In the summer of 1936, over just four weeks, it all went wrong – for democracy and for Spain, even for the British royals. Politicians failed, and Hitler was emboldened to plan a new European war, and more.
When some army generals sought to overthrow Spain’s elected government, Francisco Franco quickly emerged as their leader; Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported him with men and materiel; pusillanimous politicians in Britain and the United States, even in France, turned a blind eye – and the Spanish Civil War was on. Edward VIII took a scandalous holiday cruise with Mrs Simpson, Berlin staged the greatest sporting event of modern times, the alternative Peoples’ Olympiad never came to be, and Barcelona was transformed into a unique workers’ paradise. All this in four weeks. It was an incongruous, at times brilliant, juxtaposition of events.
Bad decisions were made. Bad behaviour prevailed. Thousands died. Bad people won; not forever, but for a time. There is some joy in those four weeks that summer – much in fact, with Europe on holiday and Berlin en fête – four weeks, however, when it all went wrong.