The Spanish Blue Division
For nearly three years, 45,000 Spanish soldiers served under German command on the Russian front. By Gerald R. Kleinfeld and Lewis A. Tambs.
‘Russia is guilty,’ declared the Spanish Foreign Minister. The thousands packing Madrid’s Calle de Alcala roared their approval. ‘Guilty of our Civil War... of the murder of our brothers and sisters... The destruction of Communism is a necessary condition for the survival of a free and civilized Europe.’ As Ramon Serrano Suner spoke on June 24th, 1941, Hitler’s Wehrmacht surprised the defenders of the Soviet Union.
Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the U.S.S.R., had been launched with the hope of quick victory. Elated by the early German successes and their Foreign Minister’s ringing call to arms, tens of thousands of Spaniards enlisted in a Spanish Division of Volunteers - the Blue Division.
Within days, the 18,000 openings were filled by eager university students, diehard anti-Communists, and Civil War veterans. Although the Spanish Fascist party, the Falange, handled recruitment, officers of the volunteer division were almost exclusively regulars. The command structure was solid.