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19 de juny 2017

Catalonia and US diplomacy during the Spanish Civil War

Results of search: https://history.state.gov/search?q=Franco&volume-id=frus1945Berlinv01

Here is a selection of relevant texts:

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The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State (Europe) 
 Rome, October 29, 1936—6 p.m.
436. Department’s circular telegram, October 28, 6 p.m. As I have already asked to see Ciano at an early date, I shall take that occasion to endeavor to obtain definite information as to the attitude of the Italian Government toward recognition of Spanish insurgents.
Should Madrid fall to the insurgent forces indications here both in the press and from local sources point to the early recognition both by Italy and Germany of the Burgos government. In this connection the retiring French Ambassador told me today that in his farewell audience with the Duce 2 days ago the latter had emphasized that Italy was in no way interested in acquiring any Spanish territory but to this he had added “but Catalonia”. This was brought in in such a way as to indicate to De Chambrun that developments in Catalonia might be of such importance as to justify possible interference by Italy. While the Duce did not further elucidate what he had in mind De Chambrun interpreted his reference to Catalonia in the following sense: General Franco is about to take Madrid and in all probability the Italian and German Governments will at once give recognition to his government. There is then the possibility that the present Madrid Government will retire to Barcelona, will be submerged in the present Communist government there and in consequence Catalonia will become an intensely Communistic sore spot which will continue to develop unfortunate repercussions in other parts of Europe.
Following the meeting of the International Committee in London yesterday the Italian press devotes much prominence to the Spanish situation. This afternoon’s papers editorially state that Russia must answer not only to the Committee but to all Europe for its illicit intervention in Spain, The government spokesman maintains that by aiding the handful of men who represent the Madrid Government against a national government which now controls five-sixths of Spanish territory and is supported by the mass of the people, Russia is in effect declaring war on the real Spanish Government and nation. All editorials on the subject implicitly or explicitly warn France as to the consequences of her Russian alliance.

The Consul General at Barcelona (Perkins) to the Secretary of State (Europe) 

Raleigh for Admiral Fairfield and the Secretary of State, Washington. Portuguese Consul has recently seen fit to leave Barcelona. Vice Consul Salvador has received threats against his person as the result of attempted protection of personal property of Salvador national. Vice Consul Chile recently arrested and detained by unauthorized personnel. With regard to last incident British Consul General as dean of the Consular Corps but acting on his own responsibility addressed protest to the President of the Council (Premier of Catalonia).
In view of the existence of situation in which such incidents are likely to continue to occur it is becoming increasingly evident that the Consulate General in its efforts to protect American property interests must not permit itself to be drawn into informal negotiations or triangular discussions between opposed interests with a view to the adjustment of difficulties but must rigorously limit itself to definite official protests. Otherwise it will be difficult for it to function with reasonable safety to members of the staff; for efforts to protect property against illegal seizures may be regarded by labor groups as an attempt to thwart both the social program and the military cause and earn for the person involved the epithet of “Fascist”.
Copy mailed to Ambassador and Madrid.

 The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State (Europe) 

439. My 436 October 29, 6 p.m. Count Ciano told me this afternoon that the Italian and German Governments would recognize the Franco Government as soon as it had entered Madrid which was expected within 1 week. In reply to my inquiry as to whether he was disturbed about possible eventualities in Catalonia he replied that the Italian and the German Governments were in entire agreement with regard to the prevention of the set-up of any Communist state in the Mediterranean. I pressed him for further information as to the form such prevention might take and whether the two Governments would lend assistance to General Franco in his efforts to subdue Catalonia. Ciano merely repeated that Berlin and Rome were in accord as to the necessity of preventing the existence of any Communist state in the Mediterranean. He went on to say that a rumor had just reached him to which he could not attach much importance that several thousand Soviet troops were leaving Russia for Barcelona. He admitted that owing to the impossibility of secrecy in the despatch of such a large body of men it was exceedingly doubtful that the Soviets would undertake it but he was nevertheless making every effort to ascertain whether there was any foundation for the rumor.
I asked him whether he had information as to the French internal situation. He replied that while in Berlin he had found Goebbels86 greatly concerned, believing that a Communist outbreak might occur at any time. Ciano himself did not seem to share this view, he said that the Communist supply of arms and ammunition had been located in Marseilles but that now it had all been sent to Spain to assist the Madrid Government and that without a supply of weapons no serious trouble need be expected.
Ciano told me that the speech which the Duce will make in Milan tomorrow would be a very important one and devoted in large extent to foreign affairs.

The Consul General at Barcelona (Perkins) to the Acting Secretary of State (Europe) 

 Barcelona, November 9, 1936—5 p.m.
My November 7, 5 p.m.92 Yesterday parade of radical organizations consisting of Anarchists, Socialists and Communists occupied between four and five hours in passing the Consulate General. Demonstration was in honor of the Soviet anniversary November 7, was orderly and non-military and did not arouse much display of enthusiasm on the part of the bystanders who were far less numerous than might have been expected. In the afternoon President of Catalonia in broadcast hailed “Glorious Russia and the Glorious Republic of Catalonia.” Evening of the 7th Soviet Consul General held reception attended by officials of the local government.
My October 14, 6 p.m.92 Soviet steamer of about 3000 tons has arrived at Barcelona and according to reliable information is discharging munitions of war. Unverified reports of two other Soviet steamers at southern ports. Also that munitions arrived here in small lots by sailing ships and motor trucks from France.

 The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Acting Secretary of State (Europe) 

No. 1240
Sir: I have the honor to report that the civil war which was to have been finished in “four days—five at the utmost” is now in its fifth month and with no indication of an early end. In August I gave as my opinion, based on a three year study of Spanish political sentiment and Spanish character, that the great majority of the Spanish people were against the rebellion. That opinion, not shared by many of my colleagues, has, after almost five months, been completely vindicated by events.
I predicted in August the prolongation of the struggle, basing my opinion on the conviction that the Spanish masses, constituting 97 per cent of the people, would fight to the finish for the preservation of a governmental system which for the first time in centuries has done something for them. And so it is.
I also reported to the Department in August that were the rebels dependent entirely on Spaniards for their army they would suffer a speedy defeat. That has been clearly shown in the record. They have in their army thousands of the mercenaries of the Foreign Legion from Africa, thousands of the Moors, and as early as August and September they had hundreds of Italian and German army officers as aviators and tank operators.
In other words, the greater part, and the only very effective fighting part, of Franco’s army has been composed of foreigners, not Spaniards.
Now it is a safe surmise that all the Spaniards in sympathy with the rebellion entered the armies of Franco and Mola very early in the war. This means that the rebels have no reservoir of Spanish man power on which to draw. And this means that Franco cannot possibly win without open military support on a large scale from Hitler and Mussolini.
The trained Moorish troops brought over and put always in the front of the fighting have suffered dreadful losses, and a war correspondent with the rebel army continuously from the beginning and just back from the front for a few days, tells me that fully fifty per cent of these have been killed. I understand that it is impossible to draw further on the trained Moorish troops in Africa. The fact that the Moors brought over recently are untrained and are the Riffs, the wild men from the hinterland, bears out this supposition. Their use in the war cannot but increase the savagery of the fight. But it remains to be seen if these tribesmen, untrained in the methods of civilized warfare, can be used as effectively in battle as the professional Moorish soldiers.
I have heard from war correspondents from the front and with the rebel army that the Moors are resenting the policy of making them bear the brunt of the battle, resulting in appalling losses. From Gibraltar comes the report this week that fifty Moors have deserted from the army in that section within the week.
I have sketched the situation affecting Franco’s army because it offers a plausible explanation for the throwing off of all pretence of a disguise by Germany and Italy.
It is now clear, undenied, that five thousand German soldiers, not “volunteers” but soldiers, have been disembarked at Cadiz from an Italian ship, and these are now actually on the Madrid front. This flagrant and defiant violation of the Nonintervention Pact was so brazen that Eden was compelled this week to admit to the House of Commons that these German soldiers have arrived. I believe he called them “volunteers” but the Department can form its own conclusion whether five thousand German army men could go to Spain on their own volition and without being ordered there by the German Government.
John Whittaker, war correspondent, and Miss Davis of the Chicago News, who were in Salamanca Sunday and who called on me Monday evening, agree that in Salamanca it was scarcely possible to see a Spanish soldier or officer, because lost in the crowd of Germans. They saw great numbers of young soldiers, all blonde, with Germanic features, walking about the streets with the “goose-step” fairly screaming for recognition. I have absolute confidence in Whittaker’s reports since he has been with Franco’s or Mola’s armies from the beginning and is a partisan of the rebels. He tells me that on the Madrid front, after a particularly disastrous day for the rebels, he had dinner with a German officer who admitted himself depressed and said that he was going on to Seville that night to send word to Berlin that unless strong German reenf orcements were sent speedily, the rebels’ cause was lost. These five thousand German soldiers came within ten days.
Since the arrival of the five thousand German soldiers, an Italian ship has disembarked in Spain two thousand five hundred Italian soldiers.
These, like the Germans, as the Department knows better than I, could not have come had they not been actually sent by the Italian Government.
The natural and inevitable culmination of this policy on the part of Germany and Italy now appears. La Petite Gironde of Bordeaux, under a Paris date line, signed G. R. T., states that a report from Turin on December 4th says that preparations are under way in Italy to send an army of 60,000 Italian soldiers to reenforce Franco’s failing forces. It is announced that Mussolini has conferred with six Generals, including Generals Montagna and Brandimarte, the latter of whom left for Spain on December 2nd. The first contingent of these, composed of 2,700, is said to be prepared for early departure to Majorca and is to be the “shock troops” which will attempt a landing in Catalonia on January 2nd. This may be confused with the 2,500 Italian soldiers who recently landed in the south of Spain.
In this connection, the Government in Valencia learns that an expeditionary force, which has been assembled in Majorca, will attempt a landing on the Spanish coast, convoyed by German and Italian ships and air fleets.
This at any other time in the world’s history would mean a European war.
Meanwhile the Government in Moscow has accepted the proposal of England and France, but nothing has been heard from Germany, Italy or Portugal.
Augmenting the Government forces are many actual volunteers whose Governments have nothing whatever to do with their presence here. While impossible to get accurate information on the number of these, the highest estimate I have heard is at 3,000. These are Frenchmen who have crossed the border in small groups and enlisted, Italians who have been exiled from Italy by Fascism, Germans who have been driven from Germany by Hitler, Belgians, some British and a very few Americans. These are actual volunteers. They are actuated by different motives. Among them are communists, liberals, democrats, and many are young men seeking adventure or moved by youth’s generous sympathy for the peasantry of Spain. Quite a good proportion of these have seen service in the World War, others have been trained as soldiers in the armies of their countries.
These are put into the International Brigade, top-notch fighters, who hold the front line in Madrid. There is one division composed entirely of Italian anti-Fascists who call themselves the Division of Garibaldi.
This accounts for all the foreigners fighting in Spain, with the exception of the Russians who require special treatment, because of the extravagant and absurd exaggeration of their numerical strength. The utter absence of any semblance of neutrality and the complete loss of judgment, even on the part of some of my colleagues, are illustrated in the fact that my British colleague solemnly assured me this week that there are no Spaniards in the defending army at Madrid. Since there are in the neighborhood of 30,000 or more soldiers defending Madrid his assertion that all are Russians answers itself. If with every facility it was impossible to slip in 5,000 Germans, it would be ridiculous to assume that the Russians have brought over 30,000 without any one knowing where they entered or how.
No doubt there are Russians fighting in the ranks of the loyalist armies, but an intensive questioning of a dozen war correspondents with the two armies for four months has failed to bring forth an opinion from any one of them that there have been many Russians. Sometime ago there is no doubt that some Russian officers, and one of high rank, went to Madrid and are now associated with the Government army. Some of these are employed in drilling and training raw recruits, some are actually in charge of companies in the field, and some Russian officers of high rank appear to be serving as advisers and strategists.
Now that Russian war material is coming in as rapidly as German and Italian, and now that the Italian and German Governments have thrown off all disguise and have sent thousands of soldiers, it will astonish me if Russia does not follow suit if it is at all practical. But when they come, if they come in large numbers, it would be impossible for them to come all the way from Russia without all the world knowing it.
Thus Spain may become the mere battlefield for a European conflict. The purported plan of England and France to propose an armistice and a plebiscite to determine whether the Spanish people wish to retain the Government overwhelmingly elected last February, or prefer to accept a Fascist or military dictatorship, seems impracticable considering the conditions here. I am thoroughly convinced that an honest election, with every man and woman voting an individual preference, would result precisely as before, if indeed there would not be an increased Left majority. But under existing conditions such an election would now be utterly impossible.
Who would supervise and run it? The League of Nations? The League which has been respected by Spain, perhaps more than by any other European country, has completely lost the confidence or respect of the Government here. It has failed to enforce those articles of the Covenant on which the Spanish Government feels it had a right to rely. Every move of the Non-intervention Committee has been to serve the rebel cause. I am informed by a close friend of Del Vayo, Minister of State, that he has only contempt for the League, knows that nothing can be expected from it, and only appeals to it because it offers an opportunity to put the Government’s position before the world.
I am quite sure that the Franco-British plan would be rejected by the Government unless every foreign soldier be removed and the supervision of the election be left entirely with the Spanish people acting through their constitutionally elected officials. In view of the fact that they but recently had an election supervised entirely by the Rights, the Government probably would refuse a demand from other nations that they have another now.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thus the wisdom of the Department in taking a position of absolute neutrality and non-interference in this wretched war was never clearer. We were wise in not participating in the various non-neutral schemes sponsored by the Diplomatic Corps here which for the most part has acted on the theory from the beginning that it is accredited to Franco. In every instance of an attempt at interference, from which we held aloof, the Corps not only failed but with a humiliating but not undeserved rebuke. There have been no meetings of the Corps now for weeks.
We have concentrated entirely on the protection of Americans. We have thus far retained the respect and confidence of the Government, and we have done absolutely nothing to justify the slightest complaint from the rebels. We have done so by attending strictly to our own business.
Efforts have been made repeatedly to draw us into some concerted action. I find indications of another attempt intended today. In Bilbao two consuls, or acting consuls, were caught red-handed sending military information under the protection of their office to the rebel headquarters at Salamanca. These men were spies and were shot. As a result I suspect that every consulate in Bilbao is looked upon as an active or potential enemy. It appears that some restrictions on the rights of the consulates have been imposed. The Consul of Poland, a Spanish lawyer of Bilbao, saw me today. A moment’s conversation revealed that he is an enemy of the Government. He tried to persuade me that in a civil war there is no such thing as a spy and that the Government had no right to take action against the Austrian, who was sending descriptions of the military defences of the city of Salamanca, and who was a spy in the World War.
The Spanish-Pole Consul evidently came to try to get us to join in protests to the Government in Bilbao against restrictions imposed. He was going to see the Argentine Ambassador, as Dean of the Corps, apparently to ask him to take action in behalf of the Corps or to call a meeting for the purpose. Unless instructed by the Department to the contrary, I shall not attend any such meeting or join in any such representations. Abnormal conditions affecting the consular corps in Bilbao have been created by the outrageous conduct of at least two of the Consuls. We are not opening our Consulate there, and when Consul Chapman makes his periodic visits his activities will be strictly confined to looking after the interests of Americans, and beyond that absolutely nothing.
Respectfully yours,
Claude G. Bowers

 The Consul General at Barcelona (Perkins) to the Acting Secretary of State (Europe) 

 Barcelona, December 12, 1936—7 p.m.
I received last evening an invitation from the Councilor of Economy to attend this morning a meeting of the Consular Corps at which there would be broached a project for the construction of a free international zone in this port. Since I did not have time to seek the Department’s instructions and since the proposal seemed likely to contain ulterior motives [I decided not to attend in person or to send a representative].9a
An official announcement was made this morning saying that the consular body welcomed the proposal; that the zone would be distinguished by special flags and by lights at night to spare it from bombardment; that it would serve to assure the provisioning of Catalonia and that the Government was making extraordinary efforts to restore international trade.
  1. Corrected on the basis of despatch No. 146, December 14, 1936, from the Consul General at Barcelona, received December 31, 1936.

The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) to the Secretary of State (General)

613. By decrees promulgated today the following measures affecting Catalonia have been taken: (1) pursuant to Article 9 of the Catalan Statute the Government of the Republic assumes control of all the armed forces of Catalonia; (2) the Catalan “Army of the East” is placed under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Organic Division of the National Army; (3) the general heretofore in command of the Fourth Division is removed and his place taken by General Pozas Perea.
Repeated to Ambassador Bowers.

 The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General) 

255. Telephone message from Del Vayo from Paris 10 last night. Says anarchist revolt throughout Catalonia and not only expected but welcomed as an opportunity to liquidate the anarchists who have been hostile from the beginning. Claims revolt will be crushed and was part of rebel plan. Finds significance in report in London Express dated Gibraltar 2 days before revolt saying it was due. The source hostile to the Government. Says thus far syndicalists not with anarchists and without these liquidation of anarchists certain.

The Secretary of State to the Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) (General) 

312. Supplementing Department’s 306, April 3, 2 p.m.: Crown Cork International Corporation of Delaware entirely American owned and which in turn owns all stock Hijos de H. A. Bender, S. A. of San Feliu de Guixols, Catalonia, understands authorities considering collectivization of latter.
Inform Foreign Office pointing out serious damage such action would inflict on Americans interested and request that steps be taken to prevent collectivization of this or other American owned subsidiaries. Reiterate our expectation of full and prompt compensation of all Americans for losses suffered through collectivization.
Keep Department and Barcelona advised.

 The Consul General at Barcelona (Perkins) to the Secretary of State (General) 

No. 289
Sir: With reference to my despatches Nos. 217 and 228 of February 4 and February 12, 1937,65 both entitled “American Ambulance Unit in Barcelona”, I have the honor to enclose herewith photographs of a second American ambulance unit, as published in La Vanguardia of April 3, 1937. This unit, which recently passed through Barcelona is described as the “Benjamin Franklin Corps” of the “Medical Bureau—American Friends of Spanish Democracy”. There is also enclosed, with English translation,66 the text of an article appearing in the same paper and describing the visit paid to the President of Catalonia by Dr. Friedman, the leader of the unit, Mrs. R. Weiner, Chief Nurse, and other members of the unit.
A further article, appearing in La Vanguardia of April 11, 1937, reports the arrival of the third American ambulance unit at Barcelona headed by Surgeon Donald H. Pitts.
A survey of the facts can leave no reasonable doubt that these expeditions have been sent to Spain, not from purely humanitarian motives, but with the primary purpose of assisting one of the opposing parties to win the war. It is doubtful if a single responsible member of these American units would be willing to perform humanitarian work upon the other side. I venture to suggest that they are lending more effective aid to the “Government” than would an equal number of American citizens bearing arms; for the “Government” badly needs medical help, whereas it has, at least in Catalonia, almost unlimited reserves of man power. I have but to look from the window as I write to observe crowded streets full of men of military age, who have never been to the front and who have given little display of any enthusiasm to go there.
Such relatively small contingents as may come from America, either as hospital units or as groups of volunteers, obviously will not weigh heavily in determining the final outcome of the Spanish civil war. But they do advertise the fact that organized groups of Americans are leaving the United States to help what their opponents call the “Bed” or “Communist” cause. Their arrival here tends to create the belief that there is a bit of a sham about the “complete neutrality of America” and, to that extent, their participation in the war affords excuse for Fascist states to continue their aid to the “Rights”.
The statement issued by the Department and published in its press release, No. 389 of March 13, 1937,67 sets forth a position which, in the light of my experience here of some eight months, appears unassailable in its reasoning and indispensable if the United States is to maintain a “complete neutrality”. I therefore regret any modification of that position on the ground that the work of the Ambulance units is an humanitarian one.
I am well aware of the official composition of the “American Friends of Spanish Democracy”; for I have a circular, dated March 26, 1937, listing the officers and committees, and making an appeal for funds “to turn the tide against the foreign invaders”. For some years, I have known quite well the Chairman, Bishop Robt. L. Paddock, a man of the greatest sincerity and unselfishness. But I venture to suggest, if the Bishop conceives that there exists here any of the processes and safeguards of democratic government, that he is uninformed and misguided. Whatever may be the ideals and hopes of President Azaña and certain other liberal leaders, the deplorable fact remains that, in Barcelona and Catalonia, there is no assurance of security for life, liberty, or property. Private assassinations continue, unpunished. Priests and many former property owners are in hiding for their lives. Private property is confiscated under various processes of “socialization” and “collectivization”. No one is immune from sudden arrest. The “Government” is unable to guarantee any reasonable degree of personal protection or even to send out of the country many persons whom it would be glad to see escape to liberty and safety abroad.
The Chairman and the distinguished individuals upon the Committee of the “Friends of Democracy” do not countenance these things, but it is to such a situation that they are unwittingly giving their support. I do not wish to give the appearance of not being “neutral”; least of all, of having a sympathy for the “rights”. The exploitation under which the Spanish people have suffered was, it seems to me, bound to produce a revolution. I cannot envisage the triumph of the reactionary elements as having any other ultimate effect in Catalonia than the creation of further provocation to revolution; for I doubt whether the Spanish “rights”, in the event of victory, will learn from experience and be prepared to accord reasonable living conditions to the masses.
As I see it, we do not have a clear cut issue of right and wrong, but the deplorable existence of excesses on both sides and the complete absence of what we understand by democratic government. The choice at the moment may be briefly described as the alternative between “tyranny” and “chaos”. I have no wish to question the formation of the opinions and beliefs undoubtedly held in all honesty by the “Friends of Spanish Democracy”; but it seems to me a matter of regret that these liberal minded people should be expending their energies in a foreign field where their glimpses of the truth are but partial instead of devoting those energies to problems in regard to which they are in a position to be more precisely informed.
Respectfully yours,
Mahlon F. Perkins
  1. For despatch No. 217, February 4, see p. 477; despatch No. 228, February 12, not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Department of State, Press Releases, March 13, 1937, p. 139.

The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General) 

483. Met Del Vayo by request in Paris to receive for transmission to Department and President elaborately prepared statement of all ships entering all Royalist ports for last 5 months to rectify impression that war material cannot enter Loyalist ports because of Franco’s control of sea. Report by pouch today.
Taking advantage of personal relationship interrogated him fully and he replied with apparent frankness. He predicts war will continue for a year unless Germany attacks Czechoslovakia and withdraws her officers and material from Spain which would mean early Loyalist victory. Government in touch with all its territory constantly by wireless. Original army defending Madrid shifted to Catalonia to make Barcelona equally impregnable and Madrid defended by Miaja’s second army which has been on Madrid front for months. Territory south of Catalonia teems with war factories and all self-supporting as to food save Madrid for which food has been accumulated for a full year. Curtailment of food rations in Barcelona for benefit of Madrid.
Franco’s announcement of intention to deprive Catalans of autonomous right and to outlaw their language has converted a lethargic into a militant and bitterly determined people. The slaughter of civilians by bombs has played a part in this.
He reported a conversation night before with Daladier with whom he dined. Was told British in London conference tried to force France to immediate closing of frontier under international guard without any attempt to stop German and Italian shipments but France refused. Daladier’s agreement when commission to count foreigners enter Spain agreeable to Del Vayo since weeks and months will be consumed in reaching satisfactory arrangement to control influx by sea and air. The consent of Spain necessary and can be withheld.
He wonders if we have calculated on the inevitable repercussions in South America on the result of Spanish war. Says in possession of positive information on propagandizing and organizing for Fascism and against American influence there by Hitler and Mussolini and says a Fascist triumph in Spain will give tremendous impetus to the Fascist movement and democratic victory would end it in its incipiency.
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The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) to the Secretary of State (General) 

 Mataro, October 12, 1938—10 a.m.
1058. The Minister of State informed me last evening that the international Commission designated at Geneva to observe the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Loyalist Spain will arrive at Perpignan today and will later come to Barcelona. Señor Del Vayo stated that all foreign volunteers have now been withdrawn from the fighting lines and that most of them are concentrated at various points in Catalonia, although a few are in the severed southern zone. He expects evacuation from Spain to begin within a very short time.

The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe) 

No. 1667
Sir: I have the honor to report on my conversation, an hour in length, with Alvarez Del Vayo, Minister of State, in the Spanish Consulate at Perpignan on the evening of Thursday, February 2.
The Minister began by frankly setting forth the military situation in Catalonia and the reasons for it. He said that during the fighting on the Ebro the Loyalist army was over-matched in planes, tanks and artillery by at least four to one, but that it had been able to make a splendid fight and hold up the fascists for some weeks. He said the Government knew that from the first of November on German and Italian war material was pouring in to Franco but that it had greatly underestimated the amount. He said it was not an exaggeration to say that in the fighting against Barcelona the Loyalists had one machine gun to a hundred on the other side, one tank to sixty on the other side, one plane to twenty on the other side. This was due entirely to the enforcement of non-intervention against the legal government and the absolute freedom accorded the rebels to bring in Italian and German war material by the shiploads. As a result of the attitude of the great Democracies the Government had been forced to get contraband material and he said that one thousand machine guns and 60,000 rifles had been bought and were on the way but that they could not arrive in time to be of any service in Catalonia. He told me of his appeal to the French Government for permission to buy just a little artillery and of the “cold” rejection of the plea. He ascribed the French attitude to the pro-fascist attitude of Bonnet. In this connection, he referred to Jules Henry, the present French Ambassador, as a mere tool of Bonnet, hand-picked by the latter because of his own anti-democratic slant. He said that in normal times, when the Spanish Government was more of a free agent, and less under the necessity of not offending Paris, the Government would have refused to accept Henry because of his well-known hostility to the Spanish Government.
I asked him if it were true that on that day in the morning Henry had informed the Government at Figueras that the French Government advised a complete surrender. He appeared a bit stunned for a moment, but admitted it to be true. He added that the advice was instantly rejected.
I asked him the present intentions of the Government. He said that it was thought possible to maintain discipline in the Catalonian army for a few days but he made it clear that the Government had no expectation that any part of Catalonia could be held for any length of time because of the impossibility of getting war material. The purpose was for the Government to go to the central zone, to Madrid or Valencia, and continue the fight. He said that General Miaja has an army of 500,000 men who are better soldiers than those in Catalonia and that the machine guns, tanks and rifles would be available for them.
In compliance with instructions I inquired regarding the pictures from the Prado that were in the old fort at Figueras where the Government had its headquarters. At the time these paintings were taken there it was probably the safest place in Spain. But he said the Government had been greatly concerned over the possible fate of these canvases and that on the morning of the day I saw him arrangements had been made for the paintings to be turned over to the art section of the League of Nations to be sent to Geneva for the period of the war.
He asked me to convey to Washington the request of the Spanish Government that the American Government, separately or in conjunction with other nations, exert such influence as may be possible to prevent wholesale massacre in Barcelona. He said that reports had reached the Government that about five thousand people had then been shot, mowed down by machine guns as in Badajoz. The press correspondents were not permitted to send out anything on the proceedings in Barcelona. The correspondent of the London Mail, who managed to get into the city, told me that on trying to enter a certain section of the city he was stopped by a bayonet at his breast and told he could not enter that section. Later he tried to enter another section with the same result. He assumed that the “purge” was going on. Press correspondents told me that no one will know just what is happening in Barcelona until later on when witnesses trickle out from time to time.
Respectfully yours,
Claude G. Bowers

 The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe)
No. 1671
Sir: I have the honor to report that, with the fall of Catalonia, a large number of prisoners held by the Government, including a large number of Italians, were released. This leaves us with a much smaller number of foreign prisoners held by the Loyalists on which to draw for the exchange of the Americans. There are, or until recently were, a large number of Italian legionnaires in the Valencia-Madrid section. I am assured this morning by the Marques de Rialp, the Franco agent in the exchange of prisoners, that he will inform me within a few days of the disposition of the Italians, and will be ready to act. With this assurance I shall get in contact with the Government at Madrid which has always assured me of its willingness to exchange the Italians for the Americans and which has acted on that assurance in the past.
We cannot agree to an exchange of Americans for the Spaniards in the various legations and embassies in Madrid, since, under the agreement, the foreigners are returned to their homes and the Spaniards may remain in Spain. This, at any rate, is a matter for the Spanish Government to decide. I merely mean that it would be most tactless for us to suggest such an exchange.
Respectfully yours,
 Claude G. Bowers 

 The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe) 

190. Your 63, February 1, 7 p.m. We are informed by the Foreign Office that while the Franco-Spanish frontier is closed to refugees in practice it is wide open and since the fall of Barcelona upwards of 60,000 refugees have been permitted to enter France from Catalonia. The frontier is closed because France does not wish to encourage the entrance of a large number of Spanish refugees who could be provided for in Spain. For obvious reasons with the presence in France of some 3,500,000 foreigners including almost 100,000 refugees from Central Europe the French authorities do not wish to further complicate a difficult problem. Of the 60,000 admitted it is estimated that from 45,000 to 50,000 are women and children. In addition to the latter old and wounded men have been and are being admitted together with a certain number of male refugees of military age whose lives are considered menaced because of political reasons. An undetermined number have entered clandestinely.
It is also estimated that there remain on the Spanish side of the frontier approximately 500,000 persons who would cross to France if permitted. During the past 3 days about 8,000 persons daily have crossed into France. The French are exerting themselves to stem the tide and to cooperate with the Figueras authorities in persuading the population to remain in Spain.
The French also plan to cooperate with the Spanish authorities in feeding the destitute in the frontier area.
Frontier control is in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior and the military authorities and General Falgade, the commanding officer of the Pyrenees-Orientales district who has charge of 50,000 troops, has detailed approximately 10,000 men to assist in the reception of the refugees and also in preventing a disorderly influx. The transport of the refugees to various French departments removed from the frontier is organized and we understand that there is no important congestion on the French side of the line. The bulk of the refugees are being housed in available public buildings of one sort or another such as schools and colleges and in private properties placed at the disposal of the government or requisitioned for the purpose, monasteries convents, et cetera.
The problem is one of course which carries with it a burden of expense to the French Government. For that reason we are informed the Government would welcome contributions of foodstuffs for use in the nourishment of the refugees. We are informed by the Acting Agricultural Attaché that he has received a telegraphic inquiry from his department desiring to know whether the French Government would welcome donations of foodstuffs. That question is answered in the affirmative and it is also understood from our conversations with the responsible officer of the Foreign Office that there should be no difficulty concerning the free entry of such material into France.
[Page 789]
The French authorities are exercising great care in respect of sanitation and the necessary steps are being taken to prevent the spread of contagion.
The utter confusion and panic which have existed in eastern Catalonia over a period of days has brought to hundreds of innocent people particularly women, children, and the infirm untold privation and suffering. Children have been frozen to death and many have died of hardship and want. Still others have gone insane and have fallen ill from the terrors and the fatigue of the exodus. I am informed by the representative of the American Friends Service Committee which is active in the distribution of foodstuffs that the work of organizing the lodging and feeding of refugees in France is progressing very satisfactorily and that the Government is assisted by a number of private relief organizations. France, of course, is making an important contribution to alleviate their suffering and extend them hospitality. I feel strongly that the situation is one which should appeal to American charity and that any contribution which we may be able to make to relieve these unfortunates will be fully justified.

 The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) to the Secretary of State (General)
 ... arising from the installation of the Government in Catalonia may be disposed of by creati... 

 Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) (Europe) 

 [Washington,] November 2, 1936.
During a call from the Italian Ambassador on October 30 to discuss another matter, he referred to the present situation in Spain and stated that if he were at this time in the Foreign Office he would advise Mussolini to take all steps that might be necessary in order to prevent a Communist regime being established in Spain or in any portion of Spain, such as in Catalonia.
The Ambassador went on to express at some length his views regarding the danger that Communism constitutes to Western civilization and pointed out that Italy could not tolerate the establishment in Spain of Communism since in that eventuality it would soon spread to France and to the very borders of Fascist Italy. Such a development, the Ambassador stated, would place Italy in grave peril in view of the fact that she is faced on the East by Slav peoples racially affiliated with the Russians and who might in time fall victim to Communism and thus close Italy in on two sides.
I asked the Ambassador whether, in his opinion, as a result of the recent conversations of Count Ciano in Berlin, where a position was taken favoring the Fascist rebels against the Leftist Government, the relations between his Government and the Soviet Government, which during certain recent periods had been rather friendly disposed to each other, might be expected to become embittered. The Ambassador replied that such embitterment would undoubtedly ensue between the two governments but that the Italian Government was fully prepared for such a development.
Wallace Murray

 The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Secretary of State (Europe) 

321. Embassy’s 319, October 30, noon.87 With regard to Spanish situation the Italian Embassy stated this morning that they considered two problems were involved for them.
  • First, whether the present Madrid Government would disappear upon the capture of the city by Franco or would remove to another location in Spain such as Alicante or an interior city. In the former event which would be the easiest for the Italians but probably unlikely the Italian Government could immediately recognize Franco Government without further thought. In the event of the transfer of the Madrid Government to another location while this presented a certain difficulty the Italian Embassy believes most probably its Government would assume that the Madrid Government need no longer be reckoned with and Franco would be recognized as the Spanish Government.
  • Secondly, was the problem of Catalonia. This was the more serious question. The Italian Embassy felt it would take considerable time to work out. They reiterated as previously expressed to us (see Embassy’s 257, August 18, 6 p.m. 2nd page88) that on no account could Italy contemplate the establishment of a Soviet regime on the Mediterranean. Nothing was said with regard to what specific measures the Italians might take to this end but the definiteness of their attitude was not left in doubt.
In this latter connection the Italian Embassy said that increasing quantities of war material principally trucks and airplanes and personnel mainly aviators were entering Spain via the Black Sea. This also added to the difficulty and danger of the Catalonian matter.
Cipher text mailed to Rome, Paris, London, Istanbul, Riga, Moscow.
  1. Not printed.
  2. i. e., last paragraph of telegram No. 257, p. 493.

 The Third Secretary of Embassy in Spain (Wendelin) to the Secretary of State (Europe) 

 Madrid, September 22, 1936—9 p.m.
X–166. Department’s telegram No. 133, September 19, 3 p.m. and Consulate General at Barcelona telegram to Department of September 21, 7 p.m.48 I am addressing note to Foreign Office along the lines of Department’s telegram No. 128, September 15, 7 p.m., stressing that maintenance of continued supply of American cotton can only be assured by recognition of application contracts, establishment of dollar credits in New York, and official assurance that prompt provision will be made for transfer of dollars to New York in payment for cotton now in Barcelona and Tarragona future shipments. If Government declines to make such provision for payment, I am requesting that permission be granted for the removal of cotton now in Spanish ports.
I seriously doubt whether the Madrid Government is in a position at this time to establish dollar credits in New York covering imports of American cotton into Spain and it is also extremely doubtful whether the Catalan Government would permit reexport of cotton from Catalan ports. The authority of the Madrid Government in Catalonia is negligible. However, as stated in last paragraph Consul General’s telegram of September 21, 7 p.m., Catalan Government appeared to be requiring deposit of peseta value of cotton before authorizing requisition and may maintain this policy.

 The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe) 

1199. At the request of Del Vayo conveyed through the Spanish Consul here I visited Figueras this afternoon accompanied by Colonel Cheadle. An escort met us at the border for the purpose of opening passage through the refugees and motor traffic.
At Figueras Senor del Vayo informed me that he desired to request the United States Government to lend its support in behalf of two measures, namely:
to bring about greatest speed on the part of the French in admitting refugees. He said that the flow of refugees to the frontier has been checked and that if these now awaiting clearance could be removed this problem would be solved;
to obtain international action perhaps through the League of Nations to safeguard the art treasures of the Prado which are now stored in the great fort at Figueras.
I stated to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that I would at once report the foregoing to you and to the French Embassy here (a similar invitation to visit Figueras was extended to the French Ambassador and the British Minister but neither is here at the moment) and that I was glad to know that the populations of towns were no longer being evacuated from them. The Atlajunquera is greatly reduced and the road is now fairly clear within a few hundred yards of the line.
As to the Prado treasures the problem is one of preventing them from being destroyed by bombs and as the Government is installed within the same fort it is likely that methodical bombing will begin at any moment. The solution would seem to be for the Government to remove either itself or the Prado treasures from the fort and at once.
Negrin joined the conference and he and Del Vayo seem even yet to be unaware of the magnitude of the disaster that has overtaken them. Both spoke of saving the situation and affirmed that it is not hopeless. I felt it to be my personal duty to remark that outside opinion holds that in so far [as] Catalonia is concerned they are virtually lost. Del Vayo stated that if the “new lines” do not hold the Government will remove to the southern area. It does not seem likely that a transfer to that area on any large scale is now possible.

 The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Acting Secretary of State (Europe) ... reasonable hope of success and prevent anarchy in Catalonia. We certainly ought not ... https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1936v02/d505

 The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) to the Secretary of State (General) 

929. For the Secretary and the Under Secretary. Alvarez del Vayo37 called on me this evening apparently at the request of Premier Negrín for the purpose of conveying the following message:
It has been reported to the Spanish Government by way of [apparent omission] that the President is favorably disposed toward the movement now under way in the United States for the abolition of our neutrality law and that the Secretary also is favorably disposed but feels that as a practical matter any change in our policy at this time is inadvisable since the Government cause is now nearly lost. It is understood that a discussion of this matter will take place Tuesday. As the Spanish Government feels that a policy founded upon the belief that any action of the kind described would be too late is not warranted by the facts it desires to submit its views for consideration at the impending conference.
Alvarez del Vayo stated that, while what is tantamount to a collapse occurred on the Eastern Front due to incompetence and treason, the situation has been remedied and the Loyalist forces are now fighting effectively. As a result of the reorganization of the higher army commands and the mobilization of new resources this resistance is expected to be maintained, although it is conceded the Rebel forces probably will succeed within the next few days in cutting through to the sea at Tortosa and in capturing and progressing beyond Lerida. Notwithstanding his apprehension the Government can continue its resistance for at least 3 or 4 months (within which it is still apparent the Government expects European developments to bring relief) even though Barcelona should be cut off from the French border or, he said, itself be captured.
In anticipation of the Rebel advance to the sea, a directive organization has been established in the southern part of Loyalist Spain which will begin to function immediately upon its isolation from Barcelona. Military supplies and foodstuffs have been stored there sufficient for a period of several months including food for Madrid for 1 year. A survey has been made at all major centers such as Albacite, Ciudad Real, Valencia and Madrid which has shown that the officers and troops in that area are enthusiastic and determined to continue the war. As to Catalonia, he affirms that Company’s38 exhortations have stimulated the Catalonians and that they are putting all energies into the struggle.
With respect to the Government, Del Vayo informed me that he had “heard” (identical rumors are on the street) that it is to be reorganized. Among the changes said to be contemplated are the transfer to Negrín of the Ministry of War, with Prieto remaining in the Cabinet as minister without portfolio; the retirement of one of the two Communist Ministers; and Alvarez del Vayo’s own return to the Ministry of State.
I told Del Vayo that I would, of course, report his statements.
While I am disposed to credit Señor del Vayo and the Government with the determination to continue the war that is implicit in the foregoing statements I am not convinced that in the absence of new factors not at the moment visible the Loyalist forces are likely to withstand the pressure of the efficient and abundantly equipped Rebel military machine with any measurably greater success in the future than they have during the past 3 weeks. I have discussed this point tonight with the Military Attaché who is of the same opinion and believes that the Rebel advances are now virtually irresistible and that unless the Rebels themselves slacken their operations their final triumph in this area is but a matter of weeks. Other factors such as the food situation and widespread rear guard disaffection (despite recent reorganization of the Popular Front to include the CNT, UGT and FAI39) are adverse, and I doubt that the reorganization of the Government itself will be especially helpful.
I do not, of course, know what considerations of major policy may be before you at this time. Should we abandon our present position of neutrality, however, the fact alone (apart from the flow of war material) would unquestionably have an incalculable psychological effect here and might affect the outcome of the war. It would at the same time, however, in all probability be generally construed as an act tantamount to intervention in the Spanish conflict with the obvious reaction in Germany, Italy and Nationalist Spain and perhaps affect (in the event of a Rebel victory) our large investments, frozen exchange accounts and trade in Spain.
  1. At this time he held no office in the Spanish Government; he was appointed Minister of State in the reorganization of April 5, 1938.
  2. Luis Company, President of the Catalan Generalidad.
  3. Federación Anarquista Ibérica.

 The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe) ... and courts after the occupation of Catalonia constitute a... https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1939v02/d728

 The Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France, to the Secretary of State (General) ... bringing order out of chaos in Catalonia. There are now some reasons to believe that a Catalan ar... https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1937v01/d179

 The Chargé in France (Wilson) to the Secretary of State (Europe) ... but no discipline or military order. In particular Catalonia was in the hands of Anar... https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1936v02/d434

 The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe)
 ... had to Barcelona during the final month of resistance in Catalonia. Daladier said that 20,0... https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1939v02/d446

The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State (General, The British Commonwealth and Europe) 

25. My 20, January 20, 11 a.m. On January 24 under instructions Perth26 protested to Ciano against any precipitate action contemplated by the 60 battalions of troops in question explaining at the same time the possibility that Italian information with regard to the French intervention in Spain might be inaccurate. He asked whether [Page 733]in the event that the Italians received reports of French intervention they would first consult with the British and afford the latter opportunity to do whatever might seem desirable in the circumstances. The Italian Government has given these assurances.
Yesterday and again under instructions Perth called at the Foreign Office to express the hope of the British Government that upon the occupation of Catalonia Franco would exercise leniency and avoid retaliatory measures. Ciano agreed thoroughly with the British hope and gave assurances that he would do everything he could with this end in view. Perth informed me that his Government had been requested by the Barcelona Government to use its influence in this respect upon Franco and that the Government while doing so had felt the desirability of inducing the Italian Government to take similar action.
It is impossible at this moment to foresee the situation which will develop after the occupation of Catalonia and the end of the war in its international aspect. It is probable that Mussolini himself has not determined his own program which will depend considerably upon the general European atmosphere and upon the attitude of Germany. That he will make demands upon France is certain but in precisely what form and with what definite objectives is still guesswork.

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