Franco's Process of Extermination

By Hochschild, Adam | International Herald Tribune, May 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Franco's Process of Extermination


Hochschild, Adam, International Herald Tribune


In Paul Preston's history of the Spanish Civil War, the atrocities under Franco mirror those in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

The Spanish Holocaust. Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth- Century Spain. By Paul Preston. Illustrated. 700 pages. W.W. Norton & Company, $35; HarperPress, Pounds 30.

In "Homage to Catalonia," his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell remarks that Francisco Franco's military uprising against Spain's elected government "was an attempt not so much to impose fascism as to restore feudalism." Paul Preston's magisterial account of the bloodshed of that era bears this out.

Fascism may belong to the 20th century, but Franco's grab for power evokes earlier times: The parading soldiers who flourished enemy ears and noses on their bayonets, the mass executions carried out in bullrings or with band music and onlookers dancing in the victims' blood. One of Franco's top aides talked of democratically chosen politicians as "cloven-hoofed beasts," and anything that smacked of modernity -- Rotary Clubs, Montessori schools -- seemed to draw the regime's wrath. Echoing the Inquisition, Franco ordered particularly despised foes put to death with the garrote, in which the executioner tightens an iron collar around a person's neck.

There is also something medieval in the fierce class divisions of 1930s Spain, with its great latifundistas, whose estates were worked by landless peasants so hungry they stole acorns from pigs' troughs. Mr. Preston describes the "near racist" loathing Franco's officials had for the lower classes; one contemptuously referred to unionized farmworkers as being like "Rif tribesmen." Indeed, Franco's leading commanders were mostly, like him, Africanistas, veterans of Spain's bloody colonial wars in North Africa. As a young man, the generalissimo himself led troops on a raid that brought back the severed heads of 12 Moroccan tribesmen.

With Hitler and Mussolini supplying weapons to Franco, and the Soviet Union supplying the embattled Spanish Republic, the death toll of the 1936-39 war was enormous. About 200,000 soldiers died in battle and a large but unknown number of civilians were killed by Franco's bombing of cities and of vast columns of refugees. But Mr. Preston's subject is something else: the approximately 200,000 men and women deliberately executed during the war, the 20,000 supporters of the Republic shot after it ended, and the additional tens of thousands of civilians and refugees who died in concentration camps and prisons.

A prolific British historian of modern Spain, Mr. Preston says this was "an extremely painful book to write." It is also, unlike several of his other works, a difficult book to read. The newcomer to Spanish history will nowhere learn the difference between the Assault Guard and the Civil Guard, or between a Carlist and an integrist. Chapters roll on for 40 or 50 pages without a break. A blizzard of names of thousands of perpetrators and the towns where they carried out their tortures and killings overwhelms the reader.

"The Spanish Holocaust" is not really a narrative but a comprehensive prosecutor's brief. With its immense documentation -- 120 pages of endnotes to both published and unpublished material in at least five languages, including corrections of errors in these sources -- it is bound to be an essential reference for anything written on the subject for years to come.

In quashing democracy and timid agricultural reform, and in restoring the traditional hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, the army, big landowners and an authoritarian state, the Spanish version of fascism was very much a fundamentalist movement. And like so many political and religious fundamentalisms, it had a particular ferocity toward women.

Franco's troops practiced gang rape to frighten newly captured towns into submission, and until media-savvy superiors silenced them, his officers even boasted about this to American and British correspondents. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Franco's Process of Extermination
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.