The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

1983, History  -    -  Playlist 53 Comments
Ratings: 7.75/10 from 122 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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José Lucas
3 years ago

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.

William K McIntosh
4 years ago

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

4 years ago

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 years ago

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.

5 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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 years ago

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

10 years ago

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

10 years ago

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.

Billy Mac Mathúna
11 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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

11 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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

11 years ago

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?

11 years ago

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.

12 years ago

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

12 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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.


13 years ago

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

13 years ago

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

13 years ago

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

Michael S. Smith
13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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.

13 years ago

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.