The Volunteer vol. 38, no. 1 (March 2021)

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Vol. XXXVIII, No.1

March 2021


Kate Mangan’s Spanish Memoir by Paul Preston

ALBA/Puffin Award Winner Announced p 3 Judge Baltasar Garzón Looks Back p 4 US Textbooks and the War in Spain p 8

Founded by the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade 239 W. 14th Street, Suite 2 New York, NY 10011 (212) 674-5398 Editor Print Edition Peter N. Carroll Editor Online Edition Sebastiaan Faber Associate Editor Aaron B. Retish Book Review Editor Joshua Goode Graphic Design Editorial Assistance Phil Kavanaugh Manuscripts, inquiries, and letters to the editor may be sent by email to The editors reserve the right to modify texts for length and style. Books for review may be sent to Joshua Goode Claremont Graduate University Blaisdell House, #5, 143 East 10th Street Claremont, CA 91711 The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA) is an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights. ALBA’s work is inspired by the American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Drawing on the ALBA collections in New York University’s Tamiment Library, and working to expand such collections, ALBA works to preserve the legacy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as an inspiration for present and future generations.


Dear Friends, The two main lessons to draw from the last 12 months are not particularly new— but they are crucial nonetheless. First, healthcare is a public good and should be treated as such. And second, the far right is as dangerous as we feared and should be taken very seriously. In relation to the first lesson, we’re thrilled to announce that this year’s ALBA/ Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism—the eleventh iteration—will go to a group of valiant activists on the frontline of the healthcare battle, which, as we well know, is also a battle for social, racial, and economic justice: the Mississippi-based non-profit My Brother’s Keeper, which has been working for over twenty years to improve the health and well-being of minority and marginalized populations in the United States (see page 3). The wonderful leadership of MBK will receive the award at ALBA’s annual gala, which will take place on May 2—save the date! As we did last year, we’re planning to celebrate in style with a riveting online event filled with music and inspiration. The rise of the far right, meanwhile, has been a central source of concern for Judge Baltasar Garzón, the inaugural recipient of the ALBA/Puffin Award back in 2011, as he explains in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview in which he looks back on his turbulent career (see page 4). How to understand political developments today in light of the past is also the focus of ALBA’s second month-long online teacher workshop, which is being held through February. The workshop is only one part of ALBA’s ever-expanding online event agenda: Just in the first two months of this year, we’re also featuring a film screening and roundtable (Invisible Heroes), the inaugural live interactive workshop of the Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series, and a screening and discussion of the award-winning, feature-length animated film based on the life of the Catalan artist Josep Bartolí, who was featured in the September issue. The issue you are holding in your hands is full of fascinating stories: four touching excerpts from a new book in which Spanish authors write about photographs of objects found in exhumed mass graves of the Civil War (centerfold); Paul Preston’s preface to Kate Mangan’s incisive memoir from the war (page 14); and an enlightening analysis of the war’s treatment in US history textbooks (page 8). Several of ALBA’s board members were involved in the production of an authoritative new volume on Spain and the Holocaust (reviewed on page 20). As you well know, none of this would be possible without your ongoing generous support. As usual, you’ll find a donation envelope in this issue—although it’s easier than ever to donate online at Recurring gifts are especially useful, as they help us plan events into the future. If you are considering including ALBA in your estate, feel free to reach out to Mark Wallem, our executive director, at any time ( Many, many thanks for all that you do. ¡Salud!

p 3 ALBA/Puffin Award p 3 ALBA News

Peter N. Carroll and Sebastiaan Faber, Editors

p 4 Baltasar Garzón p 8 Spanish War in US Textbooks p 11 Voices from the Spanish Earth p 14 Preston on Kate Mangan p 19 Letter to the Editor p 20 Reviews p 22 Contributions 2 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

P.S. Please don’t forget to support The Volunteer to keep your subscription free!

MISSISSIPPI-BASED “MY BROTHER’S KEEPER” WINS ALBA/PUFFIN AWARD—GALA ON MAY 2 On May 2, the eleventh ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism will be awarded to My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), a private, non-profit organization based in Mississippi that works to improve the health and well-being of minority and marginalized populations in the United States. The group started small in 1999, dedicated to HIV prevention within the Black community in Mississippi and to the care and treatment of people with HIV. Today, My Brother’s Keeper is an experienced community-based organization working to eliminate health disparities among underserved, un- or under-insured, and other vulnerable populations through health education, health promotion, policy and environmental systems changes, and other health equity approaches. In addition to the prevention and educational work done by My Brother’s Keeper staff and volunteers at the grassroots level, the group also maintains a network of healthcare centers called Open Arms, with several clinics in Mississippi and headquarters in Jackson. Open Arms provides holistic care to uninsured and underserved communities, with a special focus on LGBTI wellness. One of the largest monetary awards for human rights in the world, the ALBA/Puffin Award is a $100,000 cash prize granted annually by ALBA and the Puffin Foundation. It was created by philanthropist and visionary Perry Rosenstein (1926-2020), Founding President of the Puffin Foundation.


ALBA’s online Gala and ALBA/Puffin Award Ceremony MAY 2, 2021 Featuring My Brother’s Keeper along with speakers and musical performances. For more details as they become available, visit ALBA’s website at alba-valb. org or sign up for our email list at

See ALBA’s website at or the online edition of The Volunteer for a press release and more.

News from ALBA Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series: “Invisible Heroes” Screening and Panel Discussion Join us on Sunday, February 21 at 5pm ET for the inaugural event of the Perry Rosenstein Cultural Series—a roundtable discussion on African American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, whose stories are told in the documentary Invisible Heroes. The film will be available for screening to all who register for the free event; watch ALBA’s emails, website, and social media platforms for further information. The director, Jordi Torrent, will be joined by Tim Johnson (former head of the Tamiment Library) and Robin D.G. Kelley, ALBA Honorary Board member. The event will be moderated by Lindsay Griffiths, graduate student at Princeton University. They Still Draw Pictures—an online interactive workshop ALBA’s first event of the year was an interactive workshop featuring the beautiful and heart-rending art of children in wartime. Over 40 people joined two separate sessions conducted by ALBA’s in-house experts, Professors Jo Labanyi (NYU) and Anthony Geist (University of Washington). More information on the exhibit can be found here on ALBA’s website:

Second online Teacher Institute ALBA’s second online institute for teachers, titled “The United States and World Fascism,” offered in conjunction with the Massachusetts-based Collaborative for Educational Service, began in late January and will run through February. Participants include History and Spanish teachers from all over the world, including the United States and Spain. From the Tamiment The Tamiment Library will remain closed during the spring 2021 semester due to New York University's COVID-19 protocols. For those who want limited access to our collections, please see the detailed instructions from the library staff in the online edition of The Volunteer at Instructors interested in scheduling a virtual class during the spring semester can contact the staff at Honor a Lincoln Brigader this Memorial Day Ray Hoff and Nancy Phillips are once again leading the initiative to visit the grave of a veteran of the Lincoln Brigade on or around Memorial Day. For more information, write to or visit the online edition at

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Garzón in his home town, 2012. Photo Juanca Martos. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

BALTASAR GARZÓN: “There’s nothing more dangerous than friendly fire.”

By Sebastiaan Faber

Judge Garzón, the crusading Spanish magistrate and first recipient of the ALBA/Puffin Award, looks back on his turbulent career. “The truth is that my ideas have not changed much.”


o Spanish judge has had as many admirers around the world as Baltasar Garzón—the Spanish judge who helped bring about a world in which political leaders are held accountable for human-rights abuses committed under their rule—and none has had as many detractors, including in his own country. (See the sidebar for a brief biography.) I spoke with Garzón in December and January 2021. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Over the past 40 years, you have been a judge, a politician and a public intellectual. How have those different experiences in Spanish public life shaped your ideas about the problems facing your country? Although both my role and the context have changed a lot, the truth is that my ideas have not changed much. I began working as a magistrate in the late 1980s, when the judiciary was still weighed down by the legacies of Franco-

ism. I remember the impatience I felt at the Audiencia Nacional with the magistrates’ lack of empathy with the real world. The judicial investigators would take police reports at face value without bothering to look at the facts on the ground. I have never operated that way. Rather, I have always insisted on doing my own investigations and showing up at the crime scene. That is how I earned my first antipathies, I think.

Garzón in a TV appearance, October 2020.

A Life in the Spotlight Born in 1955 in a small peasant town in the southern province of Jaén, where his parents and grandparents were farmers, Garzón spent his teen years at a seminary preparing for priesthood but then chose to pursue a legal career instead. After earning a law degree from the University of Sevilla, he briefly held positions in the Basque Country and his native Andalusia until in 1988, at age 32, he was appointed as investigative magistrate to the prestigious Audiencia Nacional in Madrid. An unusual court, the Audiencia Nacional has jurisdiction over the entire national territory and specializes in “major crimes,” including terrorism, financial crimes, drug trafficking, and international crimes. In the years following Spain’s transition to democracy, it was the Audiencia Nacional that took on the prosecution of ETA, the armed wing of the Basque independence movement, in part because the courts in Basque country itself were thought to be subject to undue pressure. At the Audiencia, the young and photogenic magistrate assumed a central role in the prosecution of ETA and the illegal drug trade. In 1993, Garzón’s quickly rising fame as a judge earned him a brief stint as a junior minister in the cabinet of the Socialist prime minister Felipe González. Soon after, back at his judicial post, he indicted officials in the González administration who were involved in an illegal paramilitary operation, known as GAL, that targeted presumed members of the Basque organization. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the judge helped revolutionize international law when he invoked universal jurisdiction to prosecute former heads of state in Latin America and elsewhere—including, famously, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998—for human rights violations committed under their rule, helping accelerate what Kathryn Sikkink has called the “justice cascade.” After 9/11, he indicted Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. In 2008, he responded to requests from victims of the Franco dictatorship by initiating Spain’s first-ever judicial investigation into crimes against humanity committed during Franco’s almost four-decade rule. The next year, he investigated a major corruption ring that centrally involved Spain’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) and became known as the Gürtel case. In all these high-profile cases, Garzón made powerful friends and enemies. While he is admired by many for his judicial doggedness, tireless drive (he reportedly gets by on three hours’ sleep), and political courage, others look askance at what they see as his inappropriate taste for notoriety. (Garzón, whose 2016 memoir is titled “In the Spotlight,” says he’s never sought out publicity for its own sake.) Some critics also maintain that his prosecution of ETA and the pro-independence Basque Left glossed over systemic acts of police brutality and infringed on civil liberties, including freedom of speech and association—accusations that Garzón has always denied. The Basque politician Arnaldo Otegi, who was sentenced to prison after an investigation initiated by Garzón, recently suggested that Garzón adopted a hard line on his case in an effort to placate the right-wing powers that, by then, had set their sights on the judge himself as well. Indeed, as time went on, Garzón faced increasing pressure from the Spanish Right, including his conservative colleagues in the judiciary, until in 2009 and 2010 he found himself as a defendant before Spain’s Supreme Court. He was charged in three separate cases, one of which was related to the PP corruption ring and one to his attempt to investigate Francoist crimes. Although he was absolved in the latter case, in 2012 he was found guilty of illegal wiretapping in the corruption investigation and disbarred for eleven years. The sentence, widely seen as a settling of political accounts, set off an international firestorm. So did the Court’s opinion in the case of the Francoist crimes, which in effect closed off any possibilities for the victims to pursue their quest for truth and reparation through Spain’s criminal justice system. Since then, Garzón, who turned 65 last year, has not moved far from the spotlight. He has taught at the Center for Human Right of the University of Washington, Seattle; consulted on the peace process in Colombia; and worked as a lawyer in private practice. Together with the late Michael Ratner, he served on the legal team of Julian Assange as the creator of WikiLeaks fought extradition. In 2017 Garzón helped found, with limited success, the progressive political party Actúa. Recently, Garzón’s name has popped up in the wide-ranging judicial investigation of José Manuel Villarejo, a powerful former police chief and all-round sleuth used by several governments to target political enemies with defamation campaigns. (Although Garzón was one of Villarejo’s victims in the early 1990s, the two later became friendly.) Garzón has three adult children. For the past several years, he’s been in a relationship with Dolores Delgado, a former prosecutor and minister of Justice who currently serves as Spain’s attorney general. In the course of his career, Garzón has published half a dozen books, including, most recently, La encrucijada: Ideas y valores frente a la indiferencia (The Crossroads: Ideas and Values in the Face of Indifference). In 2011, Garzón was the first recipient of the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism. Today he combines his job as a lawyer with the presidency of the International Baltasar Garzón Foundation, which works to strengthen democracy and human rights worldwide through education, research, and consulting.

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“One of my life-long principles has been the defense of victims.” Your colleagues didn’t appreciate your way of working? I now understand that I was probably embarrassing them. I had a hard time understanding why issues of such importance as drugs and organized crime were not addressed comprehensively or why there was a fear of the drug lords. I can understand that in areas such as Galicia or Andalusia it was more difficult to deal with them—but that is why we were the judges of the Audiencia Nacional: to attend to the victims when they reported crimes and asked for help. We organized operations like “Nécora” or “Pitón” to deal a blow to organized crime in Galicia and Andalusia, respectively, and to contribute, above all, to the fight against youth drug addiction. During my stint as junior minister in charge of the National Plan on Drugs, I had the opportunity to contribute in a more direct way to public health focusing on prevention, suppression, and recovery programs for addicts. In addition to your fight against drug trafficking, you first became known for your fearless prosecution of both ETA and the State’s dirty war against it. One of my life-long principles has been the defense of victims. I strongly believe a judge should be independent, prosecute crime, and apply justice based on law. But, above all, he or she should attend to the victims by penalizing the victimizers. That has always been my guide, whether I worked to dismantle the terrorist organization ETA, which has brought so much suffering to our country, or the GAL, which committed execrable crimes and were a form of State terrorism. I have worked in the same way as a magistrate in each and every one of the cases I have had to deal with, without paying heed to pressure or tolerating any attack on my professional integrity. This is what a judge must do—and this is how I have always worked. As a politician, I applied the same criteria, making decisions based on equity, justice, and protection of the vulnerable.

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My short time in politics allowed me to understand the country’s problems from another perspective—that of those who are obliged to govern and compromise in order to move forward with budgets or laws. But I also learned how much theater there is in politics, and how little citizens get to find out about what goes on behind the scenes. My experience in politics, I think, accentuated a certain skeptical vein that I continue to use as a shield to defend myself from politicians. You left politics quickly and, if I remember correctly, quite disenchanted. My disappointment with politics had to do with the impossibility of the task to which I had committed myself and the President of the Government had committed himself, which included the fight against corruption and the coordination of police operations in the fight against organized crime. When I saw that there was no political will to resolve those urgent tasks, I resigned. I have never been interested in public office, no matter how much I have been called a star judge with ambitions. Whoever claims such a thing does not know me or seeks to discredit me. I have always followed my conscience as a public servant. Or, more recently, as a public intellectual. I prefer to see myself as a human rights activist, albeit one who works from a privileged position because of my relationship with historic figures such as Pepe Mujica, Lula da Silva, Rigoberta Menchú, José Saramago, the Grandmothers and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Ernesto Sábato, and so many other great politicians, thinkers and dedicated men and women whom I am honored to call good friends. To get back to my initial question, do you see the problems of Spanish society differently now than when you started out? My views have evolved with the times. In the 1980s, Francoism was still in force in different social strata as the country began its sudden and difficult

path towards democracy. Today, we find ourselves in a more modern society, for which democracy is by now a given, but in which, once again, neoliberalism and fascism rear their ugly heads and give us reason to fear a regressive return to the past. The problems of unemployment, social inequality, gender violence, and threats to rights such as freedom of expression are a consequence of the fact Spain has had too many years of right-wing rule. They are also the result of a weakness of the Left, which has been fragmented, as it has been so often, and not very determined to work together. This has given wings to the most conservative fringe of the Popular Party and has provoked a rise of the far Right that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Of course, Spain is no exception in this regard. Just consider the situation in Hungary, Poland, or Brazil—not to mention Donald Trump who, through acolytes like Steve Bannon has inspired minority parties in Europe that have achieved unsuspected electoral victories. Yet in your most recent book, En la encrucijada, you are hopeful about the future. You point to the mobilization of citizens around the world that we saw before the pandemic. That’s right. I am thinking, for example, of the mass mobilizations of women or other social movements in Latin America. I sincerely hope that, after the pandemic, we’ll see a return of those healthy civic exercises in which citizens remind the politicians that the politicians are at their service and not the other way around. What lessons do you draw from the public health crisis of the past year? If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that those countries least affected by neoliberalism have been able to respond better to protect their citizenry. I think that this experience should generate a new commitment that goes beyond the concepts of Right and Left, which I think have been superseded. The task today is to join progressive forces with

Garzón accepts the ALBA/Puffin Award, 2011. Photo Len Tsou.

“If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that those countries least affected by neoliberalism have been able to respond better to protect their citizenry.” the moderate center against the rise of the far Right. In the coming years, coalition governments will be key in this effort. In Spain, many still balk at that idea or think it will never work. But that view is rooted in ignorance. Remember that, of the 28 countries in the European Union, 20 are governed by coalitions, some of which join parties with very divergent views. And yet they make it work. In many countries, this has long been the norm. In Spain, we have a lot to learn—and I am including politicians in that statement. Your relationship with the State, including the courts, has been rather mixed. You have been an agent or representative of the State—for example, as a member of the judiciary—but also the object of its persecution, from the smear campaigns in the 1990s to your trials in the Supreme Court in 2009-12. Have those experiences changed your view, in hindsight, of your own work as a judge? The persecution you mention is part of a fundamental aspect of the role of the judge: independence. I have seen myself attacked, as you say, by a leftist government when I investigated the dirty war against ETA, and by a rightwing government when I investigated the Gürtel case—the most important case of political corruption in the history of Spanish democracy—or when I initiated the investigation of the crimes of Francoism. All these attacks, in the end, only served to reaffirm the integrity with which I have always approached my work, whomever it may please or displease. I have been the target of dirty campaigns since my first years at the Audiencia Nacional. The reason is simple: discrediting or questioning the judge is common tactic for those who seek to annul a procedure or sow doubt. In the Gürtel case—affecting the Popular Party, which by then was in government—the attempts to discredit me were constant from the very beginning. And once I was off the case, they targeted the other judges who continued the investigation or were in charge of the sentencing.

Look, you must understand that we are talking about people who have no scruples about committing crimes, who fear a conviction and seek to slander the judge in an attempt to save their own skins. I continue to believe that my role as examining magistrate is correct as I have exercised it. What has changed, however, is my view of some colleagues who, for reasons that only they can know, have not conformed to the law when resolving cases like mine. Beyond my own conviction or acquittal, what still baffles me is the trial I was subjected to for declaring myself competent to investigate Franco’s crimes. While the sentence of the judges of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Chamber acquitted me—the international outcry, after all, was strong—in effect it condemned the victims, because the judges decided that these crimes could never be investigated through the criminal justice system. Their verdict amounted to a full-stop law. Exactly. But a full stop is impossible when it comes to crimes against humanity—which is what the crimes of the Franco dictatorship were—because those are cases in which statutes of limitations don’t apply. That Supreme Court decision definitely changed the way I saw my colleagues on the bench.

tween the world of politics, the State (whether national, regional, or local), the business world, and the media. Your own investigations of political corruption in the PP and other parties make this very clear. So does the collusion among these powers in defamation campaigns of the kind we’ve seen revealed in the Villarejo case. This is a world in which you’ve been operating for close to 40 years. How hard has it been to keep your ethical mettle? Or, to put it differently, is it possible for anyone to be effective in such a system without compromising their moral standards? Of course, it is possible—and it is paramount. But you do so in the knowledge that, in the process, you are risking your own and your family’s emotional and personal tranquility and stability, and that you will be subject to defamation and insult or even physical harm. Working like this is not easy, especially when it affects the people you love, who suffer because you refuse to compromise your moral standards. And yes, one can be effective despite all that. That said, sometimes the forces that seek to stop you from doing your work are quite powerful and spare no time or money in their efforts to neutralize you. Now, when those forces are joined by those who should be supporting you—and who, instead of doing that, turn against you and ignore their sacred obligation—then they may succeed in their goal. There’s nothing more dangerous than friendly fire. But look, I am still here, and I haven’t changed my convictions. For a longer version of this interview, visit the online edition at Sebastiaan Faber teaches at Oberlin College.

A final question. Spanish political culture, perhaps more than some other European countries, is weighed down by clientelism and nepotism. There tends to be very little distance be-

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The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Spanish Civil War in U.S. History Textbooks By Robert Shaffer

How do the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the broader American response to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 appear in introductory collegelevel United States history textbooks? A survey of a dozen highly regarded textbooks published in the past quarter century reveals a mixed picture.


more than a few paragraphs about the Spanish Civil War and the Lincoln Brigade in a survey textbook that covers American events from the 1870s to the twenty-first century. Traditionally, the Spanish Civil War enters the narrative of U.S. history with the reaction to the rise of fascist aggression in the 1930s which eventually culminated in World War II. Most textbooks mention Japan’s 1931 assault on Manchuria, Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, Germany’s rearmament and reoccupation of the Rhineland, Franco’s 1936 uprising against the Spanish Republic, and Germany’s takeovers of Austria and Czechoslovakia. The U.S. government’s Neutrality Acts, in the familiar accounts, reflected a broader “isolationist” public opinion, fostered by widespread disillusionment about the origins and results of American participation in World War I. Many authors, while explaining the rationale behind the Neutrality Acts, criticize the U.S. government for the connection between these laws and the defeat of the elected Spanish Republic. A few discuss the Lincoln Brigade in the context of American literature—Ernest Hemingway’s fictionalized account in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)—or the influence of the Left in 1930s American politics and culture. o one can expect

Perhaps the best traditional account is by John Garraty, in the 1998 edition of The American Nation, first published in 1968. Garraty, born in 1920 and a Brooklyn College student in the late 1930s, undoubtedly had personal recollections of the war in Spain and of efforts to aid the Republic. He devotes three paragraphs to these events, writing sympathetically about the “somewhat leftist Spanish Republic” as it battled “the reactionary General Francisco Franco” and his Italian and German allies. “Here, clearly was a clash between democracy and fascism,” but President Franklin Roosevelt, going beyond even 8 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

the leading isolationist senator, Gerald Nye, pushed Congress to extend the Neutrality Acts to ban arms sales during civil wars. Indeed, Garraty blames FDR and Congress in part for the Republic’s fall: “While German planes and cannons were turning the tide in Spain, the United States was denying the hard-pressed Spanish loyalists even a case of cartridges.” Quoting U.S. ambassador to Spain Claude Bowers, Garraty concludes that the Republic’s defeat increased the likelihood of a new world war, adding that the backward-looking sentiment for U.S. neutrality did not correspond to “the conflict looming on the horizon.” One reason FDR failed to aid democratic Spain, says Garraty, was fear of alienating American Catholic supporters of Franco. While this motive is important for students to understand, Garraty leaves unexplained the affinity between the Catholic Church and Franco. Perhaps because his pro-Loyalist textbook first appeared during the Cold War, Garraty does not mention Soviet aid for the Republic or allegations that it was pro-Communist. Nor does he mention the Lincoln Brigade or support for the Republic as an American liberal cause célèbre. George Tindall and David Shi, in America (2004), echo Garraty’s points, while adding more context about international politics and American Catholics. Like Garraty, they, too, overlook the Lincolns. Tindall and Shi write that Franco “established a fascist dictatorship with help from Hitler and Mussolini while the democracies stood by and left the Spanish Republic to its fate,” a statement they repeat almost verbatim three pages later. In that later discussion, on the Neutrality Acts, these authors state that “Roosevelt now became more isolationist than some of the isolationists,” preventing arms sales to the “recognized, democratic government” of Spain. FDR’s motives Page from Gilmore & Sugrue.

Page from Rosenzweig.

were two-fold: to support the British and French position that “non-intervention would localize the fight,” and in wariness of the “pro-Franco Catholics in America who worried that the Spanish Republic was a threat to the Church.” These Catholics, moreover, opposed what they saw as “atheistic Communist influence in the Spanish government”; the authors explain that the Soviets did aid the Republic, but with “nothing like the quantity of German and Italian assistance to Franco.” One wishes this textbook pointed out that the Republic established U.S.-style church-state separation, ending Catholic control over all Spanish education and allowing non-Catholic religious groups to operate openly. Nevertheless, Tindall and Shi do better than many others in explaining why the Spanish Republic stirred controversy in the U.S. Some textbooks, unfortunately, pay less attention to the Spanish Civil War in their more recent editions. Mary Beth Norton et al.’s A People and a Nation (2005) states that, in response to German and Italian aid to Franco, “About three thousand American volunteers, known as the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the ‘International Brigades,’ joined the fight on the side of the Loyalist republic, which also had the backing of the Soviet Union.” That sentence has disappeared by the 2018 edition. Paul Boyer et al.’s The Enduring Vision, too, has condensed its coverage of the Spanish Civil War. Both older and newer versions include important insights, alongside glaring omissions. Boyer frames discussion of this war around the Popular Front, noting that the American Communist Party in 1935, following a new policy of “dictator Joseph Stalin,” praised FDR and focused on building an antifascist alliance. After describing support in Spain for its “legally elected government” from “liberals, socialists, communists, and anarchists,” with opposition by “monarchists, landowners, industrialists, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy,” along with Hitler and Mussolini, Boyer writes that American “writers, artists, and intellectuals” – adherents of the Popular Front – backed the Loyalists. (It is important for students to know that Spain’s Republican government had been elected, and Boyer twice makes that point. Some textbooks only imply it.) In its 2000 edition, The Enduring Vision provides two examples of this Popular Front support: a paraphrase of a 1937 statement by prominent poet Archibald MacLeish that writers could not be “aloof ” in this struggle, and Hemingway’s depiction, in For Whom the Bell Tolls, “of a young American who joins a Loyalist guerrilla band.” (Boyer nicely observes that Hemingway’s “new-found capacity for political engagement” was a far cry from his disillusioned 1920s novels.) The 2018 edition of The Enduring Vision eliminates the reference to MacLeish, but the paragraph on Hemingway is intact. The new introduction to this section – “The Spanish Civil War was the Popular Front’s high-water mark” – is awkward, at best, however, as it was support for the Republic that epito-

mized the Popular Front, not the war. More problematic in the 2018 edition about the U.S. mood in 1936 is this statement, just ten pages after the description of Hemingway’s novel: “With the public firmly isolationist,…confrontation with fascism came solely in sports,” with Jesse Owens’s challenge to Nazi racism at the 1936 Olympics. The disjunction in Boyer’s 2000 textbook between the Popular Front and the response by Americans to fascism’s rise actually widens by 2018. Out of Many (2003) is among several textbooks whose authors were influenced by leftist social movements of the 1960s and which clearly describe the actions of the Lincoln Brigade. John Mack Faragher and his co-authors do not use the phrase “Popular Front,” but they allocate four paragraphs to the role of the Communist Party, USA in a sub-section titled “Waiting for Lefty.” Out of Many explains the CP’s appeal during the Depression, including its “militant opposition” to racism and its dedication to industrial union organizing. Faragher adds: “Some 3,200 Americans volunteered for the Communist Party-organized Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which fought in the Spanish civil war on the republican side against the fascists led by Francisco Franco. The Lincoln Brigade’s sense of commitment and sacrifice appealed to millions of Americans sympathetic to the republican cause.” Despite this appreciative description of the Lincolns, even this textbook’s explanation could confuse students without prior knowledge of the issue. The support of fascist Germany and Italy for Franco is not mentioned until the next chapter, on World War II’s origins, and the effect of the U.S. government’s hands-off approach in Spain is left unmentioned – as is the fate of the Republic itself. Moreover, as in The Enduring Vision, Out of Many implies here that there was no dissent from the pervasive isolationist mood in Congress or among the American public. Thus, the internationalism behind the Lincolns and support for the Republic in one chapter has been erased in the next, although the two chapters describe the same years. Moreover, for college students today, support for Spain’s “republic” means little without further explanation of its revolutionary implications as an alternative to a monarchy tied inextricably to an all-powerful Catholic Church and a landlord-dominated economic system. (Puzzlingly, Out of Many mentions Hemingway’s later support for Fidel Castro’s revolution, but not his admiration for the Lincolns and the Spanish Republicans.) Eric Foner, whose uncle Henry often presided over Lincoln Brigade commemorations, devotes only a few sentences to the Spanish Civil War in Give Me Liberty! (2014), but he includes two significant points others miss. First, Franco’s victory came in part because Hitler, pouring in arms, regarded “the conflict as a testing ground for new weaponry,” an idea which underscores the conflict’s global importance. Although Foner had earlier described at length the “The Heyday of American Communism” without mentioning Spain, his one bland reference March 2021 THE VOLUNTEER 9

Cover of “Out of Many.”

to the Lincolns does not connect them to the left or the Popular Front: “Some 3,000 Americans volunteered to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade on the side of the Spanish republic.” That blandness is surprising in light of Foner’s second significant observation, as he later discusses McCarthyism: “Previous membership in organizations with communist influence or even participation in campaigns in which communists had taken part, such as the defense of the government of Spain during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, suddenly took on sinister implications.” Foner does not specifically write that the Attorney General in 1947 labeled the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade a subversive organization. Nevertheless, alluding to the Lincolns’ controversial legacy situates them in the broader context of American history and helps students understand the convoluted thinking of the second Red Scare. Glenda Gilmore and Thomas Sugrue’s These United States (2016) and Roy Rosenzweig et al.’s Who Built America? (2008) each highlight the Lincoln Brigade by including a photograph of volunteers. Gilmore and Sugrue include two paragraphs on the Spanish Civil War, with the first providing background on Franco’s insurrection, backed by Hitler’s and Mussolini’s “arms and air support,” against the “duly elected government” of Republican Spain, “which had Communist support.” Then, these authors state that this civil war “captured the imagination of democrats, socialists, and Communists worldwide,” with “35,000 foreign volunteers,” including some 2,800 Americans in the Lincoln Brigade, fighting for the Republic. “Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls about it, black actor and singer Paul Robeson cheered volunteers in it, and more than eight hundred Americans died in it.” These United States singles out Salaria Kea, an African American nurse, in the text and the photograph, as a Brigade member. Despite its excellent discussion and the photograph, there are problems with Gilmore and Sugrue’s account. They incorrectly describe Kea as “the only woman in the brigade”; in fact, other women, too, served as nurses, ambulance drivers, and in other capacities, as shown in the 2002 documentary, “Into the Fire.” Moreover, while the authors accurately state that the 1936 Neutrality Act “did not prevent U.S. trade in arms with the combatants,” they ignore its January 1937 update designed to prevent such trade, with its disastrous results for the Republic. So Gilmore and Sugrue seem to let FDR off the hook here, along with Franco’s American backers in the Catholic hierarchy. These United States characterizes the civil war as “brutal,” but misses the chance to demonstrate that brutality. Previous paragraphs described at length Japanese atrocities in China, observing that Americans during the 1930s thought that “Only a depraved nation could bomb cities from the air.” Surely the 1937 bombing of Guernica by the German air force on behalf of Franco could be mentioned as parallel to Japan’s actions. Two recent textbooks explicitly follow the recent trend of historians to situate U.S. history in its full international 10 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

context. In Michael Schaller et al.’s American Horizons (2013), Hitler and Mussolini “rush[ed] military aid” to the “Spanish fascist” insurgent general, and Stalin, in turn, “dispatched some military aid and advisers to assist the Republic.” Robert McGreevey et al.’s Global America (2018), the most recently published textbook surveyed, builds on the best aspects of its predecessors while adding perceptive observations of its own. Devoting almost a full page to “The Spanish Civil War, 1936-39,” McGreevey frames it as the first armed conflict between “Fascism and democracy,” foreshadowing the larger conflict that would erupt as World War II. As in Boyer, the forces behind each side in Spain are clear: Franco, “the Catholic hierarchy and the landlord class,” versus a democratically elected coalition of “republican and leftist parties.” As in Foner, Italian and German weapons and personnel were not only key to Franco’s victory but served as “a kind of proving ground” for their future use. Indeed, McGreevey singles out these air forces’ “indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, including the town of Guernica, whose destruction was immortalized in Pablo Picasso’s painting of the same name.” While references to “Guernica” are common in European history textbooks, Global America is the only U.S. history textbook surveyed which mentions this first major instance of aerial bombing in Europe and Picasso’s masterpiece. As in Faragher and Boyer, support for Republican Spain was a key feature of the Popular Front. Indeed, “The crowning glory of the Popular Front was the International Brigades,” with their 3,000 Americans and 40,000 total – phrasing that is preferable to Boyer’s similar idea. McGreevey points also to a “moral dilemma” facing some in the Popular Front: defending democracy in Spain meant “linking arms with Stalin,” whose contemporaneous “Great Terror” in the Soviet Union “was a grotesque mockery of justice that led to the death of millions.” That arrangement “presented no problem” to Communists, but it did to liberals and other leftists. McGreevey continues: although “democracy was on the line, the Western democracies…stood by and watched” as “Madrid fell,” and so “the first battle between Fascism and democracy ended with Fascism victorious.” After framing the issue of working with Stalin as a problem, McGreevey nevertheless concludes that the different outcome of World War II resulted precisely from an alliance between “the Western democracies” and the Soviets. What can we conclude from this survey? Perhaps most significantly, the failure of some earlier textbooks to mention the Lincoln Brigade has, for the most part, been rectified. Most recent textbooks characterize these volunteers respectfully, even heroically, although at times the quest for brevity or a rush to publication leads to a lack of clarity. We see, in those textbooks which depict the Lincolns and wider American support for the Spanish Republic as part of the Popular Front, a useful marker of the strength of the Left in American political culture in the late 1930s and of ways ordinary Americans inserted themselves into history. But we also see here an issue on which FDR

disappointed his progressive backers, exhibiting fissures in that Popular Front as well as in the New Deal coalition, as Roosevelt expediently sought the Catholic vote. Too many textbooks still follow the conventional wisdom that American public opinion was monolithically “isolationist” in the mid-1930s, even as they describe an important group of internationalists—the Lincoln volunteers and their American supporters—challenging that consensus. (Rosenzweig’s Who Built America? models an improved paradigm here.) We see the Lincoln Brigade, including its Communist leadership, supporting democracy in Spain, while the U.S., British, and French governments did not, which should encourage students to examine their likely preconceptions on such issues. But we also see that the Left, too, by allying with Stalin, selectively supported democracy, another important issue with which we all must grapple. For a longer version of this article, as well as a list of all textbooks consulted, visit the online Volunteer at Robert Shaffer is Emeritus Professor of History at Shippensburg University.

Homage to the Spanish Flu: A Found Poem* I resented the world for having taken my mother away from me, explains journalist James Benét, who went to war to fight against fascism in Spain, and no doubt part of my radicalism was that, he says, proud having chosen the right target, the ills of society. I feel that everyone should feel that way whether they lost their mother or not. *Interview with Peter Neil Carroll


The Volunteer is proud to present these translated excerpts and images from Las voces de la tierra, a new book in which thirty-three writers pen brief texts about everyday objects recovered during the exhumations of the mass graves of Franco’s victims. The photographs are by the renowned photographer José Antonio Robés, who also curated the project. The book commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the birth of the Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica, co-founded by Emilio Silva, the 2015 Recipient of the ALBA/Puffin Prize for Human Rights Activism.

FROM THE PROLOGUE By Emilio Silva These objects are motionless stars of the anti-heavens, little suns that remain dead while they remain hidden […] This book is an astronomical guide to those constellations buried in dirt, a collective reflection on the disappeared who now appear because what conceals them is also what preserves them, like islands united by what separates them, the sea. The objects that have been photographed by José Antonio Robés were uncovered in exhumations of mass graves, in places pointed out by witnesses, in out-of-the-way ditches, by the side of little frequented roads, in unconsecrated corners of cemeteries where the nameless bodies of those who, before being murdered, had rejected the sacrament of confession. […]

people from a shard of their lives, from something that they carried, which they kept until the last moment. The photographs were taken in archives and in family homes... Later, a selection of the images was sent to those who have written the texts, and the authors were offered the possibility of receiving information regarding where, when, and next to whom the objects had appeared. An earring, a pair of boots, a die, a lighter, a piece of paper, several shoe soles, a scrap of paper, a box, a knot of wood, a bowl, a ring, a pair of cufflinks, a lead pencil, a comb, a rope lighter, unfired bullets, a pencil, a spent bullet, a razor, a belt, a medal, a watch, teddy bears, a pencil sharpener, a domino, a buckle, a coin, teeth, hairpins, glasses, a key, a toothbrush, buttons, a baby’s rattle, a badge, a pipe, a crucifix, and Maria's glasses.

Robés has decided to photograph the objects in black and white, as if they would appear more naked when stripped of color. The idea was to speak of the disappeared and exhumed March 2021 THE VOLUNTEER 11

Photographs by José Antonio Robés.

Two Cufflinks

By Olga Rodríguez The two cufflinks are two eyes that stare at us, demanding that we look back at them. Demanding that we look back at all those things that this country has been unable to face for decades: our memory, our past, which will be our present until we spread the knowledge of who we once were, so that we can finally understand who we are. When we look at the cufflinks how can we not think about the eyes of the person who was wearing them when he was shot? Designed long before the crime, they have come to represent, in a sad metaphor, the sleeplessness of the forgotten, in this country which will never enjoy full and robust democracy until it abandons its collective amnesia. For decades, these two cufflinks or eyes have remained open, never even blinking, waiting for someone to find them, waiting for a burial, for a farewell, for some words of kindness, truth, justice, reparation. There are silences that scream out, and the gaze of this inert object is one of them. It asks us: until when will we ignore the 114,266 people disappeared by Francoism? It reminds us that Spain continues covering up the crimes of the dictatorship, invisibilizing the disappeared, denying recognition and aid to the families of the victims, giving the assassins the benefit of the doubt, silencing the victims. It tells us in whispers that the democratic health of this country is at stake; because only with justice and the defense of human rights can we arrive at a necessary consensus: that committing crimes against humanity must have a price, so that they are not committed again. The owner of these eyes was a tailor. His name was José Rodríguez Silvosa. He was shot and disappeared on August 10, 1938. His two jewels, used to button up shirt sleeves, found beside his remains, still look us square in the eyes. Until when?

Colonel Benito

By Isabel Cadenas Cañón Sometimes I play a game in class with my students. I show them Spanish Civil War posters, and they have to determine which side produced each poster. They have doubts about some, others they tend to get right, but there is one in particular that almost always trips them up: Against a red background, a soldier holds a basin of water while he washes his head with a sponge. The text: “Soldier! Be clean! Hygiene is the key to health.” The poster was created by Bardasano in 1937. But neither the red background nor the red star that appears below the caption --not even the artist’s signature-- lead my students to guess that this might be an image of Republican propaganda. Automatically, they associate hygiene and cleanliness with right-wing values. That is another battle that we have lost.

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Then I think about a man who loses a war and goes into exile in the Soviet Union, where he fights against Nazis in another war that is really a continuation of the first one. I think of how he returns to Galicia to help organize the Communist Party’s guerrilla operations. Of how the operation falls apart, and how our man takes on the task of reorganizing it. Then the rumors start: he is too military; he is distancing the guerrilla movement from the people; he is a leader; he is an infiltrator. I imagine him hiding out in the mountains, with two compañeros, and then the ambush by Civil Guards. I think about the day they killed him. How the man who wanted to militarize the guerrilleros was carrying a toothbrush in his pocket. A toothbrush with which to rewrite history.

A Comb

By Sukina Aali-Taleb A ringing in the ears and with a gunshot his life slipped away. He thought this wasn’t about him. Death is never about you. Only others ever die. Nor did he think that being dragged out of his house was about him. He thought it had nothing to do with him because a good man cannot pose a danger to anybody. That night he dreamt again that he was descending the steps carved into the rock down to the river. Before waking up, he came to a green meadow where women were spreading white sheets in the sun. That morning he was awakened by the barking of dogs. And just before hearing the ruckus being made by the girls, he thought about how that night would be for dancing. They called out his name, but he did not hear from his faroff bedroom. He dressed quickly and hurried down the stairs. They took him out of his house at gunpoint.

He often dreamt of studying, of going to the capital. And of returning to the village knowing all about agriculture. He discussed plans with friends at the Casa del Pueblo one Friday. Between the house and the stables, where they would hit him on the back. From the makeshift prison to the back of a truck with other boys. Lying down on the grass, while the four cows grazed, he thought that if he studied, he could travel, see America. He could help change things. He could pay a doctor to give his grandfather new teeth. He could one day buy land in the high part of town where potato crops did best. He could have two jackets and some shoes that he would joyfully polish at dawn. Inside the truck, the young men kept quiet. They crossed the bridge over the river. The music did not sound far away. They got out of the truck. The women were laughing as they walked down to the verbena. Shots rang out, the music in the town stopped. A gunshot to the chest. He thought of the fluttering of a white sheet that covered his eyes. He fell to a green meadow dimmed by the night, and the comb he kept in the inside pocket of his best jacket slipped out.

Las voces de la tierra. Madrid: Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica/ Editorial Alikbla, 2020. To order the book: Curation of this selection: James D. Fernández; translations: Alejandro J. Fernández.

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One of the most compelling first-person accounts in English from the Spanish Civil War languished in the archives for more than 80 years. Artist and model Kate Mangan (1904-77) was a keen observer of character with a sharp nib on her pen. After traveling to Spain in 1936 in search of her lover, Jan Kurzke, a German refugee who had joined the International Brigades, she ended up working for the Republic’s Press & Censorship office. Her memoir has now been published by the Clapton Press, with the following preface by Paul Preston.


o one knows with absolute certainty how many books have been written about the various aspects of the Spanish Civil War but there is little doubt that they number somewhere in the region of thirty thousand. It goes without saying that the range of quality could not be wider. Academic works abound, of course. There exist many works of unashamed propaganda, a majority of which have emanated from the Francoist side in the conflict, but there is also a substantial minority of partisan works defending Communist, anarchist or other left-wing groups. Then there are the thousands of memoirs, many by politicians and senior military figures who grind their respective axes with varying degrees of honesty and many others by people who experienced the war in some way or other without being a celebrity or wielding power. It is among these latter “non-celebrity’ memoirs that Kate Mangan’s wonderful book is to be found. I will come right out and say that, ever since I first read the manuscript about fifteen years ago, I have longed to see it in print. I regarded it when I first read it, and ever more so with each subsequent reading, as one of the most valuable and, incidentally, purely 14 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

enjoyable books about the war. My admiration is a response to the sheer wealth of fascinating information and insight provided in brutally honest yet beautiful prose. At its core, this is a moving story of the travails of love in wartime, but it is so much more. Born in 1904 as Katherine Prideaux Foster, Kate was an attractive artist who had studied at the Slade School of Art in University College, London, and also worked for a couturier as a mannequin. She was unreservedly left-wing without having a specific party allegiance. In 1931, she had married the Irish- American Marxist novelist Sherry Mangan whom she had met in Paris in 1924 when they were both aged twenty. Partly because of money difficulties but also Sherry’s jealousy of her ability as a writer, they separated in 1934 and divorced the following year. In 1935, she fell in love with Jan Kurzke, a German who had come to London on the run from the Nazis. In late 1935 and the spring of 1936, they spent several idyllic months in Spain and Portugal. In these memoirs, she provides a colorful account of their boat journey to Lisbon and about the poverty and the ubiquitous police presence in Salazar’s Portugal. In the plush resorts of Cascaes and Estoril, she describes the

Spanish reactionaries in their gilded exile from the Popular Front: “They were fat and well dressed with big motor cars and numerous polite, befrilled children, servants and foreign governesses . . . the Spanish colony of Portugal is not dead, but flourishes like the green bay tree in all its parasitical uselessness and vulgarity.”

he had come to Spain as a correspondent of the Communist Party of Great Britain’s newspaper, the Daily Worker. Through Humphrey and Tom, she met a “petite and vivacious American girl” called Katherine “Kitty’ Bowler. Kate would eventually find herself sharing a hotel room with her and “swept into the whirl of Kitty’s life.”

Briefly back in London, she approved of Jan’s precipitate decision to volunteer to fight in the International Brigades despite feeling great concern and trepidation. Eventually, eaten up with worry, she had gone to Spain in October 1936 in the hope of being with him. At first, she picked up casual jobs as an interpreter in Barcelona and then went to Madrid where she acted as secretary to an old friend from London, Humphrey Slater, with whom she had studied at the Slade. Through Slater, she met Tom Wintringham, the senior British Communist who would soon be the commander of the British battalion in the International Brigades, although officially

Having located Jan, she could meet him only sporadically. When he was seriously wounded, she threw herself into a desperate search to find where he had been taken, then devoted herself to caring for him and finally to the complex task of getting him released and back to England. In between, thanks to Kitty Bowler, she got a job in the Republic’s press office in Valencia, which had become the capital when the government had left Madrid on 6 November 1936. There, she worked as an interpreter and translator. As a result of her experiences, her perceptions of the political context in which she existed are fascinating.

Kate Mangan in 1936. Photo courtesy Clapton Press.

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Kate’s 1937 press card. Photo courtesy Clapton Press.

“THE SPANISH COLONY OF PORTUGAL IS NOT DEAD BUT FLOURISHES LIKE THE GREEN BAY TREE IN ALL ITS PARASITICAL USELESSNESS AND VULGARITY.” What she went through to trace Jan and later care for him provides the basis for unique insights into the experiences of an International Brigader both on the front line and behind the lines. Her account of hospital conditions—the lack of drugs and of trained staff, poor hygiene—provides real understanding of the appalling difficulties faced by the Republican medical services. Kate’s is not the only account of the privations suffered by the volunteers—not allowed to go on leave, given poor food, without mail from home, inadequately clad. However, her account sparkles with revealing detail such as how those fighting in the Philosophy and Arts building in Madrid’s University City built barricades of books to protect their machine gun emplacements, then settled down to wait for action: “The scholars read old books in Greek and Latin, for several of the English were from Oxford and Cambridge.” In fact, the entire book teems with insights into the Spanish Civil War. Her account of her time in the besieged Madrid could hardly be more vivid. As the highest capital city in Europe, winter in Madrid is always bitterly cold. In November 1936, it was worse than usual since coal from the Asturian mines could not reach Madrid. There was almost no central heating or hot water in the hotels. Kate describes madrileños eschewing their habitually late dinners and eating at 7:30 or 8PM, since bed was about the only warm place in any home, most residents were there by 9. “The cold got into my bones. Nowhere was there any heating and, though I gave up washing and went to bed in most of my clothes, I was never warm and ached and shivered at night so that I could not sleep.” It was so cold that her fingers sometimes froze to her typewriter keys. She recounts having to queue for everything, coal, food, even matches. Yet she never loses her ability to see the funny side of things: “I do not know what went into the bread, possibly rice flour, but it was only just possible to eat it when fresh; within a few hours it became stone-like and would have made a dangerous missile or a solid barricade.” Of the one bar where you could get whisky, she writes wryly: “Here one found journalists, commercial aviators, and whores still clean and fairly smart, though the ones with bleach-blond hair were becoming piebald for lack of peroxide. It was all at the hospitals and plenty of nurses had blond hair.” In late 1936, she moved to the very different atmosphere of Valencia where the weather was warmer and food relatively 16 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

abundant. Every bit as compelling as the recollections of Madrid are her recollections of working in the press office. There she came into contact with a gamut of literary celebrities, politicians, secret agents and war reporters—contacts that she describes vividly and often with a wicked sense of humor. Indeed, her memoirs could be plundered by literary biographers for her unique descriptions of the famous literary figures that she met. These include a sneeringly arrogant Claud Cockburn and a painfully shy W.H. Auden whose literary skills are wasted by the press office other than allowing him to make a superb translation of a speech by the Republican President, Manuel Azaña. Kate liked Stephen Spender for his humility and eagerness to help: “He was a very tall, thin young man, with open collar and a leather jacket. He had a rather bony, Viking face and wildly straying hair. He looked red and wind-blown and rather distrait.” She depicted the then world-famous American novelist John Dos Passos as “yellow, small and bespectacled.” He was staying at the Hotel Colón which had been renamed the Casa de Cultura and reserved for visiting intellectuals, artists, and writers. Locally, it was known as the Casa de los Sabios (the house of the wise men) although Kate regarded it as “a kind of zoo for intellectuals.” Utterly memorable and rather less reverential than conventional views are Kate’s portraits of two celebrity couples, the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro and Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Of Capa and Taro, she wrote: “They were a striking-looking couple. He was tall and thin with dead black eyes. She was a ripe beauty, with a tanned face and bright orange hair cropped like a boy’s. The natural tint of her hair was copper, she had the warm brown eyes that go with it, but the sun had bleached it orange and the effect was startling. She was full-bosomed, very handsome but for her head being a bit too large for her height. She wore a little, round, Swiss cap on the back of the astonishing hair. She had small feet and was a model of Parisian sportif chic. She radiated sex-appeal . . . Capa and Gerda talked about Spain and the beautiful sunshine quite as if they were on holiday, which I thought very frivolous, but they did not neglect their work. They were always ready to leap from the car to take significantly grim pictures and were merely personally detached from their subjects.”

Kate Mangan & Jan Kurzke in Portugal, Summer 1936. Photo courtesy Clapton Press.

She captures precisely the insecurity that underlay the bravado of Hemingway who “always came with a large entourage and always wanted to go to Madrid at once. He was a huge, red man, in hairy speckled tweeds, with a crushing handshake. He looked like a successful businessman which, I suppose, was the impression he wished to make. The first time I saw him, he came with Sidney Franklin, a former bullfighter, and two Dutch cameramen, to make the film Spanish Earth. One always had the feeling that there were several shadowy, unidentifiable, obsequious figures in the background while Hemingway, the great man, was in the foreground.” Martha Gellhorn “was handsome in a rather predatory way, with a beaky nose and brilliant eyes. She had an elegant coiffure, a linen dress and a perfectly even suntan. She wore her skirt rather short, and sat on the table swinging her long, slim legs in a provocative manner. The Spaniards disapproved of this. They believed that sexuality should be directed only at one person at a time, preferably in private.” Her pages are replete with striking vignettes. Of the two customs men who tried to impede her entry into Barcelona, she writes: “One was small, desiccated, with beady black eyes, lively as a flea; he wore a little forage cap, half red and half black, that made him look as if he came out of a circus. The other one was very pale with a scar, a highnecked jersey and a beret rammed down like a skull-cap; he was much more reminiscent of the French Revolution à la

lanterne and as though determined nothing should betray him into a smile.” With equal perceptiveness, she comments of “Valencian farmers who were holding an orange-growers convention. The orange-growers, plump, rosy and steaming, loud-voiced, with big dripping umbrellas, who clustered thickest after lunch, had apparently no consciousness of the war at all. They were only concerned with the difficulties of marketing their produce that year.” This fits in with her acute comments on the insouciant lack of awareness of the war that she noted in Catalunya both when she first arrived: “At that time in Barcelona, the general public was no more aware of what was going on in Madrid than on the moon.” By the time that she was en route out of Spain with the disabled Jan, in the late summer of 1937, there was little sense of a war going on and one that was likely to be lost: “Very few wounded were about, and Jan was regarded with astonishment and asked about the war as if it had nothing to do with Catalunya. Cafés and restaurants were crowded with young men of military age and smart girls.” Kate’s job brought her into contact with politicians as well as literary figures. Juan García Oliver, the one-time anarchist gunman who was now the Republic’s Minister of Justice, “lived in our hotel and was a small, high-colored, youngish man with bright blue eyes.” The Socialist Prime Minister, Francisco Largo Caballero “was an old, wrinkled man with March 2021 THE VOLUNTEER 17

Kate Mangan visiting Jan Kurzke in the hospital, Valencia 1937. Photo courtesy Clapton Press.

pale, shifty blue eyes.” The President Manuel Azaña is accurately depicted as “a short, fat man with a bald head, receding forehead, wire-rimmed spectacles and a large mole on his chin” and perceptively analyzed as being “. . . afraid of doing the wrong thing. . . and did not really want to go on with the war. He was a liberal and would have given up sooner if he had dared.” The attempts of Franz Borkenau, the celebrated Austrian sociologist, to have a sexual liaison with a twenty-year-old university student are behind the portrait of “a dirty old man,” “the professor who was personally greasy and unattractive.” In contrast, Kate pays tribute to the smooth talk of the Comintern’s brilliant propagandist, Otto Katz, the real brains behind the Spanish Press Agency in Paris, the Agence Espagne. His flattery put stiff and rather grand English ladies, the Duchess of Atholl, Eleanor Rathbone and Ellen Wilkinson, entirely at their ease. Kate did not spend all of her time either in the press office or seeking Jan. She also travelled with London Times correspondent Lawrence Fernsworth and other journalists to investigate the plight of the thousands of refugees fleeing the repression in Málaga along the coast road to Almería. Her grim account of meeting the bedraggled fugitives there is a valuable addition to the important accounts of the tragedy written by Dr. Norman Bethune and T.C. Worsley. Contacts with diplomats yield considerable insight into the anti-Republican attitude of London’s foreign policy. A shocking revelation came from a conversation with the British Vice-Consul in Almería: “We asked him if it was true that British warships were taking supplies into Málaga now that it had fallen to Franco and he said it was. We then asked if any of them were coming up here with food and he said not.” Even more shocking, if hardly surprising, was the remark of another British diplomat about International Brigade volunteers: “I do not see why we should stand in the way of these fellows who come and get killed in Spain. We shall get rid of a lot of undesirables this way.” Kate’s views on the difficulties of the Republic add to what can be learned from academic studies: “the Spanish Republic was sinking under the weight of the refugees and the problem of feeding so many people. There was little sustaining food to be had. Most of the wheat was grown on the other side of Spain. We had a little rice and, in Catalunya, some potatoes. The fishermen were afraid to go out because of mines. As the Republic shrank in territory, it increased in population, and was much greater than on the other side. Every town and village was swarming with people, women and children, old people, gypsies, all the poorest of the poor, 18 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

all helpless and without possessions.” So much of what Kate writes about is bleak yet neither the elegance of her prose nor her sense of humor flag. She captures the shambolic improvisation of the popular militias in quoting a remark by her sister Greville: “Oh, we encourage fancy dress in our column,” she said, “it keeps up the morale. Some people wear fur hats like Cossacks, and some big straw ones like Mexicans, and some have feathers like Red Indians.” Her priceless description of the journey from Lisbon back to London in July 1936 includes the comment: “Several of the stewards were actually sailors recovering from appendix operations and thus given over to light duties such as spilling soup over people.” Regarding one extremely serious issue—the opposition to the military coup by the miners in the northern part of the province of Huelva, as recounted by the Portuguese press—she cannot restrain her sense of humor: “The Río Tinto miners were described as having joined forces with the workers in a sausage factory and armed with sausages and sticks of dynamite, were said to be running about in trucks terrorizing the countryside.” Beyond the specifics of the press office and the hospitals, Kate also captures something important about the spirit of the Republican war effort. Despite overwhelming odds against them, millions of ordinary Spaniards went on fighting to defend the Republic that had given them educational opportunities, women’s rights, and social reforms. Kate, even as a foreigner, present only for one year of the war, seems to have felt this. She writes: “All through the war, one had a wonderful feeling of freedom from the responsibility and individual worries of ordinary life. Once I got used to it, I never worried any more about possessions, or money, or when I would get anywhere, or where the next meal was coming from. Possessions did not seem to matter; I had very few with me but nothing I clung to except my typewriter.” That sense of exhilaration seems not to have survived the difficulties that she faced in getting Jan back to England. When they reached Paris, she reflected, in what was a terrible epitaph for Jan and the International Brigades as a whole: “Jan had done something which a few people thought heroic, to which many Spaniards were indifferent, and which had to be hidden, like a crime, in the country to which he returned.” Paul Preston, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, is the author, most recently, of A People Betrayed: A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence and Social Division in Modern Spain (Liveright).

LETTER TO THE EDITOR To the Editors: Prof. Helen Graham’s “Why Do So Many Historians Fail to Understand the War in Spain” (December 2020) is a patent attempt to de-politicize the reasons behind and motives for the International Brigades. To use general terms like humanitarian, displacements, migration, ethnicity, and high politics without specifying their context—namely the resistance to absolute monarchy, religious oppression, feudal landlords, suppression of trade unions, colonial rule; in a word, the struggle against clerical fascism—is to mask history. While there obviously was “no perfect symmetry between communist affiliation and support for the republic in Spain,” often Communists played a major role defending the Spanish republic. Anti-communists of all stripes, including liberals, volunteered for the International Brigades. What they shared was a burning desire to defeat fascism. Sadly, they fought among themselves over how to achieve that aim. Graham prefers to focus on such factors as the massive displacements after the First World War, migration, and colonialism. Clearly, none of this precludes political motivations for going to Spain to fight reaction. It is well documented that many of the volunteers in Spain were Communists or shared similar sympathies. The meaning of such commitment, even in the period under review, is difficult for many to understand. But it is this understanding that is needed, not its denial. David Oberweiser Jr.

Helen Graham responds: David Oberweiser seems to have read my article entirely at cross purposes. Nothing in it queries—still less “denies”—the political commitment of the international volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic. I’ve written about that commitment extensively over the years, including in the pages of The Volunteer. But my purpose in this article was to widen the lens, in order to trace how that political commitment came to be made in the first place, in the cross-currents of huge changes accelerating after World War One, including of course changes that were occurring in people’s heads. In particular I wanted to foreground what is still the least-known part of the International Brigade story even today: Everyone understands the volunteers were politically engaged, but far fewer know (because most English-language accounts don’t tell them) that the vast majority of volunteers came from central-east and south-east Europe. These young men—from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia—had been farm hands or urban workers and when they returned from the fighting in 1918, they found the “old world” order under swift reconstruction. But they were now no longer prepared to tug the forelock or offer “due deference” to their “betters.” They had aspirations to something else, a life worth living, a more equal social order—and so they set off. What they were leaving behind was of course precisely the repressive old order of church, landed elites, and authoritarian monarchies (sometimes in alliance with fascists) to which David Oberweiser refers, and against which in Spain they made a stand, on behalf of all of Europe, and indeed the world beyond. So, far from migration being at odds with the making of left/antifascist political commitment and social consciousness, it’s actually at the heart of it. Many of those central/south east Europeans who came to fight in Spain arrived via third countries where they’d already been migrant workers—the largest single IB contingent came from France, but it was composed of several nationalities, including many Poles. This was also later reflected in the international, and multiethnic, composition of the antifascist resistance movement in France during World War II, and indeed in the very name of one of its famous components, the communist-allied Main-d’oeuvre Immigrée or migrant labor front (MOI). It’s true that I did perhaps frame my Volunteer article a tad abstractly, but I had very few allotted words! My preference is always to anchor the bigger picture in stories of real human lives. The thousands of European migrants and exiles—whether communists, anarchists, or socialists—had strong political ideas, but they also “believed” in a holistic way. It was a way of traveling hopefully in dark times. As I’ve written elsewhere, “political activism was itself a way of acquiring human agency, a form of body armor, donned by the least powerful in the hostile climes of giddying change which characterize these core interwar decades of Europe’s twentieth century.” It’s important for us to recognize this, because it debunks what is the real “distortion” here—the baleful influence of the Cold War in the telling of what happened in Spain. An apparently never-ending Cold War still to this day (re)presents the international volunteers as if they were ideological robots—thus conveniently closing down any discussion of the larger historical stakes. My own article, in contrast, underlines those very stakes, how the fight in Spain was at the heart of a struggle against Europe’s “old world,” against its rigid social and political hierarchies, and in favor of a more equal distribution of power—indeed in favor of civil rights—all of which was unleashed by World War I. March 2021 THE VOLUNTEER 19

Book review

Spain, the Second World War, and the Holocaust: History and Representation, edited by Sara J. Brenneis and Gina Herrmann. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020. xiii + 711 pp.

Reviewed by Sebastiaan Faber


ranco would not have defeated the Spanish Republic had it not been for the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The same German planes that destroyed the Basque city of Gernika in April 1937, flown by the very same pilots, bombed Warsaw in September 1939. German, Spanish, Italian, French, Yugoslav, and Dutch antifascists who volunteered in the International Brigades of the Spanish Republican army later formed the backbone of the Resistance in Nazi- and Fascist-occupied Europe. The first inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp were Spanish refugees who had been interned by the French after the defeat of the Republic, while more than 45,000 Spanish soldiers from Franco’s Spain fought with the Germans on the Eastern front. Yet the first Allied halftracks to roll into a newly liberated Paris in August 1944 were driven by the Spaniards who had fought the Axis as part of the army of the Free French. The list of known historical facts that illustrate the intimate connection between the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Holocaust—and between the Franco regime and the Axis—is near endless. If many historians and textbooks still minimize those links, it is due to two main reasons: the fact that historians of Europe tend to ignore the continent’s peripheries—and the historiographical impact of the Cold War. The latter underscored not only Spain’s official neutrality during 1939-45 (misleadingly presented as Franco’s brilliant ploy) and the country’s role in helping Jews escape from the Nazis (simplifying a much more complex story) but also glossed over the shameful inaction of Britain, the United States, and other Western democracies who opted for non-intervention when Spain’s democratic government was attacked in 1936. This ambitious and exhaustive new collection of essays edited by Sara Brenneis and Gina Herrmann deals a decisive blow to the pillars of that Cold War paradigm. The book’s chapters are divided into nine thematic sections that cover topics ranging from the paradoxical coexistence in twentieth-century Spain of antisemitism and a fascination with the Sephardic legacy (both of which shaped Spain’s role in World War II), Spanish Republicans in France and the Nazi camps, and Spanish soldiers fighting with the Nazis on the Russian Front, to the role of propaganda, the activities of Nazis operating in Francoist Spain, and representations of the Holocaust in Spanish culture and classrooms today.

20 THE VOLUNTEER March 2021

Although a short review cannot do justice to these 35 incisive and compelling essays written by an interdisciplinary team of expert researchers—who, in addition to ALBA board members Gina Herrmann and Robert Coale, include our book review editor, Joshua Goode—it’s worth mentioning a handful of highlights. Isabelle Rohr’s chapter deals with the Jewish population in Spain’s protectorate in Morocco. Coale tells the riveting story of three Spanish brothers who fought for the Republic, only to end up in French and North African camps and eventually in Mauthausen. Herrmann rescues the testimonies of two women who were deported to Ravensbrück and used as Nazi slave labor. Goode details how high-ranking Nazis were able to find refuge in Franco’s Spain, which protected them from extradition. Josep Calvet shows how Spanish and Catalan citizens hid Jewish refugees, while Tabea Linhard applies a human rights lens to the histories of those same refugees. The breadth and variety of this collection is as impressive as the authors’ respect for the complexity of the stories they tell. Taken together, they allow us to draw five important conclusions that Brenneis and Herrmann helpfully lay out in their introduction. First, despite its official status as neutral or non-belligerent, “Spain must be considered among the nations connected to the Shoah.” Second, while Spain “has long promulgated the myth of the Franco regime as savior of Jews,” in fact the country also “hastened the destruction of European Jewry.” Third, the Franco regime “[supported] the Axis cause in both its rhetoric and its actions,” despite Franco’s opportunism, which drove him, in the first years of the war, to “actively [court] Hitler’s favor” and, later, to “[burnish] his false reputation as a protector of Jews while at the same time limiting the number of Jewish refugees permitted to remain in Spain at any one time.” Fourth, while it is true that some 15,000 Jews were able to flee the Holocaust via Spain, this was much more due to the actions of brave Spanish diplomats and citizens acting on their own account than to any government policy. In fact, Jewish relief agencies seeking to establish offices in Spain found themselves “continually thwarted.” Fifth, the decades’ worth of distortion and mythmaking have left their imprint on public opinion today. The “image of Spain as a rescuer of Jews, polished by television documentaries, miniseries, commemorations, and news reports, has blinded Spaniards to far more complex and often contradictory regime positions.” The inescapable conclusion is that, on balance, “Spain did not realize its full potential regarding the number of Jews it could have saved during the Holocaust, Sephardic and Ashkenazi alike.” Among this volume’s many virtues are the clear synergy among the contributors, whose accounts intersect, complement, and reinforce each other throughout; its attention to the way in which Spain’s role in the Holocaust did not come out of nowhere but was shaped by its centuries’ long history of engagement with, and rejection of, Jewish culture and populations; the way in which the authors’ lenses zoom in and out from individual to collective accounts; and the balanced focus on political history, cultural history, cultural memory, witness testimony, and contemporary representations of the past in narrative fiction, poetry, theater, film, journalism, and education. Sebastiaan Faber teaches at Oberlin College.

Soldados de Franco. Reclutamiento forzoso, experiencia de guerra y desmovilización militar, by Francisco J. Leira Castiñeira. Madrid: Siglo XXI, 2020. 347 pp.

Reviewed by Sebastiaan Faber


here is no better way to demystify the epic of warfare than adopting a soldier’s perspective. If Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, or Coppola’s Apocalypse Now show anything, it’s that war is less about heroism and sacrifice than about incompetence and improvisation, blood and boredom, latrines and lice— and, above all, survival.

Francisco Franco liked to praise the “heroes” who’d fought and fallen “for God and Fatherland” to “save Spain from Communism.” A new study by the Galician historian Fran Leira—who in 2012 earned an honorary mention in ALBA’s annual essay contest—blows up this myth by asking a simple question: Who were Franco’s soldiers really? In addition to Germans, Italians, and North-African mercenaries, the Nationalist troops included thousands of Spanish men, the majority of whom were conscripts. (The first military drafts in the Nationalist zones happened in early August 1936, barely three weeks after the army uprising.) Did they see themselves as the crusaders that Franco’s rhetoric made them out to be? Did they even share the Nationalists’ political views? Did they fight with enthusiasm or reluctantly? How did their image of themselves, the war, and Spain evolve in the postwar period? Leira’s answer, though not surprising, is nonetheless eyeopening. Mostly focusing on Galicia, he combines painstaking archival research—including personal letters and diaries— with oral history to show that the individuals who made up Franco’s army were a highly diverse group who did not necessarily support the cause for which they had been enlisted. As the war went on, the Francoist army also frequently “recycled” captured Republican soldiers; but even those who joined voluntarily often did so less out of conviction than for more opportunistic reasons. To keep their troops in check, army authorities resorted not only to persuasion and indoctrination but also to strict surveillance and punishment. After the war, the former soldiers became the object of official praise and the beneficiaries of veteran-friendly policies (though these were often badly executed). At the same time, many had to deal with the psychological fallout of the violence that they’d suffered or, worse, perpetrated. Rather than pride in their military past, Leira suggests, shame was the dominant sentiment. And even if they were not actively opposing the dictatorship, the majority of the veterans “were not Francoist when they were enlisted, nor did their experience at the front turn them into Francoists”.

Leira places his work in the line of scholars like Leonard V. Smith, a US historian of France who has studied World War I soldiers’ and veterans’ experiences. In the Spanish context, Leira’s focus on the situation at the front complements the extensive research, by Francisco Espinosa and others, of political repression in the Nationalist rearguard. But like all historians, the author, too, is a child of his times. Leira, who is 33, came of age during the rise of the memory movement in Spain, which also transformed how historians of the war and the dictatorship approached their work. He is part HISTAGRA, the Galician collective associated with the project Nomes e voces, which helps make historical research available to victims of Francoist repression. Yet Leira also seeks to complicate the story embraced by many of the Spaniards who have been fighting for the rights of those who suffered from Francoist repression. Among other things, he argues it is time to adopt a more complex and capacious understanding of the notion of the victim. “We cannot forget that [Nationalist] soldiers were the victims of forcible recruitment, victimizers inasmuch as they engaged in violence at the front and, then again, victims of a badly managed country.” The soldiers whose stories Leira uncovers saw their memory confiscated by the Franco regime, which turned them into “warriors of the Crusade” and “martyrs of the Spanish nation.” What Leira seeks to do, as a historian, is to return their messy, heterogeneous memory to its rightful owners.

Grandpa Stops A War: A Paul Robeson Story, by Susan Robeson. Illustrated by Rod Brown. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2020. 48 pp.

Reviewed by Peter N. Carroll


n this illustrated book aimed at children, Susan Robeson, old enough to be a grandmother herself and ever the granddaughter of Paul Robeson, the most celebrated anti-fascist of his time, tells the remarkable story of the singer’s visit to the front lines to entertain and inspire Loyalist and US brigadistas during the Spanish Civil War.

The book is based on a family story, most of it true, about the elder Robeson’s commitment to the Spanish Republic, his efforts to raise funds for humanitarian aid for civilians, especially children, and his decision to visit the embattled country to offer his moral support as well. Besides the straightforward story line, the author offers excellent background notes about the Spanish Civil War and its international context as well as Robeson’s biographical narrative. The prose is clear, clean, and bound to raise questions among young readers about war and peace. Only the title is a bit slippery. Although Robeson did sing in open air to soldiers at rest, it’s not clear the other side stopped to listen. But if that’s what Susan learned as a girl, let’s leave it at that.

March 2021 THE VOLUNTEER 21

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ALBA’s online Gala and ALBA/ Puffin Award Ceremony MAY 2, 2021 Featuring My Brother’s Keeper along with speakers and musical performances. For more details as they become available, visit ALBA’s website at or sign up for our email list at

My Brother’s Keeper HIV testing campaign. Photo MBK.

THE VOLUNTEER NEEDS YOUR HELP! Every three months, ALBA is pleased and proud to send you this publication. We know that so many of our readers treasure it, and we value your feedback, your encouraging words as well as your constructive criticism. We strive to make the publication a forum for the exchange of information and ideas of interest to the ALBA community. Each edition of The Volunteer costs $7,500 to publish. Would you consider donating at this amount to cover the cost of one edition? Your name would be prominently displayed (with your approval) in that edition, as the single donor who made that edition possible. We know this is a big “ask”! If you are able to consider a gift at this level, to sponsor an edition of The Volunteer, please contact Mark Wallem directly at Please know that we appreciate every gift, large or small, that comes our way. Thank you for your generosity and your support of The Volunteer.