Generalissmo Francisco Franco ruled over Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975 maintaining absolute control over his people throughout his tenure as leader. He was the only authoritarian ruler to last beyond the Second World War. Perhaps the strangest part of his rule was that more attention was given to the “Generalissmo Francisco Franco death watch” in 1975, than to the role he played during World War II.
Officially Spain remained neutral throughout the war, but there was a known favoritism of Francisco Franco toward Hitler. Francisco Franco may not have entered the war politically but he was very open about who he wanted to win the war even if he was not willing to commit his country to the effort.
Francisco did owe a debt of gratitude to Hitler and his regime. During the Spanish Civil War both Germany and Italy provided military support for Francisco Franco to take over the country. However, Generalissmo Francisco Franco did limit his use of the German and Italian troops. By the end of the war the German and Italian troops stayed just as a way to add prestige to the new leadership of Francisco Franco.
When World War II began, Hitler and Franco met to discuss Franco joining the axis powers. Franco made numerous demands including food, fuel, and Spanish control of Gibraltar and French North Africa. The terms proved to be too high for Hitler who did not want to push his relationship with the Vichy French government too far. It is an oft-cited remark that Hitler once said that he would rather have his own teeth extracted than to deal personally with Franco.
Even though Hitler and Franco could not agree on a way for Spain to officially join the Axis powers, that did not stop Franco from offering up support in other ways. Franco supported the German regime by proving information to the German intelligence and giving the axis powers war materials, including tungsten to harden steel.
Here are 8 things most people do not know about Generalissmo Francisco Franco and his involvement in the Second World War.
8. He Promoted Fascism
Hitler may be the one that most people remember when they think of Fascism during the Second World War. However he was not the only one and both Mussolini and Franco joined Hitler to create a Fascist block in alliance in Europe. The three of them had similar styles for controlling their people and maintaining their rule.
Franco’s Fascist regime was another European stronghold that promoted the strength and power of authoritarian regimes. Franco’s regime was actually considered by many to be a semi-fascist regime that some referred to as clerical fascism. Franco created this form of government when he merged the Falange and Carlist parties into one party known as the Falange Espanola Tradicionalista or FET. The Falange party was the fascist political party while the Carlists were monarchists in favor of a certain bloodline.
By the end of the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco was not only the man that was chosen to lead the country but he had also managed to merge the two major parties in Spain, which were thought to be ideologically incompatible. Francisco Franco declared Spain a monarchy but he never appointed a king. He simply named himself regent for life, took on all the duties and perks of being King, but ruled Spain as a fascist dictator.
When World War II broke out members of the former Falange party (the FET was declared the only political party after Francisco Franco came to power), were eager to support their fascist brothers in Italy and Germany. Some of them even signed up to fight the war as volunteers and had so fallen in love with these true fascist countries that they decided to never return to Spain.