Impact of Italian and German aid

Discuss the impact of Italian and German aid to the Nationalists

The Spanish Civil War first started as a Spanish war which came mostly from Spanish disputes but it soon became an international affair. It went on from 1936-1939 and it is somewhat of a lead up to the Second World War, it was almost a place where the Great Powers could practice for the Great War to come. In the first couple of decades of the 20th century Spain saw many changes politically, socially and economically. Lots of different things added to the chaos of them first few decades such as, Basque nationalism, Catalonian nationalism, a war in North Africa, General Primo de Rivera's dictatorship which lasted from 1923 1930, and the end of the monarchy. There was also a sudden rise in the number of social anarchist groups in Spain at the time.

It wasn't long before Spain was split into two groups, the Nationalists and the Republicans. The Nationalists had control of the North of Africa and a bit of Northern Spain. The Republicans and the Nationalists both understood from the beginning that aid and support from other countries would be extremely important if they were to have a chance to win the war. They each argued their own opinion in an attempt to win over Spain. For the Nationalists it was that they were fighting for Christianity and an order against communism. The Republicans however argued that they were under attack from anti-democratic Generals and by the fascist dictatorships. They argued that they were the government that was legally elected in Spain. The Nationalist side of Spain had very similar ideas to that of Spain had very similar ideas to that of Germany and Spain, and for them Spain was a great place that they could use to test their new tactics and weaponry, so partly for these reasons they both sent aid to Franco and the Nationalist Spain. So not long into the war, the Nationalists had plenty of aid; they controlled the industrial section of the North of Spain and had their own experienced forces too.

On the 20th of July 1936 an airplane crashed and it caused the dea5th of the leader of the Nationalist uprising, General Jos Sanjurjo. This caused a halt in the politics on the nationalist side. Initially only military command mattered, this was divided into regional commands. From the 24 July, a coordinating junta was established, nominally led by Cabanellas, it initially included four generals and two colonels. General Franco was added in early August[1]. On 21st September it was decided that Franco was to be commander-in-chief and head of government.[2] This decision was aided by Hitler's decision to give aid to General Franco for the Nationalists.

Mussolini had several reasons to join the war. He was pleased to be asked to help as it showed he was seen as a Great Power and he also wanted to take control of much of the Mediterranean area. He thought that by helping Spain and making its government his friend that this goal would be easier reached. "Such a 'new Spain' would draw off French troops from the Italian border and, in the event of French-Italian war; it would help to prevent the passage of French troops in North Africa to France[3]. After Italy's triumph in Abyssinia in April, Mussolini was left feeling slightly uneasy about his governments' image to the rest of the world; he wanted it shown in a new way. The Italian government also gave a public reason for them joining and helping Spain, this was that they did not want to see a communist state developing in Spain. Benito Mussolini joined Franco in the Spanish Civil War for many reasons. He knew that France had a great hold and great control over the Mediterranean, and as France and Italy were enemies, he hoped that aiding the war would weaken the French a bit. He also felt that it would bring Germany and Italy closer together and if a greater war was to occur in later years this would prove useful. However when he joined the war in Spain he did so thinking it would be quite brief, he was wrong. It ended up going slightly bad for Mussolini as Italy started suffering slightly.

Hitler joined Franco's Spanish war in part for relationships with other countries, politics wise. He was hoping that Spain would become another severe friend beside his great enemy which like Italy, was France. For Hitler, Spain also proved to be a form of testing ground for the German military forces, especially his air force as they contributed greatly to the bombing of Guernica in 1937. Hitler's part in the Spanish war came at a heavy price and Franco had to find some way to be able to pay back Germany. This meant Franco could not take advantage of Germany' support as he was doing with the Italian aid he was receiving. On Thursday 19th of November 1936, an English newspaper reported on Germany's decision to join Franco, "the Reich Government has decided to recognize the Government of General Franco and to appoint a Charge d'Affraires for the opening of diplomatic relations.

On the 18th of July 19365 Hitler decided to agree tot the Nationalists request for military aid in the war against the Republicans. He started off on the 27th of July by sending them 26 German fighter aircrafts, he also sent over 30 planes called Junker 52s from Berlin. Over the rest of the summer he sent over 15,000 troops to aid the Nationalists. In September of 1936 a Non-Intervention Agreement was drawn up, it was signed by nearly 30 countries, which included Germany, France, Italy and Britain. This agreement called for all countries in Europe not to intervene in the Spanish Civil War. The agreement, although signed by Hitler, did not stop him sending help, it just meant he had to disguise it by sending it through Portugal; he sent his men, planes, munitions and tanks this way. In October a Lieutenant Colonel from the German general staff suggested the setting up of a German Condor legion which would fight in the Civil War too. Initially Hitler did not agree to it as General Franco thought he was on the verge of victory I Spain so Hitler did not want to waste their reserves. However this proved to be wrong. The Soviet Union had started sending aid into Madrid around this time. Under the command of a Colonel, Hitler sent tanks etcetera to the Nationalists. He was also put in command of the German ground troops that were there and these troops were used in helping to train Franco's army, it also meant for Hitler that they would get experience in war in case Germany ever needed them.

After this Hitler decided that the idea of the Condor Legion was a good one so it was set up. The initial force consisted of a Bomber Group of three squadrons of JU_52 bombers; a Fighter Group with three squadrons of HE-51 fighters; a Reconnaissance Group with two squadrons of HE-99 and HE-70 reconnaissance bombers; and a seaplane squadron of HE-59 and HE-60 float planes[4]. The Condor Legion gave great help to Spain in the Basque region. The bombing of Guernica occurred in April of 1937, it was an airborne attack which caused a lot of destruction and residential deaths for the Spanish. The Condor Legion of Germany's and the Aviazione Legionaria of Italy's raid by the airplanes was called Operation Rugen. The government of the Basque region claimed nearly 1700 people died during these attacks. Outsider countries saw these attacks as terror bombings and they felt the Condor Legion was under the complete control of the Spanish Nationalist forces, which was true. The Spanish Command had given the order for the commanding officer of the Condor Legion to do the raid. This attack was particularly heavy, it lasted hours upon hours and it was being interrupted by the attacking of the residents by fighter planes. The troubles in Guernica represented start of a new era for war, one which would become huge; civilians were now being thought of as rightful targets as the soldiers were. Being superior in the air force was a key factor in Franco's Basque victory. A lot of which was done by the Condor Legion of Germany., their modern weapons and machinery were better that that of the Soviet Union and even if they had been, the Soviet did not have enough numbers to defend.

Benito Mussolini began making contacts with high up members of the Spanish government as soon as he came into power. He met a group of their colonels and generals in Italy in March of 1934, those which were opposed to the coming of a second republic. This meeting entailed Mussolini agreeing to help. He agreed to give 10,000 hand grenades and rifles, 200 machine-guns and over a million pesetas if needed if there was a military uprising. Fascist Italy like Nazi Germany also did not stick to the Non-Intervention Policy which it signed. It sent troops, airplanes, advisors and weapons to support Franco and the Nationalists in the war. Italy had its own version of the German Condor Legion, this was called the "Corpo Truppe Volontarie, these troops of these organizations were used to test new military ideas, to support Germany and Italy's political ideals and to make sure that they would be ready if a war was to occur in the future for either of these countries.

Benito Mussolini did not stop sending aid to Spain when he signed the Non-Intervention agreement. On July 27th 1936, he sent a regiment of Italian planes to Spain. In the first three months of the agreement he sent 90 aircrafts from Italy to Franco and he also helped repair ships owned by the nationalists. What helped Franco in getting this aid from Mussolini was his decision to let Italy build its bases in Spain if it was ever at war with France. Mussolini then proceeded to send over 100 planes, nearly 3,000 bombs, over 1,000 canons in various types, nearly 15000 guns and nearly 4000 vehicles. In December Benito Mussolini started to send over a particular regiment to Spain called the Black Shirts. They aided in the fighting Madrid and helped in the fall of Malaga as well in February of 1937. It had number of near 30,000. This meant that at the height of the civil war there were over 60,000 troops from Italy aiding the Nationalists. As Franco was pro-Catholicism, this help by Mussolini boosted his popularity among the Catholics of Italy which was good as they were critical of the fascist side of things. Mussolini and propaganda went well together here. Italy helped the Nationals in certain areas where the Republicans had been anti-Catholicism which also boosted his reputation.

General Franco put some of the blame for the parts of the war that the Nationalists lost on Italy. He then decided that from then on the Italian forces were not allowed to work on their own, they had to work under the Nationalists command, and in larger units which were to be made up mostly by the Spanish.

During the Spanish Civil War, Spain's economy split, it split in two and the whole economy was directed at the war. By the end of the civil war, Spain had absolutely dreadful economic problems. Foreign exchange materials had been almost completely wiped out. The size and effects of the war reduced the countries capability in both industry and agriculture. The outbreak of World War II also made many supplies Spain needed practically unavailable.

By the beginning of the 1930s Spain didn't have much of an influence on the world's economy or its history. However, the sudden appearance of the Civil War meant that a lot of countries having to pay more and more attention to Spain. From a military point of view, the Spanish Civil War only went from the 17th of July 1936 up until the 1st f April 1939, yet politically and economically it goes back as far the elections of the Popular Front in February 1936. In 1933, Great Britain had put huge international economic pressures on Spain. The British stood for around one-third of its total foreign contribution. The merchants of London bought over a fifth of exports from Spain. Foreigners owned about 23 per cent of Spain's total capital, the British had the largest part, stretching to about $143 million. The next highest country being involved in the Spanish economy at the time was France.

Before the civil war started, in 1935 Spain's main government party fell apart. By the spring or 1936 the Popular Front were thinking about making interest rates lower in Madrid on foreign bonds. Hitler and Germany were the second largest country trading with Spain both inwards and outwards. It passed out France because of it's Nazi economic strategies brought a quick upturn from the depression.

Even though the United Sates and Britain and France were big contenders, Germany was big enough to cause a challenge in their economic influences on Spain, this continues even thought these other 3 countries owned over 71 percent of the Spanish economy. "The total value of German property in Spain before the war amounted to $64,000,000. This figure included both investment in producer goods and personal property owned by German[5]. Neither Italy nor the Soviet Union had much if any power in the economics of Spain in 1935 even though they became heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War when it occurred.

Just before the start of the Spanish Civil War the politics of the Second Spanish Republic started to collapse. The newly elected Popular Front government wasn't liked very much by the Spanish businessmen after its election of February 1936. The fact that Spain has both a public and a financial problem encouraged some of it's army's more important officers to plan to overthrow its government. Two of these generals were General Francisco Franco and General Emilio Mola. Both of these were certain that if this was to work it would have to begin in its colony of Morocco. Almost the first help Franco got was Italian money given to him by a Spanish businessman who was living in Rome at the time.

In July, just after the war had begun, there was a slight confusion as to where the Nationalists and the Republicans would get aid, by August the other countries of Europe had noticed this. Both groups were having problems trying to organize themselves internally in order to organize themselves on outside. The non-intervention policy drawn up by Britain and other European countries also had economic consequences for the groups because places like Britain and France were able to trade in both areas.

In July on behalf of Hitler, a transport company began to arrange to send Spanish goods to Germany in order for Spain to pay Germany for its services. However the Nationalists' debt just kept growing as the war continued and this problem kept growing especially as they had no proper of payment. A company called ROWAK was set up in October 1936; its main aim was to be an agent for the raw-materials supplied from Spain through HISMA. It was also in charge of sending German products to the Nationalists. As the Nationalists gained more power throughout Spain and more land control, these companies had tog row which was good for the German economy. At the end of 1935, only 35 per cent of Spanish equals of iron ore, pyrites, wool and skins had gone to Germany; by the end of 1939, the Third Reich was receiving 80 per cent of these products[6]. This was all very dependant on how the civil war was going and on how much debt the Spanish were in towards Germany, Spain gave Germany the option of an economic treaty as well and the power to end it at any time if they so wish, this would help them to increase their trade bu=oth in an out.

Both the Nationalists and the republicans struggled during the war trying to get some foreign trade so they would not lose the war based on their economics. The Nationalists felt that the best way to do this was to buy it on credit, they bought over $933 million worth of war and civilian materials in this way. It is thought that the Nationalists would of got the same in quantity as the Republicans however the republicans had to spend more money as they went a longer route in getting the materials to Spain. It was also more expensive to trade through a Republican port than it was through a Nationalist port.

Italy's influence on the Spanish economics depended on the amount it spent during the war. taly had a company called SAFNI which controlled Italian sales in Spain from Rome, somewhat in the manner of ROWAK in Germany[7]. A main difference we can see between the economic policies of both Germany and Italy are that the Italians didn't have a set-up like HISMA in Spain, yet they had Franco's brother in Spain. Franco conditionally agreed to owe 3.8 billion lire in debt yet neither country could agree on how much extra was owed outside the treaty. The total amount the Italians decided on was between 6.8 billion and 8.5 billion lire. However there was a problem in Spain repaying Italy because they both produced the same types of products and neither one had much capital. They both had too much of the same things, like olive oil and citrus fruits. Also Franco was in no hurry to repay Italy because in his view Italy could not aid the reconstruction of Spain in the same way that Germany could so it wasn't making sense to repay them at the time.

In May of 1939 Spain decided that it wouldn't give Italy some of its properties in order to pay its debts so their discussions about payment ceased for a time. Before the civil war happened, Italy had invested practically nothing in Spain, the war debt of near $400 million as of 1939 is huge especially if you put it alongside the British pre-war $194 million. However, Italy and Spain happened to swap places after the Second World War started. Now it was Italy's turn to look for food and help off Spain as opposed to the other way around.

Even though the Civil War lasted longer than people thought it would, Franco did eventually win it, claiming this victory on the 1st of April 1939, this was partly due to the amount of aid he got from Italy and Germany. By June he was trying to decrease the amount of foreign aid Spain was getting. He felt that the customary open-minded theories made Spain a colony; he wanted a larger more powerful state economy to make Spain back into a Great Power in Europe. Franco invited some of Germany's economic government to come to Spain. The Germans were trying to get Franco to pull together all his German debts, the ones from before the war, the ones form the Condor Legion and the war and the ones from the amount of Germans who suffered due to the Spanish Civil War. The all eventually agreed that Spain would do this and repay Germany yearly through export surpluses. This would protect Spain's trade for the future.

The countries around Spain faced difficulties in fixing their own economic problems without even looking at Spain. However, as they knew that the Nationalists' victory in the Civil War wouldn't have happened without Hitler or Mussolini helping them, they had very little inclination to include Spain in any schemes or programs that would work internationally to aid recovery.

In 1940 and 1941 the fact that Spain and Franco still were dependant on the English and American trader for things like oil, cotton, wheat and rubber, kept Franco neutral during the Nazi militaries victories of that time. Franco also depended on their sea power and their control of chartered sea tankers.

For almost ten years after the civil was ended, the economy of Spain remained in a miserable state. Whatever schemes or investments which were made by the Spanish or by foreigners in Spain were pretty much destroyed or partially destroyed by the civil war. Germany's economic prospects in Spain came partly because of Germany's corresponding market just like Spain, and also it partly came from its political ideals be them exclusive or provisional. Italy suffered more than almost any other country, not including Spain in that equation. As Spain's economy was shot it was not able to give back to Italy like Germany was able to get his, this meant that the Italian economy found it hard to re-establish itself in Europe because it was no longer able to compete with the four powerful economies of the west.

Because of Franco's reputation of being a dictator and his help from Germany and Italy it increased the possibility of Spain and Franco being though of as fascist. If we look further into Franco's life we see him as religious and as a patriotic person. He was influenced by his family to join the military and they also pushed him towards the nationalist side as the Spanish Civil War became nearer. A lot of his ideas and thoughts were like that of a fascist however he did not have all of the fascist's ideas. Even though fascism is seen as part of his regime in Spain at the time, he is not thought to be completely fascist. If he were a fascist he would have been more revolutionary in trying to change the society where as in reality Franco and Franco's regime didn't do this, on the opposite side of things, Franco even though he was severe he was also successive and customary to Spain. Stanley Pane, the preeminent conservative scholar on fascism on Spain notes: "scarcely any of the serious historians and analysts of Franco consider the generalissimo to be a core fascist[8]. Fascism, Patriotism, defending the church, family and being against communism were all steady parts of Franco's regime.

Whether or not countries in Europe intervened or didn't intervene in the Spanish Civil War was definitely a big factor in the final outcome and in the course of the war. The Non-Intervention agreement which was set up to make countries not help Spain was pretty much a failure in that sense, intervention was not avoided, instead the Republicans suffered as they could not get as much aid as the Nationalists by countries who had no regard for the agreement. It could have gone a very different route hade the countries obeyed, had the intervention been different then so too would the outcome of the civil war been different. It is also understood that because non-intervention failed to stop German and Italian supplies reaching the nationalists that "non-intervention was equivalent to intervention against the Republic Government[9] One of the biggest deciding factors of the Spanish Civil War was the amount of arms and supplies that each side was able to get to. Because the Nationalists had a constant flow of aid form both Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy and because the Republican did not get aid really from anywhere apart from a small bit from the Soviet Union, it is easy to see that the Nationals only really won because of the intervention or the non-intervention of the countries of Europe. The Nationalists / Fascists had newer weaponry, they had a much better taught army which was being helped by Germany and Italy, and the Republicans had neither of these. It seems that the Nationalists did not experience the same extent of problems in the inside of their forces as much as the Republicans did all over their army; the Nationalists seemed to be a more united team.


Leitz, Christian, Economic Relations between Nazi Germany and Franco's Spain, 1936-1945, Oxford.

[1] Thomas Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, England, 1990.

[2] Thomas, Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, England, 1990

[3] Monelli, Paulo, Mussolini, London, p. 141

[4] Westwell, Ian, Condor Legion: The Wermacht's Training Ground, 2004

[5] Whealey, Robert H, Economic Influence of the Great Powers in the Spanish Civil War: From the Popular Front to the Second World War, 1983.

[6] Whealey, Robert H, Economic Influence of the Great Powers in the Spanish Civil War: From the Popular Front to the Second World War, 1983.

[7] Whealey, Robert H, Economic Influence of the Great Powers in the Spanish Civil War: From the Popular Front to the Second World War, 1983.

[8] Payne, Stanley, fascism in Spain, 1923-1977, University of Wisconsin press.

[9] Carr, Raymond, The Spanish Tragedy, London, p. 148

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