Rewriting History is Opening Old Wounds in Spain


Rewriting history is not confined to Sinn Féin or Marxist regimes; it is a habit of the leftist confraternity, and now being exhibited by the current Socialist government, headed by Pedro Sanchez, currently governing Spain. At the top of their hate list is the regime and person of General Francisco Franco, who became the leader of the military rebellion against the Socialist government of Spain in 1936, and by 1939 had won the civil war, overcoming the last pockets of resistance. He ruled the country as el Caudillo, the all-powerful dictator until his death in 1975, but, thanks to his foresight, the transition of Spain to a functioning democracy was realised without the violence that
many feared.

Civil wars bring out the worst savagery on both sides of a conflict, nowhere more clearly than in Spain in the Thirties. There were atrocities on both sides, and both sides got help from odious regimes—the Madrid government mainly from Stalin who hoped to turn Spain into a soviet satellite, Franco from Hitler and Mussolini who wanted Spain to join their conquest of Europe. Yes, it is true. Once Franco was in power, he showed little mercy for his opponents, but how would they have dealt with him and his associates, had they won the civil war?

It is a half-truth that the military rebellion in 1936 was treason against the legitimate republican government. The moderate Socialists, elected in 1931 after the establishment of the Second Republic, gradually lost control to the revolutionary groups, Communists and Anarchists, and by 1936 law and order had given way to the depredations of local armed factions. The ideologues were determined to destroy the Catholic Church and the property-owning middle classes. The wholesale confiscation of assets, the burning and descrating of churches, and the random execution of thousands of priests, religious and lay Catholics should have left no doubt about the direction of the republican government. Was it surprising that Franco was welcomed by the Catholic bishops as a
liberator from a murderous persecution?

When Franco died in 1975, the main parties of both left and right agreed to a Pact of Forgetting to avoid investigations and prosecutions for events during the Civil War and the rule of Franco. By 2000 the Socialists were ignoring the pact, and the current Socialist government has undertaken a comprehensive removal of statues, monuments and street names that celebrate the Franco regime, and has removed the dictator’s body from the huge mausoleum, the Valley of the Fallen, built by him before he died. The government intends to eject the monks from the monastery that is part of the mausoleum, and turn it into a secular centre for remembrance. More chilling is a proposed law to make it a crime to “glorify the Franco regime”. When will they learn?

Addendum: The second volume of Hitler: A Biography by Volker Ullrich is now available in English. The massive work ranks with Ian Kershaw’s two-volume biography completed in 1998, but focuses on the personality of the Führer rather than the circumstances and events which led to his extraordinary rise to supreme power.

Nothing about Hitler’s personal life suggests that he was other than a crude, shallow and poorly educated thinker, utterly unbothered by normal human feeling for the suffering of others. Most striking is his laziness. His routine, even as chancellor, was to get up mid-morning, hold two briefing sessions, read the newspapers and stay up late, watching films or inflicting endless monologues on his long-suffering staff. After his four-year stint as a WW1 soldier, he never worked at any one job for any length of time. In spite of the Nazi glorification of physical fitness and sporting prowess, he was incredibly lazy—never learnt to swim, ski or even drive a car, and took no regular exercise. His forte was to be the first modern politician, an instinctive populist who makes sure that he is the centre of interest: “Who cares”, demanded Hitler, “whether they laugh at us or insult us? The point is that they talk about us and constantly think about us.” He ensured control of the public narrative and his image, and the need to repeat—again and again—the message people wanted to hear. His recipe worked with the military and people at home. Despite the disasters in Russia after 1941 and the bombing of German cities, there was no serious rebellion or public demands for an end to the war. There lies the big question. As one German writer remarked, “What was it that actually drove us to follow Hitler into the abyss like the children in the story of the Pied Piper? The puzzle is not Adolph Hitler. We are the puzzle.”

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