by ALFRED KANTOROWICZ
AFTER THE SUCCESSFUL ADVANCE on the Spanish southern front, in the Pozoblanco sector, the Battalions of the XIII International Brigade found themselves in the Sierra Mulva hills above the city of Penarroya. The town, in the neighborhood of important metal and coal mines, was stubbornly defended by the Fascists.
For those members of the Brigade who came from the north of Europe, the Scandinavians, Dutch, Flemish, Swiss, Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Poles and Alsatians--the Brigade counted 24 nationalities--the summer climate of this southern part of Spain, the swamp and malaria district of Estremadura, was hard to bear. The daily ration of water was only a liter, and the food was scant and poor. We suffered from hunger and thirst, from heat and the prevalence of insects. Many tool sick.
We looked forward to the evenings, which were a little cooler. After supper we sat on the grass or on stones around our quarters. One evening, we sat as usual, relaxed, because the moon had not yet come up and the sounds of motors which we could hear were not those of airplanes, but of trucks. We could see their far off lights winding over the hills.
A few feet away, the night watch were singing Spanish folk songs, under their breath. The guards paced up and down. We could see their shadows in the last light of the long summer day. Then suddenly someone approached us from the right. The guard called for his password: Unidos, he said, and the other answered as he was supposed to: Y Valiente!
It was an officer of the Spanish tank unit: three light tanks that had lain for weeks near us, ready for action. Every evening an officer came over to us to get the password of our sector for the next twenty-four hours. For the next day it was Bilboa--No paserán! Then the officer would ask the General for news. The General would answer indifferently, in a deep voice, Sin novedad--'Nothing new,' and with a mumbled Salud the officer would disappear into the darkness again. It would then be exactly 10 o'clock.