End-of-Term Lecture - Julian Casanova: From Fascism to Catholicism: Franco, Hitler and the Second World War
The state that emerged from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) benefited in its early years from the fascist winds that were sweeping through Europe at that time from Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy, whose intervention and aid had been instrumental in the victory of Franco’s troops against the Spanish Republic.
And while Franco’s foreign policy clearly aligned with the fascist powers, Spain did not officially participate in the Second World War, although the enthusiasm of Franco and the most Fascist sector of his dictatorship for the Nazi cause and against Communism could be seen in the setting up of the División Azul (Blue Division), when, at the start of Operation Barbarrossa, thousands of Falangists, officers, and ex-Civil War combatants went to Russia to continue the anti-Bolshevik crusade.
When the tide of the Second World War was turning, Franco announced the withdrawal of the Blue Division from the USSR and proclaimed that his regime had nothing in common with Fascism because Fascism did not include Catholicism as a basic principle. After the fall of Fascist regimes in Europe, the defense of Catholicism as a basic component of the history of Spain was used as a smokescreen by the dictatorship at that crucial time for its survival.