In 1936, Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering—one of Hitler’s top aides and the head of the Luftwaffe—observed that “Spain is the key to two continents.” Goering was enunciating a key principal of German and Nazi geopolitics. By controlling Spain, the Nazis felt they could control both Europe and Latin America. Geographically dominating the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic and “flanking” France, Spain also wielded tremendous influence in Latin America through the strong cultural and economic ties between the Spanish and Latin American aristocracies. In addition, the profound Catholic influence in both Spain and Latin America, augmented Spanish clout in that part of the world. (In FTR#532, we examined the Vatican’s involvement with fascism. The Vatican/Fascist axis was another major contributing factor to the influence of the Falange throughout the Spanish-speaking world.)
In order to utilize Span’s geopolitical influence as a tool for Nazi imperial designs, the Third Reich turned to General Wilhelm von Faupel and his Ibero-American Institute. Von Faupel was a bitter opponent of the Weimar Republic, and readily accepted the Nazis as the antidote to German democracy. Known as an “I.G. General” for his links to the I.G. Farben company, von Faupel also maintained close ties to the powerful Thyssen interests which, like Farben, were the powers that backed Hitler. (The Bush family were also closely linked to the Thyssens.) During the 1920’s, von Faupel had served as a general staff adviser to the Argentine, Brazilian and Peruvian military establishments and was famed throughout Latin America for his skills as an officer. Because of his Latin American ties and his links to the corporate interests that backed Hitler, von Faupel became the Reich’s point man for the fascist takeover of Spain and subsequent construction of a Fifth Column throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
In 1934, von Faupel assumed control of the Ibero-American Institute, an academic think tank originally founded as a legitimate scholarly institution. Under von Faupel, the organization became a front for organizing the Nazi infiltration and conquest of Spain. Rejecting royalist and Catholic sectarian rightist parties, von Faupel and the Nazis settled on the Falange as their chosen vehicle for gaining dominance over Spain. After arranging the assassination of General Jose Sanjurjo (a royalist rival for the leadership of Spain after the overthrow of the Republican government), the Germans and their Italian allies installed Franco as head of the fascist Falange.
” . . . General Jose Sanjurjo, wearing a peacock’s dream of a
uniform-the London-made gift of Adolf Hitler-boarded
a Junkers plane in Lisbon and ordered his pilot, Captain
Ansaldo, to take off for a secret landing field in Spain. But
on July 17 the old general was actually headed fo: another
landing field his Nazi comrades had chosen without his
A few remarks he had let slip to intimate friends in Estoril
earlier that year had, unknown to Sanjurjo, reached certain
Berlin ears. On April I 3, 1936, for instance, Sanjurjo had
complained, “They want me to start a revolution to serve
the bankers and the speculators, but I won’t do it.” Two
weeks after saying this, he made another trip to Berlin. He
remained in Germany for only a few days, and on his return
he went to work in earnest on his plans for the pending
revolt. What happened in Berlin while Sanjurjo conferred
with von Faupel is of little moment now. His fate had already
been sealed before the visit.
Very shortly after Sanjurjo’s plane took off from Lisbon,
a German time bomb planted in the baggage compartment
exploded. The blazing fragments of the Junkers monoplane
became the pyre of the Anointed Chief of the Spanish Revolution.
Jose Sanjurjo had the dubious honor of being the
first of the Nazis’ million victims of the Spanish War. . . .”
Von Faupel then proceeded to direct the construction of the “Falange Exterior” as the fascist Fifth Column movement throughout the Spanish-speaking world (including the Philippines).
Author Chase describes the Falange Exterior on page 31 of Falange:
“On the surface, von Faupel had—in the Falange Exterior—delivered to the Third Reich a remarkable network, extending from Havana to Buenos Aires, from Lima to Manila. This network, according to its creator, was capable of concerted espionage, political diversion, arms smuggling, and anything that any other Fifth Column in history had accomplished. It remained only for the Wehrmacht to give von Faupel’s instrument the tests which would determine whether the Auslands Falange had been worth all the trouble its organization had entailed. The answer was soon provided by a number of Falangists—among them one Jose del Castano.”
Del Castano was the primary Falange organizer in the Philippines. (Recall that the Philippines had been a Spanish colony before the Spanish-American war.) Del Castano had organized the Falangists in the Philippines into a very effective Fifth Column, much of whose membership had enlisted in the Philippine Civilian Emergency Administration, charged with dispensing first aid and other emergency services in time of war. During the Japanese attack in 1941, del Castano’s agents went to work. Chase describes what happened on pages 46 and 47:
“ . . . Toward the end of November, Jose del Castano made a thorough check-up on the work of the Falange Exterior in the Philippines. He sent a coded report to Madrid, via preparations taken by his Falanges. On December 7, Spain’s Japanese Axis partner bombed Hawaii and the Philippines. . . In Manila, after the shock of the first attack, the people looked to the government, to the Army, to the Civilian Emergency Administration, for guidance. In most cases, the average Filipino turned to the C.E.A.—under ordinary circumstances, the proper thing to do. But on December 7, 1941, the C.E.A. was so shot through with Falangistas as to be the foundation of the Axis Fifth Column in the city. . . On December 29, the Japanese air forces staged their first great raid over the city of Manila. For three hours the Jap planes rained bombs on the forts along the bay, the docks, and the homes of the poorer Filipinos. Then the planes flew off. But something had happened during the bombardment. The civilian defense organizations seemed to have broken down completely. Wardens were receiving orders to be everywhere except the places where they were needed most. Stretcher-bearers were dropping like flies with bullets in their backs. Streams of confusing and conflicting orders had most C.E.A. workers running around in crazy circles.”
On page 47, Chase also notes that the Falangistas spread wild rumors to undermine the will to resist the Japanese invaders, rumors that were all the more potent because they originated with personnel within the Emergency Administration.
“Wild rumors spread like hurricanes through the city—rumors the character of which had already become familiar in all lands invaded by the Nazis in Europe: MacArthur had fled to Washington. Quezon had gone over to the Japs. The entire American Air Force had been destroyed. The American Army had received orders to shoot all Catholics and imprison all Filipinos. Henry Morgenthau had personally requisitioned all the funds in the Philippine National Treasury. Ad infinitum. There was something official about these rumors, something had been added that made even level-headed citizens give them credence. For these rumors were not being spread by obscure Japanese spies: they originated directly from Civilian Emergency Headquarters, from the lips of the hard-working air-raid wardens who had been so diligent about tacking up the posters bearing the ten emergency pointers for the citizen. ‘Get your facts straight from C.E.A.’ . . .”
Compare this with some of the wild rumor-mongering that occurred in the wake of 9/11—controlled demolition of the World Trade Center, cruise missile hit the Pentagon, etc.
For the contemporary reader, it is vital to remember that Latin American (and the Philippines) were never “de-Falangized.” Franco and his fascists remained in power in Spain until 1975. Portugal remained under the control of the fascist dictator Salazar for decades after the war. The decisive influence of Latin American fascists in the decades following the war (including their intimate collaboration with elements of U.S. intelligence) is a matter of public record. The legacy of the Falange Exterior is very much with us today.