FUELED BY DEEP economic insecurity, terrorist acts, and an influx of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees fleeing their homelands, a slew of bellicose, ultra-right-wing parties throughout Europe are gaining popularity in 2016. Some are reminded of the 1930s when fascists Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and communist strongman Joseph Stalin all held power, along with dictators in several smaller states.
Today’s mostly democratically led Europe, of course, is a far cry from that bloody, disastrous decade, but the real angst that prevails still gives cause for alarm and analysis. In Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, veteran journalist Adam Hochschild takes us back to what is seen as an important prelude to World War II.
In 1936, a broad coalition of mainly left-wing parties—liberals, socialists, anarchists, and communists—narrowly won national elections in Spain. In response Spanish Gen. Francisco Franco, supported by the fascist governments of Hitler and Mussolini, launched a rebellion against the new government. The left-leaning government forces and its supporters became collectively known as the Republicans; Franco and his coalition of the military, landed aristocracy, and most of the Catholic Church hierarchy were known as the Nationalists. This conflict, a democratically elected government attempting to fight off a fascist uprising, became the focus of international attention.
Hochschild explores the passion, commitment, and dangerous “boots on the ground” actions by Americans who volunteered to fight the fascists in Spain. Hochschild has excavated a rich trove of memoirs, letters, and unpublished books that these volunteers left behind.