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Spain, neutrality and the legacy of the Second World War: The strange case of John Christensen

Webster, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-9727-9516 (2013) Spain, neutrality and the legacy of the Second World War: The strange case of John Christensen. In: Australasian Association for European History (AAEH) XXIII Biennial Conference, 2 - 5 July 2013, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


In September 1941, the Wellington bomber piloted by Captain John Christensen was shot down over German-occupied France. Christensen survived and, with the help of French resistance forces, was able to escape into Spain. However, he was then interned for some time by the Francoist government, which claimed the status of a neutral power yet in many ways appeared to act as a functional ally of the Axis powers. In 2008, Christensen lodged a claim with the Australian federal government for an ex gratia payment of $25,000, which legislation in 2007 had provided for veterans who were interned by a European ―”enemy state” or a European ―”ally” of an enemy state during the Second World War. His case then turned on the issue of whether Francoist Spain could legitimately be described as an ”ally” of either Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy during the war. After initial applications were rejected by the department on the basis of cursory on-line investigation (including Wikipedia) on the status of Spain during the war, the Christensen family engaged two historians (including the author of this paper) to present full analyses based upon the most current scholarship. This paper will consider both the historical issue of Spain‘s wartime neutrality and the interesting legacy of this issue as it was caught up with an Australian legal claim over half a century following the war‘s end.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
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