Ramón Serrano Suñer

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Serrano and the second or maternal family name is Suñer.
Ramón Serrano Suñer
Serrano Súñer.jpg
President of the Falange
In office
20 November 1936 – 20 November 1975
Leader Francisco Franco
Preceded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera
Minister of the Interior
In office
30 January 1938 – 16 October 1940
Succeeded by Valentín Galarza Morante
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
October 16, 1940 – 3 September 1942
Succeeded by Francisco Gómez
Personal details
Born Ramón Serrano Suñer
12 September 1901
Cartagena, Spain
Died 1 September 2003(2003-09-01) (aged 101)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Political party FET y de las JONS (Falange)
Spouse(s) Ramona (Zita) Polo y Martínez-Valdés
Relations Francisco Franco (brother-in-law)
Children Fernando
Alma mater Complutense University
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Nickname(s) Cuñadísimo (Brother-in-law-ísimo, a joke on "Generalísimo")
Allegiance  Spanish State (1936–1975)
 Nazi Germany (1941–1943)
Service/branch Spanish Armed Forces
Years of service 1936–1975
Rank General
Commands Blue Division
Battles/wars Spanish Civil War
World War II
Ifni War

Ramón Serrano Suñer (12 September 1901 – 1 September 2003), was a Spanish politician during the first stages of General Francisco Franco's dictatorship, the Spanish State, between 1938 and 1942, when he held the posts of President of the Spanish Falange caucus (1936), and then Interior Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister. Serrano Suñer was known for his pro-Third Reich stance during World War II, when he supported the sending of the Blue Division to fight along with the Wehrmacht on the Russian front.[1] He was also the brother-in-law of the Spanish dictator General Franco, for which he was nicknamed Cuñadísimo. (Franco himself was, officially, the generalísimo.)

Serrano Suñer was the founder of the 67,000-strong Spanish blind people's organization ONCE on 13 December 1938, as well as of the EFE press-agency, in 1939. EFE was founded with Navarrese journalist Manuel Aznar Zubigaray and his Basque falangist son Manuel Aznar Acedo (a Spanish army officer, journalist and propaganda broadcaster), the father of José María Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004. Serrano Suñer also founded the Radio Intercontinental radio network in 1950.

Early life[edit]

He was born Ramón Serrano y Suñer in Cartagena, the fifth of seven children born to an engineer working in the Valencian port of Castellón de la Plana. Although he was an excellent student, his father disapproved of his plans to become a lawyer. He enrolled at the Madrid University to study law, just the same. A fellow student was José Antonio Primo de Rivera (son of Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, and founder of the Falange). He also spent a year in Bologna, during which he developed a taste for fascism.

Ramón Serrano Suñer and Francisco Franco were co-brothers-in-law, since the two married two sisters: Serrano Suñer married Ramona (Zita) Polo y Martínez-Valdés, in Oviedo on 6 February 1932, whom he had met shortly after moving to Zaragoza in 1931. Franco married Carmen Polo y Martínez-Valdés in October 1923. Ramón Serrano Suñer and Zita Polo had six children: Fernando, Francisco, Jaime Javier, José, María del Pilar and Ramón Serrano-Suñer y Polo.[2]

Carmen Díez de Rivera e Icaza was Ramón Serrano Súñer's illegitimate daughter with the Marquis of Llanzol's wife. Carmen unknowingly tried to engage with his son (and her half-brother) Ramón Serrano Suñer y Polo, who later became a leftist politician and member of the European Parliament.[3] Carmen, a most beautiful woman in her youth, with blue "aryan" eyes, like Serrano's, was highly educated and fluent in several languages. She became the Personal Secretary of Adolfo Suarez, the first democratically elected Spanish President.

Political career[edit]

Ramón Serrano Suñer, during a visit to the headquarters of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in October, 1940.

Suñer was already a conservative member of the Cortes (1933–36). He joined Franco early in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), during which he led the Falange. In July 1936 he was caught participating in the conspiracy to overthrow the republic and captured and locked in a Republican prison. He escaped in October 1936, dressed as a woman, and was then helped by the Argentine navy in getting to France, from where he was able to reach Salamanca, on 20 February 1937, where Franco was in office at the time. It was there that he could work with Franco to participate in the rebellious side of the Spanish Civil War. Escaping from prison amidst the cross-fire of an angry outbreak of his country's civil war, while both of his brothers were killed by the Republicans, it seems ironic that Serrano Suñer would not only manage to pull through but later live to be a centenarian.

In 1938 Serrano Suñer went to Nuremberg with Nicolás Franco, brother of his brother-in-law, General Francisco Franco, probably to the 10th Nuremberg Rally (Reichsparteitag Grossdeutschland in German) of the Nazi Party, to celebrate the previous Austrian Anschluss, March 1938.

Serrano Suñer served as Nationalist Minister of the Interior (1 February 1938 – 9 August 1939). When Franco amalgamated that Ministry with the Ministry of Public Order, "Ministerio de Orden Público" in Spanish, a new name was created, "Ministerio de la Gobernación", but usually that new name is translated nowadays as "Ministry of the Interior". This amalgamation was made by Franco on 9 August 1939, whereby Serrano Suñer became "Ministro de la Gobernación" on 9 August 1939 until 16 October 1940. It was just the day before, 15 October 1940, that the former President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluis Companys was executed by a firing squad at Barcelona. On 13 August, Companys had been handed back by the Gestapo authorities of occupied Paris to head-hunter Spanish policeman and spy Pedro Urraca Rendueles, along with the extradition of Basque Minister of the Interior Julián Zugazagoitia who served under Republican Prime Minister Juan Negrín.

While Serrano Suñer had been Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was General Juan Luis Beigbeder y Atienza, formerly a Military Attaché at the Spanish Embassy Berlin as an Army Commandant in 1926. Already as a Colonel, he was the predecessor of Serrano Suñer as a Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Heinrich Himmler at Madrid Northern Railway Station, October 1940, being honored by Spanish soldiers. Ramón Serrano Suñer is in a dark uniform worn by the Spanish Fascist Party leaders at that time

In September 1940, the strongly pro-Axis Serrano Suñer visited Berlin to meet the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to discuss how Spain might best enter the war on the Axis side.[4] During the meeting, Serrano Suñer presented a "shopping list" to Ribbentrop, saying Spain wanted Gibraltar from the British; all of French Morocco and Algeria "which belonged to Spain's Lebensraum" ; and about Portugal, he said: "Geographically speaking, Portugal has no right to exist".[5] Additionally, Serrano Suñer wanted generous promises of German military and economic support before Spain entered the war.[6] Serrano Suñer and Ribbentrop did not get along and the two men soon developed an intense mutual hatred of one another.[7] Ribbentrop told Serrano Suñer that in return for military and economic aid and allowing the return of Gibraltar, the Reich wanted to annex at a minimum one of the Canary islands (through Ribbentrop stated that he preferred that Germany have all of the Canaries, but he was prepared to be magnanimous by taking only one); that Germany be allowed air and naval bases in Spanish Morocco with extraterritorial rights; German companies to be given control of the mines in Spanish Morocco; and finally Ribbentrop wanted an economic treaty that would have turned Spain into an economic colony of Germany.[8] For the pro-Axis Serrano Suñer who had been expecting the Germans to treat Spain as an ally and equal, to learn that the Germans viewed Spain as little more than a satellite state was a great shock.[9] During his visits to Berlin, Serrano Suñer, who had started to rethink the wisdom of Spain entering the war, was overruled by General Franco, who was keen to enter the war as soon as possible on the Axis side before Britain was defeated.[10] Franco in his letters to Serrano Suñer praised Hitler as a wise statesman and dismissed Ribbentrop's demands as the product of a man who failed to properly appreciate what Spain had to offer the Axis.[11]

Serrano Suñer had married, in October 1915, María Fedriani y Martín-Esperanza from Alcalá de Henares, and was a longtime resident in what is now North Morocco as a Military Governor, having a flair for exotic, foreign, beautiful ladies, as recognized by the German controllers of foreign members of the Diplomatic Services at Berlin. He seems to have been very friendly with a British lady born in India by the name Rosalinde Powell Fox, presumed to be a British female spy.

Certainly, on 1 February 1943, "africanist" Colonel Beigbeder, a good speaker and reader of Classical Arabic and North Moroccan languages, Tangier and Tetouan, was at USA, with Rosalinde Powell Fox, the former wife of an industrialist in India, being promoted, September 1943, to a General of Brigade.

Meanwhile, even on becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, Serrano Suñer had to accept Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba, as Ambassador to London, who since November 1937 represented rebellious Franco and since March 1939 represented Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco until March 1945. The 17th Duke of Alba had been formerly a Minister of Public Instruction, later Minister of State, 1930–1931, under the dictatorship of General Dámaso Berenguer.

In June 1939 Serrano Suñer had been back to Italy to present Benito Mussolini with the thousands of repatriated Italian soldiers who had fought by the side of Franco in Spain against the Spanish Republican soldiers. He was appointed the 263rd Minister of Foreign Affairs (18 October 1940 – 3 September 1942), thanks to his skill at building a relationship with Benito Mussolini.

Even though he was working alongside Franco, he objected to the increasing role of the Catholic Church in Falangist politics. The two brothers-in-law had some intra-party conflicts of their own, as Serrano Suñer accused Franco of riding on a "cult of personality," while Franco viewed Serrano Suñer as increasingly becoming a thorn in the side of his party, criticizing too many of its policies.

Involvement in World War II[edit]

Just one week after Serrano Suñer was promoted to Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 23 October 1940, Francisco Franco and Adolf Hitler met at the Hendaye railway station in France, near the Spanish border. There, Serrano Suñer met German Foreign Affairs Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Paul Schmidt, head interpreter of the German Chancellor, reported that Franco sat between Joachim von Ribbentrop and Walther von Brauchitsch, while Adolf Hitler sat between the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Ramón Serrano Suñer and the Spanish Ambassador at Berlin, Eugenio Espinosa de los Monteros. However, neither the Spanish Ambassador at Berlin nor the German Ambassador at Madrid, Eberhard von Stohrer, were allowed at the exhaustive and inconclusive political meetings. By morning the meeting ended with no compromise. Serrano Suñer was later to say of the Hendaye summit that because of General Franco's obsession with Morocco, that if only Hitler had offered him French Morocco, then Spain would have entered the war in October 1940.[12]

Although Serrano Suñer had played a major role in establishing the Spanish state under Franco, being so influential as to be nicknamed the "Cuñadísimo", which translates as supreme brother-in-law (a joke on "Generalísimo"), and despite Serrano Suñer's advocating for Spain to join the Axis powers, Franco opted for Spain to remain a nonbelligerent during World War II. Serrano Suñer's protege Pedro Gamero del Castillo consulted in January 1941 with Hans Lazar, the press secretary of the German Embassy and told him that a Serrano Suñer government would commit to the Axis powers and thus asked for him to arrange for the Nazis to publicly back his mentor.[13] However it is unclear whether Gamero was working on his own initiative and Hitler was disappointed that Serrano Súñer had not tried harder to help Germany, and called him the "gravedigger of the new Spain".

To make up for this failure, Serrano Suñer proposed the Blue Division of Spanish volunteers to fight with the Germans against the Soviet Union and communism after Operation Barbarossa, 22 June 1941.

On 25 November 1941 he signed in Berlin the revision of the pact of 25 November 1936 GermanyJapan Anti-Komintern Pact, an Anti-Communist pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan (later to be joined by other countries) directed against the Communist International (Comintern) or Komintern.

In 1942, following the US entry into the war, German reverses in Russia and Africa, and the Basilica of Begoña incident, 16 August 1942, Serrano Suñer was forced to resign as foreign minister and president of the political council of the Falange. However, a full understanding of his dismissal also requires to consider personal and family issues.[14] After World War II, he wrote a persuasive letter to Franco, calling for a transitional government that would have room for intellectuals in exile. When Franco received the letter, he wrote a derisive "Ho-ho." in its margin. Serrano Suñer ultimately retired from public life in 1947, but lived longer than most of the people he worked with.


  1. ^ La Etapa de Ramón Serrano Súñer en el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores
  2. ^ Ramón Serrano Súñer (Spanish)
  3. ^ María Luisa Mataix, "Carmen Díez de Rivera e Icaza". A short biography in Spanish (December 2002), based on Ana Romero, Historia de Carmen. Memoria de Carmen Díez de Rivera, Editorial Planeta.
  4. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1–16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  5. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  6. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  7. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  8. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  9. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  10. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 5.
  11. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 6.
  12. ^ Preston, Paul "Franco and Hitler: The Myth of Hendaye 1940" pages 1-16 from Contemporary European History, Volume 1, Issue # 1, March 1992 page 14.
  13. ^ Paul Preston, Franco, London: 1995, p. 415
  14. ^ Nieves Herrero, Lo que escondían sus ojos, La esfera de los Libros, Barcelona: 2013

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