Seventy years on, the German government is continuing to pay the pensions of Spanish soldiers who volunteered to fight alongside the Nazis during World War II, the UK’s Telegraph reported Thursday.
According to the report, Berlin is still honoring a 1962 agreement struck with Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco, who actively encouraged fighters to join Spain’s Blue Division, a volunteer army that assisted in the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
As part of the agreement, Germany pays €100,000 ($109,000) annually in pensions granted to 41 soldiers and relatives of soldiers who volunteered to fight on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1943.
Left-wing German MP Andrej Hunko said a question he tabled during a recent parliamentary discussion triggered the official admission from Berlin disclosing the ongoing pension payments.
“It’s a scandal that nearly 70 years after the war ended, Germany continues to pay more than €100,000 per year to Nazi collaborators,” The Telegraph reported Hunko as saying.
“These people voluntarily joined the German fascists in a war of extermination in Eastern Europe and it is incomprehensible that the German government continues these payments while so many war victims are still waiting for their rightful compensation,” he said.
Jon Iñarritu, a minister in Spain’s left-wing Basque party, told the country’s English-language paper The Local that the revelation was “a disgrace” which “serves to humiliate victims of fascism.”
The paper said Spain’s Basque pro-independence coalition party EH Bildu would raise the issue at the European Parliament next Friday.
In 1962, West Germany and Spain agreed that Blue Division veterans who had been injured in combat, their widows and their orphans would receive pensions from Berlin. In exchange, Madrid would pay a stipend to German veterans of Hitler’s Condor Legion, which carried out bombing raids in the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
Historians see the 45,000-strong Spanish volunteer infantry division, which fought only on the Eastern Front and never against Western Allies, as an effort by Franco to keep Spain at peace with the West, while simultaneously repaying German support during the Spanish Civil War.