The history of Cuba during World War II begins in 1939. Because of Cuba's geographical position at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico, Havana's role as the principal trading port in the West Indies, and the country's natural resources, Cuba was an important participant in the American Theater of World War II, and subsequently one of the greatest beneficiaries of the United States' Lend-Lease program. Moreover, Cuba declared war on the Axis powers in December 1941, making it one of the first Latin American countries to enter the conflict, and by the war's end in 1945 its military had developed a reputation as being the most efficient and cooperative of all the Caribbean nations.
Federico Laredo Brú was the President of Cuba when the war began in 1939. His one significant World War II-related crisis before leaving office in 1940 was the MS St. Louis affair. The MS St. Louis was a Germanocean liner carrying over 900 Jewish refugees from Germany to Cuba. Upon arriving in Havana, the Cuban government refused to allow the refugees to land because they did not have proper permits and visas. After sailing north, the United States and Canadian governments also refused to accept the refugees, and so the St. Louis sailed back across the Atlantic, and dropped her passengers off in Europe. Some thenceforth went to Britain, but most went to Belgium and France, which were soon overrun by German forces. Ultimately, because of the refusal to take in the Jewish refugees, many were taken prisoner by the Germans and subsequently killed in concentration camps.
Following the 1940 Cuban elections, Brú was succeeded by the "strongman and chief" of the Cuban Army, Fulgencio Batista. At first, the United States was concerned about Batista's intentions; whether he would align his country with the Axis cause, or that of the Allies. Batista, shortly after becoming president, legalized a pro-fascist organization linked to Francisco Franco and his regime in Spain, but fear of any Nazi sympathies was dispelled when Batista sent the British a large quantity of sugar as a gift. Later, fear of Batista's possible sympathy for Franco was also dispelled when the president suggested to the United States that it launch a joint US-Latin American invasion of Spain, in order to overthrow Franco and his regime. This plan, however, did not materialize.
The Spanish State under General Franco was officially non-belligerent during World War II. This status, although not recognised by international law, was intended to express the regime's sympathy and material support for the Axis Powers, to which Spain offered considerable material, economic, and military assistance. Despite this ideological sympathy, Spain did not enter the war as a belligerent and, in fact, frustrated German designs on Gibraltar and stationed field armies at the Pyrenees to dissuade Germany from occupying the Iberian Peninsula. This apparent contradiction can be explained by Franco's pragmatism and his determination to act principally in Spanish interests, in the face of Allied economic pressure, Axis military demands, and Spain's geographic isolation.
During World War II Spain was governed by a military dictatorship, but despite Franco's own pro-Axis leanings and debt of gratitude to Mussolini and Hitler, the government was divided between Germanophiles and Anglophiles. When the war started, Juan Beigbeder Atienza, an Anglophile, was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The rapid German advance in Europe convinced Franco to substitute him with Ramón Serrano Súñer, his brother-in-law and a strong Germanophile (October 18, 1939). After the 1942 Allied victories in Eastern Europe and north Africa, Franco changed tack again, appointing Francisco Gómez-Jordana Sousa, sympathetic to the British, as minister. Another influential anglophile was the Duke of Alba, Spain's ambassador in London.
The main part of Spain's involvement in the war was through volunteers. They fought for both sides, largely reflecting the allegiances of the civil war.
This Monday, a revival reading of Sinclair Lewis's fable of an American fascist coup opens a rare window into Depression-era Washington, when politics were radical, artists were agitators, and theater really seemed to matter.
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951), the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, chose the Federal Theatre Project to stage It Can’t Happen Here—in spite of commercial offers from Broadway—because...
The Spanish Civil War started as a coup by the Spanish military on the peninsula (peninsulares) and the Moroccan rif territory (africanistas) on July 17, 1936. The coup had the support of most factions sympathetic to the right-wing cause in Spain including the majority of Spain's Catholic clergy, the fascist-inclined Falange, and the Alfonsine and Carlist monarchists. The coup escalated into a civil war lasting for three years once Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany agreed to support Franco starting with airlifting of the africanistas onto the mainland. Other supporters included Portugal under Antonio Salazar, while the presentation of the Civil War as a "crusade" or renewed reconquista attracted the sympathy of Catholics internationally and the participation of Irish Catholic volunteers. Although the government of Great Britain was more sympathetic to the Francoists while the Popular Front government of France was anxious to support the Republic, both factions observed the non-intervention agreement of October 1936. The Second Spanish Republic was backed by the Stalinist Soviet Union from December 1936 and Mexico.
Franco was formally recognised as Caudillo for the Spanish patria by the National Defense Committee (Junta de defensa nacional) which governed the territories occupied by the Nationalists on 1 October 1936. In April 1937 Franco assumed control of the Falange, then led by Manuel Hedilla who had succeeded the founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, executed in November 1936, and assimilated it along with the Carlists into what was known as the Falange Espanola Tradicional y de las JONS, the official party of the Francoists referred to as the Movimiento especially in the later years of the regime. The Falangists were concentrated at local government and grassroot level, entrusted with harnessing the Civil War's momentum of mass mobilisation through their auxiliaries and syndicates by collecting denunciations of enemy residents and recruiting workers into the syndicates. While there were prominent Falangists at a senior government level, especially before the late 1940s, there were higher concentrations of monarchists, military officials and other traditional conservative factions at those levels.. However, the Falange remained the sole party throughout Franco's regime and its ideology, National-Syndicalism, remained the official ideology of the State.
The United States government bankrolled some of the most innovative Yiddish stage productions in the 20th century when it paid the salaries of actors, writers and directors under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s.
The Federal Theatre Project, a program of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration that included a Yiddish-language component as well as an African-American theater group, was founded on this date in 1935.
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