Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Hitler-Franco Meeting at Hendaye (23 October 1940)

The only meeting between German dictator Adolf Hitler and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The discussions took place on 23 October 1940 at Hendaye, a small French town on the Atlantic coast next to the border with Spain. The meeting occurred at Hitler's instigation following Germany's July defeat of France but with Britain stubbornly holding out against German air attacks. It resulted from a proposal put forward to Hitler by German navy commander Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and others for a Mediterranean option. Correctly predicting that British and U.S. forces would land in northwest Africa, Raeder proposed that Germany and Spain seize Gibraltar and close the western entrance to the Mediterranean. With the assistance of Vichy France and Italy, Germany could then seize British interests in eastern Mediterranean, cut the British lifeline to India through the Suez Canal, and gain control of the Persian oil fields. According to Raeder, at least, Hitler agreed but said that he would have to meet first with Franco, Vichy leader Henri Philippe Pétain, and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Toward that end, Hitler sought to enlist the assistance of Vichy France, Spain, and Italy. Hitler was to meet with Franco on 23 October and with Pétain the next day. Hitler had high hopes for the meeting, especially as the Germans had provided critical military assistance to Franco during the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War in the form of the Kondor Legion. This German air support had made the Nationalist victory possible. On the German defeat of France, Franco had assured Hitler that Spain would enter the war in return for much of the French African empire, including Morocco and western Algeria, as well as substantial supplies of food, arms, and gasoline.

Hitler arrived at Hendaye in his special train, and the meeting between the two leaders on 23 October took place over some nine hours. Hitler opened it with a monologue trumpeting Germany's successes in the war and claiming that Britain was "decisively beaten." The Führer explained that securing the support of Vichy France on the Axis side would ensure a quick, decisive campaign and France would thus have to receive territorial compensation. He was quite vague over Franco's demands for French Morocco, and Franco was infuriated by this attitude. Hitler wanted Spain to entered the war in January 1940 with an attack to take Gibraltar, promising to send German special forces to assist Spanish forces.

Franco responded with his own monologue, emphasizing the historical Spanish presence in Morocco. He rejected any German assistance in the taking of Gibraltar, which he said Spain could accomplish alone. Franco also cited a long list of aid requirements that would have to be met before Spain could consider joining the war. What particularly irritated Hitler was the Caudillo's assertion that even if Germany occupied England, the British fleet could continue the war from America and Canada. Such impertinence upset Hitler so much that the meeting almost ended at that point. However, following a break for dinner in Hitler's special dining car, discussions continued well into the night.

Hitler left the meeting frustrated and without a definite commitment from Franco to enter the war. He later told Mussolini that he would rather have several teeth pulled than endure another meeting with Franco. Hitler's conversations with Pétain the next day went better. The French leader agreed to go to war against Britain in return for a place in the "New Europe" to which France was "entitled." Hitler used the excuse of the failure of the meeting with Franco to push his own plans for an invasion of the Soviet Union.

Gene Mueller and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Beaulac, Willard L. Franco: Silent Ally in World War II. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.; Bowen, Wayne H. Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the New Order. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000.; Burdick, Charles B. Germany's Military Strategy and Spain in World War II. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1968.; Fischer, Klaus P. Nazi Germany: A New History. New York: Continuum, 1997.; Preston, Paul. Franco, A Biography. New York: Basic Books, 1994.
 

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