Republicans in World War Two


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.


Exile and camps in France