The Spanish Government and the Axis :
No. 15. Notes on Conversation Between General Franco and Ambassador Dieckhoff
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BERLIN, December 15, 1943

The conference with the Spanish Chief of State, which took place on Friday, December 3, at the Pardo Palace, in the presence of the Foreign Minister, Count Jordana, and lasted somewhat over an hour, took the following course:

I explained to the Chief of State that I had now been in Madrid more than seven months and had attempted to secure for myself a picture of the Spanish foreign policy. I had the feeling, and the Reich Government was under the same impression, that the foreign policy of Spain was recently beginning to change. We observed in a number of spheres little of a positive attitude of the Spanish Government with respect to Germany and we had especially the feeling that this change in the Spanish attitude was to be traced to English and American pressure. I could only point with the greatest emphasis-and I was speaking on the order of my Government which was taking a very serious interest in these matters-to the fact that it would be a very dangerous policy for Spain to make concession after concession to the English and Americans; Spain would thereby find herself on the down-grade, and she would become more and more dependent upon the Anglo-Saxon powers. Only a completely firm and stable policy which made no concessions was proper and guarantied that the English and Americans would permanently refrain from further pressures; it would be a fatal error if the Spanish Government believed that it could change its course with allegedly slight concessions; the Anglo-Saxons would seize not only the little finger but the hand and the whole arm and would draw Spain deeper and deeper into a relationship of dependency. I certainly could not believe that this was the intention of the Spanish Government for the Chief of State must certainly be clear about the fact that the policies of the English and of the Americans-as they always had been-were interested only in a weak Spain, in contrast to the German policy, which was always intent upon a strong national Spain. I then mentioned in detail those points to which we especially objected (concession by the Spanish Government in the question of passage of French fugitives through Spain to North Africa, compliant conduct of the Spanish Government in the question of Italian merchant ships in Spanish harbors, unjustified internment of various German U-boat crews, withdrawal of the Blue Division, action against German ships in Vigo and in the Canary Islands, and so forth). I told the Caudillo that I considered it my duty to lay before him in all sincerity all these facts of the case summed up, as I had already often done with Count Jordana, and that I was requesting him (Caudillo) to tell me how he stood on these matters.

The Chief of State listened to me seriously and calmly and then stated the following: He would like to emphasize at once that there was no question of the Spanish foreign policy changing. He knew quite certainly that the German policy was pursuing the objective of strengthening Spain, while the English and American policies traditionally aimed at weakening Spain. Further, he knew for certain and was clearly conscious of the fact that only the victory of Germany would make possible the continued existence of the regime of Franco; a victory of the Anglo-Saxons, in spite of all the pacifying declarations which would be made to him from time to time in this respect by the English and American side, would mean his own annihilation. He therefore was hoping with all his heart for the victory of Germany and he had only one wish that this victory would come as soon as possible. In the meantime, however, he was in a difficult position. His country was only now recovering slowly from the effects of the Civil War, and it could only recover if it imported gasoline and cotton from abroad, products which he could receive only from the Americans and only with English navicerts. The Anglo-Saxons were ready to deliver these things to him and were delivering to a certain extent, they were demanding in return, however, that Spain assume not too outspoken a pro-Axis attitude and that matters which were indisputably unneutral should be discontinued. This was the reason why the Spanish Government recently had permitted a few modifications. The Caudillo took up these points in detail. He said on the subject of the Blue Division that recently it had actually become more difficult to mobilize Spanish volunteers for this unit and that for this reason alone they had to start on a conversion of the Division into a weaker Legion. The Anglo-Saxons had presented no ultimatum with regard to the withdrawal of the Blue Division, but he had to expect that they sooner or later would present an ultimatum for the withdrawal, whereby the Spanish Government would then find itself in a very difficult position; for this reason he had preferred to anticipate such an ultimatum and to request of the Reich Government the withdrawal of the Division. He emphasized, however, that the attitude of the Spanish Government against Bolshevism and Communism would thereby be altered in no way; and that at home as well as abroad this struggle was continuing, just as against Jewry and Freemasonry. As concerns the question of the passage of French refugees through Spain to North Africa, this was a problem which has for a long time been causing the Spanish Government annoyance and inconveniences. It was a matter of several thousand people, almost all of them bad, undesirable elements, who had in some way succeeded in getting into Spain across the border of the Pyrenees, and who could not be turned over to the German authorities since this would provoke a frightful outcry on the part of the Anglo-Saxons, and who therefore must either be retained in Spain or thrust out over the other borders. The retention of these people meant not only a great financial burden but also a certain internal political danger since it was a matter predominantly of Communistic riff-raff. He had therefore granted his permission for a large part of these people to be transported to North Africa. To my objection that this was really a matter of a clear favoring of the enemy, who was sticking these men into uniform and then having them fight against Germany, the Caudillo answered by saying that this was not to be feared, since it was a matter of people so inferior and so undesirous of fighting, who had actually fled from France only to avoid work, and that their entry into the De Gaulle army would mean no strengthening of the enemy fighting power worth mentioning at all. Moreover, he had directed that the transports cease from now on. As concerned the Italian ships in Spanish harbors, the Caudillo emphasized that the warships were interned and would remain interned; the crews of the warships would be transported into Spanish camps. As concerned the merchant ships, the legal question was very unclear. In two cases they had not been able to avoid letting the ships put to sea upon the request of Ambassador Badoglio. The other cases were still being investigated, and it was probable that most, if not all, of the ships would be retained in Spain. In this connection it was very important that the Mussolini government order a representative to Spain as soon as possible, to take up these matters, even though previously the points of view of the Mussolini government had already been represented by the Italian shipping interests themselves and by the German Embassy. As concerned the question of the recognition of the Mussolini government, the Caudillo emphasized-just as previously in the conference of October 5-the Spanish Government was ready to receive an unofficial representative. On the question of the U-boat crews, the Caudillo was of the opinion that on this point the English had been extraordinarily sharp in insisting that these crews be interned. The situation according to international law-contrary to the German assertions-had not been cleared up totally without objection, and the Spanish Government had therefore considered it wiser to proclaim for the time being the internment. He could assure me, however, that the crews would be set free gradually, as had already happened in previous cases; and moreover the most important officer, Lieutenant Commander Brandi, the wearer of the Oak Leaves, had, with the consent of the Spanish Government, immediately been let out of Spain. With respect to the attitude of the Spanish press, the Chief of State said that it was indeed being kept somewhat more objective and somewhat more neutral to avoid protest from English and American sides, but that it however was still quite predominantly appreciative of Germany and sympathetic to Germany, and that it doubtlessly was very much better than any other neutral press, such as the Turkish, Swedish, Swiss, Portuguese, or Argentine. Even with respect to this, only a somewhat more cautious press line had resulted in order to avoid conflicts, the Spanish Government was not however thinking of allowing the Anglo-Saxons an inroad into the press, just as little as she was thinking of permitting them an inroad into Spanish foreign policy.

In summarizing, the Caudillo said that he believed that this cautious policy of Spain was not only in the interest of Spain but also in the interest of Germany. If because of a newspaper article or for any other of the reasons mentioned above, a serious conflict with the Anglo-Saxon powers should result, this would in his opinion not at the present moment be desirable for Germany as well; a neutral Spain which was furnishing Germany with wolfram and other products was, in his opinion, more valuable for Germany at the present than a Spain which would be drawn into the war. Of course Spain would not go beyond the comparatively trivial concessions mentioned above. Demands as had been made upon the Portuguese by the English side would not be accepted by the Spanish. In a case of this kind Spain would fight. Of course, Spain was not only economically very dependent, but was also militarily rather weak. She had, indeed a good army with brave soldiers and good officers, but she did not have sufficient weapons at her disposal; especially lacking were heavy weapons and airplanes. Had Spain a stronger armament, the Anglo-Saxons would proceed less presumptuously; also Spain would then be able to strengthen Portugal, with whom she was on very friendly terms, against English pressure even more than this had hitherto been possible. The Caudillo therefore urgently requested that if possible we should send more weapons than we had already sent and more than we had had in mind. The Chief of State concluded the conversation in a very cordial fashion, by emphasizing again his hope for the German victory and his friendship for Germany and very warmly requested me to greet the Fuehrer most cordially on his behalf.

Of interest was the fact that the Chief of State, in connection with the mention of the Portuguese situation, remarked that Salazar, in his conference with Jordana, shortly before the conclusion of the Azores agreement, had stressed the fact that he was finding himself in a very difficult position and was having to give in; not only were the English exerting very strong pressures, but his own, Salazar's, position was being weakened by the fact that General Carmona as well as half of the army was taking a different stand than he himself.


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