Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Spain during World War II

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Spain during World War II

Article excerpt

Spain during World War II. By Wayne H. Bowen. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press. 2006. Pp. x, 279. $39.95 hardcover.)

Wayne H. Bo wen's study of Spain during World War II fills a gap in English-language historiography. General studies on aspects of twentieth-century Spain (other than the Civil War itself), by historians such as Stanley Payne and Paul Preston, certainly address the 1939-45 period, but Bowen is amongst the first to provide dedicated coverage. However, it is worth noting that, coincidentally, Bowen's engrossing historical study makes its appearance at the same time as two popular works of fiction-Winter In Madrid by CJ. Sansom and Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel-have introduced an even wider readership to the social maelstrom which was the Spain of the early 1940's.

Bowen provides a wide-ranging survey, with chapters on foreign policy, domestic politics, the economy, culture, and leisure, women and the Sección Femenina, the Catholic Church, and the Authoritarian State and the Opposition. The first two chapters, on foreign poËcy, are particularly important in that they chaUenge the commonly held perception that Franco boldly held his ground against Hitler's overtures during World War II in refusing to declare war on the Allies. A legend evolved of a caudillo who had saved his war-weary people from further ravages. What emerges from Bowen's careful study of the sources, however, is a real sense of checkerboard gamesmanship on Franco's part, as he held out for the deal which would be right for Spain. But by February 1941, such maneuvering had not resulted in Spanish belligerency. Hitler, writes Bowen, regarded Franco as a "hopeless Catholic" and a man of "inferior character." Nevertheless, some 4,500 Spaniards would die as members of the División Azul, fighting for Nazi allies at Stalingrad and elsewhere on the Eastern Front. Such common cause with the Nazi war machine was, increasingly, to become an embarrassment to the Francoist regime as the war progressed and the victory of the AUies became more certain. …

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