Carlos Collado Seidel, "Zufluchtsstätte für Nationalsozialisten? Spanien, die Alliierten und die Behandlung deutscher Agenten 1944-1947," Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 43 (1995): 131-157.

Reviewed by Norman J.W. Goda

(originally published by H-German on 18 January 1996)

Since the unlikely survival of Francisco Franco's regime through the Second World War, historians have puzzled over the extent to which the Franco government had collaborated with Adolf Hitler's Germany. In the 1960s, books by Donald Detwiler and Charles Burdick argued that Spain, exhausted from its own fratricidal conflict, tried to keep as much political and military distance as it could from Germany's war, particularly when Berlin developed an interest in Gibraltar in the fall of 1940. With increased access to Spanish archives, however, the picture has become clearer. Recent works by Javier Tussell, Paul Preston, and others all show that Franco held, if not a strong trust for Berlin, then definite territorial and political aims that he hoped to realize should the Germans win the war. To these ends, he was even willing to have Spain become a belligerent. The article under review by Carlos Collado Seidel fits into this context. It questions the extent to which the Spanish government tolerated the presence of German agents on Spanish soil during the war, and the extent to which the Franco government offered asylum to Nazis after the war ended. The article relies almost exclusively on the files of the Spanish Foreign Ministry. The author's conclusion is that the Franco government followed a winding path between Allied pressure to repatriate German officials and its own definition of Spanish interests and honor. A clear policy of sympathy for Nazism itself did not exist in Madrid, but neither did a policy which actively sought to expel German nationals from Spanish soil.

Spain and its Moroccan protectorate, as Collado Seidel states, were of great importance to Germany during the war. Spanish territory straddled the entrance to the western Mediterranean, while Spain itself provided vital materials such as wolfram and iron ore. Thus Berlin aimed for a large German presence in Spain, Spanish Morocco, and in the Spanish-occupied zone of Tangier. At the end of 1941 there were 7,500 Germans in Spanish territory, and by 1945 there were at least 12,000, many of whom performed covert activities for the German government. The Abwehr alone might have had a network of up to 2,500 agents. According to Collado Seidel, German agents (but not British ones) received a wide berth from Spanish officials, who would not harass them even if they were uncovered. The Allies complained loudly and often to Madrid about these violations of Spanish non-belligerence, and the British helpfully provided lists of agents complete with priority ratings. Yet little happened in practice, and since the Allies feared a Nazi resurgence in Spain after Germany's surrender, they continued to insist on deportation after the war. These attempts, too, brought little in return, and the Allies gave up on the issue in the course of 1947.

Collado Seidel skillfully shows that Spanish non-compliance with Allied demands sprang not so much from fundamental sympathy with National Socialism, but rather from lack of commitment to Allied concerns. In the first place, Franco never understood how important the issue was to the Allies. The Spanish Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, hoped to show at least token compliance when in May 1944, in return for continued American fuel deliveries, Madrid agreed, among other things, to deport German agents and to close the German General Consulate in Tangier, a rats' nest of espionage activity. Yet the Foreign Ministry ran into stiff resistance from other agencies, particularly the Spanish military, police, and intelligence services. The Tangier Consulate was officially closed and some Germans were indeed detained, though in very comfortable conditions. But Germans with contacts routinely used them to remain in the country. Some were protected because they had provided valuable services in the Spanish Civil War; some because they had business or social contacts with important Spanish officials; some because they were providing valuable intelligence to the Spanish government on its own internal enemies; and some were protected simply as a matter of Spain's pride as a sovereign nation.

Examples of these trends both during and after the war are abundant. Local Spanish authorities, for example, protected German agents in Tangier and Spanish Morocco so that from the spring of 1943 to the spring of 1944, a mere fourteen Germans were forced to leave Morocco due to Allied pressure. The High Commissioner in Tetuan himself pointed out to the Foreign Ministry that he could hardly be expected to expel "his" Germans from the protectorate. After the war, the same problems persisted. In September 1946, the Foreign Ministry had to defer in the case of Germany's ex-Naval Attache, Alfred Menzell, who had Franco's confidante Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco as his advocate. Carrero complained that his German friend had provided key assistance in "our war," and that besides, Spanish honor was very much at stake in cases such as these. The few Allied repatriation ships that left Bilbao in 1945 and 1946 thus carried very few Germans whom the Allies had considered a high priority. The remainder had either disappeared with local help, or had been spoken for by important Spanish officials. Thus more Germans prioritized for deportation by the Allies remained in Spain than left, and by the time the last ship sailed, slightly more than a hundred such Germans had been repatriated. The Allies allowed the issue to drop in 1947, having become more concerned with the Soviets than with a resurgence of Nazism in Spain.

It is difficult to critique a work-in-progress, but since Collado Seidel is currently working on a larger study concerning Allied policies toward Nazis in Spain from 1942 to 1952, some suggestions may be helpful. The author is to be commended for sifting through the Spanish Foreign Ministry files on this topic. It is a difficult group of papers which can be frustrating to follow at times. The use of Spanish military records and those of the High Commissariat in Spanish Morocco would have been of great use for this study, but remain difficult to access under current Spanish rules. Most noteworthy, however, is that Collado Seidel does not seem to have consulted any German records. Though the records of German intelligence agencies are indeed sketchy concerning activities in Spanish territory during the war, the files of the German Foreign Ministry, the German Embassy in Madrid and the German Consulate in Tetuan provide needed perspective. For instance, I am not convinced that the Spanish government was as pleased to accept German activities in its territories as Collado Seidel suggests, especially since both Madrid and Berlin had their eyes set on French Morocco from the summer of 1940 onward. Madrid made noticeable complaints to Berlin about violations of Spanish sovereignty, and the German Consulate in Tetuan complained to Berlin from late 1940 onward about Spanish obstacles to German espionage and propaganda activities. The German records also show that Madrid only allowed Berlin to open a General Consulate in Tangier in 1941 after considerable pressure from Joachim von Ribbentrop himself. The Spaniards were thus likely pleased to have closed it three years later. Collado Seidel seems not to have yet consulted the wealth of secondary work now available on Spanish wartime policy either. This leads him to make occasionally misleading comments, such as one which states that Franco himself sympathized with the fundamental ideas of National Socialism. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed, but in the meantime, this is a very useful article which students of German-Spanish relations, the Franco regime, and Allied denazification policies would do well to consult.

Norman J.W. Goda, University of Maine at Presque Isle

Copyright © 1996 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied in whole or in part, with proper attribution, as long as the copying is not-for-profit "fair use" for research, commentary, study, or teaching. For other permission, please contact