Posts Tagged ‘Spain’s’

Spain’s Nazi volunteers defend their right to recognition – and German pensions

November 30th, 2015

In total, Germany is still funding more €100,000 (£70,000) a year in pensions to the Blue Division. The payments, which typically run to around €400 per month, go mostly to men who were injured in the course of duty, and in some cases to their relatives. MP Andrej Hunko, the Left-wing MP whose parliamentary question brought about the revelation from Angela Merkel’s administration, now wants the arrangement halted.

But volunteers at a museum in Madrid that commemorates the 47,000 Spaniards who fought on the Eastern Front insist that however history may now interpret events, the payments are entirely legitimate.

“It’s a pension for maimed soldiers, a normal humane thing,” said Ignacio Martín, whose late father, Carlos Martín Monasterios, was unable to use his right arm properly due a shrapnel wound suffered while fighting for the Germans between 1942 and 1943.

Alfonso Ruiz (centre) and Juan Serrano (right) in a recent reunion

The pensions stem from a 1962 agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Franco’s Spain, under which Spain also agreed to pay money widows of Germany’s Condor Legion, the unit sent by Hitler to assist Franco’s side in Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war.

A source from Spain’s labour ministry told The Telegraph that, unlike Germany, Spain no longer honoured the 1962 deal and had not paid these pensions since Franco’s death in 1975. “Some applications have been received but they were rejected,” the source said.

‘People were really hungry, especially in the cities. If Franco hadn’t sent the division, Hitler would have invaded Spain’

For Alfonso Ruiz, vice president of the Blue Division Foundation which runs the museum, the criticism of Blue Division pensions is disrespectful to men who showed bravery in fighting for a cause they believed in. “It’s a disgrace that they want to take away pensions of no more than €400 a month from these men when immigrants just turn up in this country and get more.”

Mr Ruiz, whose father is among the estimated 200 volunteers who remain alive, said that since he took over day-to-day control of the foundation in 2011, he had taken care to sever any remaining links to far-Right organisations.

This included the remnants of the fascist Falange, whose blue shirts gave the name to the division. “People come in here expecting to see skinheads but it’s nothing like that,” he said.

Survivors meet on February 10 each year to mark the date in 1943 of the Battle of Krasny-Bor, when 70 per cent of the men in service were lost trying to halt the Soviet offensive around Leningrad. “I tell the younger people not to sing [the Falangist anthem] ‘Cara al sol’ and not to stiff-arm salute. But if some of the veterans do so, what can I say to men who are more than 90 years old?” said Mr Ruiz.

With Spain on its knees after the civil war, many Blue Division volunteers felt that they were helping General Franco to keep it out of the Second World War.

‘We were not Nazis, but we were Germanophiles’

“If Franco hadn’t sent the division, Hitler would have invaded Spain,” said Mr Serrano, who has not personally received a pension, but who is sympathetic to the cause of those who do. “Everyone in my house was with the Falange; I had grown up drinking that in.”

Historians have suggested that the Spanish soldiers, though guilty of a share of atrocities in the harsh conditions of the Eastern Front, conducted themselves better than their Nazi allies.

But when fortune began to turn against Hitler’s forces, however, Mr Serrano noted a change in attitudes towards him and his comrades. “The second time I was injured, a Madrid military hospital refused to even treat me. Our efforts were only ever recognised by Germany.”


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Germany still paying pensions to Spain’s Nazi volunteers during Second World War

November 5th, 2015

The German government has continued to pay pensions to Spaniards who volunteered to fight for the Nazis in the Second World War.

Berlin is still honouring an agreement made with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, whose regime encouraged volunteers to sign up to fight for Hitler against Communist Russia between 1941 and 1943.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by Left-wing MP Andrej Hunko, Angela Merkel’s government admitted that it was still paying out over €100,000 (£71,000) a year in pensions to survivors and relatives of troops from the so-called Blue Division, in whose ranks Spanish volunteers fought on the Eastern Front.

The current annual bill to German taxpayers stands at €107,352, which is granted to 41 veterans who were wounded while fighting for the Nazis, eight widows of former fighters, and one orphan of a Blue Division volunteer.

Mr Hunko, of The Left (Die Linke) party, said it was “a scandal that 70 years after the war, Germany is still paying more than €100,000 a year to Nazi collaborators”.

He added: “At that time, those people volunteered to join the German fascists to fight on their side in the war of extermination in eastern Europe. For me it is incomprehensible that the German government should stick to those payments when so many victims of the war are still waiting today for their rightful compensation.”

The agreement to pay pensions to Blue Division veterans was made between Franco’s government and the Federal Republic of Germany in 1962.

The German government said that 47,000 Spanish volunteers had fought for Nazi Germany under an agreement between Hitler and Franco, part of a deal which prevented Spain from entering the war too quickly after the three-year civil war won by Franco’s fascist forces in 1939 with help from Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

The written answer also said that 22,000 Blue Division members were either killed, wounded or declared missing in action during the war, without dividing the different groups of casualties. Other estimates put Spanish dead on the Eastern Front at around 5,000.


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