Repository: Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, Salamanca, Spain
Fond or Collection
Objetos Fondo Armero
Repository and Location
Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, Salamanca, Spain
Date Created: 1938-10-03
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Madrid, Spain
On 3 October 1938 Francoist planes again flew over Madrid. This had been a frequent occurrence ever since the rebels had started to bomb the capital from the air eighteen months before, but this time was different. Instead of explosives, the planes dropped 110 bags full of bread like this one, with the Francoist colours and text that read “We don’t care what you think. It’s sufficient to know that you are suffering and you are Spaniards,” and boasted “In the ‘One, Great and Free’ National Spain there is no home without fuel and no family without bread.”There was a second such raid on Madrid two weeks later and then on other Republican cities.
This act of Francoist propaganda put its finger on one of the major problems facing Republican authorities, and not just in Madrid: the immense difficulties they faced in supplying big cities with food. This was a problem that began with the war itself. The Republic remained in control of most of the country’s major cities, but the rebels had taken over many of the most important agricultural regions. And the problem only got worse as refugees from areas conquered by the rebels flooded in. It did not help that many of the agrarian collectives were reluctant to sell their produce at fixed prices in return for paper money they did not trust.
Republican authorities used a variety of methods including posters, pamphlets, and magazines, to persuade people that they could help the war effort by eating less and changing the way they ate. They also imposed rationing and controlled the times stores could be open. Citizens, almost always women, had to spend more time in lines, which made them more vulnerable to Francoist air attacks. The National Hygiene Institute reported that between February 1937 and February 1939, the average daily calorie consumption fell from 1,514 calories, less than an adult needed to maintain body weight, to only 852. It is not surprising that there were fewer cats on the streets of the capital.
The official response to these food shortages contributed to undermining faith in Republican authorities and encouraged practices such as hoarding, bartering, and the black market. When people went to villages surrounding the capital to get their own supplies, authorities limited them to just 15 kilos. This only provoked people to find ways to get around the rules. The train to Arganda became known as the “hunger train”, and lentils, the most widely available foodstuff, were called the “pills of victory” and, more sarcastically “Doctor Negrín’s pills,” after the Prime Minister behind the policy of resistance at all costs.
Without a doubt, this inability to properly feed the home front played an important role in undermining morale in the Republican zone and contributed to the final outcome of the war.