Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia

Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia

Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia

Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia

Synopsis

Though well publicized in Europe, and with enormous bibliographic resources in German and Spanish, on which this history principally draws, the famous Spanish Blue Division- Franco's military and diplomatic ploy in World War II- is very little known in this country, as this first full, analytical account in English attests.

For nearly three years, August 1941- March 1944, 47,000 Spanish soldiers served under German command on the Russian front, two of those years con tinuously in the line in the siege of Leningrad. There were 22,000 casu alties, of which 4,500 were killed in ac tion or died of wounds, disease, or frost bite. Less than 300 prisoners of war finally were repatriated in 1954.

The story of these Spanish volunteers told here, largely from original Spanish and German archival sources, in the graphic detail of a military history cover ing the major battles of the Russo-German war, gives an entirely different perspective to the siege of Leningrad which is neither Communist nor Nazi but Mediterranean.

Though focusing on the military as pects of the Blue Division's campaigns, amply illustrated with maps and docu mented with detailed military rolls, this big book captures the highly charged diplomatic history of the time. The Spanish expeditionary force joined Army Group North as the 250th Infantry Di vision in the German order of battle. But in culture, command structure, and tactics, the Blue Division was worlds apart from the other elements of the Wehrmacht. Thinking of themselves as warriors, as opposed to soldiers, the Spaniards fought with great courage and dash. Masters of improvisation, they lived off the countryside, regarded the Russians as human beings, and often formed strong bonds with the peasants- so strong that the Russian population often protected the Spaniards from both the Red Army and the partisans.

Excerpt

The blue division, Spain's contribution to the Russo-German war, 1941-45, is a microcosm of the Eastern Campaign. Joining Army Group North as the 250 Infantry Division in the German order of battle, this Spanish expeditionary force served continuously in the line for two years in the siege of Leningrad. Participating in efforts to envelop the city and repelling Red Army attempts to liberate the besieged metropolis, the División Española de Voluntarios experienced some of the most bitter fighting on the Eastern Front. These Spanish volunteers give an entirely different perspective to the siege of Leningrad which is neither Communist nor Nazi, but Mediterranean. in culture, command structure, and tactics, the Blue Division was worlds apart from the other elements of the Wehrmacht. Their story is not merely of units and battles, but of human beings and of a great diplomatic struggle of World War II--Adolf Hitler's efforts to draw Spain into the conflict.

For many of the young Spaniards who volunteered, the Russo- German war was a continuation of their own Civil War of 1936-39--a crusade against communism. They, along with thousands of Belgians, Danes, Dutch, French, Norwegians, and Swedes, felt themselves part of an assault generation destined to revitalize Europe. Fascism had an appeal. the defense of Christendom against atheistic communism, incongruous as an alliance with Nazi Germany might be, attracted many more.

Francisco Franco, Caudillo and dictator of Spain, was as much repelled by national socialism as bolshevism. Nevertheless, he believed that the Axis might win and sought to aggrandize Spain by assuring his country a place in the New Order. For the sake of Gibraltar and North Africa, he was willing to risk war with the Allies, but only at the "hour of the last cartridge." When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Franco saw an opportunity to continue his anti-Communist crusade, repay the debt to the Axis for aid during the Civil War, and rid the country of the more ardent members of the Falange. He dispatched the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.