MI6 kept Spain from Hitler with bribes

British Intelligence service MI6 bribed senior Spanish officials to stop Spain from becoming Hitler’s ally during World War II, declassified military documents released on Thursday revealed. They spent the present day equivalent of €179 million ($232 million).

MI6 kept Spain from Hitler with bribes
Hitler and Franco met in Hendaye in the French Basque Country in October 1940. Photo: YouTube

Eleven million euros of the day were paid to Spanish senior officials, ship owners and secret agents after Britain’s ambassador in Madrid, Samuel Hoare, warned Winston Churchill’s government that the risk of Spain abandoning its neutral position in 1940 was imminent.

"It may well be that Spain's entry in the war will depend on our quick action," telegraphed Hoare when pushingthe Foreign office in London for an initial $1 million.

"I personally urge authority be granted without delay, and that if you have doubts, the prime minister be consulted.”

“Yes indeed,” telegraphed Churchill in response.

More and more sums of money were paid through an account in New York of a Swiss bank to the British ambassador.

The declassified files, brought to light by UK newspapers The Guardian and The Times on Thursday, revealed Jose Jorro Andreo and Rasado Silva Torres as two of the beneficiaries.

"I cannot spend spare time to explain the position in detail," wrote the British ambassador.

He later claimed that British money was responsible for the arrest of plotters trying to persuade Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, a friend of Hitler’s, to join Germany's side in the war.

According to The Guardian, British agents made contact with an unnamed Spanish Republican leader and with members of Spain’s Democratic Alliance.

Other UK ministers persuaded the US to unblock cash for Spanish agents held in banks in New York.

But Franco never seemed determined to join Hitler in war, having to deal with a nation torn by a three-year civil war that had led to half a million Spanish casualties.

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Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a special fund to exhume graves at the Valley of the Fallen, where thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictator Francisco Franco are buried.

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen
Women hold up pictures of their fathers and relatives, who were condemned to death during Franco’s dictatorship. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The Socialist government said it had set aside €665,000 ($780,000) to exhume some 33,000 victims whose remains lie behind a vast basilica near Madrid.

Franco was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975 but his remains were removed in 2019 and transferred to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montera told reporters that more than 60 families and international institutions had called for the exhumation of the victims to give relatives who suffered during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship “moral reparation”.

Campaigners estimate more than 100,000 victims from the war and its aftermath remain buried in unmarked graves across Spain —- a figure, according to Amnesty International, only exceeded by Cambodia.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works carried out by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid, in a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were dumped during the Spanish civil war. Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP

Built between 1940 and 1958 partly by the forced labour of political prisoners, the imposing basilica and the mausoleum of the Valley of the Fallen was initially intended for those who had fought for Franco.

But in 1959 the remains of many Republican opponents were moved there from cemeteries and mass graves across the country without their families being informed.

The crypts and ossuaries where some of the victims are buried are inaccessible as they were walled off at the time.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

As well as the Valley of the Fallen, his government is also focusing on identifying remains founds in mass graves across Spain.