How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

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How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Apr 2020 09:40

I have been reading a book on the resistance in the French department of Ariege in 1944 (La Liberation de l'Ariege by Claude Delpla. Toulouse, 2019).

It mentions, several times, the presence of Francoist Spaniards in the local German security forces. The book refers to them as from the "Division Azul". A number of them were killed or captured in fighting in Ariege in late August 1944 and some of the latter were executed by Spanish Republican guerrilleros serving with the French Resistance.

This leads to a number of questions:

1) How widespread was Spanish participation in the German armed forces outside the Blue Division, especially in southern Occupied France?

2) Were those in Ariege likely to have previously served in the Blue Division, as the book seems to imply?

Many thanks,

Sid.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Apr 2020 11:06

P.S. On p.478 of the book there is reproduced a document dated 23 August 1944. It shows that on 19 and 20 August 1944, the bodies of 24 named German troops were brought in to Foix hospital. Five of them were Spanish. If this is typical of Ariege, (which, of course, it may well not be) then 20% of the German security forces in the department could have been Nationalist Spaniards.

Ariege is an inland department on the Spanish border. It was therefore not at risk of Allied invasion and so did not require high grade German troops to garrison it. Many were from the Feldgendarmerie and frontier guards. This might explain an unusually high proportion of Spaniards there.

The area also spoke a language very closely related to Catalan, rather than classic French, so they might also have been useful as interpreters, though probably no more so than French speakers.

Anyone any ideas or information?

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Ironmachine » 04 Apr 2020 12:39

I can't help with the specific case of Ariege, but with regards to your two questions I can say what follows:
1. It is a known fact that there were Spaniards in the German armed forces after the dissolution of the Blue Division (and of the Blue Legion). It is difficult to obtain accurate information because it is an obscure matter (a mixture of legends, unsourced statements, made-up stories and a few bits of reality), but they were relatively few in numbers: just a drop in the sea of the German armed forces.
2. There were Spaniards fighting the Franch maquis in the south of France integrated in German units. Again, I don't know their numbers, but I doubt very much that the 20% could apply to a whole department (unless a unit composed of Spaniards had been deployed there for a specific mission, for example).
3. The Spaniards that fought with the Germans in this period had different origins: some of them were ex-members of the Blue Division, but others were not (they were workers in Germany, or had arrived later after crossing the Franco-Spanish border, for example). Some of the Spaniards working for the German security forces were in fact ex-Republicans exiled in France. So those in Ariege could have served previously in the Blue Division, but could also have not.
Hope that helps.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Apr 2020 12:53

Hi Ironmachine,

Thanks for your reply. It gets us on the road to an answer.

I also think it unlikely that as many as 20% of Ariege's German garrison were Spanish. Looking at the action that caused almost all the fatalities (Prayols, 20 August), it seems possible that most of them were with, or part of, German border guards being evacuated from the Spanish frontier to Foix. These units had primarily been engaged in trying to intercept French passeurs guiding downed Allied airmen across the Spanish Pyrenean border.

Sid.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Loïc » 04 Apr 2020 17:14

hello

I have similar references in german operations in the Périgord where spaniards were described by French Maquisards and people also as mercenaires espagnols de la Division Azul (sic)
of course the witnesses of that time were not specialists of the Axis Orbat subtleties and even not all interested in such topics
howewer French official sources confirm that Spaniards from the Division Azul were still quartered in France in Versailles at least until february 1944 and...Saint Astier in the Périgord

the same year there were Franquist volunteers crossing the border and gathered in Lourdes (!) around 150 maybe
this base and others similar along the Pyrénées were headed by lieutenant colonel Heyde,
in Lourdes the Spaniards dressed as peasants were trained by the captain Karl Tägert from the Special Team «F»
(...) were sent to the Waffen SS in the spanish base of Könisberg


in operations against the Maquis in Languedoc the 8th company of the Brandeburgers in 1944 were recruited among Frenchmen, it had also a small number of Italians and Spaniards


a linguistic parenthesis
The area also spoke a language very closely related to Catalan, rather than classic French, so they might also have been useful as interpreters, though probably no more so than French speakers.
it is in the neighboring Dept of Oriental Pyrénées where people from Roussillon could be catalan-speaking,
here the former County of Foix is part of of the gascon-languedocien area one of the branches of the family of numerous "occitan" patois separated from the catalan linguistic area

Toco y se gausos ~ Toque y si gauses County of Foix's motto translated gives
Touches y si tu l’oses (french)
Tócalo si te atreves (castillan-spanish)
Toca-la si t’atreveixes (catalan)

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Ironmachine » 04 Apr 2020 21:58

Loïc wrote:howewer French official sources confirm that Spaniards from the Division Azul were still quartered in France in Versailles at least until february 1944 and...Saint Astier in the Périgord
Strictly speaking, these were surely members of the "Legión Azul" or Spanische-Freiwilligen Legion (though of course all its members had been previously members of the Blue Division), the unit that remained at the Eastern Front after the withdrawal and dissolution of the Blue División. The legion was finishing its withdrawal to Spain by that date.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Apr 2020 08:09

Hi Loic,

Thanks very much for broadening the information available beyond Ariege.

Do you know if there was any correlation between the use of Spaniards in German security units and the presence of Spanish Republican Guerrilleros with the Maquis in the same departments? For example, were the latter also present in Périgord and/or Languedoc, both of which are in the south-western quadrant of France?

One also wonders what arrangements and plans Franco's government had for dealing with the Republican guerrilleros in France. Could the attachment of small numbers of Spanish Nationalists to some German security units have been orchestrated from Spain?

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. Yes, I knew that only a small border region of Pyrénées Orientales was Catalan-speaking, which is why I used the formulation "a language very closely related to Catalan, rather than classic French" to refer to Occitan over the wider area. I should have been more precise.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Apr 2020 12:24

Hi Guys,

I have found the following on p.32:

"Du côté des forces de la répression, il faut rajouter un détachement de la Division Azul, unité de l'Armée espagnole franquiste, revenue du front Russe. Basés à Pamiers, ces militaires franquistes lancent des opérations de contre-guérilla, en se faisant passer pour des maquis de guérilleros espagnols et sèment la terreur dans les campagnes ariégoises. Ils attaquent aussi aux côtés des troupes allemandes".

My translation: "On the side of the forces of repression, it is necessary to add a detachment from the Blue Division, a unit of the Francoist Spanish Army, which had returned from the Russian Front. Based at Pamiers, these Francoist troops launched anti-guerrilla operations, passing themselves off as Spanish maquis members and sowing terror across the countryside of Ariege. They also attacked beside German troops."

These men are possibly separate from the Spaniards mentioned by me above, as the garrison of Pamiers withdrew from Ariege without fighting on 18 August, before the combat at Prayols, as a result of which it appears seven (not five as mentioned above) were killed.

It therefore seems that they may sometimes have acted as what are known in British, post-war, counter-insurgency parlance as "pseudo gangs", (security forces pretending to be opposing guerrillas).

This would give them a military specialization the Germans themselves did not have in-house, and is the sort of thing that might be expected of the Brandenburgers mentioned by Loïc above.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Loïc » 05 Apr 2020 12:48

It is not the first time I see a reference to Pamiers :idea: having something like a company of spanish «legionaries» or former legionaries
I remembered it yesterday when Ironmachine precised it is more accurate to say Legion Azul than Division Azul

they seem lieutenant-colonel Heyde's troops mentionned above

the 8th Company 3rd Regt of the Brandeburgers with 20 spaniards were also in southern France but formed in Western Pyrénées near Pau,
at Eaux-Bonnes, and operated more on Provence-Cévennes than in Ariège

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Ironmachine » 05 Apr 2020 18:09

Sid Guttridge wrote:On the side of the forces of repression, it is necessary to add a detachment from the Blue Division, a unit of the Francoist Spanish Army, which had returned from the Russian Front.
The Blue Division was officially disbanded on 17 November 1943, and the Blue Legion on 1 April 1944 (IIRC), so those men could be former members of those units, but not a "detachment from the Blue Division". And of course the Blue División was not a "unit of the Francoist Spanish Army", but a unit of the German Heer with Spanish personnel. So perhaps the rest of the book is very accurate, but this sentence is a complete nonsense.
Sid Guttridge wrote:This would give them a military specialization the Germans themselves did not have in-house, and is the sort of thing that might be expected of the Brandenburgers mentioned by Loïc above.
Other that their obvious capacity to speak Spanish, those former members of the Blue Divisions would have had only the military specializations that they had been taught by the Germans. Anyway, IIRC the Spanish of the 8th Company/3rd e Brandeburger Regt. had been sent to Italy in May 1944.

About your first original question, "How widespread was Spanish participation in the German armed forces outside the Blue Division, especially in southern Occupied France?", this may be of interest:
Estando los combatientes de la LEV en el campamento de Stablack, las autoridades militares alemanas les ofrecieron la posibilidad de seguir luchando. Algunos así lo hicieron pese a que un decreto posterior del gobierno del general Franco privó de la nacionalidad española a cuantos combatieran en ejércitos extranjeros sin la correspondiente autorización. Este decreto pretendía poner fin al cruce clandestino de la frontera hispano-francesa por parte de falangistas y otros aventureros que habían sido animados por los servicios secretos alemanes en España y por dirigentes falangistas a enrolarse en la Wehrmacht. Por ejemplo, para enero de 1944 se habían presentado en la embajada alemana de Madrid ciento treinta voluntarios. Con objeto de reclutarlos, las autoridades alemanas emplearon desde finales de enero de 1944 a un organismo, el Sonderstab F, que desarrollaba funciones contra la Resistencia en el sur de Francia. Se estableció una sede en Caterets con delegaciones en San Juan de Luz y Perpiñán. Los orígenes de este Sonderstab F se remontaban a 1941, cuando fue creado por el Abwehr y posteriormente afectado al servicio de seguridad de las SS, el Sicherheitsdienst (SD).
El Sonderstab F redirigía a los voluntarios a París, a un organismo de reclutamiento específico creado en el Quartier de la Reine de Versalles, donde tras ser sometidos al correspondiente chequeo médico, casi todos los admitidos eran trasladados a Stablack (posteriormente, estos voluntarios marcharían a la localidad austriaca de Stockerau). Y unos pocos eran reclutados por el SD para un nueva unidad creada en febrero de 1944, el Einsatzgruppe Pyrenären del Sonderstab F, destinada a labores antipartisanas mediante su infiltración en la Resistencia. Esta misión se veía favorecida por la abundante presencia de españoles antifascistas en el maquis de la región. Entre los españoles reclutados por el SD había, también, exiliados republicanos. Aunque el embajador español en Berlín cifró en 1.500 los españoles que trabajaban para los servicios de seguridad nazis en el verano de 1944, esta cantidad se antoja excesiva. El Sonderstab F fue trasladado a Stockerau en otoño de 1944, donde permaneció hasta el final de la guerra, cuando los cerca de 200 españoles que aún permanecían en la misma atravesaron la frontera suiza.
El Einsatzgruppe Pyrenären que operaba contra el maquis en el sur y en el sudeste de Francia pertenecía al Streifkorps Süd-Frankreich, y junto con él se retiró de Francia durante el verano de 1944 ante el avance de las fuerzas aliadas. En septiembre, como consecuencia del proceso de absorción del Abwehr, fue transferido al SS-Jagdvervänd Südwest, una de las formaciones bajo el mando del famoso obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny. Era ésta una unida mixta en la que también había voluntarios franceses e italianos. Adscritos a la SS-Jagdeinsatz Süd-Frankreich, formaron un denominado Kondor Kommando en clara referencia a las estrechas relaciones entre la Alemania nazi y la España del general Franco. Fueron destinados a una base cercana a la localidad alsaciana de Molsheim, desde donde se infiltraban colaboracionistas franceses en las regiones liberadas. A partir de enero de 1945, los españoles del Kondor Kommando se incorporaron a las misiones de reconocimiento y sabotaje en la retaguardia del Séptimo Ejército estadounidense y en abril, el SS-Jagdvervänd Südwest se amalgamó con el SS-Jagdvervänd Mitte y sus restos, bajo la dirección del propio Skorzeny, se dirigieron hacia las montañas bávaras.
Source: http://www.belliludi.com/azul.html
My translation:
While the LEV fighters were in the camp at Stablack, the German military authorities offered them the possibility to continue fighting. Some did that despite the fact that a later decree by the government of General Franco deprived those who fought in foreign armies without the corresponding authorization of the Spanish nationality. This decree was intended to end the clandestine crossing of the Spanish-French border by Falangists and other adventurers who had been encouraged by the German secret services in Spain and by Falangist leaders to enlist in the Wehrmacht. For example, by January 1944, one hundred and thirty volunteers had appeared at the German embassy in Madrid. For recruiting them, the German authorities had employed since late January 1944 an agency, the Sonderstab F, which was carrying out anti-Resistance functions in southern France. A headquarters was established in Caterets with delegations in Saint Jean de Luz and Perpignan. The origins of this Sonderstab F dated back to 1941, when it was created by the Abwehr and later affected by the SS security service, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).
The Sonderstab F sent the volunteers to Paris, to a specific recruitment body created in the Quartier de la Reine de Versailles, where after being subjected to the corresponding medical check-up, almost all those admitted were transferred to Stablack (later, these volunteers would go to the Austrian town of Stockerau). A few were recruited by the SD for a new unit created in February 1944, Einsatzgruppe Pyrenären of the Sonderstab F, intended for anti-partisan work by infiltrating the Resistance. This mission was favored by the abundant presence of anti-fascist Spaniards in the region's maquis. Among the Spaniards recruited by the SD there were also republican exiles. Although the Spanish ambassador in Berlin numbered 1,500 Spaniards working for the Nazi security services in the summer of 1944, this amount seems excessive. The Sonderstab F was transferred to Stockerau in the autumn of 1944, and remained there until the end of the war, when the nearly 200 Spaniards who still remained in it crossed the Swiss border.
The Einsatzgruppe Pyrenären operating against the maquis in the south and south-east of France belonged to the Streifkorps Süd-Frankreich, and together with it withdrew from France during the summer of 1944 before the advance of the Allied forces. In September, as a consequence of the Abwehr absorption process, it was transferred to the SS-Jagdvervänd Südwest, one of the formations under the command of the famous obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny. This was a mixed unit in which there were also French and Italian volunteers. Attached to the SS-Jagdeinsatz Süd-Frankreich, they formed a unit called Kondor Kommando in clear reference to the close relations between Nazi Germany and General Franco's Spain. They were posted to a base near the Alsatian town of Molsheim, from where French collaborationists infiltrated the liberated regions. Beginning in January 1945, the Spaniards of the Kondor Kommando joined the reconnaissance and sabotage missions in the rear of the US Seventh Army and in April, the SS-Jagdvervänd Südwest amalgamated with the SS-Jagdvervänd Mitte and its remains, Skorzeny's own direction, they headed towards the Bavarian mountains.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Apr 2020 07:49

Hi Ironmachine,

Your post seems to definitively answer my question.

One of the great things about AHF is that there are people like yourself and Loic here with high levels of specialist expertise available to answer obscure questions such as this one with authority. It was very reassuring to have both of you on the same thread.

So, it seems we are mainly dealing with a company-sized unit of Nationalist Spaniards deployed by German special forces across the Pyrenees departments, probably in platoon-sized packets, and operating as individual infiltrators and pseud-gangs primarily against Republican Spanish maquisards.

I suspect that the term "Division Azul" is being retrospectively applied post war by Delpa (and other French authors?) as a blanket term to cover all Spaniards in German service and should not be taken literally. He is also loose with the term "Vlasov" in describing ex-Soviet troops in German service.

On the plus side, Delpa seems to have a very detailed knowledge of the French resistance in Ariege and organizes his book very well, with original photos, maps, organigrams, chronologies, appendices, footnoting, etc., etc.

Many thanks to you and Loic,

Cheers,

Sid.


.
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 06 Apr 2020 08:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Apr 2020 08:37

Hi Loic,

Many thanks.

Sid.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Ironmachine » 06 Apr 2020 08:59

Sid Guttridge wrote:I suspect that the term "Division Azul" is being retrospectively applied post war by Depla (and other French authors?) as a blanket term to cover all Spaniards in German service and should not be taken literally. He is also loose with the term "Vlasov" in describing ex-Soviet troops in German service.
I think so. But it is an incorrect term and it smells of substandard work, lack of research or even certain bias. And the statement that the Blue Division was "a unit of the Francoist Spanish Army" can not even use that excuse; it's so plainly wrong that the eyes hurt when you read it. Those are basic, well-known facts, and we are talking about a book published in 2019! With a quick internet search, the author could have checked how wrong she was...

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Apr 2020 09:36

Hi Ironmachine,

Delpa died in 2017. He had written extensively on the Resistance in Ariege and this book may have been edited from his papers by others.

Perhaps his weakness was in being so focused on the Resistance that he didn't exhibit equal investigative interest in their opponents. It is certainly difficult to assemble a detailed order of battle of the German occupation forces in Ariege from the book - just general references to Feldgandarmerie, frontier forces and Turkomen.

He is not alone in not giving sufficient attention to "the other side of the hill". For example, I have seen a good number of descriptions of the Polish Campaign that use no Polish sources at all.

This aside, as regards the Resistance in Ariege, I would certainly recommend his book.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: How widespread were Spanish Nationalists in German security forces in southern France, 1940-44?

Post by Ironmachine » 06 Apr 2020 10:01

Sid Guttridge wrote:Delpa died in 2017. He had written extensively on the Resistance in Ariege and this book may have been edited from his papers by others.
Yes, I know that he died in 2017. It seems that his children had a great part in the final result of the work, even if the book is only credited to him. Anyway, whoever made the mistakes, him, his children or the editors of the book, the mistakes are there and they are not minor.
Sid Guttridge wrote:Perhaps his weakness was in being so focused on the Resistance that he didn't exhibit equal investigative interest in their opponents
Hardly an excuse. Those are not minor footnotes, those are well-known facts about World War II. No investigative interest is needed.

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