20

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
17

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.

  • Like the NSDAP, the 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, anti-communism, 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 Soviet Union, 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.


1 In 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.

2 I 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
  • Sorry but this incomplete quote already shows very clearly that Hitler was talking about the Reds and the complete quote, along with the context, that, it appears in, shows it even more clearly, please, read my post in alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/… for the complete quote and its context. – Ricardolindo May 24 at 18:54
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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.

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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
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    Socialism is generally based on some principles other than "do whatever the leader says." – John Dallman Mar 12 '17 at 21:07
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    "Socialism" that isn't international is not socialism at all. "National socialism" is as meaningful a phrase as "atheist Christianism" or "anarcho-feudalism". And for good reason: fascism is always based on "politics of ambiguity". It emulates socialist symbols and organizational forms as instruments for its opposite, ie, the maintenance of conservative law and order. In the process, both the empty "socialist" forms and the "conservative" aims are perverted. And that is the closest fascism can get to socialism: a caricature of socialist methods, striving for a caricature of conservative goals. – Luís Henrique Apr 24 at 20:27
4

In addition to other answers, it should be noted that the 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 "Reds" or make any use of them.

2

Inspired on your thread, I opened a thread about this in the alternatehistory.com forum. I agree with three of the answers from overoceans, Mariam and BBadolato.

While some people have definitely exaggerated the degree of similarities between Fascism/Nazism and Communism, it's true that the Fascists and, especially, the Nazis didn't consider themselves reactionaries, they considered themselves true revolutionaries and didn't, really, like conservatives, monarchists and reactionaries, like Franco. Hitler's idea in this quote was that once Socialism and Communism were defeated, Fascism and Nazism would emerge as the true revolutionary movements and fight against conservatives, monarchists and reactionaries, like Franco. They would do so with the help of Spanish Socialists and Communists that had been converted into Fascists. This idea didn't fit much with the political reality of the time but did show a coherent world view.

2
+50

There are two important things to consider.

  1. What this all is supposed to mean is pretty clear from context. Quoted below.

    In essence: The impressive people are "the Reds". They are to be "made use of", once Hitler finishes the East and turns back to the West, in this case towards dealing with the "reactionary" bunch around Franco. That is – according to this account – the Spanish Civil War is depicted as having been just a prelude to fighting out having power over Spain in the mid-term. This time envisioned as Germany teaming up with "the Reds" as allies, 'useful idiots', against Franco, to bring Spain from falangist (or perhaps better: francoist) to nation-socialist control. This plan is ridiculously easy, as Hitler can sway anyone any way anyway, just by looking them in the eye – except for Franco himself of course, apparently.

  2. Nothing in that statement above can be taken at face value. The information about Hitler gained from this is dubious at best. We cannot assume to gain any truthful information from this. Our source is admittedly hearsay from a notorious lier. Speer is not known to be a reliable source for anything. We know he lied at Nuremberg, he lied after Spandau, to all those interviewers, he lied to his biographer Fest, he was caught multiple times manipulating, through order to others physical evidence in the form of files and guarding or guiding what people said about the time. Truth be damned, image be saved.

    We only see how Speer wants to unfold the narrative. That is primarily: Speer convinces Hitler to do some good, Hitler – the manipulative madman – agrees on grounds of twisted logic, 'his' logic, as always, and Speer now has proven to having improved the prison lives of "Reds".

    Nothing more, until confirmed otherwise form other sources.
    Do we have any for these two events? Either for Speer in Bordeaux with Spanish Reds on Christmas 1942, or for Speer influencing Hitler in front of Keitel to "treat the Spaniards well"?

It doesn't look good, to say the least. So all exegesis of "What did Hitler mean" is probably a bit between moot and entirely futile. This passage seems to be made up entirely in Speer's mind.

Anyway. The question generating quote in full context:

When we celebrated Christmas of 1942 in the vicinity of Bordeaux, I heard from the head of the construction unit during the dinner that a group of former so-called Spanish Reds who were interned in a nearby camp had invited me to their Christmas party. Without an SS escort squad — right up to die end of the war this distinction was accorded only to Dönitz, Bormann, Keitel, Ribbentrop, Funk, and Goebbels, in addi­tion to Hitler and Himmler — I drove over to the camp with a small fol­lowing. The party had already begun. A Spaniard made a short speech to introduce me; the throng responded with faint applause. Folk dances and other popular offerings followed, each time to stormy applause. The rather stiff attitude toward me relaxed only after I had a sizable supply of cigarettes and wine distributed. These Spaniards, who had fought on the side of the Republic, had fled across the Pyrenees to France at the end of die civil war. By now they had been held behind barbed wire for almost three years. They were people with likable, courageous faces; we sat together until late at night, and there was a note of cordiality in our goodbyes.

Two weeks later I told Hitler about the incident and asked him to authorize preferential treatment for these Spaniards. They hated Franco, who had defeated them, I said, and likewise the French brand of democracy that was keeping them imprisoned. “That's highly in­teresting,” Hitler interrupted eagerly. “Did you hear that, Keitel? You know my opinion of Franco. Two years ago, when we were about to meet, I still thought he was a true leader, but I met a fat little sergeant who couldn’t at all grasp my far-reaching plans. We ought to keep these Red Spaniards on the back burner — there are many thousands of them, after all. They’re lost to democracy, and to that reactionary crew around Franco too — we have real chances there. 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. Certainly they pillaged and desecrated, but so did Franco’s men, without having any good reason for it — the Reds were working off centuries of hatred for the Catholic Church, which always oppressed the Spanish people. When I think of that I under­stand a good many things. Franco knows perfectly well why he objected only half a year ago to our employing these Spanish Reds. “But one of these days” — Hitler stabbed the air with his finger — “one of these days we’ll be able to make use of them. When we call it quits with Franco. Then we’ll let them go home. And you’ll see what happens then! The whole thing will start all over again. But with us on the op­posite side. I don’t give a damn about that. Let him find out what I can be like!”

Hitler had never been able to bear opposition, and he could not for­give the Spanish dictator for having refused to go along with his plans, in particular for the occupation of Gibraltar. Personal rancor of this sort invariably counted for much more with Hitler than ideological agree­ment. That same day he issued orders to treat die "Spanish Reds” well.

Albert Speer: "Spandau. The Secret Diaries", translated from the German (1975) by Richard & Clara Winston, Ishi Press International: New York, 2010. (p 163–164)

What do we have here? Speer's Christmas of 1942, not mentioned in his memoirs. He gets off to a camp near Bordeaux, without the SS (what a distance he has to them) but also conveniently alone as well, without witnesses. He is a top Nazi and still greeted warmly by internees? Who are "Reds"? And forced labour slaves for his projects?

Anyway, Speer's sympathisers: he liked them and they warmed up to him and he improved their condition by having this crazy talk with Hitler. Seems legit. How nice of him.

Or is it. The camp nearby is

The Camp of Merignac, opened in 1941, was then intended for the internment of the Communists from south-west and "common right". But before, it had accomodated nomads and Jews which were then transferred in camps from the Indre-and-Loire (La Lande and La Morellerie).

July 2, 1942, on the request of the Police force of German Safety, Jews of both sexes from 16 to 45 years old will be held there, except for the Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Finnish, Norwegian, English, American and Mexican Jews! It requires also the installation of the appendix of the Camp of Merignac located Quai de Bacala, the principal camp not being able to receive an important manpower.

From July to November 1942, 459 Jews will be transferred to Drancy and then deported.

Where were the Spanish refugees from the retirada primarily interned? Not that many near Bordeaux. But a few lesser known sites existed, like Saint-Médard-d'Eyrans Eysines http://invisiblebordeaux.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-forgotten-wartime-camp-in-eysines.html

French internment camps durin World War 2

Where the Spaniards in the Bordeaux Gironde region? They were. And their conditions improved or deteriorated according to local agreements between Vichy France officials and their German overlords. ( Scott Soo: "The routes to exile: France and the Spanish Civil War refugees, 1939-2009", Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York, 2016, p

And what changed in that camp after December 1942?

A quite detailed report for this is found on a site (Rotspanier.net Spanish Forced Workers during World War II) dedicated to remembering the Red Spaniards forced into slave labour for Vichy or the Reich Peter Gaida: "Le camp d ́internement de Mérignac 1940-1944" PDF. Neither is Speer mentioned nor are any conditions improved much after December 1942.

Just for comparison:

Since his imprisonment in Nuremberg and Spandau, Speer has worked to stabilize his somewhat positive image as an apolitical technocrat and misguided idealist through extensive secret written records (which were smuggled outside to his friend Rudolf Wolters in Coesfeld with the help of a nurse) by the Nuremberg Trial, while concealing all the negative points of his biography (promotion of the concentration camp expansion, expulsion of Jews from Berlin). Particularly in his two very successful book publications, Erinnerungen von 1969 and Spandauer Tagebücher von 1975, he reverses decisive phases of his activities in the "Third Reich" to some extent.

The Speer biography of historian Magnus Brechtken, published in 2017, confirms Schwendemann's assessment by means of a confrontation of Speer's narratives with the sources. Speer's memoirs with a world circulation of almost three million copies, as a seemingly authentic contemporary witness report, had shaped the historical picture of a small group of criminals around Hitler who were responsible for war, the Holocaust and slave labor, while Speer wanted nothing to know about it.

The Spandauer diaries, in which Speer describes the years of his captivity and at the same time recalls his time in the closest NS leadership circle, served the same purpose, describing and ridiculing the characteristics of his fellow prisoners (Baldur von Schirach, Rudolf Heß, Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Konstantin von Neurath, Walther Funk). The legend that he had the New Reich Chancellery built in less than twelve months is also repeated in both books (and thus a legend devised by Nazi propaganda to underpin the alleged efficiency of the Nazi system) Spear biographer Magnus Brechtken describes the diaries presented in Speer's preface as allegedly authentic as "literary invention" in the light of the sources. They presented a young, artistically gifted architect who struggled with himself, seduced by Hitler, who actually never wanted anything to do with politics - and certainly with war and crime. Nevertheless, he had, after all, formally entered the inner circle of leadership, assumed abstract responsibility and had thus been imprisoned without being to blame for concrete crimes committed by others.

Wikipedia: Albert Speer

Absolutely zero mentions for the episode celebrating Christmas 1942 with slaves in his own memoir or:

– Martin Kitchen: "Speer. Hitler’s Architect", Yale University Press: New Haven, London, 2015.
– Joachim C. Fest: "Albert Speer: Conversations with Hitler's Architect", Polity Press, 2007
– Joachim C. Fest: "Speer. The Final Verdict", Harcourt: (1999) 2001.
– Gitta Sereny: "Albert Speer. His Battle with Truth", Picador, 1996.

  • There are other Hitler quotes, from other sources, that fit this quote, read books.google.com/… and books.google.com/…. What do you think, now? – Ricardolindo May 30 at 19:34
  • @Ricardolindo Well Table Talk is also extremely unreliable. But I'll look into that. Alas your links do not work for me. Can give a little more traditional citations? – LangLangC May 30 at 19:39
  • Regardless, Spain was not under Falangist control, it was under Francoist control, the original Falangists were just one part of the Francoist coalition.There was a very big difference between the FE de las Jons and the FET y de las Jons. Franco, himself, was not a Falangist, just a conservative/reactionary Catholic nationalist. Hitler believed that the Reds and the Falangists would team up to overthrow Franco. – Ricardolindo May 30 at 19:40
  • The comments don't allow enough characters for me to post those quotes, here. However, given those other quotes, I do believe that this quote is accurate. As I say in my answer, I believe that Hitler meant that, when Socialism and Communism were defeated, Fascism and Nazism would merge as the true revolutionary movements and fight against conservatives, monarchists and reactionaries, like Franco. They would do so with the help of Spanish Socialists and Communists that had been converted into Fascists. What do you think of my theory? – Ricardolindo May 30 at 20:13
0

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 the left and the 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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