International Brigades


Many of the older members of the International Brigades provided valuable combat experience, having fought during the First World War (Spain remained neutral in 1914–1918) and the Irish War of Independence (some had fought in the British Army while others had fought in the Irish Republican Army (IRA)). One of the strategic positions in Madrid was the Casa de Campo.


A Jewish company was formed within the Polish battalion that was named after Naftali Botwin, a young Jewish communist killed in Poland in 1925. The French Communist Party provided uniforms for the Brigades.


The organization existed for two years, from 1936 until 1938.

A group of 500 volunteers (mainly French, with a few exiled Poles and Germans) arrived in Albacete on 14 October 1936.

They were stopped by III and IV Brigades of the Spanish Republican Army. On 9 November 1936, the XI International Brigade – comprising 1,900 men from the Edgar André Battalion, the Commune de Paris Battalion and the Dabrowski Battalion, together with a British machine-gun company — took up position at the Casa de Campo.

Anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti was shot there on 19 November 1936 and died the next day.

It was then clear that any assault from either side would be far too costly; the Nationalist leaders had to renounce the idea of a direct assault on Madrid, and prepare for a siege of the capital. On 13 December 1936, 18,000 nationalist troops attempted an attack to close the encirclement of Madrid at Guadarrama — an engagement known as the Battle of the Corunna Road.

Their early engagements in 1936 during the Siege of Madrid amply demonstrated their military and propaganda value. The international volunteers were mainly socialists, communists, or others willing to accept communist authority, and a high proportion were Jewish.

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939.

Bradley, Ken International Brigades in Spain 1936-39 with Mike Chappell (Illustrator) Published by Elite.

Mälestusi ja dokumente fašismivastasest võitlusest Hispaanias 1936.-1939.


Men were sorted according to their experience and origin and dispatched to units.:) On 30 May 1937, the Spanish liner Ciudad de Barcelona, carrying 200–250 volunteers from Marseille to Spain, was torpedoed by a Nationalist submarine off the coast of Malgrat de Mar.

On 6 January 1937, the Thälmann Battalion arrived at Las Rozas, and held its positions until it was destroyed as a fighting force.

There were some pockets of resistance during the subsequent months. ===Battle of Jarama=== On 6 February 1937, following the fall of Málaga, the nationalists launched an attack on the Madrid–Andalusia road, south of Madrid.

Battalions were rarely composed entirely of one nationality, rather they were, for the most part, a mix of many. On 11 February 1937, a Nationalist brigade launched a surprise attack on the André Marty Battalion (XIV International Brigade), killing its sentries silently and crossing the Jarama.

On 22 February 1937, the League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee ban on foreign volunteers went into effect. ===Battle of Guadalajara=== After the failed assault on the Jarama, the Nationalists attempted another assault on Madrid, this time from the northeast.

On 9 March 1937, the Italians made a breach in the Republican lines but did not properly exploit the advance.

Smaller Brigades — the 86th, 129th and 150th - were formed in late 1937 and 1938, mostly for temporary tactical reasons. About 32,000 foreigners volunteered to defend the Spanish Republic, the vast majority of them with the International Brigades.

From spring 1937 onwards, many battalions contained one Spanish volunteer company of about 150 men. Later in the war, military discipline tightened and learning Spanish became mandatory.

By decree of 23 September 1937, the International Brigades formally became units of the Spanish Foreign Legion.


The organization existed for two years, from 1936 until 1938.

The Thälmann Battalion attacked Trijuete in a bayonet charge and re-took the town, capturing numerous prisoners. ===Other battles=== The International Brigades also saw combat in the Battle of Teruel in January 1938.

The XIV International Brigade fought in the Battle of Ebro in July 1938, the last Republican offensive of the war. ==Casualties== Although exact figures are not available, an estimated 5,857 to 25,229 members of the International Brigades died in Spain, of an estimated 23,670 to 59,380 who served, with estimated death rates of 16.7% to 29.2%.

These high casualty rates are blamed on lack of training, poor leadership and use as shock troops. ==Disbandment== In October 1938, at the height of the Battle of the Ebro, the Non-Intervention Committee demanded the withdrawal of the International Brigades.

The Republican government of Juan Negrín announced the decision in the League of Nations on 21 September 1938.

Smaller Brigades — the 86th, 129th and 150th - were formed in late 1937 and 1938, mostly for temporary tactical reasons. About 32,000 foreigners volunteered to defend the Spanish Republic, the vast majority of them with the International Brigades.


On 15 January, trenches and fortifications were built by both sides, resulting in a stalemate. The Nationalists did not take Madrid until the very end of the war, in March 1939, when they marched in unopposed.

A first such proposal was defeated in 1939 on neutrality grounds.


military during World War II, and pursued by Congressional committees during the Red Scare of 1947–1957.


London: Blandford Press, 1948. Eby, Cecil.

Kantorowicz, Alfred (1938, 1948), Spanisches Tagebuch, Madrid (1938), Berlin (1948). Kuuli, O; Riis, V; Utt, O; (editors) (1965) Hispaania tules.


Barcelona: Editorial Ariel, 1974. Copeman, Fred (1948).

London: Faber, 1974.


Some were prevented from serving in the military during the Second World War due to "political unreliability". In 1995 a monument to veterans of the war was built near Ontario's provincial parliament.


Before 1996, the same request was turned down several times including by François Mitterrand, the former Socialist President. ==Symbolism and heraldry== The International Brigades were inheritors of a socialist aesthetic.

Historia politica y militar de las brigadas internacionales Madrid: Compañía Literaria, 1996. Anderson, James W.


Reissued London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Cassell), 1999.


On 12 February 2000, a bronze statue "The Spirit of the Republic" by sculptor Jack Harman, based on an original poster from the Spanish Republic, was placed on the grounds of the British Columbia Legislature.


In 2001, the few remaining Canadian veterans of the Spanish Civil War dedicated a monument to Canadian members of the International Brigades in Ottawa's Green Island Park. ===Switzerland=== In Switzerland, public sympathy was high for the Republican cause, but the federal government banned all fundraising and recruiting activities a month after the start of the war as part of the country's long-standing policy of neutrality.


In 2002, Parliament again rejected a pardon of the Swiss war volunteers, with a majority arguing that they broke a law that remains in effect to this day.


Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2003.


London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006.


Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 2007.


In March 2009, Parliament adopted the third bill of pardon, retroactively rehabilitating Swiss brigades, only a handful of whom were still alive. ===United Kingdom=== On disbandment, 305 British volunteers left Spain.


They arrived at Victoria Station on 7 December, to be met by a crowd of supporters including Clement Attlee, Stafford Cripps, Willie Gallacher, and Will Lawther. The last surviving British member of the International Brigades, Geoffrey Servante, died in April 2019 aged 99. ===United States=== In the United States, the returned volunteers were labeled "premature anti-fascists" by the FBI, denied promotion during service in the U.S.

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