Of those who did not return to Spain, tens of thousands managed to emigrate to Latin America, along with smaller numbers to the Soviet Union, the USA, Belgium, and other European countries. When it seemed the Nazis would invade, the French Government gave them the chance to join the French Foreign Legion. 60,000 others were conscripted to work in labour batallions. When Germany did invade almost 10,000 Spanish Republicans were captured by the Nazis and sent to SS camps.
Many of those who remained formed the backbone of the French Resistance in parts of southern France. Those who joined the Free French Forces fought in North Africa and then ended up in the UK from where they were transported to France after the initial Normandy landings. The first Allied unit to enter and liberate Paris was made up mainly of Spanish Republicans – De Gaulle was desperate to take the city before the Americans did, and sent in his best troops, the Spanish – a motley, heroic crew of anarchists, communists and Republicans – who’d already been fighting for eight years. Dietrich von Choltitz, the German Governor, was forced to surrender to a lowly Republican soldier. A few days later they marched in the victory parade, before taking part in the final invasion of Germany. Then, they were forgotten. Despite the hopes and expectations of the Spanish volunteers and the Spanish population in general, there was no Allied invasion of Spain. It was not until August 2012 that the French Government allowed the last of the Spanish Republicans to march with their flag in the 68th anniversary of the victory. It was a debt to history.
- AUDIO Spaniards in the Second World War. [Listen to this BBC Radio 4 documentary on the role of the Spanish maquis in the French Resistance beginning with memories of the camps in France. Here]
- Museum of Exile: Well worth a visit. Just north of Figueres (Dalí). on the same border crossing where hundreds of thousands of defeated soldiers, women and children fled into an uncertain future. http://www.museuexili.cat/
- Book. The routes to exile: France and the Spanish Civil War refugees, 1939-2009 (2017) By Scott Soo.
- Book. Love And War In The Pyrenees by Rosemary Bailey. A moving, highly recommended blend of travelogue, history and personal account. Beautifully written.
- Excellent blog piece in English about visit to Argeles concentration camp and translation of Pau Casals’ moving letter describing conditions there in 1939.Ebook. LA NUEVE 24 August, 1944: The Spaniards Who Liberated Paris by Evelyn Mesquida Also good on the exile.
Exile and camps in France
- Spanish Republicans in the Second World War
- La Nueve: Los olvidados de la victoria (TVE) – about Spanish Republicans’ remarkable role in the liberation of Pari