Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir of an American Medic in the Spanish Civil War

Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir of an American Medic in the Spanish Civil War

Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir of an American Medic in the Spanish Civil War

Spain's Cause Was Mine: A Memoir of an American Medic in the Spanish Civil War

Synopsis

On a fine April day in 1937, a fellow UCLA student casually approached Hank Rubin about fighting for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War. Impulsively - astonishing both himself and the International Brigades recruiter - Rubin promised to forsake his studies, go to Spain, and join the antifascist volunteers. In a narrative voice that inspires both trust and affection, Rubin tells of being alternately delighted and sardonically amused by the cloak-and-dagger routines during the clandestine train ride from Los Angeles to New York. He re-creates the tension of being a member of a secret army in New York, of life as a third-class passenger aboard an ocean liner, and as a soldier at loose ends in Paris. He takes the reader on the perilous night journey over the mountains from France into Spain, describes training routines, and details the conditions of war. And through it all, he sets his compelling personal story against the larger backdrop of history: the Great Depression in the United States, the Spanish Army, the Vatican, the Catholic clergy and Germany and Italy supporting Franco's fascists, the Nonintervention Pact upheld by Britain and France, and Roosevelt's arms embargo against Spain. Rubin's memoir about life in the medical branch of the International Brigades, in fact, is not a book about abstract concepts; it is the story of an idealistic young man who for various and complex reasons decided to risk all to extinguish an inhumane form of government - fascism.

Excerpt

For college students sixty years ago, no less than today, the choices of the day sometimes boiled down to simple decisions, such as to "blow my almost empty wallet on a hamburger for lunch," as one UCLA undergraduate put it, or, as his lab partner replied, to "go into the library and do the research for Dr. Webb's paper."

So much for appearances. On an April day during the spring semester of 1937, Hank Rubin chose to do neither. And then, just a few minutes later, while sunbathing on the steps of the UCLA library, another student came along with a better proposition: How would you like to go to war in Spain?

"Sure."

Reading the plain and honest recounting of this conversation, one is tempted to seek psychological understanding: the young man's conflicts with his father; the fear of failure during the nation's economic depression; ambivalence about his Jewish heritage; a bad love life. There is plenty of grist in this narrative for speculation.

But psychology is not the point--or the methodology. When Hank Rubin replied "Sure" and embarked on the road that would take him to Spain as a volunteer in the International Brigades fighting to save the legally elected Republic from its fascist enemies, he was participating in a worldwide political movement that attracted college students and alumni from every corner of the United States, not to mention men from innumerable occupations, economic backgrounds, and educational attainments. In Spain, the North Americans were assigned to the 15th Brigade, and . . .

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