THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR: A DRESS REHEARSAL FOR WORLD WAR TWO
In June 1931 the Republicans called for a parliamentary election to be held and the Cortes elected Niceto Alcola Zamora a leading liberal as the first president of the Republic; a Republican government was formed in Spain. However political unrest still existed in the country because some Spaniards still favored monarchy. In 1936 Spanish army units stationed in Morocco raised a revolution against Spain s government. The rebels hoped to overthrow the government and restore order in Spain. In October 1936 the rebel leaders chose General Francisco Franco as their commander in chief. The revolt developed into a full civil war and Franco s forces become known as Nationalists and were supported by Spain s Fascist Political Party. The forces that fought to save the Republic were called the Republicans.
Although the Spanish civil war drew international attention no one intervened until the Spaniards themselves asked for help. France had selected a socialist government and was torn by political opportunism. England had a weak government; memories of the general strike were still glowing and thus hoped for all of Europe s problems to vanish without her intervention. Italy had been the first country of Europe to embrace Fascism under Benito Mussolini after a huge effort to overthrow the previous government. In Germany the despair defeat the hysteria of militarism and the hopelessness of the Depression had combined to bring Hitler to power. The Russians under the leadership of Joseph Stalin were concentrating on industrialization preparation for a war and the huge purges. The Comintern a Russian communist organization had started cooperating with the Western democratic governments due to Fascism’s threat of a war against the Soviet Union.
On the night of July 19 the Prime Minister of the Republic Jose Girald telegraphed the Socialist Premier of France Leon Blum asking for arms and airplanes immediately. Great Britain feared that France s help to the Republicans might bring a general European war and thus asked France to reconsider their decision to help Spain. This was the first indication of the civil war becoming a dress rehearsal for World War II. However France shipped mutations to Mexico which were then transferred to Spain unofficially. Plus the French had allowed the Republicans to buy arms form individuals in France. Soon volunteers from Great Britain signed up to fight for the Republicans and Great Britain decided to help the Republicans also. Stain decided to help after being requested in favor of the French because he feared Hitler’s invasion of Russia without the fear of a French attack at the back.
On the night of July 20 General Francisco Franco sent some of his people to Rome to seek help from Mussolini. Mussolini felt flattered by the request but mainly he wanted to help because he wanted to see a Fascist Spain established on France’s border and wanted to show the world Italy’s new power. General Franco’s envoys had already persuaded Mussolini’s foreign secretary Count Ciano that they could win the war with twelve transport planes. On July 26 Franco’s envoys went to Hitler asking for help. Hitler was eager to help because he wanted to test his new technology (the Lufftwaffe) and wanted to use German submarines on the Spanish base for the coming war against Great Britain and France. Additionally Germany needed a Spanish iron ore and a Fascist ally that could attack France and close the Mediterranean to the British fleet.
Countries helped the fighting Parties because of their fears to each other and future plans and this increased the tension that already existed between them. For Italy and German it was a clear rehearsal because they got to taste their new technologies and a Nationalist victory in Spain meant that their aid was effective which gave them the confidence to start a new war and win it.