The Spanish Civil War was and is still viewed by many as the first global battleground between democracy and fascism. On the left, it is also often remembered as the last great stand of interwar communism.
During the course of the war tens of thousands of foreign volunteers – most of them communists – travelled to Spain to volunteer in the Spanish Republican army, the majority as part of the International Brigades, founded in October 1936 by the Communist International.
Among the many languages spoken and celebrated by the international volunteers was Yiddish. A large proportion of the foreign volunteers – as many as 10 percent – were Jewish, many of them Yiddish speakers.
Yiddish is also remembered, along with French and Spanish, as one of the ‘lingua francas’ which allowed volunteers from different national units to communicate with each other.
The Jewish volunteers, like their counterparts of other nationalities, were widely celebrated in the Yiddish Communist press, became the subjects of songs and poems, and a focal point around which Yiddish speaking Communists rallied in their calls for Jewish unity in the struggle against Fascism.
On the anniversary of the coup which began the Spanish Civil War, Babels Blessing Yiddish teacher Annie will present some of her research on some of the Jewish volunteers from Eastern Europe, France and London.