Third Reich Day by Day: May 1939

Despite the appeasement of Great Britain and France, Hitler’s territorial ambitions could only be satisfied by the conquest of Poland. Great Britain and France finally realized that Hitler was determined to absorb Poland just as he had the Austrians and Czechs. They therefore signed treaties with the Poles guaranteeing to declare war on Germany should Hitler invade. But the world was stunned by the Russo-German Non-Aggression Treaty, which sealed the fate of Poland. On September 1 German forces attacked Poland. World War II had begun.

12 May

Spain, German aid

Barajas Field, some 13km (eight miles) from Madrid, serves on as the venue for Generalissimo Franco to bestow 15 German and eight Italian flyers with Spain’s second-highest military decoration, the Military Medal. As each man is decorated, a Spanish aviation staff officer pronounces: “In the name of Spain this is given in recognition of your technical service and bravery in the anti-Bolshevist crusade.”

19 May

Spain, German aid

The victory parade celebrating the Nationalists triumph in the Civil War is held in Madrid. Over 42,000 troops representing all units of the Nationalist forces march past General Franco, who takes the salute. The parade is headed by 10,000 Italians under the command of General Gambara, leader of the Italian Legionnaires; the rear of the parade is brought up by 3500 men of the German Legion Condor under Richthofen. Apart from Spanish, Moorish, Italian and German infantry units, there is a prominent display of artillery, tanks and antiaircraft guns, while 880 aircraft fly past overhead. The parade, which lasts several hours, concludes with a short speech by a jubilant General Franco.

23 May

Spain, German aid

A final farewell parade is held for the Condor Legion at Leon in northwest Spain. On the aerodrome of “Our Lady of Travellers” Generalmajor von Richthofen presents his troops with Spanish decorations of varying grades in the name of Generalissimo Franco. Franco then addresses the men of the Condor Legion drawn up for their final inspection. In his speech to the Legion he states that it was with the feeling of great pride that he has under his orders German leaders, officers and men. He asks them to take back with them to Germany “the imperishable gratitude of Spain”.

24 May

Nazi Party, Personalities

Hitler attends the funeral of Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg, the former Prussian general, and one of the most eminent names to hold honourary SS rank. Honourary members of the SS were allowed to wear uniform but had no duties or powers.

25 May

Spain, German aid

The German troops begin to embark on six “Strength through Joy” ships that have arrived at Vigo, and shortly afterwards they set sail for Germany. Before leaving Spain, the German and the Italian Legionnaires hand over their arms and war materials to the Spanish Government.

30 May

Armed Forces, Rallies

The Condor Legion lands at Hamburg where it receives an official welcome from Generalfeldmarschall Göring. Göring announces that Hitler has instituted a new decoration, The Spanish Cross, in four classes of Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold with Brilliants. All volunteers from the Civil War are to receive one of the four classes. It is further announced that the Condor Legion is to be officially disolved within a few days, and that in proud memory of the Legion’s battle against international communism, the name “Condor” has been bestowed by Hitler himself on a Luftwaffe aircraft wing, an antiaircraft regiment and a signals battalion.

A few days after their arrival in Hamburg, the troops of the Legion proceeded to Döberitz, the military centre near Berlin.