fascism for forty years.

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