A Meeting Between Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco to Decide the Future of Spain
In an often overlooked part of World War Two, Hitler was beginning to tighten his stranglehold over Western Europe. Having secured the enthusiastic approval of Benito Mussolini and was well on the way to signing an armistice with Phillipe Petain’s Vichy France, the only problem he had left to deal with was the enigmatic Caudillo of Spain, Francisco Franco. Knowing that he would have to meet with Franco to make military progress, the Furher travelled with a large ensemble to the Spanish border in order to discuss a potential plan for Spain to join the War on the side of the Axis. The following passage, taken from the book Ian Fleming and Operation Golden Eye, details what happened:
There are conflicting reports about who arrived first at Hendaye. The German diplomat Hans Stille, who was Von Stohrer’s representative, says Franco’s train was on time. Hitler was on edge and ready to overwhelm the diminutive Franco like a cat playing with a mouse, ready to intimidate him with his non-stop language as he had done to so many others. However he was to get more than he bargained for with the unflappable, dignified and affable approach of Franco. For the Caudillo was no political fanatic like the Fuhrer or the Duce. His main concern was Spain.
They started by both expressing their delight at the meeting. Franco expressed Spain’s thanks for the help Germany had given during the Civil War, and that the two countries were welded together spiritually. He then went on to explain the difficulties that Spain faced which ‘were well known to the Fuhrer’. He mentioned his concerns about feeding his people and that Great Britain controlled their essential supplies from the United States and Argentina which would soon be ‘intensified by the bad harvests’. Then Hitler spoke going over what had happened in the war and in particular the hopelessness of the British position. It dragged on for three hours. Paul Schmidt the interpreter described the talks as a ‘fiasco’. Even Hitler’s trump card of Germany delivering Gibraltar to Spain produced no effect on Franco: ‘I really could not tell from his face whether he found the idea a complete surprise or weather he was just considering his reply.’
After lunch in Hitler’s restaurant car Franco disappeared for an hour. Hitler was left fuming when Franco explained on his return that he had just had his hour’s siesta. The meeting resumed and went on into the evening. Franco talked a lot, explaining the history of Spain in Morocco, about his own personal military experiences, all of which ‘bored Hitler to tears’. He would relate this to Mussolini: ‘rather than go through that again’ he would prefer ‘to have three or four teeth taken out’.
Again Franco returned to Spain’s needs, but Hitler this time refused to discuss that and dismissed it. The Canary Islands were not mentioned during the meeting. Franco thought afterwards that Britain would fight on even from Canada, and he felt that the seizure of the Suez Canal was vital. However Hitler felt Gibraltar was vastly more significant. Finally the talk ended and they took dinner again in Hitler’s restaurant car – soup, fish and fruit salad was on the menu. There was a brief conversation afterwards, and they departed amicably enough but with no real resolution.
To find out what happened after this meeting, be sure to get a copy of the new book, Ian Fleming and Operation Golden Eye, out September 2018. This book tells the story of the various Allied operations and schemes instigated to keep Spain and Portugal out of WWII, which included the widespread bribery of high ranking Spanish officials and the duplicity of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr.