The Spanish Civil War in Literature

By Janet Pérez; Wendell Aycock | Go to book overview

Reflections of a Civil War Veteran

Abe Osheroff

Spain tore the earth with her nails
When Paris was prettier than ever,
Spain drained her immense tree of blood
When London was grooming, as Pedro Garfias
tells us, her lawn and her swan lakes.

Pablo Neruda, “Song to Stalingrad”

It was fifty years ago, yet for those who remember and for those who newly discover it, the Spanish Civil War still exerts a magical power. What was it about that war and the men who fought it that captured the hearts and minds of a whole generation and left so deep a mark on everyone touched by it?

In 1936, the specter of fascism haunted the world. Mussolini had conquered Ethiopia, Japanese militarism had infested China, and Nazi Germany was rearming rapidly. As the gathering storm clouds darkened the sky, fascism struck another blow. The Spanish army rose in rebellion against the legally elected government. Expecting a rapid victory, they had not reckoned with the people of Spain. Workers, peasants, students and intellectuals rallied to the defense of their republic. Although poorly armed, they crushed the rebellion in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Only the intervention of Germany, Italy, and Portugal, and Moorish mercenaries engaged by France saved the rebels. They poured modern arms and thousands of regular army units into Spain and thus transformed the civil war into a war of national independence.

The heroic resistance of the Spanish people gave hope and inspiration to democratic forces all over the world. Madrid glowed like a beacon in the darkness of appeasement and surrender and became the

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