The Spanish Civil War: NAZI German Support of the Rebels

Spanish Civil War Condor Legion
Figure 1.--Here a German Condor Legion gunner conducts a little impromptu singing session with interested Spanish children. Notice all the berets. The artillery piece is a brand new 88 mm gun. The German 88 was first issued to Luftwaffe units in the same year that the Spanish Civil War broke out. This iconic weapon was arguably the most effective artillery piece of the War. At the time, the Germans were using it for the purpose intended--as an anti-aircraft gun. Rommel woild see its usefulness as an anti-tank gun .

Hitler saw a left-wing government in Madrid as harmful to the Reich, aiding the French policy of encirclement. [Davidson, pp. 57-58.] Hitler wanted to prevent communism from establishing a foothold in western Europe. He also saw an advantage in resource poor Germany developing allinces which countries which cold provide raw materials for the war he was planning. The German Foreign Ministry showed little interest in reciving Franco's emisaries requesting assistance. Hess felt differently and personally brought them to Hitler (July 25). There without any consultation with the appropriate ministeries, Hitler on his own decided to support Franco. (This personal decission making was characteristic of Hitler.) The immediate result was Goring was ordered to dispatch Junkers transports that brought Franco's troops from Morocco to Spain. [Fest, p. 500.] Germany was soon sending arms and men to the loyalists and provided important air elements. It was during the Civil War that Admiral Canaris established a close relaionship with General Franco. The German Government signed on to the British Non-Intervention Agreement, but continued to openly supply Franco's Loyalists. his should have alerted the British as to the value of Hitler's assurances. Hitler's decesion was very important to Franco because it brought modern air power and other modern weaponry that Franco would not have otherwise obtained. Most of the German military personnel who aided the Nationlaists were volunteers. They would ecentually become known as the Condor Legion. German aircraft and personnel after transporting toops from Morocco to Spain continued to assist the Nationalists: transporting men and supplies, providing air cover for Nationalist shipping, and carrying out bombing and ground support operations to support Loyalist forces. Germany also provided training for Nationalist officers, thousands of rifles and small arms, even a radio transmitter for broadcasting propaganda. Hitler authorised the deployment of German submarines to assist the Loyalists (October 1936). By the end of the year, some 7,000 German troops and airmen were actively engaged in the Civil War. Göring and Hitler had annonced the creation of the Luftwaffe 2 years earlier. The Spanish Civil War would be the Luftwaffe's first appeaance on the internation scene. Europeans during the inter-War years had been terrified of an air war and in Spain as a result of the German and Italian intervention, they saw all their fears materialize. It seems not to be the case a Göring would later claim, that the German involvement in the Civil War was the ability to test out the new Luftwaffe. But the Wehrmnacht was able to test out its weapons and nee Blitzkrieg doctrine that it wold unleash on unprepared European armies (September 1939).


Davidson, Eugene. The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler (Univesity of Missouri: Columbia, 1996), 519p.

Fest, Joachim C. Hitler (Vintage: New York, 1975), 844p.


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Created: 7:13 PM 11/13/2017
Last updated: 7:13 PM 11/13/2017