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on 21 August 2015
If you're looking for a general, all-purpose introduction to the Spanish Civil War, this book is not for you. Dense, meticulously researched, and a compelling narrative, The Spanish holocaust is historical scholarship at its best.

However, its strengths are also a glaring weakness. Other reviews have complained of a narrative that chimes with my own perceptions. For example, Preston goes into great detail about the atrocities visited upon a town or village in a particular region. This can go on for page after page ad infinity.

The process is then repeated for other towns and villages. I agree with others that this is history that deserves to be told, but as I mentioned above, despite its strengths, this is not one for the layman, but one for the student of this era.
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on 22 April 2012
I am an unabashed Hispanophile - I first went to Spain in 1949. My father had an involvement with Harveys of Bristol and we drove to visit sherry bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera from Gibraltar, my mother's childhood home. It was the first foreign country I ever visited. I felt at home immediately.

Here I am 63 years later commenting on a book which should have been written many years ago but nobody had the courage to do so. During the several years that I lived and worked in the country and during the many visits that I have made since 1949 people were very reluctant to talk about the Civil War to me or my wife. One was aware of it, of course, but the circumstances and reasons for what happened seem to be so impossible to obtain that Spaniards seem to suffer from collective amnesia no matter which "side" they or their families were on. Of course, not many Spaniards who were involved at the time are now alive so first hand accounts are hard to come by. It seems that the experts on the period are either British - Hugh Thomas and Paul Preston, for example - or Irish, Ian Gibson, of course.

The Spanish Holocaust is not a book to be read for pleasure nor, indeed, quickly. Preston goes to pains to record the atrocities committed by both sides - it is a pity that at times he seems to want to register the "score" with the Nationalists clearly "winning" but he also places much emphasis on the equally insidious acts of the anarchist movement and the involvement of opportunistic criminal elements. What is very clear, and very disappointing to me as a Catholic, is that the Church took sides with the Nationalists and justified much of the mayhem - maybe the Church in the Basque Country was an exception. What is also very disturbing to me is that cities I know well such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Jerez de la Frontera, Málaga, seem to have no memorials to the civilian "caidos" and victims - men, women and children.

Thank you, Paul Preston, for "The Spanish Holocaust", it moved me to tears. Let us hope that todays Spain is not just a veneer attempting to hide the awful events of 75 years ago.
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on 29 March 2012
With this book Paul Preston has produced the most compelling account of the Spanish Civil War to date, presenting in unflinching detail its causes, its chaos, its carnage, and its consequences. Preston's limitless erudition is offered up in an elegant prose that refuses to sanitize or sensationalize a period marked by unspeakable atrocities that nevertheless must be spoken of. The traumatic tales told in this incredible memorial to human suffering will make the reader lay it down from time to time - as its author had to do in the writing of it. As someone whose father fought for the International Brigades in Spain, and was captured at Jarama in 1937 and imprisoned at Salamanca, I have a personal connection to the conflict, but this is not a book about the International Brigades, or heroism, or one that shies away from looking long and hard at the despicable violence on all sides. Preston's clear-eyed study will make readers cry, but his utterly unsentimental analysis of war crimes, while never resorting to easy morality or high-minded condemnation, is a salutary lesson in understanding one of the most vicious episodes in modern history. This is research in the interests of recovery of memory, and that's arguably among the most important roles that scholarship can fill.
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on 24 September 2013
I always knew that General Franco and his merry men were monsters, but until I read this book, I was unaware of the scale of their crimes. From the illegal uprising against a legally elected government to the horrendous atrocities against civilians, one's blood chills and chills again at the horrors perpetrated by the Francoist forces. The initial Nationalist advance, until checked at Madrid, saw mass executions and sexual abuse of women captives so horrific that even right-wing foreign correspondents embedded with Franco's forces were having nervous breakdowns. Even Mussolini was shocked at the scale of the violence; even the German government protested at the way Franco's good Catholic soldiery treated the Spanish Protestants. Read this book and understand what motivated so many foreign volunteers to go and fight in Spain in the International Brigades. Read and wonder how Franco lasted for so long.
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on 17 August 2015
Highlights the horrors of this most unforgiving of civil wars. This is not a history of any of the campaigns but the horrors inflicted by both sides on each other. Each side were guilty of the most appalling atrocities. Most of these were committed by the Nationalist side (Franco). On the Republican side most of the atrocities were committed in the first months (July through December 1936), thereafter law and order was more or less restored. After the first frenzies of the rebellion many Nationalist supporters and sympathisers caught up on the Republican side were protected. Unfortunately this was not reciprocated by Franco and his cohorts, where almost all Republicans were executed in deliberate acts of genocide. The Nationalists adopted a deliberate policy of a slow steady advance, eliminating any present or possibly future enemy. Even when Franco and the Nationalists had won, the slaughter of Republicans and their sympathizers continued for many years afterwards, even up to the early 1970's. I could only read a couple of chapters at a time because of the repetitive gruesomeness of the contents.
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on 9 April 2012
There is no doubt that Preston knows his stuff - he is the "go to" man for this era of Spanish history. So if you want a meticulous authoritiative account, this may well be your resource. One can't say it is a fun or an easy read. The subect matter precludes the former, and the sheer weight of detail precludes the latter.

I would not myself recommend it to a first time reader on this subject; having approached it as such myself I found it really quite a struggle and had to go off and get some background elsewhere to put me in context, after I spent the first hundred pages or so feeling my head was spinning. However I gather from other reviews that if you are less lamentably ignorant on the subject than I was, it is much less of a struggle; so if you know a bit about the subject chances are you will revel in it. And to be fair once I did get a bit settled I found it a hugely informative, if deptressing, book.

My one niggle (and this may be my ignorance, but the Lit Rev reviewer seemed to think this too) - there seemed to be something of a pro-Republican bias. All the republican outrages seemed to be accepted as legitimate revenge for earlier horrors by the rightists; but a rightist outrage, even where it was expressly said to be in revenge (and where Preston accepted such a republican attack had taken place, which he often does not, sometimes without explaining why) never seems to be accepted as justified revenge ...
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on 21 November 2014
A very good book, the details are horrific. It gives a insight into current Spanish political problems and why it will take a bit longer to resolve some of the issues. Not sure I would use the emotive description Holocaust.
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on 1 April 2013
The book was unbelievable in parts and very difficult to read without a lump in my throat and sometimes sickened to my stomach my grandmother was Basque and a child refugee brought to England she hardly ever wanted to talk about this period at all just by saying it was so bad that she didn't want burden us now I know why. I know the violence was not all from the rebel side but there was a lot more reasoning and soul searching on the Republican side. This book was hard to read not from the way it was written but because of the shear inhumanity to the same race of people after all nearly every person in this book that was murdered was Spanish.
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on 7 March 2012
Paul Preston's 'The Spanish Holocaust' is ground-breaking, meticulous and one of the most important, riveting and most chilling studies of the consequences of the Spanish Civil War published to date, an opinion and endorsement which I have absolutely no hesitation in expressing both as a researcher on the subject myself and the publisher of the English-language edition of Peirats (whose publication in English, incidentally, Paul Preston helped finance!) -- and as a friend and occasional publisher of Diego Camacho (Abel Paz). The book is of even greater relevance today in view of the recent decision by the Partido Popular cabinet to abolish the Office for Victims of the Civil War and Dictatorship and, in all likelihood, begin their long-promised move to repeal the Historical Memory Law. Fortunately, Preston's 'The Spanish Holocaust' will stand as a monument to the untold thousands of victims of Francoism and as an ever-present reproach to those who would deny them - and those who honour their memory -justice. Thoroughly recommended and essential reading for everyone - and not just students and aficionados of the SCW. - Stuart Christie
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on 22 March 2012
Nobody has written about the Spanish Civil War quite like Paul Preston. He is the "go to" historian in both English and Spanish.

Preston's `The Spanish Civil War' is already the definitive book for any antifascist who wants to understand the tragedy that was the fall of Spanish Republic. Throughout his substantial cannon of work he has eloquently portrayed the sacrifices that men and women from across the world made to fight Franco's brutal fascist regime and the shadowy and sinister support he received from Hitler and Mussolini, that was criminally ignored by the rest of Europe.

`The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain' is Preston's tour de force and possibly even surpasses his unparalleled biography of Franco to become his most important contribution to our understanding of 20th century Spain. As ever, Preston has sought to re tell the events, massacres and heroism through the eyes and memories of the lives of those who suffered most. The tragic tales of men and women who took up arms against a military machine that wanted to crush all vestiges of democracy, humanity and secularism.

The primary premise of this 700 page work is that Franco's belief in a Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy resulted in a conscious and systematic attempt to eradicate all Republicans. Preston places the figure of murdered Republicans as high as 200,000 which certainly justifies his use of the term Holocaust. Franco's fanaticism even allowed the Nazis to test drop their bombs on the Spanish people. To its shame, the outside world refused to come to their aid.

A large section of the book is given over to Preston's meticulous research, testament that he has laboured harder and more thoroughly than others that may draw their own or different conclusions. It is often said that in wars, the victors get to write the history. It is the case that of the Spanish Civil War, the victors' have nothing palatable worth remembering, celebrating or commemorating. Preston has often said that he has spent his life fighting Franco. Those who continue to try and apologise for Franco now have their work really cut out as The Spanish Holocaust unquestionably delivers a blow to Franco's reputation that it will be hard to overcome.
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