The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

1983, History  -   53 Comments
Ratings: 7.71/10 from 118 users.

The Spanish Civil WarThe Spanish Civil War was a major conflict that devastated Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939. It began after an attempted coup d'état by a group of Spanish Army generals against the government of the Second Spanish Republic, then under the leadership of president Manuel Azaña.

The nationalist coup was supported by the conservative Spanish Confederation of the Autonomous Right (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or C.E.D.A), monarchists known as Carlist groups, and the Fascist Falange (Falange Española de las J.O.N.S.).

Following the military coup, working-class revolutions spread across the country in support of the Republican government, but were all brutally put down by the army. The war ended with the victory of the nationalist forces, the overthrow of the Republican government, and the founding of Authoritarian State led by General Francisco Franco. In the aftermath of the civil war, all right-wing parties were fused into the state party of the Franco regime.

The Nationalists (nacionales), received the support of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, as well as neighboring Portugal. The Soviet Union intervened on the Republican side, although it encouraged factional conflict to the benefit of the Soviet foreign policy, and its actions may have been detrimental to the Republican war effort as a whole.

The United States government offered no official support for the Republican side, although over two thousand Americans volunteered on the Republican side. American corporations such as Texaco, General Motors, Ford Motors, and The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company greatly assisted the Nationalist army with their constant supply of trucks, tires, machine tools, and fuel.

Episodes included: 1. Prelude to Tragedy, 2. Revolution, Counter-Revolution and Terror, 3. Idealists, 4. Franco and the Nationalists, 5. Inside the Revolution, and 6. Victory and Defeat.

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53 Comments / User Reviews

  1. José Lucas

    Being 69 years old and a keynesian economist and a historian I still do not know how so many people as a wrong interpretation about History.
    In first place we must know and understand the context of the war. That was a time when the fascism ruled in Europe and why. Le's begin for the Great Depression which came from USA. Who suffered the most: Germany, because they were paying the war indemnities and have an occupation of their most significant industries manly in the Rhur. Germany have an unemployment of almost 12.000.000 people and have no foreign currency. Italy found that the hour og being a "super power" finally arrived and begin a war in Libya. In Portugal we began a 50 years fascism dictatorship and about Spain ? What were the causes. Tell me ! Of course you don't know, but I enlighten you.
    Spain have lost all its colonies and war with Cuba against the Rough Riders of Roosevelt. In Morocco lost the terrible battle of Annual against the Riff. The Spanish Army war a barefoot army and was composed of on officer for each 11 soldiers. That´s why the obsession with the unification of Spain. For those who do not know Spain is not an didentified country it has several regions each one with its own language and laws.
    Another power in Spain that does not want to loose its power was the Catholic Church. They were charged of education and with its wealth was not a religion but a political power. In the middle of this the peasants have no permanent job and they live with less than a quarter of dollar daily. Most of them before the Civil War never had taste meat, only vegetables and beans when they are working. The hungry was the weapon the big agrarians. After all Spain was an agricultural society which never consent an industrial development nor the rise up of industrial bourgeoisie.
    After the elections of 1936 this change dramatically and the reaction took place. Why you say that this was built buy left wing ? Did you ever visit the Fallen Valley in the outskirts of Madrid? When you enter in the main basilica you see two tombs: Jose António and Francisco Franco ( for God Sake no more). If you lok at the right you'll see a door with the inscription 1936-1939. You won't find a single sign o reconciliation
    You talk to me of atrocities from both sides, yes it's true but once in Republican side it was spontaneous due decades of injustice and hungry in the side of Nationalists it was programmed. Look at Badajoz, look at Asturias, look at Catalonia, the massacres.
    But we most consider the attitude of Europe with the Non-Intervention Pact which was the worst political fraud of every time. Nobody wants the communists (I'm not one of then), they do not want to tease Hitler and we saw the resu. First Austria, then, Czechoslovakia, finally Poland before advancing to West.
    For God sake, not the left wing, or you also deny the camps. Are not the documentaries enough proof. If not I advise you to loose some hours reading instead of being glued to that intrusive bauble called smartphone. Maybe with what is running now in the world you can learn a little bit. Remember: that one who does not know the past never understand the present and is unable to perspective the future.

  2. William K McIntosh

    Fascist drivel. If you have a taste for revisionist history, from the Military Coup. watch this garbage.

    1. benjaminmarkus

      i kinda have the same feeling. you know a better documentary on the matter to watch?

    2. José Lucas

      My Dear friend
      Of I my call you so. Fascism is out o fashion. If you skeletons in the closet please burn it otherwise you are a serious case of mental illness, Di you took your medication foday ?
      Yours truly
      José Lucas

  3. Bisto

    Really enjoyed it... the bit about the communists / anarchists having a comittee meeting to vote on battle orders whilst in the field is pure class and reminds me of trade union power in the uk in 70s

  4. Richard

    Clayton Elmy - 05/04/2013 at 08:47
    The fascists have been out of power for almost 50 years and since then history has been rewritten by the left. This BBC documentary (produced decades after Franco left power) is evidence of that. You are correct that the winner writes history, and in the long run the left has won.

    There are some old right-biased documentaries about Franco but they are all in Spanish and I can't find any subtitled versions.
    _ _ _ _

    This documentary wasn't produced by the BBC. It was produced by Granada, a commercial broadcaster in the UK or, at least, acquired by them for broadcast in the UK. This documentary was produced and broadcast less than ten years after Franco died.

    If you seriously think that the left "won" in the decades after the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), you really, really don't have much idea about the history of Spain during the civil war or in the post-civil war era. I would, for most people, the fact that a right-wing, totalitarian state endured in Spain until the mid-70s is a fair indicator of the fact that the left didn't win. Perhaps, over time, democracy in Spain has won, but that is not the same as saying the political left "won" the civil war. To suggest that is utter nonsense.

    1. rsc

      Well, well, well... if you won't admit that nowadays and for several decades almost all of TV "history" is strongly biased to the left, then you're probably not being very honest...

    2. Frank Love

      "The Left won"! You're having a laugh. 40 years of neo-liberalism and the rich have got hugely richer while social safety nets are patched together so poorly many slip through. This kind of thinking is so ahistorical and tedious.


      the 'left' hasn't won but most people today reject fascism, at least--tho not about 2/3rds of those interviewed in the series.

  5. Josh

    I'd like to add 2 non political statements:

    - Read Hugh Thomas's "The Spanish Civil War" for the finest account of the history of that period. The war was a complex event and should be looked at from more than one source such as this documentary film.

    - The War gave the Nazis a training ground for men and equipment. It was a prelude to
    WW 2 and a preview of use of airpower on a massive scale.

  6. mschmidt

    In most accounts I've read, the military aid provided to the Nationalists by Germany and Italy is mentioned. Guns, tanks and planes supplied to the Republicans by the Soviet Union are either not mentioned or are treated as insignificant. In fact the quantities supplied to the Republicans were greater than those provided to the Nationalists.

    While the German planes after 1938 were generally superior to the Soviet aircraft, the Soviet planes were better than the Italian and early war German models. The Soviet tanks were both far superior in quality and far more numerous than the German and Italian models.

    The difference wasn't in materiel, it was in personnel. The Nationalist armies throughout the war relied on volunteers, the Republicans relied on conscription. This lead the Republican side to depend more and more on the International Brigades as their own troops proved unwilling to fight.
    Unfortunately most people form their opinions based on non-objective accounts by writers such as Hemingway and Orwell. From a historical perspective their writing is basically just pro Republican Propaganda.

    This isn't meant as justification of Nationalist policies. In a conflict between Fascists and Communists there aren't any "good" guys. I'm just trying to show that the version of the republicans as "heroic defenders of the people" is pure propaganda. A soviet controlled Spain would have been far more brutal than Franco's regime.

    In the end the majority of Spaniards supported the Nationalists and gave them the victory.

  7. Julie

    As I am currently reading Jose Maria Gironella's trilogy of this war, I am fascinated to see his work unfolding in film. It is like having a movie documentary of the novel War and Peace. Bias is inevitable, which is why many narratives from all the standpoints are so necessary. Each has his ideal, his opinion, his own story. This particular war is a microcosm of all the world's political and religious conflicts, and is worth studying in detail. What group would I have been in? Who did the most good, the most harm? Hats off to those who stayed home and prayed.

  8. Adam

    The translater missed some bits out in some of the conversations, so this translator wasn't all true

  9. Timothy Hooker

    What incredible history....Many parallel's to our Country

    1. Fraser Allan

      What country is that?

  10. ViolenceGainstWhites

    This is heavily biased in favour of the Leftists. Maybe I missed it, but the documentary is packed full of interviews with the Left-wing fighters, and not one interview with a Right-wing fighter. So we are only hearing one side of the story.

    1. Tiago Tomé

      because the fascists won the war and their story is already known.. Winner wright history.

    2. Clayton Elmy

      The fascists have been out of power for almost 50 years and since then history has been rewritten by the left. This BBC documentary (produced decades after Franco left power) is evidence of that. You are correct that the winner writes history, and in the long run the left has won.

      There are some old right-biased documentaries about Franco but they are all in Spanish and I can't find any subtitled versions.

    3. Hanna Moy

      Lol good luck finding pro-fascist, pro-dictatorship histories of Europe. Maybe look on Stormfront if you need to feel comforted by some neo-nazi outlooks on life

    4. Cledun

      Whine all you want, anti-Semitism and Nationalism are on the rise, Hitler is praised openly more and more every day, and the Holocaust myth is falling apart at the seams.

      I've never been on Stormfront. The fact is that we are not on Stormfront. We are everywhere. We are police officers and university professors as well as laborers and students. Your world is over, and ours is just beginning.

      Whine about it all you want. Maybe all the Jews running away with their payot between their legs will let you come to Israel with them.

      ;) Hail Hitler, Hail Victory!

    5. Simon Rolleston

      Feel lucky to hear from any survivors;Franco pursued these 'lefties' for decades after 1939.

    6. Oliver Whocares

      There are several people from the right wing in this documentary. Especially at the end of part 3 and the first half of part 4.
      So you probably missed it.

    7. Casaubon99

      You totally missed it. There are plenty of interviews from the right. Part one alone includes interviews with (1) Pilar Primero de Rivera (14m20s) who led the women's fascist section in Spain, was the sister of fascist party founder José Antonio Primero de Rivera, and was suggested as a marriage match for none other than Adolf Hitler; as well as (2) Manuel Diaz Alegria (19m10s) a fascist army soldier. I guess you weren't watching closely. We hear the story told from several sides.

    8. Jacob Morin

      I was watching it today and yesterday, and still am watching. Though I couldn’t give you an exact time stamp or what episode, I explicitly remember multiple interviews with right-wing fighters. At least two. While it’s true there are more interviews on individuals on the left, your claim there are none of right fighters is incorrect.

  11. Billy Mac Mathúna

    Moving. The whole thing felt to be, in part, foreshadowing to the horrors Franco would bring about under his rule. Still, the international solidarity by the world's workers is more meaningful than any by its government, and though the Republic was doomed, it stood as a symbol for the fight against fascism. A cause that continued beyond this war.

  12. Greg

    If it makes nichole kidman take her clothes off,,,well nuff said

  13. Misha Herzberg

    British work... It's funny how they avoid to talk about their strategy of non-interference. Because of that Spanish Republica was defeated, and then World War II and Holocaust happened. Anyway, the documentary is very good and detailed. But you should watch it with your own thinking, don't believe every word.

    1. rubicx

      Their strategy of non-interference was not avoided. Were you paying attention? The "republic" was defeated because it had evolved to be led by communists/anarchists/working class vs. the Nationalists who were led by conservatives/peasants/church/monarchists. The latter group was far more reflective of Iberian values than the former group.

    2. Misha Herzberg

      The reason was not in Iberian values, but in guns and tanks and bombers. Which were supplied to the fascist side in larger numbers. Hemingway wrote: every time they came, they came stronger. Values and ideas can do nothing against weapons.

    3. rubicx

      The reasons were many, but you are right, guns, bullets, tanks, supplies, bombers, etc., were supplied to the Republicans by the French and the Soviet Union just like they were supplied to Nationalists by the Germans, Italians and probably the British and Americans too. However, supplies got to well-disciplined soliders fighting for the Nationalists as opposed to undisciplined militias fighting for the Republicans. That was the key. Not the supplies but the hands that they were placed in. In the long run, the Republicans did not stand a chance. They were disorganized, uncentralized, undisciplined. Guns, tanks and bombers from outside are just an excuse for their own failures. Moreover, Madrid, Barcelona and Navarre and Aragon could not change the rest of Spain because the rest of Spain did not want change.

    4. Misha Herzberg

      The most remarkable thing i've learned from this documentary is the great efficiency and potential of self-managing workers and militia soldiers in that "anarchy experiment". Did you hear that anarchist granny saying "at the moment we were centralized we lost the war". Concerning supplies - French supplies were weak, Russian were taken back, British did not appear at all, and Americans supported Franco on the sly. On the other hand, Axis forces were much more stronger and rapidly growing. And there was no attempt to stop it by the League of Nations which had rights and forces to do that.

    5. rubicx

      Never rely on an opinion of a Catalan granny whose only interest is home-rule for Catalans separate from the interest of all of Spain to explain the why and how of losing a war. Spain's history has always been one of balancing centralized rule with regional autonomy. Franco represented the vision of one Spain, the Repubicans represented the visions of many Spains.

      The League of Nations was a mirage, a fantasy, with no enforcement power and no support from the US. Don't go down that road. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the Spanish Civil War.

    6. What

      That's so very wrong. The French supplied very little weapons to the Republicans for fear of alienating their western Allies and in fact their border was closed multiple times throughout the war. The Soviets were the only consistent supply of materiel aid and they could never dream of matching Fascist contributions to the Nationalists by Italy and Germany. There's plenty of sources to support this, read up. Perhaps the Republicans still would have lost but the war would have been far different, perhaps far longer if non-intervention wasn't such a farce.

  14. sophiaurdiales

    Like many people of Spain....I had family who fought on both sides. Many changed and supported the Nationalist after some of the atrocities by the left. My grandmother was married to the Chief of Police in Madrid during the soviet or communist occupation. My father told me of the Soviet flag flying over Madrid. He actually lived in ....for a short period of time.... in some of the more upscale homes that were taken from the Noble families and given to the people. My Grandfather(who died early in a skirmish in Northern Spain) was good friend of Franco's brother...Nicolas.
    I have read so much misinformation on the war. It amazes me of all the political rhetoric founded on false or manipulated facts of that time.

  15. 1963_4

    did any of you know men who fought in spain? I did all communists--Soviet destabilazation--utter nonsense Paul Robeson sang for the republic I was told all fighting ceased --were any of you ever stopped by the guardia and secret police I was so don't give me anti-soviet crap--the veterans kept their weapons when they could all with the hammer and sickle --- do you think these men fought so russian could be spoken inn spain--personally I would not mind!! you want villains look to England!! I am tired of the idiotic argument--if the soviets did something it was bad if they did not do anything it was bad--in fact Graham Greene wished to aid the republic but as a catholic was repelled by anarchist outrages --he nevertheless tried to get to the asturian miners and btw observed that there were catholics in the hierarchy that supported the republic--but history will always be conservative or liberal mythology

    1. David Dieni

      I live Australia, and I am afraid pro right and anti left stupidity and ignorance is pervasive in the west and it is just vile. These people are clearly cowards and support the right because it makes no demands on them to do anything other than to shoot their mouths off and display just how frightfully stupid and cowardly they. They don't have learn anything or stand for anything, and that is the big attraction.

  16. sirio.bobo

    Sorry FierceNormy but there are some facts you are overlooking.

    1. Loser has one 'o' in it.
    2. The republicans DID manage to stop the army from pulling a coup-de-etat, so although they may not "have got their act together" they were successful in holding out against the military machine, which isn't bad really.
    3. The republicans were unable to buy hardware from the West, which left them prone to Russian political de-stabilisation.
    4. The start of WWII followed the end of the Spanish civil war in which the victors were Fascists supported by the Axis powers (Germany provided hardware and Italy sent soldiers).
    5. There is no (restored) republic in Spain (it's a constitutional monarchy) and Franco did all he could to make sure his regime would be followed by an absolute monarchy.
    6. Franco allowed the Jews to escape through Spain, he did not provide refuge.

    So what's the difference between an opinion and a fact? Nothing to do with the number of people who utter it at a given moment in time, right?

    1. Simon Rolleston

      Your last comment is perhaps the best one I have read on the Spanish Civil War.What still astounds me is the depth of social and democratic commitment among a largely illiterate population.Ideals survive long after the pain and horrors subside.

    2. Bolan

      I agree with your summation of Sirio.bebo's post Simon. Only a person well grounded in the political aspects of the Spanish Civil War could have appreciated some of the lesser know facts poster Sirio
      has articulated.
      Tell me,is this your considered opinion,or was there some input from your faculty head Dr Tommo?

  17. FierceNormy

    I was motivated to watch this series because my wife and I read For Whom the Bell Tolls and are currently watching the movie. I always believed the Republcans were the good guys, but now I'm not so sure. In any case the Republican side were obviously loosers from the start thanks to its idelogues who couldn't get their act together. And in many ways Franco was good for the west: He kept Spain out of WWII and eventually was instrumental in the restoration of a republic in Spain which seems a lot more viable and rational than the one that was developing in the thirties. In addition, he provided a refuge for Europe's Jews. So, with the benefit of hind sight, I think Robert Jordan (the main character in Hemingway's book) should have minded his own business. That's the problem with being an activist. What seems so clear now becomes less so with time. The best thing to do is remember the difference between an opinion and a fact and think twice about jumping into somebody else's war.

    1. sirio.bobo

      Sorry FierceNormy but there are some facts you are overlooking.

      1. Loser has one 'o' in it.
      2. The republicans DID manage to stop the army from pulling a coup-de-etat, so although they may not "have got their act together" they were successful in holding out against the military machine, which isn't bad really.
      3. The republicans were unable to buy hardware from the West, which left them prone to Russian political de-stabilisation.
      4. The start of WWII followed the end of the Spanish civil war in which the victors were Fascists supported by the Axis powers (Germany provided hardware and Italy sent soldiers).
      5. There is no (restored) republic in Spain (it's a constitutional monarchy) and Franco did all he could to make sure his regime would be followed by an absolute monarchy.
      6. Franco allowed the Jews to escape through Spain, he did not provide refuge.

      So what's the difference between an opinion and a fact? Nothing to do with the number of people who utter it at a given moment in time, right?

    2. FierceNormy

      Oh you meany! I didn't say that Franco was good, but I noticed, as the documentary pointed out, that a lot of outrages occurred at the hands of the republicans and that middle of the roaders or just plain liberals, like me, were pushed aside in that movement. If you supported the Republicans, what would you have gotten, perhaps a Stalin type dictatorship? Then who would have been murdered. As for number they, or do they not vote for their representatives. I think the answer is yes. They certainly voted against the side that supported the US in Iraq. As for number six, I think you are wrong and that he instituted a policy of "right of return" but I won't press the point because I don't have time to look it up. I will say that even allowing through passage would have been a help and at least temporary refuge. Thanks for helping me with my facts. We can't all be experts in everything and that is why we have an open forum. As for my spelling of "lose", what a low blow!

      After I wrote the above, I did a search on the internet. I recommend that other readers do the same. It appears to me that I was right and Franco did provide the Jews refuge although one article says he sent the Nazis a list of Jews in Spain. Sending a list is not the same as turning them over. Don't get me wrong, I think Franko was ruthless and did bad things and I am for democracy, but nobody is 100 percent bad, and even bad people do good things. Who was good and who was bad was murky at best in the Spanish Civil war so joining the republican side MAY not have been such a hot idea.


    fantastic series, the spanish civil war is a moment in history which is forgotten too often, i highly recommend this to anybody who is interested in learning more about this period of hisyory

  19. Toby

    This documentary was really good. no big special fx. no big deal. no filler drama, like in the more modern docs (discovery channel, nat geo channel). just nice flowing narration, plenty great archive foto and lots of info.

    This is a great one.

  20. Druidia

    Manuel -
    The situation you describe is similar to what occurs in the USA, for example with Vietnam. If there are still people living who experienced the war, the history textbooks will not describe it much in depth, or go into the controversies about it (and there are always controversies). So the young students are given a short "sanitized" version of events. This will likely be the case until all the people who experienced the war are dead. Just now, they are beginning to dig up the bodies from Franco's mass graves.

  21. Manuel

    Thanks to Top Documentary Films for making possible to watch this documentary. I think it provides the most objective approach to such a complicated tragedy as it was this war.
    For us, Spaniards, the Civil War is still very painful. Maybe for this, most people have not a full view of what happened and get the version that best matches our ideas or our family history. At schools (at least when I studied; I'm in the 40's) teachers pass by through the Civil War as fast as possible, so the generations after the war do not really know what happened.

    This documentary is an unvaluable report, very well structured and balanced. Great idea to get so mant testimonies of "normal" people from both sides.


  22. Jota

    5 stars doc. An indispensable "tool" to understand some aspects of the pre-Second World War era.

  23. Frank

    If this documentary does not move you, you've got a heart of stone.

  24. lena

    Hey thanx for posting this having seen this i understand the horrors my family went trough during the war and why my grandmother at 91 still refuses to tell me about it. And how 1 of my uncles ended up at the russian front during the second worldwar.

    Thank you so much

  25. Michael S. Smith

    I've watched the first two clips and only wish I had more time at the moment to keep going. The details regarding the opposing sides and their movements, both political and military, are very helpful. But best of all is in fact the age of the film which allows for first-hand interviews with survivors and participants. A must watch for the buff of European history.

  26. Lucy

    This was really a wonderful documentary, I'd been looking for one on the Spanish Civil war for a time! I love that survivors from both sides were interviewed. The personalities made this very interesting.

  27. Epicurean_Logic

    Really interesting and well made doc, just really long. I made it to part 3 and i will watch the rest when i am bored. What fantastic people the Spanish are. My favourite was the anarchist granny.

    Lots of archive footage and impartial information.

  28. Druidia

    Although somewhat dated, this appears to be the most comprehensive doc on the subject. Strangely there are no others in its class, despite the very pivotal role this war played in 20th century history. The major political players during that period had significant roles in Spain during the 30s, and they came to loggerheads during the civil war. I currently reside in Spain and there is still much collective denial of the events of the war; it is still pervasive and painful. There is still opposition to digging up the mass graves and recognizing the sins of of over 70 years ago. I learned much from this doc but it needs an updated treatment.