In the summer of 1936 Spain had been a democratic republic for five years but the republic was desperately fragile. A group of right-wing army officers, headed y Generals Sanjuro and Mola mounted an initiative to overthrow the government. Their first thrust was to call the Colonial Army of Africa, a force made up of Spanish and Moorish troops–the dreaded “Moros”–and headed by Gen. Francisco Franco, from Morocco. They were flown across the Straits of Gibraltar by German planes. Early in the war both Sanjuro and Mola were killed in plane crashes, leaving the way clear for Franco to lead the nationalist coup. He held the reins until his death of old age, 39 years later.
The nationalist uprising gave rise to revolutionary fervor in the Spanish cities–especially Madrid and Barcelona–while most of the Catholic rural peasantry took the side of the nationalists. There ensued an escalation of terrible abuses on both sides–burned churches, summary executions of all resistors to the coup, assassinations and massacres. Justice was swept away by random brutality. General Mola ordered systematic executions in provincial capitals for the purpose of instilling fear. He said at the time, “We must extend the terror; we must impose the impression of dominion while eliminating without scruples everyone who does not think as we do.”
In the power vacuum that existed in the republican zones of the country so-called “investigation committees” administered brutal justice. This turbulent onset established the tone for much of the rest of the war.
Video produced by Granada Television, UK