“No News in the Alcázar, My General”

Culture - May 13, 2024

The ECR Party is organising an event in Spain called “Europa Viva 24”, to take place 17 and 18 May 2024.  During the first day, the participants will travel to Toledo, the historic capital of the gothic kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula from 542 to 711, when it was invaded by Islamic troops.

As part of their tour, they will visit the arch-famous Alcázar, the old palace where one thousand national soldiers and volunteers resisted a two-months siege against a fierce Republican attack by over eight thousand men during the first phase of the Spanish Crusade of 1936-1939.

Right before the siege, Colonel Moscardó had warned priests in Toledo that, if they did not take refuge with the troops in the Alcázar, they could be massacred by the enemies of faith.  Perhaps in order to stay with their brethren, the religious men refused the offer.

They would indeed pay with their lives, as 102 were murdered by the leftwing militia, including Don Gregorio Gomez de las Heras, Mozarabic chaplain of Toledo Cathedral and the Hospital de Tavera, together with his brother Don Toribio, also a Mozarabic chaplain of the Cathedral, canon archdeacon of the cathedral of Toledo; Dr. Rafael Martinez Vega and his brother Felipe, a primary school teacher and journalist; Monsignor Jose Polo Benito, dean of Toledo Cathedral, professor at the University of Salamanca and member of the Royal Academy of History, beatified by His Holiness Benedict XVI; Dr. Agustin Rodriguez Rodriguez, beloved former parish priest of Villacañas, who had declined to become bishop of Jaca and Palencia, professor of archaeology, church history, biblical criticism and geography, lieutenant vicar general of the archdiocese of Toledo, director of the College of Nobel Maidens, lectoral canon of the Cathedral, administrator of the Hospital de Tavera and journalist; and Dom Emilio Ruben Fernández, a Franciscan known for his simplicity, kindness, patience and good humour.

On 21 July 1936, General Riquelme of the Republican front proposed Colonel Moscardó to surrender.  This was Moscardó’s reply:  “It seems incredible that you, who have learned with me in this Academy what things of honour are, should make me such a dishonourable proposition that no worthy man can accept and that every gentleman must reject with indignation.  We will not surrender!  For, if there is no other choice, we are determined to make the Alcázar a glorious necropolis, and never a dunghill”.

Two days later, Colonel Moscardó was called on the telephone by the chief of the Republican Militia, and told that if the Alcázar were not surrendered within ten minutes, Moscardó’s 24-year-old son, Luis, who had been captured earlier in the day, would be executed.  Colonel Moscardó demanded to speak to his son and his son asked his father what he should do. “Commend your soul to God,” the Colonel told his son, “and die like a patriot, shouting ‘¡Long live Christ the King!’ and ‘¡Long live Spain!’  The Alcázar does not surrender”, the Colonel added.  The young man confirmed to proceed as his father had instructed, and was killed subsequently.

Franco could have directed the national troops towards Madrid, but he preferred to deviate them to Toledo, in order to liberate the Alcázar.  If Moscardó had committed to resist or die, the Caudillo would also abide by his promise and never leave his brave men at their mercy.

Five days after the beginning of the siege, on 26 July 1936, the defenders founded a newspaper, titled “El Alcázar”, that lasted until 6 November 1987.  One of the founders was attorney Mr. Luis Montemayor, who would become mayor of Toledo in 1959.

Inside of the Alcázar, Catholic volunteer Antonio Rivera Ramirez, nicknamed the Angel of the Alcázar, said to Dr. Pelayo Lozano Arcos after having been wounded: “Don Pelayo, you will have to amputate me, won’t you?  I do not care, even if there is no anaesthetic left. I only ask that they put a rosary on my right hand; with it I will resist any pain”. Antonio smiled, taking the drama out of the situation and added: “Don’t worry about it and cut it off. Besides, it’s the left arm and I don’t want anything to do with the left!”

On 18 September, Republican Prime Minister Francisco Largo Caballero visited the siege and, infuriated, said that he would burn the whole building down with everybody inside.

On 28 September 1936, at 9am, General Varela entered in the completely destroyed Alcázar.  This is when Colonel Moscardó pronounced his second most famous statement:  “No news in the Alcázar, my General”.  A plaque remembered General Varela in Toledo up to recently, when it has been made disappeared by the so-called Democratic Memory imposed by the Socialist-Communist government currently in power.

One day later it was Generalissimo Franco who arrived at the Alcázar and proclaimed:  “Heroes of the Alcázar! Your example will last through the generations, because you have been able to sustain the glories of the empire, where you have made yourselves strong.  History is small for the greatness of your deeds.  You have exalted the race, exalted Spain, giving it unfading glory. I salute and embrace you in the name of the Fatherland and I bring you in gratitude and recognition for your heroism and I announce that, in reward for your sacrifice, you have been awarded the Laureate, personal for Colonel Moscardó, collective for all the defenders. Long live Spain!”

The Daily Express correspondent on that day seemed overwhelmed in his chronicle:  “It was the most dramatic scene I have ever witnessed in my life.  Those half-starved human spectres were clutching weapons now useless in their hands.  They had nothing left.  They had to learn to live again and had not yet decided to leave the scene of their martyrdom.  Then they saw Franco. Many did not know him, but at the sound of General Franco! those poor figures came back to life.  As if by a spring they were suddenly set in motion.  Franco’s name meant so much to them.  It was so closely connected with their sufferings. He was the man in waiting for whom they had resisted. They cheered, they cried, they embraced the other soldiers. An unforgettable spectacle”.

Even Socialist journalist Julián Zugazagoitia had to recognise that “the heroes had been left inside, owners of a house which, with greater reason than ever, will be sacred to Spanish infants. Let us not dispute this title, which would be foolish meanness. The feat accomplished by the soldiers under Moscardó’s orders has all the force of the best historical page”.

French Academy member Henri Massis commented that “”There is no event which can give a more exact measure of the vitality of the Hispanic race and its idealism than the prolonged and gigantic struggle sustained at Toledo.  The furious resistance offered by the Alcázar belongs to that order of events which make the glory of a people and it is certain that, when the history of this bloody civil war is written, no one will measure up in praise to highlight the grandiose epic of Toledo”.

The Alcázar has been visited by great personalities, such as Marshall Philippe Pétain, Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Dukes of Windsor, Sah Reza Pahlavi, King Husssein I of Jordan and Ronald Reagan.

Italian General Chief of Staff Goffredo Canino resumed it all by saying that “the Alcázar of Toledo, for the military of all countries, is a pure symbol of what is meant by military honour, a feeling rooted for centuries in the hearts and minds of Spanish soldiers”.

Source of image:  Verema