The Spanish Civil War has left scars until the present, splitting families and ideological movements from the extreme right to the far left.
Hitler and Mussolini’s troops and supply of arms brought Franco to power as a prelude to World War Two.
Though the Fascist government had declared neutrality, it continued military cooperation with Nazi Germany. Approximately 47,000 Spanish volunteers, raised mostly from Francoist Falangists fought, mainly, on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, first as the Blue Division/Legion and then in the Waffen SS.
The Allies warned Franco that the Blue Legion was a breach of Spanish neutrality, especially following its role in the battle, of Krasny Bor on 13 February 1943, some 12 miles south-east from Leningrad (St.Petersburg).
This year, on Saturday 13 February — the 78th anniversary — some 300 marched through Madrid to La Almudena cemetery, rendering homage to the División Azul (Blue Division), convoked by the neo-Nazi groups: Juventud Patriota (Patriotic Youth), España 2000 and La Falange.
Carrying banners to the “Honour and Glory of the Fallen,” arms extended in the Hitler salute, they sang Fascist songs. A speaker stated: “It is our duty to fight for Spain and fight for Europe, now weak and liquidated by the enemy. Our enemy will always be the same, even in different masks… The Jew is guilty and the Blue Division fought for that reason.”
Wreaths designed in Nazi swastikas were laid on the monument.
The Wiesenthal Centre has, for over thirty years, following the Nazi escape ratline from Spain to Latin America, uncovering Nazis residing along the Costa Blanca, present in trials of Spanish-based neo-Nazi publishers and in auctions of Nazi memorabilia.
What is most troubling in the “Blue Division” march, is the overwhelming participation of youth. There is clearly an educational breakdown that requires a curriculum on the dangers of neo-Fascism in Spain and the accompanying incitement to antisemitic hate and violence that cannot be confused with freedom of expression.
Sadly, Franco’s Fascism/Neo-Nazism still dies hard in contemporary Spain.