Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain
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Review by Peter Winn
The Spanish Civil War still resonates as one of the signature tragedies of a century filled with tragedy, a conflict in which the Fascist dark side triumphed over the epic Republican resistance of both Spaniards and foreign volunteers. That this “civil” war was also an international struggle in which German Nazis, Italian Fascists and Russian Communists tested on Spanish battlefields weapons and tactics that they would use elsewhere in World War II is now conventional wisdom. Less well known is the Fascist terror loosed on the civilian populations that Franco’s forces conquered and ruled, a state terror that also would prove prophetic of World War II—and indeed the rest of the century!—when terrorizing occupied civilian populations would become both a weapon and an end in itself.
It is this calculated Fascist terror and the more spontaneous Republican counter-violence against “the enemy within”—with which Republican loyalists responded to the Fascist threat and killings—that forms the subject of Paul Preston’s new book. A major pioneering study of political violence before, during and after the civil war by the prize-winning author of Franco and The Spanish Civil War, it goes beyond his previous accounts to tell the story of the political violence against civilians—from judicial murders and extra-judicial executions to torture and the abuse of women and children.
The Spanish Holocaust is organized chronologically and geographically. It begins with the “social war” that preceded the fighting and then follows the lines of battle and the advance of Fascist terror with Franco’s armies and key protagonists like Marquis Quiepo de Llano and General Emilio Mola. Preston’s subtitle, “Inquisition and Extermination,” signals his central argument: like the Spanish Inquisition, Franco’s terror was a cold and calculating state policy to eliminate “those who do not think as we do”—in Mola’s words. This ideological inquisition took hundreds of thousands of lives and ruined the lives of millions more. To these totals, the more reactive and popular Republican violence added another 50,000 deaths. Franco’s “investment in terror,” moreover, continued after the battles ended. His postwar policy sought not reconciliation but revenge, consolidating his rule through trials, executions, slave labor and imprisonment in jails and concentration camps.
The murder and persecution of civilians by Franco’s armies and regime was so massive and so informed by Fascist eugenics that it justifies Preston’s dramatic title—The Spanish Holocaust. The wounds went so deep and the scars were so widespread that it took Spain nearly three quarters of a century to confront its traumatic past in both history and memory through legislation and research.
Paul Preston draws on that new research and on recently revealed documentation for a cutting-edge history that is both analytically powerful and emotionally gripping. Solidly researched and lucidly written, The Spanish Holocaust is a pathbreaking and important book by our premier historian of 20th-century Spain and its tragic civil war.
Hardcover Book : 736 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. ( April 16, 2012 )
Item #: 13-555505
Product Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 x 1.8inches
Product Weight: 33.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)