Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the New Order

Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the New Order

Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the New Order

Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the New Order


Using recently declassified documents from Spain and the United States, personal interviews, and unpublished and published Spanish, German, British, and U. S. records, Spaniards and Nazi Germany makes a significant contribution to the understanding of Hispano-German relations during the 1930s and 1940s. This study shows that Naziphiles within the Spanish Falange, Spain's fascist party, made a concerted effort to bring their nation into World War II, and that only the indecisiveness of dictator Francisco Franco and diplomatic mistakes by the Nazis prevented them from succeeding.

Bowen demonstrates that while Spain was neutral in World War II, its policies clearly favored the Axis, at least in the early stages of the war. Franco, who had emerged victorious from the Spanish Civil War in 1939 largely because of support from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, even carefully considered entering World War II on the side of Nazi Germany.

By the late 1930s, members of the Falange saw World War II as a revolutionary opportunity, a chance to lead Spain into a new age as a partner with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the head of a New Europe of social justice and authoritarian regimes. By the end of 1939, a significant minority of pro- Nazi Spaniards were unhappy that Spain had not entered the war and remade itself to fit better into Hitler's New Order. Bowen argues that support for Nazi Germany in Spain and among Spanish communities throughout Europe was both wide and deep, and that this enthusiasm for the Third Reich and the New Order it promised to bring lasted until the end of the war. Despite statements of neutrality by the Spanish government, the Franco regime was well aware of this collaboration by Spanish citizens as late as 1944-1945 and did little to stop it. Had Hitler been more interested in bringing Spain into his empire, or exploiting the pro-Nazi sentiments of these thousands of Spaniards, he might have replaced Franco with someone more willing to support his interests even as late as 1943.

Spaniards and Nazi Germany presents many possibilities for what might have been a far different outcome of World War II in Europe. It shows that even without the full support of the Spanish or German governments, pro-Nazi Spaniards, even if they did not quite bring Spain into the war, added to the strength of the Third Reich by serving in its armies, working in its factories, and promoting its ideas to other nations.


Nazi Germany did not fight alone against the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, nor was National Socialism the only alternative to capitalism and Communism in the 1930s and 1940s. All across the Continent, new movements and ideologies swept away old monarchies and the fledgling democracies created after World War I. Inspired, aided, or installed by the force of Nazi military power preceding and during World War II, new regimes came to power in many European nations, including France, Spain, Romania, Croatia, and Slovakia. This New Order, led by Hitler's Germany, was not always justa cover for Nazi exploitation and hegemony, however. Significant numbers of European leaders and citizens believed they were creating a new beginning for Western civilization, a chance to build a better society as an alternative to the injustices of Soviet Communism and liberal capitalism. These dreams ended in the horrors of World War II, but for a brief time they captured the hopes of many.

Although not directly involved in either world war, Spain was not immune to the discontents sweeping across Europe. The Spanish Falange, created in 1933 by José Antonio Primo de Rivera, contained many true believers in a New Order. Their vision in the 1930s and 1940s was to see a new Europe and a new Spain, purified in the flames of war and purged of what they considered anti- Spanish elements: Communists, anarchists, socialists, Freemasons, liberals, anticlericals, atheists, and, for some Falangists, Jews. In the wake of German military success in the early stages of World War II, these Falangists saw a chance to create a genuine New Order in Europe, a continental system, led by Germany, pitted against the twin evils of Western capitalism and “Asiatic” Communism. Unlike other, more traditional Spanish nationalists, they would not be content with mere tinkering with the balance of power, like the return of Gibraltar or territorial concessions in Morocco. Nor did they hope to gain victories in democratic elections, though they did run candidates, all unsuccessful, in such contests. What they wanted was a new world . . .

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