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Luis Granados
Chapter 16: Azaña vs. Mussolini continued
Ironically, Azaña had devoted much of his energy during his first term in office to modernizing and strengthening the army, and
that new-found efficiency was now being used against him.  With most of the army on his side, Franco could have swept into
power quickly.  But speed was not Franco’s intent.  He sought not a coup, but a permanent revolution, in which the forces of
humanism would be crippled beyond hope of recovery.   As he wrote to a friendly diplomat: “I will occupy Spain town by town,
village by village, railway by railway … Nothing will make me abandon this gradual program.  It will bring me less glory but
greater internal peace. That being the case, this civil war could still last another year, two, perhaps three. Dear ambassador, I
can assure you that I am not interested in territory but in inhabitants. The reconquest of the territory is the means, the
redemption of the inhabitants the end. I cannot shorten the war by even one day … It could even be dangerous for me to reach
Madrid with a stylish military operation.  I will take the capital not an hour before it is necessary: first I must have the certainty of
being able to found a regime.”

One of Franco’s colleagues, General Mola, spoke of the important role terror must play in the campaign: “It is necessary to
spread terror. We have to create the impression of mastery, eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not
think as we do. There can be no cowardice. If we vacillate one moment and fail to proceed with the greatest determination, we
will not win.”

General Queipo de Llano spread his own brand of terror on radio broadcasts: “Our brave Legionaries … have shown the Red
cowards what it means to be a man.  And, incidentally, the wives of the Reds, too. These Communist and Anarchist women,
after all, have made themselves fair game by their doctrine of free love. And now they have at least made the acquaintance of
real men, and not milksops of militiamen. Kicking their legs about and struggling won’t save them.”

The Church backed Franco’s revolt with every fiber of its being.  The Cardinal of Toledo and Primate of Spain called it a “clash
of civilization with barbarism, of the inferno against Christ,” and condemned the “Jews and the Freemasons who poisoned the
nation’s soul with absurd doctrines, Tartar and Mongol tales dressed up as a political and social system in the dark societies
controlled by the Semite International.”

The Archbishop of Zaragoza said: “This violence is carried out not in the service of anarchy but legitimately for the benefit of
order, the Fatherland and Religion,” while the Bishop of Pamplona denounced Azaña’s elected government as “the enemies
of God and Spain.”  

When the southern village of Rociana was taken by the rebels two weeks into the revolt, the parish priest made a speech from
the balcony of the town hall: “You all no doubt believe that, because I am a priest, I have come with words of forgiveness and
repentance. Not at all. War against all of them until the last trace has been eliminated!” Over the next three months, 60
villagers were shot; not enough to satisfy the priest, though, who filed an official complaint that the repression had been too

As wars go, the Spanish Civil War ranks high on the barbarism scale.  Atrocities were committed on both sides – lots of them.  
But that does not mean that both sides were equally to blame.  When an adult encounters a fight between children, the natural
tendency is to have no patience in listening to whether Billy took Johnny’s candy, or who hit whom first.  But sometimes Billy
really is in the wrong, and Johnny’s reaction is entirely justified.  The adult who fails to recognize that deservedly loses Johnny’
s respect.  The greatest discrimination sometimes lies in treating different things the same.

Most national leaders throughout history, confronted by the kind of revolt Azaña faced, would have assumed dictatorial powers
until the emergency had ended.  Even Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus at the outbreak of the American Civil War,
and arrested members of the Maryland legislature to prevent them from voting for secession.  Dictatorship was utterly
antithetical to everything Manuel Azaña stood for, though, and he never gave it a second thought.  His insistence on not
destroying his Constitution in order to save it resulted in anarchic conditions when the bulk of the army and police force
deserted, allowing uncontrollable vigilantes to do their worst.  

They were not encouraged or condoned by President Azaña; on the contrary, he did all he could to maintain order, not only
because it was the right thing to do but for the selfish reason of his life-or-death quest for support from the other western
democracies.  Every time a church was burnt or a priest was shot, the hope for that support diminished.  Maintaining control is
not an easy task, though, when you have no army or police force, and when the people in a local community convince
themselves – often correctly – that a particular priest is actively aiding the rebels against the majority and nobody in authority is
doing anything about it.  

By contrast, the Catholic rebels had a conscious policy, from the top down, of using the war to exterminate humanists from
Spain.  For example, after the capture of the town of  Badajoz, an American journalist reported on the roundup of those who
had fought to defend the city:  “At four o’clock in the morning they are turned out into the ring through the gate by which the
initial parade of the bullfight enters. There machine guns await them. After the first night the blood was supposed to be palm
deep on the far side of the lane. I don’t doubt it. Eighteen hundred men – there were women, too – were mowed down there in
some twelve hours. There is more blood than you would think in 1800 bodies.”

Aside from the authorization for the killings, there is the sheer quantity.  Winners write history books, and the winning Catholics
never tired of mourning the 50,000 civilians killed by government supporters during the war, including nearly 7,000 members
of the clergy.  Since the death of Franco in 1975, though, local historians throughout Spain have explored the previously taboo
subject of the killings and torture perpetrated by the Catholic rebel armies.  Their best estimates put the civilian body count in
the 180,000 range, many executed for crimes such as owning a radio or reading the wrong newspaper.

That’s just during the war.  After the end of the war, Count Ciano reported to Mussolini in the summer of 1939 that over 200
executions were being carried out daily in Madrid, 150 in Barcelona, and 80 in Seville.  The American in charge of the Spanish
bureau of the Associated Press estimated that half a million supporters of the government were executed by the Franco
regime after the war.

Another 400,000 backers of the elected government were consigned to concentration camps to perform slave labor.  There
Major Antonio Vallejo-Najera, head of the Army’s  Psychiatric Services branch, carried out experiments on women prisoners in
search of the “red gene” which caused them to be so obstinate; the high command was so delighted with his scientific
research they promoted him to colonel.  Ironically, 20,000 of these slave laborers were forced to construct the massive Valle
de los Caidos monument to the rebel war dead.  Not a memorial for all who died in the Civil War, as we have in America at
Gettysburg and elsewhere, but strictly for those who died to re-establish Catholic rule.  

Yet another 400,000 Franco opponents, including Manuel Azaña, were driven into exile.  Unfortunately for them, the most
logical refuge was neighboring France.  A year later the Nazis, emboldened by their success in Spain, invaded France as well;
Azaña, and countless others, died while hiding from the Gestapo.