Spanish Civil War – June 1937

June 3

General Mola is killed in an airplane accident. The deaths of Sanjurjo and Mola left Franco as the leader of the Nationalists. This led to the suspicion that Franco helped planned the deaths of his two rivals, though no evidence has ever been found.

June 6

The last Basque fighter planes are shot down, after a suicidal resistance against the Condor Legion. The airs are controlled by the Nationalists.

June 7

Falange official Manuel Hedilla, leader of the “left” wing of the fascist Falange, is condemned to death by a court martial for having opposed Franco over aspects of his leadership of the war effort and the administration of the Nationalist occupied zone. However, on the advice of Ramón Serrano Súñer, who feared losing the Falange, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and ultimately Hedilla would only serve four years

June 11

Nido de ametralladoras del Cinturón de Hierro de Bilbao, en las peñas de Santa Marina (1937).jpg

Part of the Iron Ring of Bilbao (here)

The “Iron Ring of Bilbao” is attacked.The ring was a huge labyrinthine fortification built to protect the city, consisting of bunkers, tunnels, and fortified trenches in several rings, protected by artillery. The Basque Army planned to position themselves in the Iron Ring to resist constant air raids and prevent the enemy from reaching the Basque capital. However, the layout of the Ring was betrayed to the Nationalist army by one of its designers, and since the first days of June the Condor Legion were able to target so accurately that the Ring was bombed to pieces. The Basque government and army decide to organize a slow retreat to Santander.

June 12

The Nationalist troops breach the “Iron Ring”.

June 13

Street fighting in Bilbao, as the Nationalist fifth columnists rise up. They try to take over strategic buildings and are defeated under heavy losses by anarchist militias. Later in the day, Basque police prevent the militias from attacking Bilbao’s prisons and killing imprisoned Nationalists.

June 16

The POUM is outlawed and its leaders are arrested. The secret police arrest most of the POUM leaders, though its leader, Andreu Nin, is still free.

June 17

Andreu Nin is arrested in Barcelona. His arrest is not announced in public; He is then taken to a prison in Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid, from where Communist agents abduct him. He is then taken to a nearby house where he was interrogated and tortured to death by the NKVD, possibly including Alexander Orlov. See June 21

Testimony of Jesús Hernández, ex-communist minister who wrote HOW THE NKVD FRAMED THE POUM from Yo fui un ministro de Stalin (I was a minister of Stalin)

Orlov and his gang imprisoned Nin with the aim of wresting from him a ‘voluntary’ confession, admitting his role as a spy in the service of Franco. As executioners experienced In the art of ‘breaking’ political prisoners to get ‘spontaneous’ confessions, they thought that in Andrés Nin, given his ill-health, they had found the right material to provide Stalin with a gratifying success. The interrogation took place for days that went on without any night, without beginning or end, for ten and twenty and forty hours at a time uninterruptedly.

Earlier he states:

The crime against Andrés Nin was not only the responsibility of the material authors of the deed; it was also the responsibility of all of us who, though able to prevent it, by submission to or fear of Moscow facilitated it by our behaviour. Afterwards, consciousness of our complicity silenced our tongues or, as in our case, added infamy to crime. The walls of Spain were covered with questions painted by underground brushes at the risk of life: ‘Where is Nin?’ And, in order to cover up, our hordes of Agit-Props wrote, underneath, the bloody slander: ‘In Salamanca or Berlin

A possibly accidentally explosion on the Republican battleship Jamie I at Cartagena caused some 300 deaths and the total loss of the ship, though it was later re-floated. Sabotage was also suspected

Bilbao receives a massive bombardment with 20,000 shells. The Basque President gives the secret order to allow 900 Nationalist prisoners to escape back over to the enemy, fearing for their lives in the city after the total retreat of the Basque Army.

June 18

The Basque government refuses the Republican order to destroy factories in Bilbao which are useful to the war effort, but the city’s bridges are destroyed to hinder the attackers.

June 19

The Fall of Bilbao (Wikipedia)

The Nationalists enter Bilbao without opposition and start to hand out food to thousands of women lining the streets. Around 200,000 people flee the city. Thousands try to reach the French coast by sea, but the Nationalist navy is waiting for them in the Bay of Biscay. The bay is full of fugitive’s overcrowded boats, some sinking. The ships from the Nonintervention Committee (in the Bay of Biscay, mostly British) are watching the scene. Franco concedes two thirds of the production from the mines and steel factories of the Basque country to his German ally. Hitler needs these resources for his own war preparations.

June 21

Soviet agents finally torture to death the POUM leader Andreu Nin. See June 17

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