Introduction: Francisco Franco (01:59)
Franco took control of Spain in 1939 and unleashed a wave of violence against his countrymen. His dictatorship lasted nearly four decades, and he left behind thousands of mass graves, some of which have been unearthed in recent years.
Franco's Early Life (02:47)
Franco was born into a family naval dynasty in 1892. He dreamed of joining the Spanish navy, but Spain was defeated in the Spanish-American War and lost most of its fleet. Franco eventually joined Spain’s infantry.
Military Career (02:22)
Franco entered the Toledo Military Academy in 1907, determined to be an officer; he was a target of bullying. He graduated in 1910 and was stationed in Morocco where rebels mounted a campaign to uproot the Spanish.
Franco's Use of Terror (05:56)
While fighting with the Army of Africa, Franco employed tactics that would come to define his dictatorship. He learned fear could be useful with subordinates as well as enemies. He became a brigadier general at 33.
Precursors to Spanish Civil War (04:48)
Spain faced increasing income inequality and the Russian Revolution inspired many citizens to turn to Socialism. King Alfonso XIII agreed to step down, fearing insurrection, and a left-leaning government was established. Franco felt threatened by the leftists.
Massacre in Asturias (05:25)
Franco ordered troops from the Army of Africa to confront striking coal workers; 3,000 Spaniards were gunned down and 30,000 imprisoned. The left-leaning Popular Front took control of the government; Franco and other right-leaning generals were exiled. Jose Calvo Sotelo was assassinated.
Civil War (06:31)
Franco and the Army of Africa invaded Spain in 1936, with help from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Insurgents machine gunned leftists as they marched toward Madrid, murdering 4,000 civilians in Badajoz. Franco’s fellow conspirators appoint him “generalissimo” of the Nationalist forces.
Catholicism's Savior (05:44)
Franco moved toward Toledo, the historic center of Spanish Catholicism. His forces relieved Nationalist troops at Alcazar and took the town; Franco was celebrated as a savior. The Republicans found a new ally in Joseph Stalin.
Murder of Civilians (07:18)
Franco created a vast bureaucracy dedicated to prosecuting political enemies. Stalin withdrew support for the Popular Front as Europe braced for war; Nationalists took Madrid in March 1939. Spain was officially neutral at the outset of WWII, but Franco’s war against his people had just begun.
The Catholic Church was instrumental in the indoctrination process as Franco was portrayed as a Christ-like figure. His regime exercised total control over the media and educational system, and took children from jailed Republicans and gave them to Nationalist families.
Franco's Control of Spanish Society (03:42)
Franco benefited from a shift in political attitudes following World War II; anti-communist views made him an ally of the West during the Cold War. He created gulags to deal with pockets of resistance and utilized slave labor to build a monument to his regime, Valle de los Caídos.
Democracy Restored in Spain (03:53)
Franco cultivated the image of a benign statesman. In 1969, he announced Juan Carlos would succeed his rule. The dictator died in 1975 and Carlos dissolved his fascist regime. Evidence of Franco’s crimes are still being unearthed.
Credits: Francisco Franco (00:32)
Credits: Francisco Franco
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