The Fall Of Seville, 1936

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By the mid-1930s, Spain was gripped by a crisis that had been years in the making.  A weak, ineffective central government had stood by and permitted large parts of the country to fall into the hands of extreme left-wing forces, such as anarchists, radical socialists, and communists.  These people, like their revolutionary counterparts in other European nations, cared little or nothing for Spain’s history and conservative traditions.

Their purpose was to sweep away everything that smacked of the “old Spain”:  religion, tradition, social structures, and much else.  To this end, many of them found support from interested parties abroad, most notably the Soviet Union, which saw local communist parties as extensions of its own intelligence services.  In fact, by the eve of the outbreak of civil war in 1936, some radicals had begun actively to persecute clerics, religious orders, and nearly anyone with wealth or social influence.  Seville, the capital of Andalusia, was well-known as a hotbed of radical activity.

By July 1936, tensions which had existed for decades could not longer be kept in check.  The increasing chaos spreading around the country–which the central government in Madrid either approved of or was unable to stop–triggered a furious reaction from the military and other forces of conservatism.  The Spanish Army, like most armies, was a bastion of traditionalism, and believed it had the right and duty not to sit idly by and permit the country to descend into revolutionary chaos.  Thus the stage was set for one of the most ferocious civil wars of the twentieth century.  The military initiated an uprising against the central government beginning on July 17-18.  The revolt was led by generals Franco, Mola, Sanjurjo, Goded, and Queipo de Llano.  Like all coups, it was critical to establish control of Spain’s main urban centers right from the beginning.  It was a daring and bold conspiracy, but one that the army felt it had little choice in.

The rising succeeded immediately in some places, and failed in others.  The capture of Seville by the army rebels was notable in the use of both force and daring to carry it out.  The army leader in Seville, Queipo de Llano, did make some exaggerated claims regarding the seizure of the city; but it is clear that bold and decisive action by a small force against a much larger one was the main reason the rising succeeded in Seville.

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The takeover in Seville had been planned earlier, it is now clear, by units of the Seville garrison headed by Jose Cuesta Moreneo.  Other officers in the region were probably aware of the plan to take over the city by lent tacit support to the rising by doing nothing to stop it.

Queipo de Llano moved quickly on the morning of July 18 to arrest key civil and administrative figures in the city.  Those who refused to join the rising were either arrested or executed.  The buildings housing the civil government were bombed into submission; and eventually the civil governor, the chief of police, and the assault guards were detained.  Seville’s governor, José María Varela Rendueles, was arrested and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment.  When the republican forces found out what was happening, they immediately armed themselves (many were already armed) and called for a general strike and armed resistance to.  The central government in Madrid was unable to render direct support, calling into question its right to govern Spain in the first place.

Workers erected barricades in the districts of Triana and La Macarena.  The rebels continued their takeover of the city:  the radio stations, communication centers, and town hall were seized quickly by Queipo de Llano’s men, who was urging speed, speed, and more speed.  The republican forces then came under attack.  The army brought in the feared Spanish Legion, which would deal with the revolutionary elements in the city.  Anyone with even the slightest ties to left-wing groups would eventually be targeted for execution.  Years of resentment and ideological antagonisms now swelled to the surface in a fury of retaliatory violence.  The Legion attacked the leftist areas of the city, killing anyone who offered the slightest resistance.  By July 25, the city was in the hands of the military rebels.

Although some historians have decried the violence and brutality that the Legion and its Moorish auxiliaries committed in Seville, the reality was that passions had become so inflamed that violence seemed unavoidable.  Neither side in the civil war can claim that it did not use terror and violence when it believed the situation called for it.  After Seville was securely in the hands of the plotters, anyone with ties to the Republican government was jailed.  Death sentences were handed out to anyone unlucky enough to have been tainted by association with left-wing causes.  It has been estimated that about three thousand were shot in the first month after the city was taken. Mopping up was done by irregular forces (Civil Guards, Falangists, and militias) in the rest of the province.  Although it would take three long years for the war to end, the fall of Seville was  a significant step in the military’s drive to conquer the country.

 

Read More:  Ahmed Ben Bella:  Portrait Of A Leader

 

3 thoughts on “The Fall Of Seville, 1936

  1. Interesting synopsis Quintus and I will be sure to read further on this. You have probably heard me bragging on other forums about my dad but I will repeat here as it related to this post.

    The son of an American railroad worker and a half-Yaqui woman, he grew up in Mexico and was fluent in Spanish, considering it his native language. When WWII broke out he joined the Army Air Corps and served as a B-24 navigator, flying 30 missions over Nazi Germany.

    After the war he stayed in the Air Force and was loaned to the CIA, where he posed as a Spaniard in post-war Germany. Recall that the Nazis had collaborated with and fought for the Spanish during their civil war. It’s almost incomprehensible that my slightly built and polite father was involved in counter-espionage.

    In the late 50’s Franco purchased fighter jets from the U.S. and my dad along with the rest of us moved to Seville. The Americans were stationed there to help the Spaniards set up the jet squadron. Since my dad spoke Spanish, he was tasked to negotiate the off-post housing for the American personnel. A man named Juan Sanchez had built some apartments in anticipation of the American arrivals. My dad told him he could charge no more than the American’s housing allowance for rent, and this threw Sanchez into a rage. Dad noted that when he visited Sanchez’s villa that he had a portrait of Adolph Hitler displayed prominently.

    Now Dad had struck up a friendship with a Spanish barber who informed him that Sanchez was none other than Leon DeGrelle, the Belgian Nazi party boss and leader of the Walloon SS division. DeGrelle had been sentenced to death by the Belgian government after the war but escaped by airplane and crash-landed in Spain.

    When my dad informed his superiors about DeGrelle they told him to treat him as though he was Juan Sanchez. Obviously he had connections with Franco and the U.S. was not going to make an issue out of it.

    DeGrelle was an interesting fellow and there are a number of biographical resources available on the internet and youtube. When he met Adolph Hitler, Hitler told him that if he had a son, he would want him to be like Leon DeGrelle.

    To this day there is a medieval map of Seville hanging in my dad’s study. He passed away a couple years ago at 92. His memoirs have many fascinating stories which I want to steal for my blog but am somewhat reluctant to as they belong to him.

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  2. Nice to hear that you support mass murder and rape of unarmed civilians by troops heavily armed by Hitler and Mussolini mutinying against a democratically-elected government.

    Like

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