Spanish Civil War – August 1937

Situation of Spanish Civil War – August 1937.  Source wikipedia

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August 7

Private Catholic worship is permitted in the Republic.

August 10

The CNT-dominated Consejo de Aragón (Council of Aragon) is dissolved, as part of Prime Minister Negrín’s drive to affirm the authority of his government against all forms of regional and political dissidence. CNT council leaders are arrested and the troops under General Lister take contol to re-establish central government authority.

August 13

Nationalists move on Santander. The Republican forces were made up of the XIV Corps of the Army (Basque), XV Corps of the Army (Cantabrian), and the XVI and XVII Corps of the Army (Asturian). Their lack of an airforce is compounded by a dispute between the Basque prime minister José Antonio Aguirre and the commander of the army, Gamir Ulibarri.

August 15

The SIM (Servicio de Inteligencia Militar) is created by Indalecio Prieto. The creation of the SIM gave back the control of secret police activities in theory to the government, rather than leaving it in the hands of Soviet and Communist intelligence organizations, but was soon in Communist control. Within a few months it had 6000 agents and a budget of 22 million pesetas. It was strongly influenced by the NKVD and its methods of torture and repression.

Political meetings are forbidden in Barcelona.

August 17

The PSOE and the Communist Party declare a unity pact. The Communist party had demanded the fusion of the Socialist Party with the Communist Party, following the model of the Catalan PSUC. This would later happen in all Communist-controlled countries, and lead to the strangulation of the socialists from within. The government puts a stop to the plan as it sees it inappropriate for a democratic country, promoting the unity pact instead.

August 20

Tierra de España – The Spanish Earth is released in the USA, written and narrated in English byErnest Hemingway and John Dos Passos.

The film’s avoidance of overt propagandizing reflected not only Ivens’s conception of the documentary aesthetic—it was also hoped that this might help Spanish Earth achieve a wide theatrical release. However, as in Britain, there was thought to be no cinema audience for documentary films, and the plan failed. Nor did it help the film to escape the watchful eye of the British Board of Film Censors (who had previously attacked Ivens’s New Earth) , who insisted that all references to Italian and German intervention were cut from the commentary, those countries being regarded as “friendly powers” at the time.


August 24

The Popular Army, including International Brigades, starts a major offensive at Belchite and Quinto. The aim is eventually to recapture of Zaragoza and to try a new series of offensives to slow down the Nationalist advance in the north. There is also an insiduous political agenda – The decision was based on political as well as military considerations, as the government saw it as a way to decrease anarchist and POUM influence in the region by bringing in communist troops and incorporating three anarchist divisions into the newly-designated Army of the East.

Belchite and Quinto, the most important towns in the area, are defended by around 7,000 Nationalist soldiers, who offer fanatically brave resistance in defending the towns.

Republican propoganda video of the Belchite offensive.


Santoña Agreement

The Santoña Agreement or Pact of Santoña was an agreement signed in the town of Guriezo, near Santoña, Cantabria, the August 24, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, between politicians close to the Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco or PNV), fighting with the Republican Side, and Italian forces fighting with the Francoist side.

During the Battle of Santander, the Francoist troops pierced through the Republican defense lines. The Republican troops, including the Basque army, retreated to the west in a disorderly fashion, with numerous desertions.

After the fall of Bilbao, practically all Basque territory had fallen into Franco’s hands. Juan de Ajuriaguerra, then president of the Biscay Regional Council of the Basque Nationalist Party, negotiated with the Italian army command a surrender agreement. The PNV offered to surrender the Basque army in exchange of its prisoners being treated as POWs under Italian commandment, and PNV members being allowed to go to exile in several British ships. Another condition was that the Basque heavy industry and economy be left untouched.

The Basque nationalists units of the Republican army in the Basque territory, fighting under the direction of Basque president José Antonio Aguirre, met at Santoña, and surrendered to the Italian forces on August 24. When news of the agreement arrived to his headquarters, Franco cancelled the agreement and ordered the immediate jailing in Santoña’s El Dueso prison of the 22,000 soldiers captured. Three months later, around half of them had been freed, the other half remained in prison, and 510 were sentenced to death, a lower reprisal level than registered elsewhere. Ajuriaguerra, the highest rank in the PNV, was released from prison in 1943.

The agreement was carried out by the PNV behind the Republican government’s back. For this reason, it is also known as the Santoña Treason. Morever, many of the Basque soldiers went then to join the Francoist army in the rest of the Northern front.

August 26

The Republican Army at Santander collapses under continual attack from troops, artillery and around 250 airplanes. Ten thousands of soldiers and civilians flee to the port of Santander. Only a few, among them General Gamir Ulibarri and the leader of the Basque government, Aguirre, managed to escape over a stormy Bay of Biscay, where a number of overcrowded boats sank.

Battle of Santander

Santander’s fall, coupled with the capture of heavily-fortified Bilbao, tore an irreparable gap in the Republic’s northern front. The destruction of the Army of the North marked another crippling blow to the Republic’s sagging strength and turned the war to Franco’s favour. The disaster proved total and the losses beyond repair. Of the twelve Basque brigades there remained at the end only eight battered battalions. The Republican Army of Santander of twelve brigades was reduced to six battalions. The Asturians committed 27 battalions and escaped with only fourteen. In no other theatre of the civil war did Franco’s troops achieve results as decisive as those of the Santander campaign: sixty thousand Republican soldiers were wiped off the map, with corresponding losses in materiel. The War in the North was all but won.

August 27

Basque troops at the port of Santoña are captured by Franco’s troops, while attempting to embark on British ships, They are given a choice between being imprisoned or joining Franco’s army.

The International Brigades attack at Fuentes de Ebro to establish a third position, besides Belchite and Quinto, from which to attack Zaragoza.

August 28

The first bombing raids take place on Madrid at 23.45.

Madrid under fire, 1936 – 1939 Excellent set on Flickr

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