In May 1938, Spain was split between the Nationalists and Republicans, with the Nationalists having dominance. In this month, the Nationalist leader, Francisco Franco, declared that the Republicans must unconditionally surrender. Although the Nationalists were in the ascendant, the Republican forces still believed that they had a chance of winning. Both the Republican and Nationalist armies were numerically matched (between 700,00–800,000) and both had the support of international forces. The Republicans introduced aggressive conscription and confidently engaged in the Battle of Ebro (July–November 1938) in the northwestern region of Spain, which included Barcelona. Here, they were defeated and the number of Republican troops was reduced to 400,000; their deteriorating position was aggravated by the withdrawal of the International Brigade in October 1938. Franco was poised to sweep into Catalonia in the new year, and the Republicans, confronted by the western allies’ politics of appeasement with Nazi Germany, could no longer hope for an anti-fascist alliance.
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