This book is the revised edition of Beevor's book, first published in the s, about the Spanish Civil War. After the fall of the monarchy in the early s and substantial political conflict in the new republic with various left wing groups attempting local uprisings and using inflammatory language, in July of a number of generals launched a coup attempt against the republic. The main instigator was not the eventual leader, Francisco Franco, but another general, Emilo Mola. Franco rap. Franco rapidly became the leading figure, in part because he commanded the only really competent part of the Spanish army, the part deployed in Morocco and consequently experienced in warfare against the local inhabitants. One thing that surprised me was that the nationalists controlled about a third of Spain within a couple of weeks after their coup.
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The 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July is causing much reflection in Spain at the moment, and perhaps it ought to prompt some here, too.
The common perception of that devastating three-year struggle is of a crusade against Fascism in which idealistic young writers and workers from all over the world joined International Brigades in a brave but ultimately doomed struggle to save democracy. Their defeat presaged a world war. Antony Beevor - the bestselling author of Stalingrad and Berlin: The Downfall as well as an earlier book on the Spanish Civil War - believes it is time radically to reinterpret the conflict.
There have been several hundred learned treatises written about every aspect of the struggle, which Beevor synthesises here to alter substantially our view of what happened. There are also huge numbers of new documents available, such as the diary of the ruthless Luftwaffe commander in Spain, Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, who wrote on April 28, 'Guernica must be totally destroyed. The collapse of Soviet Communism has led to the release of archival material that proves conclusively just how Stalinist many of the key decision-makers of the Spanish Republic had become, and what they were planning to do if they won.
From these reports back to Moscow, it is clear that victory over Franco would have led to the same gulags, mass executions and iron-gripped totalitarianism as existed in the USSR at the time. Instead, Beevor estimates, Franco placed up to half a million Republicans in concentration camps at the end of the war, to slave away in labour battalions for decades. He puts the long-disputed figure of those executed after the surrender at around 50, to 70, For those needing to be made an example of, he wrote 'garrote y prensa' garrotting and press coverage on the death warrant.
Far from being admired by the rest of the Republican army, the International Brigades were resented as foreigners and frequently used as cannon fodder to protect the lives of Spaniards. Some battalions were left on the front line for days consecutively. Most soldiers did not know the extent of Stalinist penetration of their upper ranks, let alone the detailed plans to liquidate their anarchist, Trotskyist, socialist and liberal comrades-in-arms the moment that victory was won.
The International Brigades even had their own concentration camp, Camp Lukacs, which held 4, inmates. It's all a very far cry from the wide-eyed idealism of Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie. For the Left bears much of the responsibility for the ultimate destruction of the Republic it claimed to revere. The Asturias Rising of October , in which up to 30, miners attacked the Civil Guard and public buildings and assaulted a military garrison of 1, soldiers, was nothing less than an attempted provincial revolution.
At one point the radical Left leader Largo Caballero said: 'I want a Republic without class war, but for that one class has to disappear. Beevor shows how many bad generals there were on both sides, including Franco himself.
The war was won by the Nationalists because they tended to make fewer egregious strategic errors. The Republicans took absurd risks - such as the Brunete, Teruel and Ebro offensives, the last comprising 80, men but only artillery pieces - when a better strategy would have been to bide their time and to hope that the coming European war would force the withdrawal of the German and Italian contingents.
In the light of Beevor's discoveries in Moscow, it is worthwhile considering what would have happened if a Stalinist Spain, a satellite of the USSR, had emerged, as it easily might have done.
By June it would have made more sense for Hitler to have invaded Spain than Russia, leading to the loss to the Allies of Gibraltar and the strategically vital western Mediterranean, which in real life Franco's neutrality effectively protected. Overall, however, Beevor's book leaves one feeling rather as Henry Kissinger did about the Iran-Iraq war of the s: 'A pity they both couldn't lose. Terms and Conditions.
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The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by antony beevor
The civil war that tore Spain apart between and and attracted liberals and socialists from across the world to support the cause against Franco was one of the most hard-fought and bitterest conflicts of the 20th century: a war of atrocities and political genocide and a military testing ground before WWII for the Russians, Italians and Germans, whose Condor Legion so notoriously destroyed Guernica. Antony Beevor's account narrates the origins of the Civil War and its violent and dramatic course from the coup d'etat in July through the savage fighting of the next three years which ended in catastrophic defeat for the Republicans in And he succeeds especially well in unravelling the complex political and regional forces that played such an important part in the origins and history of the war. The bestselling historian of our times, Antony Beevor made his name with the books Stalingrad and Berlin which recount Soviet-German conflict during WWII, making judicious use of previously un-seen Soviet archive material. Known for his vivid narrative accounts of Twentieth-Century military conflicts, his primary interest is in revisiting and re-evaluating the Second World War; recent volumes including D-Day and a history of the war from an Eastern perspective, The Second World War.
The Battle for Spain
A prototype version of this book was researched in the late s soon after the death of General Franco and was published in So much new material has emerged in the intervening 23 years and so many new archive documents have become available, that a new attempt became necessary. He wanted a new general history for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in After five months in the top ten, it sold more than 50, copies in hardback.
The Beevorised version
Like the bitter conflict in Iraq today, the Spanish civil war was pathologically vicious. Religious fanaticism, political separatism and foreign intervention inflamed the violence in both cases. But it was aggravated in Spain by other factors, notably virulent class hatred. Half the nation went to bed hungry each night and anarchists said that "the sins of the old corrupt system can only be washed away in blood". The affluent were no less ferocious. One Salamanca landowner boasted that on the opening day of the civil war he lined up all his labourers and shot six of them "pour encourager les autres".