The End of the Battle of Madrid

The Nationalists next attacked with heavy artillery, and their probing found a gap in the Republican lines. As a result the Nationalists were able to establish a bridgehead deep into Republican lines in the University City. The legionnaires and regulares held on there for days despite furious attacks from XI International Brigade and other units in the area, in an area which became the most bitterly contested part of the whole front.

Outside the city the XII International Brigade arrived, with even less training and preparation than the XI. Concerned that the Nationalists may cut off the Valencia road, XII International was ordered to attack an important hill, Cerro de Los Angeles, and were massacred, despite the Great War veterans in their ranks. Much of the chaos was caused by language and communication problems, but the fact was that the International Brigades were no more able to defeat an enemy armed with machineguns in frontal assaults than were the anarchists.

During the fighting the anarchist Durruti was killed. While rumour had it that he was shot by a sniper he was in fact killed when his machine pistol caught on a car door and shot him through the lungs. Without a doubt the most popular anarchist leader, Durruti had been an unrelenting rebel all through his life and had earned the reputation of a revolutionary Robin Hood. Rumours started in anarchist ranks about a communist plot to kill him.

The Nationalists failure to break through on the 19th made Franco change his strategy. He could not risk any more of his best troops in fruitless assaults no that a quick victory looked much more difficult. So, for the first time in history, a capital city came under intensive aerial bombardment. All residential areas were bombed in an attempt to break the morale of the civilian population. The Italians and the Condor Legion conducted a methodical experiment in psychological warfare with their Savoia 81s and Ju-52s. The bombing did not, however, break morale as intended, on the contrary, it increased the defiance of the population. The air raids destroyed thousands of buildings, from slum dwellings to the Palacio de Liria belonging to the Duke of Alba. Alba, in his bitter charges accusing the Republic of responsibility for the damage, did not seem to find it incongruous that that Nationalist crusade was destroying its own capital with foreign bombers, but then Franco had already declared, "I will destroy Madrid rather than leave it to the Marxists.". The Battle of Madrid was over, the long Siege of Madrid had begun.

In Carabanchel, where the front line cut across the streets, a strange deadly struggle continued, with sniping, flamethrower attacks and tunnelling under houses to lay dynamite. The Carlists lost a whole company in one explosion. The city committes were gradually replaced by centralised control as the morale of the civilians, with the immediate danger past, began to fail. Anarchist militiamen clashed violently with communist authorities and attempts were made to censor the anarchist press.

It was now that the communists made their first move against the POUM. The POUM had outraged the communists when its newspaper had analysed Russian policy a little too accurately on November 15th. "Stalins concern is not really the fate of Spain and the international proletariat, but the protection of the Soviet government in accordance with the policy of pacts made by certain others.". The POUM was immediately accused of having sold out to international fascism by the PCE, and the Party line in Spain began to mirror the witchhunt for Trotskyists in the Soviet Union. The communists stopped pay and supplies for the small POUM force in Madrid, when the threat to the capital had receded. The POUM militia had no choice but to disband, and its members joined UGT or CNT units.

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