General Francisco Franco, the Catholic Church
and 2 Million Murders

by William P. Meyers

See also:

my General Francisco Franco main page
my Fascism main page
Pius XI and the Rise of General Francisco Franco

Note: the quotes you'll find here are from FRANCO by Paul Preston, Copyright
1994 by Basic Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Numbers in []
refer to Preston's footnotes. Numbers in {} refer to the pages on which you'll find
the quotes.

Franco was raised a devote Catholic, but saw no contradiction in wanton murder,
cruelty and terrorism when he fought for the Spanish Army in Morocco, where he
was a commander in Spain's Foreign Legion:

	"Despite fierce discipline in other matters, no limits were put by Millin
Astray or by Franco on the atrocities which were committed against the Moorish
villages which they attacked. The decapitation of prisoners and the exhibition of
severed heads as trophies was not uncommon. The Duquesa de la Victoria, a
philanthropist who organized a team of volunteer nurses, would receive in 1922
a tribute from the Legion. She was given a basket of roses in the center of which
lay two severed Moorish heads.[84] When the Dictator General Prime de Rivera
visited Morocco in 1926, he was appalled to find one battalion of the Legion
awaiting inspection with heads stuck on their bayonets.[85] Indeed, Franco and
other officers came to feel a fierce pride in the brutal violence of their men,
reveling in their grim reputation. That notoriety was itself a useful weapon in
keeping down the colonial population and its efficacy taught Franco much about
the exemplary function of terror. In his Diario de zona bandera, he adopted a
tone of benevolent paternalism about the savage antics of his men. In Africa, as
later in the Peninsula during the Civil War, he condoned the killing and
mutilation of prisoners."{29}

After the army revolted against the Republican government of Spain in 1936,
Franco quickly rose to be the leader of the insurrection, which was supported by
the Catholic Church. Franco's propaganda presented him as a modern Catholic
	"The analogy was given the sanction of the Church on 30 September by
the long pastoral letter, entitled 'The Two Cities', issued by the Bishop of
Salamanca Dr Enrique Pli y Deniel. The Church had long since come out in
favour of the military rebels but not hitherto as explicitly as Pli y Deniel. His
pastoral built on the blessing given by Plus XI to exiled Spaniards at
Castelgandolfo on 14 September in which the Pope had distinguished between
the Christian heroism of the Nationalists and the savage barbarism of the
Republic. Pli y Deniel's text quoted St Augustine to distinguish between the
earthly city (the Republican zone) where hatred, anarchy and Communism
prevailed, and the celestial city (the Nationalist zone) where the love of God,
heroism and martyrdom were the rule. For the first time, the word 'crusade' was
used to describe the Civil War." The text was submitted to Franco before being

	"Once established as Head of State, and with the eyes of Nationalist
Spain now upon him, Franco's propagandists built him up as a great
Catholic crusader and his public religiosity intensified. From 4 October 1936 until
his death, he had a personal chaplain, Father Josi Maria Bulart.[61] He now
began each day by hearing mass, a reflection of both political necessity and the
influence of Dona Carmen. In order to please his wife, when he was available he
would join in her regular evening rosary, although, at this stage of his career at
least, without any great piety."' No one can say with total certainty what part
Carmen Polo played in encouraging her husband's ambition nor how much he
had been affected by Bishop Pli y Deniel's declaration of a crusade. Dona
Carmen believed in his divine mission and such fulsome ecclesiastical support
made it easier for her to convince him of it.[64]"{188}

The Catholic Church was pleased at Franco's savagery, but the [formerly atheist, now Catholic]
Musolini and his Fascists were far more humane, and appalled:
"Away from the pomp of Salamanca, Roatta, Faldella and other senior Italian
officers were shocked by the relentless repression behind the lines.' Cantalupo
requested instructions from Rome and on 2 March Ciano told him to inform
Franco of the Italian Government's view that some moderation in the reprisals
would be prudent because unrestrained brutality could only increase the duration
of the war. When Cantalupo saw Franco on 3 March, the Caudillo was fully
prepared for the meeting. Cantalupo appealled to him to slow down the mass
executions in Milaga in order to limit the international outcry. Denying all
personal responsibility and lamenting the difficulties of controlling the situation at
a distance, Franco claimed that the massacres were over 'except for those
carried out by uncontrollable elements'. In fact, the slaughter hardly diminished
but its judicial basis was changed. Random killings were now replaced by
summary executions under the responsibility of the local military authorities.
Franco claimed to have sent instructions for greater clemency to be shown to the
rabble (masse incolte) and continued severity against 'leaders and criminals' as
a result of which only one in every five of those tried was now being shot.
Nevertheless, Rome continued to receive horrifying accounts from the Italian
Consul in Milaga, Bianchi."{225}

Even the Catholic Basques were not spared by Franco:

"With the Nationalist forces inexorably marching westwards, the Basques finally
agreed to surrender to the Italians at Santona to the east of Santander on 26
August, 1948. In accordance with the agreement made, Basque political
personalities embarked on two British ships, the SS Seven Seas Spray and the
SS Bobie, under Italian protection. On 27 August, with Nationalist warships
blockading the port, on Franco's orders, Divila told the Italians to disembark the
refugees, which they refused to do, although they advised the Basques to go
ashore. The prisoners were held by the Italians for four days but, on 31 August,
Franco ordered Bastico to hand them over. He hesitated and only after
assurances from Barroso that the surrender conditions would be respected did
he relinquish the captives on 4 September. Summary trials began at once and
hundreds of death sentences were passed. The Italians were appalled by
Franco's duplicity and cruelty. Bastico sent Roatta to Salamanca to plead with
Franco to stop the executions and allow the Basque leaders to leave the country.
Roatta reminded the Caudillo that the Basques had surrendered after being
offered such terms and pointed out that Italian honour was at stake. The
Generalisimo simply ignored his arguments."{285}

It wasn't just the athiest anarchists and socialists that the Catholic Church
wanted Franco to slaughter: anyone who even believed in democracy was
	"Indeed, the Republican will to resist was kept alive only by the fear born
of Franco's much-publicized determination to eradicate liberals, socialists and
Communists from Spain. Baron von Stohrer wrote to the Wilhelmstrasse on 19
November 1938:'the main factors which still separate the belligerent parties are
mistrust, fear and hatred'."" Franco told James Miller, Vice-president of the
United Press, that a negotiated peace was out of the question 'because the
criminals and their victims cannot live side-by-side'. Committed to a post-war
policy of institutionalized revenge, he rejected the idea of a general amnesty and
declared that the Nationalists had a list of two million reds who were to be
punished for their 'crimes'.81 The political files and documentation captured as
each town had fallen to the Nationalists were gathered in Salamanca. Carefully
sifted, they provided the basis for an immense card index of members of political
parties, trade unions and masonic lodges. The Republican zone was kept on a
war footing by terror of Nationalist reprisals."{316}

"Nationalists entered an eerily silent Madrid on 27 March. A delighted Ciano
wrote in his diary. 'Madrid has fallen and with the capital all the other cities of
Red Spain. The war is over. It is a new, formidable victory for Fascism, perhaps
the greatest one so far'.'" By 31 March, all of Spain was in Nationalist hands. A
final bulletin was issued by Franco's headquarters on 1 April 1939. Hand-written
by Franco himself, it ran 'Today, with the Red Army captive and disarmed, our
victorious troops have achieved their final military objectives. The war is over.'
Franco had the gratification of a telegram from the Pope thanking him for the
immense joy which Spain's 'Catholic victory' had brought him. It was a victory
which had cost well over half a million lives. It was to cost many more." {322}

 "WITH THE end of the Civil War, Franco's euphoria knew few bounds. Two
closely cherished illusions had come together in the triumph. Victory gave
substance to his carefully constructed self-image as the medieval warrior-
crusader, defender of the faith and restorer of Spanish national greatness, with
his relationship to the Church as an important plank in the theatrical panoply.[1]
On 19 March, Gomi wrote to Franco that the newly elected Pontiff Plus XII
(Eugenio Pacelli) had sent him his blessing. On 3 April, Gomi again wrote to him
in terms which can only have inflated his notion of his God-given mission: 'God
has found in Your Excellency the worthy instrument of his providential plans.'[2]
The identification between the Church and the Caudillo was emphasized on 16
April in a broadcast in Spanish made by Plus XII on Vatican Radio. 'With
immense joy', the Pope gave his apostolic blessing to the victors reserving
special praise for 'the most noble and Christian sentiments' of the Chief of State.
The text had been prepared by Gomi.[3]"{323}

At least as late as 1940 Franco's prisons still held hundreds of thousands of
political prisoners, who were being executed as fast as they could be `tried.'
Even the Nazi Himmler was appalled - he believed most political prisoners
should be rehabilitated rather than executed. {392}

[From sources other than Preson:]
Not counting soldiers on the Republican side actually killed in the fighting, the
probably total of executions carried out by Franco was in the vicinity of 2 million.
The Catholic Church not only did not make any effort to stop the slaughter.
Priests reported citizens who had not attended mass during or before the Civil
War; that in itself was enough to result in execution.

We believe Catholic Church hierarchy remains committed, in the 21st century, to use
any means including violence to eliminate those who do not submit to its authority.

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