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Tribute to Catalonia: Spanish civil war that led to World War II

The Spanish war was an important page in the history of Spain. Although Republicans were massacred but their sacrifice inspired a whole new generation.

Spain became a new world locked in a death struggle encapsulated with brutal killings during the Spanish civil war.  Also known as the Civil war, it took place from 1936 to 1939.

  • On July 17, 1936, there was a sudden illegal takeover of the elected leftist government in Spain which was led by Spanish military members along with right wing conservative groups.
  • Spain witnessed a barbarian civil war between fascist and conservative forces versus communist, socialist, anarchist, and parliamentary alliances. The war was between democracy and fascism, freedom and tyranny.
  • Germany and Italy openly supported the fascist forces whereas the USSR supported republicans. However, the League of Nations remained silent without taking any side.
  • The impact of this civil war was felt by the whole world. It gradually became an international conflict. In fact, this was one of the reasons of World War II.

USSR supporting the Republicans, Wikimedia commons
USSR supporting the Republicans, Wikimedia commons

  • People from all over the world took part in this civil war. They all travelled to Spain and enthusiastically responded to the call of the Republicans.
  • In 1937 T.C Worsley (author of Behind the Battle) wrote during his Barcelona experience mentioning about the meeting with an Indian Journalist “Krishna”. He elucidates that “When an American journalist asked Krishna how he billed all the newspapers for which he was reporting, he replied that he was not paid but was doing it to let Indians know what was happening in Spain.“
  • Even Jawaharlal Nehru expressed his grief regarding the innocent people painful anxieties in the battle which was being fought in Spain. Nehru accused the League of Nations of its non-intervention policy. All of Nehru’s values (such as democracy, socialism, dignity, self-determination) which were inculcated via European civilization were at stake.
  • Mulk Raj Anand (Indian representative at World Congress Writers against Fascism) went to Madrid and drafted his novel across Blackwaters. Deeply moved by his visit, he even insisted that the authors should use their craft to expose injustice and exploitation.
  • K. Krishna Menon, secretary of the India League mobilised British Indians to aid Republican Spain.
    • The league collaborated with Leftist organisations and British Communist party and opposed Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies.
    • Indian league also arranged food for the people of Spain who was suffering due to the protests. This Spain-Indian committee also organised cultural events and raised funds for donation.
    • Even Indira Gandhi took part in raising funds for London-based Aid Spain committee.

Nazi's Germany troops, Wikimedia commons
Nazi’s Germany troops, Wikimedia commons

  • In June 1938, Nehru and Menon paid a visit to Barcelona and based on his experience he wrote in his autobiography Towards Freedom “In the midst of want and destruction and ever-impending disaster, I felt more at peace with myself than anywhere else in Europe. There was light there, the light of courage and determination and of doing something worthwhile.”
  • Nehru’s faith in the west was deeply shaken by the betrayal of Great Britain and France as they signed the pact of appeasement permitting the Nazi Germany’s annexation of the nation.
  • The Spanish Republican fell and dictatorship was introduced in Spain by General Francisco Franco. The Spanish war was an important page in the history of Spain. Although Republicans were massacred but their sacrifice inspired a whole new generation.

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-Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata. Contact the author at @pritam_gogreen

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