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Auspicious: Post Spanish Civil War

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Auspicious? Light is finally shed: post Civil War

SPAIN - Contemporary historians in Spain have recently reviewed the years 1940 and 1941. Restating that these were the years that marked the beginning of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, which went from April 1st 1939 until he died in 1975. These two years in particular are widely recognized for their significance during the Spanish Civil War period, the beginning of World War II, and the period during the First Franquismo. The rapid changes in the social, economic, and political periods are detailed

Social Environment

The social situation throughout 1940 and 1941 has seen a lot of changes since the Spanish Civil War. Under the Second Republic, women gained rights and Spain made steps toward better working conditions. However, the Franco dictatorship turned back the clock in some of these aspects.


The Catholic Church had strong ties with the Franco dictatorship and was seen in many aspects of the life of citizens during this time. The dictatorship used nuns and priests to keep order in prisons and to educate those serving time who were meant to be reintroduced into society, as opposed to those sentenced to death.

Above the doorways of supporters of the dictatorship were images of Franco, Serrano Suner, and a crucifix representing their leaders in Spain as well as their leader in life and after. Catholicism was pushed as a main ideology during this time, it was taught in schools and was the only religion allowed under the law (Solsten).


Education was important but only for certain years. The dictatorship cared about primary education and university education, but not secondary education. After Franco gained control, there was a purging of the educational staff. There were many teachers who were republicanos and the new leadership decided to fire almost 80% of them (Solsten). This way, he would not have to worry as much about these teachers spreading their leftist views to impressionable children, and he could instead install a new group of teachers who would teach what he wanted. These new teachers had to be members of the Servicio Español de Magisteri (SEM). Forcing these teachers to be members of this union was yet another way in which Franco showed his power over others.

They wanted to teach the children when they were younger to impart the ideologies that they valued, such as nationalism, conservatism, Catholicism, and anti-communism. This way, these children would be able to continue to grow in these ideals and implement them throughout their life.The children also performed fascist activities such as reciting the national anthem and parading around in a militaristic fashion.

For secondary education, there was not yet a system in place for public high schools. Therefore, the only children that attended these private schools were from wealthy families. The schools were almost all Catholic schools and the church was very closely related to the dictatorship at this time. This is why the dictatorship was not too concerned about this level of education, the church was already doing their part to educate the kids in a way that would further the mission of Franco.

University students and professors offered a strong opposition to the leadership throughout the dictatorship. These were well educated individuals who felt that something needed to change. Franco was afraid of this opposition and tried to make these individuals follow his leadership to prove that he still had control. In order to attend a university, students had to be a part of the Sindicato Español Universitario (SEU) and carry a card with their photo as proof that they were members. However, this did not stop students from forming underground organizations against Franco.


In 1940, Franco enacted the Ley Para la Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo (Bessel). This made being a freemason or a communist punishable by imprisonment, and anyone associated with these individuals could also face the same sentence. Some of these individuals only had jail time, while others were tortured or killed (Bessel).

The Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) was a political party in Spain that had a decent amount of control before the Spanish Civil War. However, after Franco took power, this group experienced severe repression and their leaders fled, mainly to France where they lived in exile.

In January 1940, there was a limited amnesty proclaimed for individuals in prison for political crimes. At this time, there was an estimated 500,000 to 1 million political prisoners (M.B.). By the end of that month, 700 people had been released. By October of 1940, 250,000 had been released and more were to be freed if they pled their crime was due to ignorance as opposed to malice (M.B.). By other estimates, there were roughly 280,000 Spaniards in prison in November 1940 (Rickett). This makes sense if there were about 500,000 in January and half of them were released. While this showed progress for Spain, many individuals who were not covered by this amnesty act continued to suffer. Between 1939 and 1945, between 50,000 and 200,000 executions took place (Rickett). While some individuals were granted amnesty, others continued to be on the wrong side of a firing squad. This period was full of fear and uncertainty for many citizens of Spain.

Of those killed by police during this period, thousands still remain in unmarked mass graves. For those whose lives were spared, torture and humiliation were widespread. Maria Martin Lopez recalled how she was forced to drink a liter of castor oil in front of a crowd after watching her mother get shot and killed (Woodworth). She was a child and did not commit a crime against the state, but the early 1940s had many cases like this where the police wanted to show their control and power by publicly humiliating those who did not subscribe to the ideals of the dictatorship.

Antonio Rodriguez Gallardo called the killings of this time a “systematic plan to eliminate the political representatives of the republic” (Woodworth). It is true that most of those on the receiving end of the humiliations, torture, and firing squads were individuals who were involved with the republic during the civil war, or they were somehow related to people who were involved in this way. There were an estimated 50,000 people executed in Spain after the civil war for their support of the republicanos. The early 1940s saw repression of the republicanos and their associates, with “…imprisonment, execution and shame experienced by



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