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The following was quoted in Albert Speer's diary entry for 26 December 1950 recalling a conversation with Hitler in January 1943 (Albert Speer, Spandau: The Secret Diary (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000), p. 167):

You know my opinion of Franco... We ought to keep these Red Spaniards on the back burner... They're lost to democracy, and to that reactionary crew round Franco too... I believe you to the letter, Speer, that they were impressive people. I must say, in general, that during the civil war the idealism was not on Franco's side; it was to be found among the Reds ... one of these days we'll be able to make use of them... The whole thing will start all over again. But with us on the opposite side.

Who are the impressive people, the Facists or the Reds? And who did he want to make use of? And what does he mean with the last part: "The whole thing will start all over again. But with us on the opposite side"?

All I know about this is that the Falange Española (the center of Spanish fascism, appropriated by Franco) based their ideology on Italian fascism, and that the Italians despised Hitler as not properly fascist. And I guess they were right since nazism has characteristics of socialism. Because of this the quote intrigues me.

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    I do know that Hitler and Ribbentrop in the 40s lobbied Franco incessantly to bring him into the war against the British so as to close the Straits of Gibraltar and deny the British access to the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, significantly lenthening British supply lines from India and the colonies, as well as supporting the North African campaign. I am aware that they were frustratewd by Franco who knew the Nazis needed him a lot more than he needed them, and attempted to extract as many concessions as possible. This frustrated the Nazis foreign policy. I assume this would be about ... – Anaryl Mar 11 '17 at 13:07
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    ...bringing Spain into the war on the side of the Germans, something, iirc, Franco was determined to avoid except on exceedingly generous terms. If memory serves his simply asked for greater and greater concessions so as to frustrate the negotiations. It's quite possible 1943 is when the Nazis threw in the towel on these negotiations, but I am not sure. Your question could probably do with some more context. – Anaryl Mar 11 '17 at 13:08
  • +1 very interesting quote. Are the ellipses present in the book? If you left anything out of the quote it might help us to work out what he meant. – Ne Mo Mar 11 '17 at 18:32
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    Have a look on Google books. Sometimes you can see a lot of it there – Ne Mo Mar 11 '17 at 19:15
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    worldcat.org/title/spandau-the-secret-diaries/oclc/… this very useful site searches for it in all libraries. Worldwide. Looks like it's fairly common so you could get your hands on a copy, depending on how badly you want to. – Ne Mo Mar 11 '17 at 23:27
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I am not sure what Hitler did know about the political details of Spain and I certainly cannot be sure of what he was thinking, so I will just laid out some data and thoughts:

  • While Franco's side is usually labeled as "fascist", the truth is that it was a blend of forces, including the Church, traditionalists and monarchists of several branches, grand capitalists, militarists and "true" fascists (the Falange). Franco himself was certainly from the militarist branch, and his political adscriptions has been considered as just "Francoist".

  • From the beginning of the regime, it was clear that the government was under the control of Franco and not of Falange1. While Franco did use many Falange members in his government at the beginning, he had no problem replacing them with other factions after the fall of Hitler.

  • As the NDSAP did, Falange was not only anticommunist but also had an anticapitalist program, proposing to curb the capistalists power. That part was silently dropped under Franco regime2. So, while Hitler and Franco had lots of things in common (militarism, anticommunism, antisemitism, etc.) they did not feel very close one from the other...

So, if I had to guess who Hitler was refering to, I would guess he was talking about supporting the Falange members in appointing a truly fascist dictator. For me it makes no sense for Hitler to be talking about "the Reds" because:

  • At that point of time, with the war against the SU, there was no way a Communist party would align with Hitler (or otherwise).
  • Except for a few isolated maquis, anybody even remotely left leaning had been exiled from Spain, executed or jailed. Repression was brutal and there were simply not enough "Reds" available to form any kind of opposition.


1In fact I did read some texts -not completely sure about how true- about Franco forbidding an exchange of prisoner that would have freed the Falange leader (José Antonio Primo de Rivera), and even reports of a rescue attempt cancelled without explanations. José Antonio Primo de Rivera was finally executed by the Republic.

2I did read in some historical works that there was a joke proposing Franco for the Physics Nobel, because the Falange styled itself "The National Movement"(El Movimiento Nacional) and Franco had got to "stop the Movement".

  • Thank you for the detailed response. I did know that many Falange members believed Franco had betrayed their idea of a fascist revolution once he rised to power. I haven't heard though of any clear opposition to Francoism from Falangistas that Hitler could be appealing to. I do know that even important figures in Falange like Sánchez Mazas went on to have a position in the new goverment and never opposed Franco. Secondly, there is something about the quote, it feels like he is talking about "the Reds". Do you truly think this is improbable? – Anguepa Mar 11 '17 at 15:41
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    Certainly the quote refers to "the Reds" as being the idealistic side. As to what would be "the other side" that would "start [the whole thing] again" with Hitler's support, it depends heavily of what did Hitler actually knew about the Spanish situation. Did he know how serious the repression was? The details of political infighting? Was he deluding himself? From my POV I find it more rational (if that means anything when applied to Hitler) to believe that he was thinking about Falange, specially since the May 1941 crisis by which the most Falangist, pro-Axis ministers wer dismissed... – SJuan76 Mar 11 '17 at 16:40
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    ...link in Spanish. As for opposition to Franco government, the most relevant to it happened in the middle of the Civil War, when Franco issued the Unification Decree (which merged all of his side political parties into Falange Española de las JONS, under his control. There a number of falangist (most notably Manuel Hedilla) opposed this movement and were persecuted by the regime. Anything about reading minds is... – SJuan76 Mar 11 '17 at 16:45
  • ..mostly an opinion so I cannot definitely deny other POVs. – SJuan76 Mar 11 '17 at 16:46
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Hitler is saying that he thinks he can make use of the Spanish communists, some day, so some sort of contact with them ought to be maintained (that's the metaphor "keep them on the back burner.") He's saying that the communists lost out firstly to democracy, and then later they lost out to Franco and his group.

He's agreeing with something that Speer seems to have said earlier in the conversation, that the Spanish communists had real idealism, and were thus more impressive to him than the democrats or Franco's group. Hitler never thought much of democracy, and Franco's group were traditional Spanish conservatives. Hitler regarded Nazism as a radical, rather than a traditional, movement, overthrowing the past.

Why does Hitler think he can convert the Spanish communists to Nazism? He'd done that to a lot of German socialists and communists. Goebbels, for example, was originally a socialist, but as Nazism turned from a kind of socialism with a strong racial element into a system based on the idea of the leader (Hitler), he changed his views with it. Idealism and desire for revolution are personality traits at least as much as they are political ideas, and they can be redirected.

  • Goebbels was a socialist? When? As far as I know, he was still cosidering being a Catholic priest in 1917; in 1927 he joined the NSDAP. In 1921 he wrote a semi-autobiographic novel, Michael, which already showed volkish tendencies. Did he ever join the SPD or the USPD? – Luís Henrique Mar 12 '17 at 3:41
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    No, he never joined either of those parties. He was initially aligned with the Strasser faction of the Nazi party, but converted to Hitlerism. – John Dallman Mar 12 '17 at 8:22
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    And Strasser, of course, was an Altkampfer, having fought in Epp's Freikorps against the council republic of Bavaria. So where is the socialism, except of course in name - which was no problem for Hitler either? – Luís Henrique Mar 12 '17 at 12:17
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    Are you implying socialism is incompatible with the idea of a leader?? – Shautieh Mar 12 '17 at 21:04
  • Socialism is generally based on some principles other than "do whatever the leader says." – John Dallman Mar 12 '17 at 21:07
3

In addition to other answers, it should be noted that germans were taking Spanish "Red" exiles to forced labour and extermination camps - notably Mauthausen - since 1940 and kept doing so until the end of the war. Clearly, that's not what could be expected if Hitler planed to be eventually in the same side of the "Red" or make any use of them.

1

The Nazis were an early version of what was later called the "radical center," a radicalism rooted in the middle class and political center that was "alienated" by e.g. the Depression. In the U.S. of the 1960s, this was best represented by the "third party" of America's George Wallace, who opined that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" [between the two major parties].

As such, Nazis were suspicious of both left and right. The Nazis were actually comfortable with certain of the ideas of Karl Marx (a German) who preached a "dictatorship of the proletariat," (men like Hitler), and a world "revolution" against capitalism. Hitler distrusted Soviet Communism 1) because of its "collectivist" tendencies and 2) because of its many Jews. Neither of these were dominant in Spanish Communists, which Hitler saw as fellow members of the radical center.

While it is well known that the Nazis were "fellow travelers" with the capitalist right, what is less well known is that Hitler was distrustful of them. Specifically, Hitler and Franco (a monarchist) didn't get along particularly well. This may be explained by the following brief excerpt from one of Hitler's speeches:

"First of all, the personal side of things: I understand very well that there is a world of difference between my own outlook on life and attitude, and that of President Roosevelt. Roosevelt came from an extremely wealthy family. By birth and origin he belonged to that class of people that is privileged in a democracy and assured of advancement. I myself was only the child of a small and poor family, and I had to struggle through life by work and effort in spite of immense hardships. ...

Two different paths in life! Franklin Roosevelt took power in the United States as the candidate of a thoroughly capitalistic party, which helps those who serve it. When I became the Chancellor of the German Reich, I was the leader of a popular national movement, which I had created myself. The powers that supported Mr. Roosevelt were the same powers I fought against, out of concern for the fate of my people, and out of deepest inner conviction..."

Warning: This passage is a translation by Institute of Historical Review, which is considered a "revisionist" organization, which is why I tried to make it as brief as possible.

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