The Spanish Government and the Axis :
No. 8. Notes on the Conversation Between the Fuehrer and the Caudillo in the Fuehrer's Parlor Car at the Railroad Station at Hendaye on October 23, 1940
Previous Document Contents Next Document

At the beginning the Caudillo expressed his satisfaction about the fact that he was at the moment able to make the personal acquaintance of the Fuehrer and to render to him Spain's thanks for everything that Germany has done for his country up to the present. Spain has always been allied with the German people spiritually without any reservation and in complete loyalty. In the same sense, Spain has in every moment felt herself at one with the Axis. In the Civil War the soldiers of the three countries had fought together and a profound unity has arisen among them. Likewise, Spain would, in the future, attach herself closely to Germany for historically there were between Spain and Germany only forces of unity, and none of separation.

In the present war as well, Spain would gladly fight at Germany's side. The difficulties which were to be overcome therein were well known to the Fuehrer. A war would necessitate preparations in the economic, military, and political spheres. Within her modest possibilities, Spain had begun these preparations; was, of course, coming up against difficulties therewith which were being made for her by elements in America and Europe, hostile to the Axis. Therefore, Spain must mark time and often look kindly toward things with which she was thoroughly not in accord.

Franco then came to speak of Spain's growing provisioning difficulties and in this connection mentioned that the United States and Argentina apparently were precisely following orders from London, for there had been cases in which the channel through the British Embassy immediately removed difficulties in both the above-mentioned countries The difficulties already existing would be more intensified by the bad harvests. In spite of this, Spain with a view toward her spiritual alliance with the Axis powers, has assumed the same attitude toward the war as Italy had in the past autumn.

The Fuehrer replied that he was glad to see the Caudillo personally for the first time in his life after he had so often been with him in spirit during the Spanish Civil War. He knew precisely how difficult the struggle in Spain had been, since he himself since 1918-19 had had to go through similar grave conflicts, until he had helped the National Socialist movement to victory. Spain's enemies had been his enemies, too. The struggle which was raging in Europe today would be decisive for the fate of the Continent and the world for a long time to come. Militarily, this struggle in itself was decided. Germany had established a front against the British Islands from the North Cape to the Spanish border and would no longer allow the English a landing on the Continent. The military actions were now taking place right in English motherland. In spite of that, England had certain hopes: Russia and America. With Russia, Germany had treaties. Aside from this, however, he (the Fuehrer) immediately after conclusion of the French campaign had undertaken a reorganization of the German Army so that, beginning with March of the coming year, the latter would present itself in the following strength: of a total of 230 divisions, 186 were attacking divisions. The rest consisted of defense and occupation troops. Of the 186 attacking divisions, 20 were armored divisions equipped with German material, while 4 additional armored brigades possessed captured material in part. In addition to this there were 12 motorized divisions. With this Army strength Germany was grown ready for any eventuality. He (the Fuehrer) believed that England was wrong too in placing her hope on Russia. If the latter country were aroused at all from its inactivity, it would, at the most, be active on the German side. It was therefore a matter of misspeculation on the part of England.

With respect to America, there was no need to be afraid of an active attack during the winter. There would therefore be no change in the present military situation. Until America's military power would be fully armed, at least 18 months to two years would pass.

There would arise, nevertheless, a considerable danger if America and England entrenched themselves on the islands stretching out off Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The danger was all the greater because it was not certain whether the French troops stationed in the colonies would under all circumstances remain loyal to Pétain. The greatest threat existing at the moment was that a part of the Colonial Empire would, with abundant material and military resources, desert France and go over to De Gaulle, England, or the United States. Moreover, the war of Germany against England was continuing. The difficulty was that the operations had to be carried on across an ocean which Germany at sea did not control. She had only air supremacy. Of course the weather over the Channel for exercising it had, up to then, been extremely unfavorable. Since the middle of August there had not even been five fair days, and the major attack against England had as yet not been able to begin since an attack against the British naval forces, on the part of Germany, could only be carried out from the air, whereby, under good atmospheric conditions, the British fleet had always been forced to yield, according to previous experiences.

According to meteorological forecasts which prophesied with certainty a period of fair weather for seven to eight days, a great air attack had been started on a fixed day. Of course it had to be broken off again after lasting half a day because of a sudden change in the weather.

Germany had, up to this point, carried off very great victories. But for this very reason, he (the Fuehrer) wanted to guard against suffering a failure by some thoughtless move. In this connection, the Fuehrer mentioned as an example of his tactics, the events of the great offensive in France. Originally he had had the plan of striking the great blow as early as October of the previous year, but had constantly been hindered from doing this by the weather. He had suffered because of not being able to act but he had been really determined not to begin the offensive in bad weather, but on the contrary had preferred to wait until the weather conditions became better. When the meteorologists had then reported to him that on May 10 the normal period of clear weather for the summer would begin, he had, on May 8, issued the order for attack. The result of this attack was known, and in the battle against England he would act precisely as in the French offensive. He would begin the great attack only when the weather conditions permitted absolute success. In the meantime, England, and especially London, was being bombarded day and night. On London alone, 3,500,000 kilograms of bombs had been dropped. Many harbor installations, factories, and armament works were thus being shattered; England's approaches were being mined; and an increasing U-boat activity was contributing to the further isolation of the Islands. At the moment, the number of U-boats being finished every month was 10. In spring, it would rise to 17; in July to 25; and after that up to 34 per month. He hoped the concentrated activity of the air-arm, mine-layers and destroyers, U-boats, and speed boats would do so much damage and harm to England that in the end attrition would set in. In spite of this, he was lying in wait in order to carry out the great blow during fair weather, even if this could not happen until spring. It is self-evident that the time during which such vast masses of troops were lying inactive would continue to be exploited.

Naturally Germany had an interest in ending the war in a short time if possible, since every additional month cost money and sacrifice. In the attempt to bring about the end of the war as soon as possible and to render the entry of the United States into the war more difficult, Germany had concluded the Tripartite Pact. This Pact was compelling the United States to keep its Navy in the Pacific Ocean and to prepare herself for a Japanese attack from that direction. In Europe as well, Germany was attempting to expand her base. He could confidentially report that several other nations had announced their intention of joining the Tripartite Pact.

To guarantee her petroleum supply, Germany has sent pursuit squadrons and Panzer troops to Rumania upon the request of the Rumanian Government and in agreement with it.

The great problem that was to be solved at the moment consisted in hindering the De Gaulle movement in French Africa from further expanding itself, and (hindering) the establishment, in this way, of bases for England and America on the African coast. A danger in this direction was actually present. The Pétain government was in the deplorable condition of having to liquidate a war for which it was not responsible, for the consequences of which, however, its opponents blamed it. It was now a matter of preventing De Gaulle from receiving an increase in power from this difficult position of the French Government, something which moreover would lead France to complete collapse. Finally, the attempt had to be made to bring France herself to a definite stand against England. This indeed was a difficult undertaking because there were still two tendencies in France: A Fascist one represented by Pétain and Laval, and an opposition one which wanted to carry on a double-dealing game with England. Moreover, it was particularly difficult to stir the French to a clear stand because they did not know how the peace would look. On the other hand, nothing could be said about the peace as long as the war was not completely ended, for one of Germany's opponents certainly had to pay for the war. Were England soon overpowered, Germany would then be ready without further ado to grant France easier peace terms. Should the war, however, continue on and should the English, as a result, offer Germany a compromise, she (Germany) would certainly not continue to fight only to spare France. Moreover, Germany needed France as a base as long as she was fighting against England. Yesterday he had, in all frankness, informed Vice President Laval of this interpretation and he would, on the morrow, speak with Pétain in precisely the same manner.

The purpose of this conference in Hendaye was the following: If they would be successful in effecting quite a large front against England, then the struggle would be substantially easier for all the participants and could be ended sooner. In setting up this front, the Spanish desires and the French hopes were obstacles in the path. Were England no longer participating in the war and if there were no De Gaulle, one would not have to think of relinquishing the demands on France. France could then be brought to submit and, in case she did not wish to cooperate, she could be occupied by the military within 12 days without any difficulty. More difficult would be the solution of the administrative problems and the economic problems. To occupy North Africa would of course be difficult and would not be possible without a strong military effort. The French knew that they had to sacrifice something in the peace treaty. They counted on losing the German colonies and Alsace-Lorraine; they knew that border rectifications would be undertaken and that Nice, Corsica, and Tunis would be lost to them. In the latter case, they would of course be very downcast over the loss and would prefer to make an arrangement which would, in another fashion, assure access to the raw materials there. Such an arrangement would be a fraud, however, for whoever no longer had the country, to him, at the proper moment, would no longer be given the raw materials. There was the danger that, if it were concretely asserted to the French that they would have to get out of certain African areas, the African possessions would perhaps desert France even with the concurrence of the government of Vichy. In order to meet this danger, he had worked up a general formula which he had developed yesterday to Monsieur Laval. In doing this he did not allow himself to make any concrete statement of the territorial changes to take place after the war...

(The record of this conversation is incomplete.)

Previous Document Contents Next Document
World War II 20th Century Page
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.