The Spanish Civil War Remembered

Thanks to Netflix’s randomized suggestions, I just stumbled upon an inspiring documentary film, and I urge everyone to see it.

Into the Fire” (2002) is an incredibly sobering account of American women – nurses, ambulance drivers and medical technicians – attached to the International Brigade fighting for the Loyalist/Republican side against Franco’s Fascist insurgents during the Spanish Civil War (July 1936 to April 1939). In their own voices and written words, dozens of the women who volunteered at the risk of life and limb to oppose the Fascists in Spain, talk about the struggle they participated in and how the Spanish people endured.

Although the war was ultimately lost to Generallisimo Franco’s forcesĀ  (thanks to Hitler and Mussolini), these women, who only in 1996 were given honorary citizenship in Spain, proudly recall their contributions to the fight for democracy and the legally elected Republican government. And yet, when they returned to the United States in 1939, they were persecuted by the FBI as “prematurely anti-Fascist,” a curious euphemism for anti-American.

The documentary film footage of this tragically forgotten period of world history – the prelude to and rehearsal for World War II – was mostly never seen or republished before.

This was the war that inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, for the death and destruction rained down upon Spanish civilians in cities and towns by Nazi and Italian Fascist bombardments.

Structured as an interwoven narrative of the nurses’ letters, diaries and live testimonies, this horrific civil war comes more vividly to life than anything I’ve read, including George Orwell’s searing “Homage To Catalonia.” It is a story of courage and sacrifice.

As civil war smolders in Libya and mass protests against dictatorships emerge (and are squelched) elsewhere, it is useful, at the very least, to watch this film for what is says about intervention and isolation – and how things just don’t seem to ever change.

(Read the Weekend Heller interview with Dugald Stermer)

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