"Count Rossi" in Mallorca: Fascist Political Support for Franco
Repository: Gerardo María Thomás Sabater Personal Collection, Palma, Spain
Date Created: 1936-07
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Mallorca, Spain
The island of Mallorca constitutes a unique case of the widespread foreign intervention in the Civil War, and especially the intervention of the fascist powers in support of the self-proclaimed “Nationalist” side. There, a representative of the Italian National Fascist Party, Arconovaldo Bonacorsi (1898-1962), also known as "Conde Rossi" or "General Conde Rossi", had a central role as a propagandist and promoter of the Spanish Falange de las JONS and the Nationalist repression. Bonacorsi was a member of the Fascist old guard of Bologna. He had been one of Mussolini’s bodyguards and then head of the Volunteer Militia for National Security (MVSN) made up of the former Fascist paramilitary squads. He was briefly expelled from the Fascist party for embezzlement, but when Alfonso de Zayas, head of the Falange in the Balearic Islands, requested Italian assistance after the Republican landing on Mallorca, Mussolini sent Bonacorsi with the first contingent of Italian planes, pilots and weapons.
Received as a hero on the island, Bonacorsi unsuccessfully tried to take command of the entire Francoist military contingent, as well as direct operations on the Manacor front. He played a notable role at the propaganda level, contributing to the expansion of the fascist organization Falange Española de las JONS and raising the morale of the population. At the head of a group called the Dragons of Death, he also terrorized those loyal to the Republic through repression. Bonacorsi’s interference angered Francoist commanders. It also led to pressure from France and Great Britain, who feared that he would be Mussolini’s tool for converting the Balearics into an Italian military base. In December 1936, once the situation on Mallorca had been stabilized after the full withdrawal of the Republican attackers, Mussolini sent him to Málaga.
Before leaving, he had participated in the occupation of the island of Ibiza, also abandoned by Bayo, and tried to get the Francoist high command to authorize an expedition to conquer the island of Menorca. In Málaga, Bonacorsi joined the command of the so-called volunteer units (CTV) and intervened in the brutal repression of that province after its conquest. His ongoing interference in military matters led the Italian commander in chief, General Roatta, to request he be removed.
Photographs shows Bonacorsi surrounded by his “dragons” and his interpreter and translator, the Theatine priest Father Julián Adrover (with a white cross on his chest),. During his months on Mallorca, he lived surrounded by luxury and indulged in excesses of all kinds. A narcissistic and fatuous character, he starred in and directed a film in which he represented his attack on Republican positions, even though he had not actually participated in combat. Although he was undoubtedly one of the main leaders of the Francoist repression on Mallorca and Ibiza, he has tended to be held responsible for the more than 2,000 murders carried out by the military, Falangists, Carlists, citizen militias and others, even though these continued well after his departure.