Hendaye Interview

At the Hendaya meeting or interview , Francisco Franco met with Adolf Hitler in the presence of their respective foreign ministers, Ramón Serrano Suñer ( Spain ) and Joachim von Ribbentrop ( Germany ). It took place in the train station of the French town of Hendaya , near the Spanish-French border, 23 of October of 1940 .

The purpose of the interview was to try to resolve the disagreements on the Spanish conditions for their entry into the war on the side of the Axis powers . Nevertheless, after seven hours of meeting Hitler continued to consider exorbitant the Spanish demands: the return of Gibraltar (after the defeat of Great Britain); The assignment of French Morocco and a part of French Algeria to Spain plus French Cameroon that would join the Spanish colony of Guinea ; The sending of German supplies of food, oil and weapons to alleviate the critical economic and military situation suffered by Spain. The only result of the interview was the signing of a secret protocol in which Franco promised to enter the war on a date that he himself would determine and in which Hitler only vaguely guaranteed that Spain would receive “territories in Africa.” 1 2

This interview was similar to the Interview of Bordighera , celebrated by Franco with Benito Mussolini in Bordighera ( Italy ) the 12 of February of 1941 .

Background: the journey of Serrano Suñer to Berlin

In September 1940 General Franco sent Ramón Serrano Suñer to Berlin to agree on the conditions of Spain’s entry into the Axis side war. 3 However, the German high command did not share the optimism of Hitler on the importance of the Spanish contribution to the war, given the precarious economic and military conditions suffered, and qualified the Spanish stance as opportunistic -the Admiral Canaris warned Hitler that “From the beginning, the policy of Franco consists in not entering the war until Great Britain is defeated, because it is afraid of its power” -. In addition Goering informed the Führer that Germany could not meet the high Spanish requests for supplies and weapons. 4 In any case, Hitler’s intention, as he confessed to General Franz Halder , was “to promise the Spaniards everything they wanted, regardless of whether the promise could be fulfilled.” 5

On September 16 Serrano arrived in Berlin to discuss the Spanish entry into the war beyond the previous “sporadic attempts”, as he told Ribbentrop in his first interview. 6 During the meeting, the German Foreign Minister told Serrano that if French Morocco were to go to Spain, German bases in Mogador and Agadir should be established with the appropriate hinterland, and also in one of the Canary Islands 7 – later Ribbentrop also included in its request the Guinea League- 8 . As Ambassador Von Stohrer commented, “Spain can not expect us to give it a new colonial empire with our victories and get nothing in return.” 9 Thus, “Serrano Suñer expected to be treated as a valuable ally and instead was treated as a representative of a satellite state .” On the other hand, Ribbentrop hid to Serrano that the operation Sea Lion – the invasion of England – was going to be suspended. 10

The next day Serrano met with Hitler but did not get a firm commitment that Spanish claims on Africa would be met in exchange for Spain’s entry into the war. 11 12 On the other hand, the Spanish request for supplies (800 000 tonnes of wheat, 100 000 of cotton, 25 000 of rubber and 625 000 of fertilizers), which was not at all exaggerated, was not met either. 13

During the stay of Serrano Suñer in Berlin, the Tripartite Pact between Germany, Italy and Japan was signed on September 27 , and he attended as guest. 13Both Germans and Spaniards considered Serrano Suñer’s visit to be a relative failure. “The Germans thought he was asking too much; He, that Hitler offered too little. ” 14 Hitler met on 28 September with Count Ciano, who said that “it is impossible to advance with the Spaniards without very concrete and detailed agreements” and stressed the disproportion between what Franco asked and what he could offer, in addition to expressing his Doubts about whether he had “the same willpower to give as to receive.” He concluded that in these circumstances he opposed Spanish intervention in the war, “because it would cost more than it is worth”. This same he told Mussolini during the interview they held at the Brenner on October 4. The Duce agreed with him: “Spain asked for much and gave nothing.” As Paul Preston has pointed out, “if Hitler had really wished to incline Franco to his advantage, it would have been very easy for him to send supplies or to take a more generous attitude towards his imperial ambitions.” 15 Meanwhile General Franco was excited about the possibility of obtaining French Morocco to Spain, which according to Serrano Suner “had been his desire to always: the world that had formed as a great military leader” and this despite Of the worsening of the food crisis in Spain. 16

For their part the British were willing to make concessions to prevent Spain from entering the war. On 8 October, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated in the House of Commons that Britain wanted to “see Spain occupying the position to which she has a right as a great Mediterranean power and as a guide and member of the family of Europe and of Christianity” , And that he understood his need to remain neutral “in order to rebuild his national life with dignity, clemency and honor”. 17 The Spanish press controlled by Serrano mentioned the speech but omitted the references to Spain. 18

General Franco’s increasing alignment with the Axis became evident when, on 16 October, he appointed Serrano Suñer Minister of Foreign Affairs – instead of Colonel Juan Beigbeder , who had taken an increasingly pro-British position, which had bothered Hitler – and deposed the other Anglophile minister , Luis Alarcón de la Lastra , whose portfolio of Industry and Commerce was occupied by the Falangist businessman Demetrio Carceller Segura , who would develop the export program of raw materials to Germany. The cessation of Beigbeder aroused fears in Britain that entry into the Spanish war was near. For his part Mussolini wrote to Hitler that the change of government in Spain “allows us to make sure that the tendencies hostile to the Axis have been eliminated or at least neutralized.” 19 Four days later Himmler began his visit to Spain to oversee the security measures taken for the meeting between Franco and Hitler scheduled for 23 October. 17 Another objective of the trip was to strengthen cooperation between the Spanish police and the Gestapo , which was commissioned by the security attache of the German embassy and SS officer Paul Winzer . twenty

The interview

The expectations of Franco and Hitler

According to Paul Preston, Franco went to Hendaye “in the hope of obtaining an adequate reward for his repeated offers to join the Axis” trying to “take advantage of what he considered to be the decline of Anglo-French hegemony that had kept Spain in a subordinate position during More than two centuries. ” For his part “Hitler had no intention of demanding Franco that Spain would enter the war immediately” and was not willing to cede to Franco the French Morocco because he believed that the France of Vichy was better able than the Spain of Franco to defend it of A British attack. The day after his meeting with Franco in Hendaye he planned to meet Pétain at Montoire-sur-le-Loir . Actually, according to Preston, “Hendaye and Montoire were a reconnaissance trip to see if there was a way to make compatible the aspirations of Franco and Pétain and to help decide their future strategy in southwestern Europe. The Fuehrer was aware of the fact that his military advisers and diplomats believed that he should not incorporate Franco into the war. ” Two of them said to him: “The interior situation of Spain is so deteriorated that makes of her an unfriendly political companion. We have to achieve the essential objectives for us (Gibraltar) without their active participation “. twenty-one

Así pues, las posturas parecían irreconciliables, ya que para Hitler resultaba poco deseable estratégicamente enemistarse con Petain por el desmembramiento del imperio francés, y con Mussolini que podría ver, en una España excesivamente favorecida en las negociaciones, una competidora en sus propias ambiciones mediterráneas. Y por su parte la estrategia de Franco era obtener el máximo de concesiones a cambio del mínimo de implicación en la guerra.22 23

In the wagon of the Erika

At 15:20 hours, Hitler’s official “Erika” train arrived from Paris . Franco arrived eight minutes late from San Sebastián (where Franco had arrived by car from Madrid), and by the time he got out of the car, Hitler and Von Ribbentrop were waiting for him at the foot of the ladder. Franco wore military uniform with a cap, while Hitler wore the Party uniform with a hat cap. The Baron von Stohrer , ambassador to Spain the regime Nazi , made presentations and then, together, the two heads of state revistaron German troops of the ceremonial guard.

The interview was held in the car-lounge. At the time of its arrival, the Spanish ambassador in Berlin, Eugenio Espinosa de los Monteros , was informed that neither he nor Eberhard von Stohrer was going to participate in the meeting. Thus, the interview was attended only by Franco, Hitler, Von Ribbentrop, Ramón Serrano Suñer and, as interpreters, by German Gross and by Spanish Alvarez de Estrada , Baron de las Torres. 24 The official translator of Hitler, Paul-Otto Schmidt, was also not allowed in the car .

Adolf Hitler made a long digression on the New European Order in which Spain would have its place, although it was necessary that it participated actively in the victory of the Axis. When he finished, the generalissimo also made a long exhibition. He spoke of Morocco and supplies, asking whether Germany was in a position to ship 100,000 tonnes of wheat to Spain. 25 Hitler responded by explaining to Franco that his ambitions on Morocco were in conflict with Germany’s need to secure the cooperation of Vichy France, and Franco’s hopes of achieving “a great territorial conquest at virtually no cost” faded completely. twenty-one

According to some historians favorable to Franco, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris , behind Hitler’s back, had assured the Generalissimo that Germany would not win the war, and, on the other hand, Franco demanded of the Führer conditions almost impossible to fulfill, such as the delivery of the French Morocco This was in direct conflict with the interests of Vichy France , with which Hitler did not wish to become hostile, and also supplies of military material, especially air, which Hitler could not do without. Franco’s long list of claims made Hitler mention later to Mussolini that “rather than repeat the interview, I preferred to have three or four teeth removed.” 26

The interview ended at six-five. 27 As he walked her to the parlor car of the train Spanish, Franco said to Serrano Suner, “these guys want everything and give nothing” -for his part Hitler commented: “With these guys there is nothing to do . ” – 28 Serrano then returned to the German train to meet with Ribbentrop, who told him that “as far as Spain’s territorial demands were concerned, Hitler’s statements had been very vague and did not constitute a sufficient guarantee for us.” 29 According to the interpreter Ribbentrop, the “cursed the Serrano Jesuit and cowardly ingrate Franco, we owe everything and now will not join us , ” 30 and Hitler also railed against the “Jesuit pig” and “against pride “Which, according to Paul Preston, does not prove that” Hitler and Ribbentrop were red with rage because the deft rhetoric of Franco and his brother-in-law was containing the German force “but that” insults are more indicative of a Teutonic disdain By the egoist pretensions of the Caudillo and his cocky conviction to be on the same plane as the Führer . ” 31

The secret protocol

During the interview held by the foreign ministers agreed to develop a secret protocol. The Germans presented a draft, but Serrano Suñer and Franco between two and three in the morning elaborated a new proposal in the palace of Ayete de San Sebastián where they had returned after the interview. The text was taken to Hendaye by the Spanish ambassador in Germany, General Eugenio Espinosa de los Monteros , although the amendments introduced to the German text were not accepted by Ribbentrop, which Serrano concealed from Franco. The protocol committed Spain to join the Axis on a date decided by “common agreement of the three powers”, but once completed the military preparations, which in practice meant that Franco would be the one who would decide when to enter the war. For his part Hitler made a firm promise on Gibraltar but was very imprecise about the acceptance of the Spanish claims on North Africa. Three copies of the secret protocol arrived in Madrid on November 9 and were signed by Serrano Suñer, returning the German and Italian copies by special mail. Goebbels wrote in his diary: “The Führer does not have a good opinion of Spain and Franco. Much ado About Nothing. Nothing solid. In any case, they are not at all prepared for war. They are hidalgos of an empire that no longer exists. On the other hand, France is another matter. While Franco was very unsure of himself, Pétain seemed confident and serene. ” 32

The Spanish copy of the secret protocol was probably destroyed after 1945 , and the same was feared of the German one until the light came out in 1960 by the United States Department of State.

So the meeting was not an absolute failure and Hitler managed to leave Hendaye with a Spanish promise of entry into the war under his arm. 33 If Hitler had exerted a firm pressure on Spain, it is to be expected that sooner or later he would have gained his entry into the Axis-side war. But, overburdened by more urgent matters, he changed his plans, 34 further considering that the Mediterranean basin was not an area of ​​great expansionist interest on the part of the Third Reich, and Hitler needed to avoid fighting between Vichy France and fascist Italy in the north from Africa. Very different was the scenario in Eastern Europe, where Germany already had allies ( Hungary , Romania , Slovakia ) who would be forced to collaborate with the Third Reich in case of extending the war to the Balkans or to the USSR , pressure of which Spain was exempt thanks to its geographic remoteness.

Direct consequences

In any case Hitler and Franco did not reach an express agreement, reason why Spain did not officially enter in this war. The most direct movement to support the Axis occurred in June 1941 , when Serrano Suñer, faced with internal pressure by pro-Nazi sectors, promoted the deployment of a division of Spanish volunteers in support of Germany in the invasion of the Soviet Union . 35 The willfulness of these soldiers has been questioned. Probably the majority came inflamed by pro-Franco ideals and anti-Soviet ideas, although some professional soldiers came with them (and even when a volunteer officer came in he used to drag his whole unit with him). Armaments and uniforms were supplied in their entirety by Germany. It was known as the Blue Division and operated mainly on the central front and in the Leningrad .

Also, there was an extensive tolerance, even collaboration, before the action of the agents of the Axis, mainly German, in Spain. This collaboration allowed the British to carry out Operation Mincemeat , known for the novel and film Man that never existed to be able to make the landing of Sicily with little German opposition.

The manipulation of the photographs of the encounter

In October 2006, the negatives of the photographs taken by the Efe agency were examined in this interview, which are kept in the archives of this news agency. These examinations have shown that at least three of the published photographs of the meeting in the press of that time were retouched and altered: 36 37

  • Se cambió el rostro de Franco (que en los negativos aparece con los ojos cerrados) por el que aparece en otra fotografía tomada en otra ocasión, donde figura con los ojos abiertos.
  • The Cross of the German Eagle was stripped that looked Franco and put in its place the Spanish Military Medal .
  • The figures of Hitler and Franco were cut and pasted on another one of the platform of the station of Hendaya so that (unlike in the negative) the difference of stature between both was not emphasized.