Franco and Hitler, Spain, Germany, and World War II

June 26, 2008

The author of this book is a distinguished US historian who greatly influenced students of my generation during the Franco dictatorship. This relatively short work, appropriately and kindly dedicated to the late Javier Tusell, is best understood as an attempt to make available to a general English language readership some of the information that has since come to light regarding the relationship between the Franco and Hitler dictatorships. As in Germany, historiography in Spain has made considerable progress since the dictator's death.

The core of the book concentrates on the first years of the European conflict. Half is devoted to Franco's temptation to enter the war on the Axis side and the well-known reasons why he did not (1940-42). The other half deals with the preceding Civil War years (1936-39) and with German-Spanish relations after the temptation had passed (1943-45). This includes a 40-page resume of Spanish diplomacy and the Holocaust that lacks any new information.

Stanley Payne's study is not based on original research. He has not gone beyond a review of a few files kept in the archives of the Fundacion Nacional Francisco Franco, the institution that valiantly but unsuccessfully endeavours to defend the Franco regime's historical record. He might have been able to develop new insights had he consulted the Foreign Ministry archives or the extensive General Staff holdings, as Ros Agudo has recently done. Payne's most important theses have relatively little value for the Spanish reader, as they found their way long ago into university textbooks, such as the one Tusell himself was responsible for.

This is not to imply that the present reviewer agrees with some of Payne's major conclusions. In particular, his characterisation of the Civil War in endogenous Spanish terms is not borne out by documentary evidence. His presentation of a Franco meekly deferring to the Fuhrer's wishes in order to prolong the war is scarcely credible and results from a failure to carry out original research. His downplaying of Franco's commitments to the Axis, the implications of which the defeated Republicans and perceptive British diplomats such as G. Thompson feared, leads him to underestimate the continuum of Franco's policies from the civil war to the European conflict. Payne is to be commended for highlighting Franco's ambition to join the Axis and his policy of constant favours to the Nazi regime, but the meticulously planned Spanish invasion of Portugal receives comparatively short shrift.

Franco and Hitler, Spain, Germany, and World War II

By Stanley G. Payne
Yale University Press
320pp
£19.99
ISBN 9780300122824
Published 1 May 2008

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