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Spanish Civil War Propoganda Collection

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Historical Overview

When a politically fragmented Spain held its 1931 municipal elections, it was the Republican parties who, to the surprise of many, scored a major victory. As a result, King Alphonso XIII decided to leave the country and the new government declared Spain a Republic. This act brought to an abrupt end 300 years of rule by a wealthy aristocracy, the Catholic church, and elements of the military and business elite. Supporting the new government were urban workers, most agricultural laborers, and the educated middle class. Nevertheless, the country remained highly polarized. The new Spanish government proceeded with land reform, and unionization. In 1934 there was widespread labor unrest, and an uprising of miners was suppressed by the military. Elections in February 1936 bought to power a Popular Front government that was supported by most groups on the left.

The socialist policies of the new government proved too much for the conservative elements in Spain and in July 1936 a carefully planned coup attempt was launched by the military. When the coup failed to take the entire country at one stroke, a bloody civil war ensued. The rebels called themselves the "Nationalists" and received support from the Fascist governments of Germany and Italy. Government loyalists called themselves the "Republicans" and were aided by the Soviet Union and leftists from the broader international community. The political and emotional reverberations of the Spanish Civil War far exceeded those of a purely national conflict; many saw the war as part of an international struggle between tyranny and democracy, fascism and freedom, or, conversely, anti-clerical communism and civilization. Idealistic volunteers from abroad formed the International Brigades that supported the Republican cause.

When early efforts to decide the conflict decisively failed, a war of attrition resulted. Such were the violent passions unleashed by the war, and so devastating were the new weapons, that civilians represented a frightening number of the losses. The Nationalists in particular conducted a conscious strategy of assassination, execution, and terror. The Spanish Civil War, often called a "dress rehearsal" for World War II, also made extensive used of propaganda as a weapon in the struggle for the minds of the people at home and abroad. By 1938, the better equipped Nationalists had pushed back the weaker Republicans. In their weariness and frustration, Republicans were also beset by internal divisions, and violence erupted within their own cities between communist, anti-communist, and anarchist factions. By March of 1939 the remaining Republican armies had begun to surrender and disband. On March 28th Nationalist forces entered Madrid under General Francisco Franco who was to lead Spain despotically until his death in 1975.

In the 1930s, Oberlin College was home to a large number of left-leaning, pacifist, and anti-fascist students and faculty. Many people were intensely interested in the conflict in Spain. In the summer of 1937, Spanish Department professor Paul Rogers traveled to Republican Spain as part of an international delegation. One of the people he met there was the American poet Langston Hughes who had also lived in Oberlin in 1934. In 1938, Oberlin College sophomore Paul MacEachron was killed in action fighting as a volunteer in the Republican cause.

Scope and Contents

  • Oberlin College Library Special Collections has a collection of approximately two inches of pamphlets, speeches, newsletters, information briefs, and other forms of propaganda from the Spanish Civil War - primarily from 1937 and 1938. This propaganda is mostly anti-fascist. The majority of documents in our collection are in English, and derive from speeches delivered in the United States by Spanish diplomats; the Spanish Embassy in the United States (and its Bureau of Information); the Spanish News Service; the American Friends of Spanish Democracy; as well as other sources. A few of the newsletters of the time are in Spanish. Other languages represented are French and German.

  • The library also holds numerous non-fiction and poetry monographs and serials published before 1946 relating to the Spanish Civil War, some of which, due to rarity and condition are held in Special Collections. A list of these titles is available online.


  • Folder 1: American Friends of Spanish Democracy or North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy

  • "The Persecution of Protestants in Fascist Spain"

  • "A Chekoslovakian [sic] Writer Tells of the Wave of Terror Sweeping Over Cadiz"

  • "Crusade or Class War?" (by Canon Jose Manuel of Cordova Cathedral, Pro-Catholicism & Anti-War)

  • "What Lies Behind the ‘Patriotism' of the Fascist Ex Generals"

  • "Spain and Britain" (English) 1937. A pamphlet reprint of the speech given by David Lloyd George in the House of Commons about the non-intervention pact.

  • Folder 2: Bureau of Information Spanish Embassy

  • "Spain's Civil War Now an International Struggle for Independence"

  • "Nazi Intervention in Spain"

  • "The Great Historical Process Against Fascism"

  • "Incontrovertible Facts Regarding the Destruction of Guernica" (Speech by Mr. Leizaola - Counselor of Justice)

  • "Galicia an Immense Cementery"

  • "The Religious Problem in Spain" (by A. Cesorio y Gallardo - Catholic leader and Ambassador of Spain to France)

  • "Extract from President Azana's Speech at Valencia University, July 18, 1937"

  • "The Government and its Care of Children"

  • "The Educational Program of the Spanish Republic"

  • "The Work Accomplished by the Health Department of the Spanish Government"

  • "The Agrarian Reform"

  • "The Agrarian Reform" (continued)

  • Folder 3: Spanish News Service/ Spanish Information Bureau (8 news bulletins in English, in the updates there are documents which have been taken from other sources)

  • The Original Document Concerning the First Convention between the Spanish Monarchists and the Italian Fascists. March 31, 1934

  • Dos Passos says government victory will prevent world war; praises morale and constructive work of civilians. Co-operative olive field described, by Ralph Bates. Rebels find civil population opposed to them. Spain appoints new ambassador to Paris. Bible has wide circulation in Spain during first year of civil war. Evidence found that "Espana" carried German experts when sunk by planes. May 26, 1937

  • June 23, 1937

  • German "colonisation" begun in Spain. "Ghastly tragedy" threatens 120,000 Basques. Franco asks allies for more men to finish war before winter. Cultural centers for Spanish peoples' army. The Catholic press on Spain. July 21, 1937

  • Franco, the Vatican and South America. Spanish government states reason for POUM Arrests. Germans direct insurgent offensive. British trade under General Franco. Biscaya blast furnaces useless to Franco. Loyalist groups in Argentina to hold national "victory" congress. German guns face Gibraltar. Sapin's art treasures safe. Italian officers refuse to fight. August 6, 1937

  • Act to prevent mass execution of 2000 Santander civilians. The military situation. Americans open children's home in Catalonia. Y.M.C.A. flourishes in Barcelona. Guarding Spain's art treasures. Maxton sees Escuder. Fascist propaganda in a new form. Kaltenborn finds real democracy in Loyalist Spain. September 3, 1937

  • Duchess of Atholl points danger of Fascist aid to Franco. Basque priests condemned to death by rebels for giving spiritual aid to Loyalists. Letter of Spanish Bishops written at Franco's request. British expert praises protection given Spanish art treasures. September 24, 1937

  • Spain's war of independence as viewed by her government leaders. November 27, 1937

  • Folder 4: Miscellaneous Pro-Republican or Anti-Fascist Pamphlets

  • Pamphlet "Children's Colonies" (English) November, 1937. Prepared by the Spanish Republic, Ministry of Public Education, National Council for Evacuated Children. This document includes photographs of the children in Spain.

  • A pamphlet (French) which contains a copy of a letter from French Cardinal Verdier to Cardinal Gomá (September 7, 1937) as well as an open letter from a Spanish citizen responding to Cardinal Verdier. The pamphlet includes several pictures as well.

  • Pamphlet "Crónicas de la Guerra" (Spanish) 1937. Propaganda compiled of several articles by antifascist publications .

  • Cultural Information Bulletin (Spanish). Issued the 1 st of April, 1938 from Barcelona. Propaganda of the antifascists (includes pictures).

  • "An Open Letter From T. Navarro Tomás to Hispanistas" (English).

  • "A Jesuit Scientist and the Republic." Padre Luis Rhodes, S.J. Single sheet.

  • "Speech Delivered By Dr. Enrique Carlos de la Casa Minister Plenipotentiary in Charge of the Spanish Embassy, Before the National Labor Defense Conference Washington, D.C., June 19, 1937."

  • "Speech Delivered By Dr. Enrique Carlos de la Casa Minister Plenipotentiary in Charge of the Spanish Embassy at Madison Square Garden, on July 19,1937.

  • "Information Bulletin No. 2 October 1937." Issued by the publicity department of the Spanish Committee in Defense of Democracy. Contains: Data on Feb. 16 th 1936 elections in Spain; excerpts from a speech made by Sr. Portella Valladares, ex-premier of the Spanish Republic; excerpts from an article by Sr. Martinez Barrio, President of the Spanish Parliament; letter from Angel de Zumeta, the Basque Catholic writer, to the French General Castelnau; the toll of human life in Madrid as a result of foreign bombardments; list of merchant and foreign ships attacked, bombarded or sunk since the end of July in the Mediterranean; hardships of a scientist in Fascist territory.

  • "Another Conservative Catholic Disappointed with the Rebels." Single sheet (portions of text missing). Declaration by Sr. Solá Cañizeres, a former Conservative congressman from Barcelona (member of the Catalonian Lliga Party).

  • [flat] "Du Pain Pour Gagner la Guere." A four language pro-Republican photo pamphlet praising the work of argricultural and railway construction crews.

  • [flat] "L'armée de la République Espangnole (qui défend la Démocratie et la Paix"). A four language pro-Republican photo pamphlet lauding the creation of a modern army and armaments industry by the government.

  • Folder 5: Miscellaneous Pro-Fascist or Anti-Communist Propaganda

  • Pamphlet "Economic Situation of Spain." (English) New York, December 8, 1937. Prepared by the editorial staff of the magazine, Spain of New York

By Viviana Westbrook and Ed Vermue

Last updated:
June 13, 2016