The German government pays about €100,000 ($109,000) annually in pensions to 50 surviving members and relatives of Spain’s Blue Division, the volunteer army that assisted Hitler’s invasion of Russia during World War II. Lawmakers disclosed this fact during recent discussions in Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament, prompted by questions from left-wing minister Andrej Hunko.
It is “a scandal,” Hunko told the press, “that 70 years after the war, Germany is still paying more than €100,000 a year to Nazi collaborators.” The exact figure was €107, 352 this year, allocated to 41 surviving soldiers, eight widows of former soldiers, and one orphan of a former soldier.
“Those people volunteered to join the German fascists to fight on their side in the war of extermination in eastern Europe,” said Hunko. “For me it is incomprehensible that the German government should stick to those payments when so many victims of the war are still waiting today for their rightful compensation.”
Jon Iñarritu, a minister in Spain’s left-wing Basque party, told Spanish paper The Local that this was “a disgrace” and “serves to humiliate victims of fascism.”
According to WWII History Magazine, the Spaniards who signed up for the Blue Division (so named for the color of Spain’s Fascist party) “were probably World War II’s most purely ideologically motivated soldiers.” They were recruited to fight on the Eastern front only, against Soviet Communism, in what some historians regard as a shrewd move by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to remain on good terms with Italy and Germany, which had assisted Franco during the Spanish Civil War, while remaining “neutral” and avoiding conflict with Allied forces. The Blue Division reportedly consisted of 47,000 Spanish volunteers.
In 1962, Germany and Spain agreed that Blue Division members who had been injured in combat, their widows, and their orphans would receive pensions from Germany. In exchange, Spain would pay a stipend to widows of Hitler’s Condor Legion.
This isn’t the first time Germany’s distribution of World War II pensions has been criticized. In 1997, the government acknowledged that it was paying war disability benefits to former Nazis and even convicted war criminals.