On 1 April 1939, Spain’s three-year civil war officially ended. The alliance of fascist-oriented Falangists, monarchists and conservatives headed up by General Franco had defeated the arranged forces of the Spanish republicans and the international left. Tens of thousands of republican prisoners were executed, half a million more fled into exile, and Franco was to rule Spain without significant challenge until his death in 1975.
Despite his ideological alignment with Hitler and Mussolini and the support that they had given him during the Civil War, Franco maintained a policy of official neutrality throughout WWII, although he allowed up to 50,000 Spanish citizens, including serving soldiers, to volunteer for service on the Eastern Front.
Spain’s official neutrality and pro-Fascist tendency did not prevent Spanish antifascists from having an influence on the war, however. Thousands of left-wing volunteers had travelled from across Europe to fight in Spain’s Civil War, and were therefore trained in military combat, making them vital to the national resistance when their own countries were invaded. Furthermore, when the Civil War ended, Spanish Republican veterans who had fled from Francoist repression after the war were to play significant roles in the resistance movements of other nations, most notably in France.
Mauthausen survivors cheer the soldiers of the Eleventh Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army one day after their actual liberation. The banner reads: "The Spanish Anti-Fascists Salute the Liberating Forces." According to P. Serge Choumoff, a historian and survivor of Mauthausen, this event was recreated at the request of General Eisenhower.