Wide Angle

World War II : When the Nazis eyed Moroccan phosphate

Documents made public this week by Spanish newspaper ABC reveal Franco and Hitler’s interests in Morocco during the Second World War. Negotiations, however, failed to help the two leaders lay a foot in the Kingdom.

Spanish ruler Francisco Franco and Hitler./Ph. DR
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In 1940, and months after the Second World War erupted, France and Spain were struggling. Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe and Spain emerged from a Civil War that granted Francisco Franco the title of a ruler. Despite the complicated context, the Iberian country chose to unite with Germany during the war.

The interests of Spanish troops in Morocco were making headlines in 1940. Other fascist regimes had even envied Franco for being well positioned in a strategic region.

Exclusive documents revealed by Spanish daily newspaper ABC show that the Moroccan territory controled by Spain at the time was coveted by several countries. Indeed, letters sent by Franco to his brother-in-law, Serrano Suner, who served as Spain’s Foreign Minister, unveiled the fact that partnering with Hitler was an option the country considered.

In a letter sent in September the 18th, 1940, Serrano Suner told Franco that Spain, and after going through a rough civil war, needed help, referring to «ammunition, gas, and weapons».

At the end of the day, Francisco Franco received a letter from Hitler in person, asking him about the help he needed.

Military bases in Agadir and the Mogador Island

In the same letter, Serrano Suner, told Franco that he «immediately referred to [his] plan regarding Morocco». «[Their] legitimate expansion starts near Algiers in Oranesado (Oran region), reaching Guinea», he explained.

Unfortunately, the expansion the Spanish Foreign Minister was talking about was not well received by Germany. His German counterpart, Joachim von Ribbentrop, however, requested the creation of military bases in Agadir and the Mogador Island.

Discussions were carried later during a gala that the Fuhrer attended. The latter reportedly told the Spanish minister that «Germany was pleased to acknowledge Spain’ sovereignty over Morocco, with the exception of securing a favorable trade agreement with Berlin to exploit Moroccan raw materials».

Adolf Hitler’s request was mainly connected to Moroccan phosphate, to manufacture explosives.

At the time, Hitler was speaking of a Germany that could «control parts of Africa for shared interests with Spain and Italy». His objective was to kick France out of Morocco and other African territories.

However, these negotiations were not completed. A month later, on October the 23rd, 1940, a few days before Marshal Petain announced that France would collaborate with Germany, Hitler and Franco met in the French commune of Hendaye.

Fortunately, Franco's dream was not realized. After a six hour-discussion session, the two heads of state couldn't agree. Spain did not participate to the war, but sent 50,000 volunteers from the Azul División to fight Russians alongside the Germans.

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