The Spanish Civil War


The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 with a military revolt against the Republican government of Spain, in an effort to overthrow conservative elements within the country.  The initial military coup led by Francisco Franco failed to gain enough Spanish support, instigating a civil war between the leftist Republicans and the right-winged Nationalists. The war itself was extremely horrific, often seen as a prelude to the Second World War.

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As the Republican defenses eventually collapsed at the end of the war, combatants and civilians that supported the Republic began to stream across the French frontier to seek safety from Franco’s regime. About .5 million Spaniards refugees fled over the pyrenees to France, with inhabitants of Spanish camps along the border becoming some of France’s first Resistance fighters. They were located to St. Cyprien, Argeles-sur-Mer, Gurs, Barcares, Vernet d’Ariege. These camps were overcrowded and lacked facilities. The refugee crisis quickly entered the international sphere as countless Spaniards sought safe shelter.

A secondary route to the exile was represented by northern Africa. The main destination to this exodus was Orán and its area: the western end of Algeria close to the Moroccan border. The exile in the African continent followed a pattern similar to the one noticed in metropolitan France.

This map illustrates the geographic distribution of Spanish republican refugees:

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