Ramón Serrano Súñer
– September 1
), was a Spanish
politician and creator of the radio station Radio Intercontinental
, and served as Spain's Foreign Minister. He was also the brother in law to the Spanish dictator General Franco
Ramón was born in Cartagena
to an engineer working on the Valencian port of Castellón de la Plana
. He was a brother-in-law (cuñado
) of Francisco Franco
. Although he was an excellent student, his father disapproved of his aspirations to become a lawyer. He enrolled at the Madrid University
studying law anyway, and while he was there, studied along with José Antonio Primo de Rivera
(son of Spanish dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera
, and founder of the Falange). He also spent a year in Bologna
, during which he developed a taste for fascism.
He moved later to Zaragoza, where Primo de Rivera urged him to join his Falange, but Serrano Súñer showed no interest in joining.
Ramón Serrano Súñer and Francisco Franco were brothers-in-law , since the two married two sisters: Serrano Súñer married Zita Polo y Martinez-Valdès, whom he had met shortly after moving to Zaragoza, in 1931, while Franco married Carmen Polo y Martinez-Valdès. Ramón Serrano Súñer and Zita Polo had six children; Fernando, Francisco, Jaime, Jose, Pilar and Ramon.
Although he had originally refused to become a member of the Falange, Súñer was already a conservative member of the Cortes
(1933–36). He joined Franco early in the Spanish Civil War
(1936–39), during which he led the Falange. In July 1936 he was caught participating in the conspiracy to overthrow the republic and captured and locked in a Republican prison. He escaped, however, in October 1936, dressed as a woman. He was then aided by the Argentine
navy in getting to France
, from where he could reach Salamanca
, where Franco was in office at the time. It was there that he could work with Franco to participate in the rebellious side of the Spanish Civil War. Escaping from prison amidst the cross-fire of an angry outbreak of his country's civil war, while both of his brothers were killed by the Republicans, it seems ironic that Suñer would not only manage to pull through but later live to be a centenarian
He served as Nationalist minister of the interior (1937–40), and minister of the press and propaganda (1939–40), when he founded the state news agency EFE. He was also appointed minister of foreign affairs (1940–42), thanks to his skill at building a relationship with Benito Mussolini.
Even though he was working alongside Franco, he objected to the increasing role of the Roman Catholic church in Falangist politics. The two brothers-in-law had some intra-party conflicts of their own, as Serrano Súñer accused Franco of riding on a "cult of personality," while Franco viewed Serrano Suñer as increasingly becoming a thorn in the side of his party, criticizing too many of its policies.
Involvement in World War II
In 1940, Súñer, Franco and Adolf Hitler
met in southern France (Hendaye
) to discuss having Spain participate in World War II
as part of the Axis. After playing a major role in establishing the Spanish state under Franco -- he was so influential as to be nicknamed the "Cuñadísimo
", which translates as supreme brother-in-law, (a play on "Generalísimo
") -- despite Serrano Súñer's advocating for Spain to join the Axis powers, Franco opted for Spain
to remain a nonbelligerent during World War II. Hitler was disappointed that Serrano Súñer had not tried harder to help Germany, and called him the "gravedigger of the new Spain". To make up for this failure, he proposed the Blue Division
of Spanish volunteers to fight with the Germans against the Soviet Union and communism.
In 1942, following the US entry into the war, German reverses in Russia, and the Basilica of Begoña incident, Serrano Súñer was forced to resign as foreign minister and president of the political council of the Falange. After World War II, he wrote a persuasive letter to Franco, calling for a transitional government that would have room for intellectuals in exile. When Franco received the letter, he wrote a derisive "Ho-ho." in its margin. Serrano Súñer ultimately retired from public life in 1947, but lived longer than most of the people he worked with.