Fifth column

The term “fifth column” is attributed to General Emilio Mola, referring to a 1936 radio speech to the advance of rebel troops in the Spanish Civil War to Madrid. The general said that while under his command four columns headed towards the capital (which moved from Toledo, the road of Extremadura, the Sierra and the Siguenza), was fifth, formed by supporters of the uprising, that within the capital worked clandestinely towards Franco’s victory. For others, like Mikhail Koltsov, Moscow daily Pravda correspondent and Stalin’s personal envoy toSpain, was General José Enrique Varela who pronounced the sentence.

The term is used to designate since, in a situation of military confrontation, a sector of the population, usually minority, which maintains alleged loyalties to the enemy side, due to religious, economic, ideological or ethnic. This feature makes the fifth column is viewed as a set of potentially unfair to the community in which they live and susceptible to collaborate in various ways with the enemy.

That idea and expression then turned to all subsequent wars, as in World War II, and was called the French that reside withinFranceexpected in 1940 the triumph of Nazi Germany. This term is extended in theNetherlandsandNorwayfor their citizens who showed more sympathy and loyalty to the Third Reich than to their own people, supporting the invasion of their country of origin. Similarly, Axis sympathizers regarded the partisans who fought fascism clandestinely in their own countries as a fifth column.

The Fifth Column members receive the nickname fifth columnists. Today the term has a negative connotation, while partisan can be viewed positively or not. Resistance movements are best seen in general that the fifth columns, but arguably there is some overlap between the two.

History in the Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War are produced resistance and boycott activities both in the domestic and in the Republican Franco, since the military control of either side do not necessarily correspond with the political leanings of the majority of the population in each location and also because the dynamics of war always favors the violent excesses and informing.

However, the fifth column was especially active in besieged Madrid. The great length of the front surrounding the city, the high population density in the city, and the symbolic and strategic importance of this (the largest city in the Republican zone was located in the same war front) the scenario become constant flow of information from the Republican to the rebel. After the defeat of the rebels in the capital, in the first week, she attends to the actions of cops snipers from buildings or cars firing up the militia. Then the blue circles organized in collaboration with the German and Italian secret services will focus on demoralize Republican militias by various means (propaganda leaflets distribution, promoting defeatist rumors, sabotage weapons, radio broadcasts …).

The Republican government propaganda will impact significantly on the need to be vigilant against the enemy within and in the spring of 1937, two groups of fifth disarticulated inMadrid, in which 12 people are sentenced to death the same year.

Just to counter all the anti-republican activities in August of that same year, he created the SIM (Military Intelligence Service) and DEDIDE (Special Department State Information), which had its own agents and prisons. However, these agencies will not track the Republican just looking for the so-called rebels but also to members of formations repress dissidents as the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification) who competed at that time with the Communist Party of Spain.

The role of the fifth columnMadridwas important in the last moments of the war, in March 1939, when Colonel Segismundo Casado uprising against the government of Juan Negrin. At that time, the fifth column of information carried out important tasks for Franco, and also acted as a liaison between the headquarters of this and the Board agree casadista overlooking the surrender of the Republicans in the downtown area.

In other cities such asValenciaorAlicante, the paper made by the fifth column was also of great importance and support for nationalist strategy.

History in other wars

During World War II, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the internment of citizens of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast in the United States was justified with the argument that these people, being of Japanese origin, could act as a fifth column . InBritainthis operation was repeated numerous German residents arrested in theIsle of Manto the end of the conflict. Shortly after the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin’s government arrested and deported to Central Asia to the entire Soviet ethnic Germans living in the Autonomous Republic of the Volga Germans, fearing that they could form a fifth column in support the invading army.

In that same conflict, the German minority organizations in Polandand Czechoslovakiaformed Selbstschutz who actively collaborated with the Third Reich in conquering those countries, in addition to participating in crimes against humanity and the administration of the occupied areas.

Irish Catholic residents in the UKhave also been considered by the Unionists Fifth Column because riots in the twentieth century (see the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six).

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