The Spanish Republicans is a catch-all name for the various forces that fought for the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. Throughout much of the war, Republican forces had been supported by the Soviet Union, Mexico, and tepidly by Britain and France. Citizens of other countries, often having communist leanings, also traveled to Spain to fight for the Republicans.
The Republicans were finally defeated in April 1939 and the Republican government went into exile in Paris, France from 1939 to 1940. After the Fall of France, the government went into exile in Mexico City from 1940 to 1946. The exiled government returned to Paris after the end of World War II, where it remained until 1977 when the exiled Republicans decided to accept the re-establishment of the monarchy and recognize the new government that had formed two years earlier in 1975.
Spanish Republicans in The War That Came Early
The Spanish Republicans clung to less than half of the territory of Spain when the Second World War broke out in October, 1938. As its opponents the Nationalist rebels lead by Marshal José Sanjurjo decided to support their ally Nazi Germany in the European war, France and Britain immediately changed their previous non-intervention policy in the Spanish conflict and supported the loyalist forces against them. The following flow of munitions and weapons to the Republicans gave them the advantage and eventual victory on the Battle of the Ebro, after which the coastal town of Vinaroz was reconquered and the previously divided Republican-held territory was unified again.
However, further help (either from the western democracies or the Soviet Union) dried up during the winter when Germany launched the Battle of France and the Soviets invaded Poland. Fortunately the same happened to the Republic's enemies. Thus, when the two sides clashed during the first half of 1939 for control of Madrid, the Republicans gained the upper-hand early on and held it. Nonetheless, in March, 1939, Sanjurjo decided to concentrate on taking Madrid.
Initially, the Nationalists gained some momentum, taking the University City District within a few weeks. However, they could not get into Madrid proper. The Republicans succeeded in pushing the Nationalists out of University City by the middle of the summer.
The Nationalists maintained the offensive on Madrid for the remainder of the year, and into the next, but the line outside Madrid continued to hold on into 1940. Things looked particularly bleak for the Republic after the "big switch" of Summer of 1940 saw Britain and France align with Germany and go to war with the Soviet Union. They also ceased supplying the Spanish Republic; however Germany was not in a position to help the Nationalists much more than they had been. The Republic also gained one unexpected advantage: the arrival of a regiment of Czechoslovak troops who had been fighting in France, and refused to join the war against the Soviet Union.
As fighting dragged on into 1941, the Spanish Civil War was once again a stalemate. Gradually, things began to turn in favor the Republic 1941. The British military launched a coup that deposed the appeasement-minded government of Horace Wilson in the spring. Britain promptly withdrew from the Soviet Union, and began bombing German territory while fighting Italy in North Africa. While France continued its alliance with Germany for the time being, the French government also began supplying weapons to the Republic. And in December, Czech sniper Vaclav Jezek killed Francisco Franco, one of Sanjurjo's most talented generals. France withdrew from the Soviet Union and went back to war with Germany in the closing days of 1941.
The Nationalists managed to hold their positions throughout 1942 and into early 1943. Vaclav Jezek actively pursued Sanjurjo, but for the longest time, Sanjurjo didn't oblige him. Finally, on a rainy day in the Fall of 1943, Sanjurjo visited the front, and Jezek shot him in the face.
Republican President Manuel Azaña had Jezek brought to Barcelona where he publicly thanked Jezek for not "despairing of the Republic". He also made Jezek a Spanish citizen, captain in the Army of the Republic, and paid Jezek the bounty that had been placed on Sanjurjo's head.
The Nationalists fell to infighting almost immediately upon Sajurjo's death, allowing the Republicans to rapidly retake the country. Several Nationalist officers fled to Portugal. Others were caught by the Republicans and summarily tried and executed. Finally, in early 1944, José Millán Astray became the last overall commander of the Nationalists just long enough to formally surrender and end the war.
- Hitler's War, pgs. 206-209, HC.
- Ibid., pgs. 327-328.
- Ibid., pgs. 434-435, 441-444.
- West and East, pg. 50.
- Ibid., pg. 176.
- The Big Switch, pg. 155.
- Ibid., pg. 245.
- Ibid., pg. 352.
- Coup d'Etat, pgs. 151-152.
- Ibid., pgs. 205-206.
- Ibid., pg. pgs. 408-409.
- Two Fronts, generally.
- Last Orders, pg. 144-146.
- Ibid., pgs. 164-167.
- Ibid., pgs. 287-289.