German planes dropped their load of bombs, and then swooped low to machine-gun anyone who had survived the bombs. Nearly 1,000 innocent civilians were killed.
To Nazi leaders, the attack on Guernica was an experiment to identify what their new planes could do. To the rest of the world, it was a grim warning of the destructive power of modern warfare. Later, commentators viewed the Spanish Civil War as a “dress rehearsal” for World War II because it had allowed new tactics and weapons to be tested, which would soon be used in a new global war.
By 1939, Franco had triumphed. Once in power, he created a fascist dictatorship similar to the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini. He rolled back earlier reforms, killed or jailed enemies, and used terror to promote order.
Robert Capa's famous photograph, The Fallen Soldier, shows the death of a Loyalist militiaman during the Spanish Civil War. The Loyalists were supported by most urban workers and peasants, along with much of the educated middle class, which preferred a liberal democracy.
Explain how other countries got involved in the Spanish Civil War.
In the meantime, Hitler pursued his goal of bringing all German-speaking people into the Third Reich. He also took steps to gain “living space” for Germans in Eastern Europe. Hitler, who believed in the superiority of the German people, thought that Germany had a right to conquer the Slavs to the east. Hitler claimed, “I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin.”
Hitler also had economic and military reasons for expanding eastward. He wanted access to the natural resources of Eastern Europe, which would help boost production of military equipment. New lands would also provide additional markets for German products.
From the outset, Nazi propaganda had found fertile ground in Austria. By March, 1938, Hitler was ready to engineer the Anschluss(AHN shloos), or union of Austria and Germany.
When Austria's chancellor refused to agree to Hitler's demands, Hitler sent in the German army to “preserve order.” To indicate his new role as ruler of Austria, Hitler made a speech from the Hofburg Palace, the former residence of the Hapsburg emperors.
The Anschluss violated the Versailles treaty and created a brief war scare. Hitler quickly silenced any Austrians who opposed annexation. And since the Western democracies took no action, Hitler easily had his way.
On March 15, 1938, Hitler gave a speech at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna announcing annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.