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SPAIN: Franco and Hitler

Paul Preston writes: Things are not as simple as Christopher Jones would seem to think with regard to Churchill and Franco. I particularly envied his readiness to invent what he believed Hitler to have said of Franco so much less annoying than having to make do with what the sources tell us.I quote below a chunk of my book on Franco which I believe is a valid comment on what he wrote in his war memoirs:

In a speech in the House of Commons on 24 May 1944, Churchill implicitly defended the negotiations which had taken place with Spain by what seemed to be praise of General Franco. Referring to the dangers from Spain in 1940, he paid tribute to the efforts of Hoare and Arthur Yencken, his able Embassy Counsellor, but indicated that 'the main credit is undoubtedly due to the Spanish resolve to keep out of the war'. Churchill considered that, during Torch, Spain had made full amends for her earlier acts of assistance to Germany and concluded that 'as I am here today speaking kindly words about Spain, let me add that I hope she will be a strong influence for the peace of the Mediterranean after the war. Internal political problems in Spain are a matter for the Spaniards themselves.

Churchill's words certainly sprang from motives other than disinterested admiration for Franco. In the short term, he was trying to neutralize him during the forthcoming Normandy landings. He also had the longer term purpose of sanitizing Franco to be able to use him as a future bulwark of Western Mediterranean policy. At the time, however, there was considerable furore in English and American political circles, and dismay within the anti-Franco opposition. The impact of the speech was intensified by the Madrid propaganda machine which presented it as a full-scale endorsement both of Franco's foreign policy and of his regime. Spanish newspapers were cruelly jubilant at the chagrin of the Republican exiles who had been looking to the Allies to dispose of Franco after defeating Hitler and Mussolini. On his next visit to the Caudillo, Hoare tried in vain to disabuse him of the idea that Churchill had issued a declaration of unquestioning support for his regime.

Ronald Hilton - 7/28/03