Jews and the Spanish Civil War
It is June of 1936, and thousands of Jews are being targeted in Europe as Hitler and his Nazis gain power and influence. It is the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Fought from 1936-39 between Nationalists and leftist partisans, the Civil War is often viewed as a struggle between fascism and democracy and an important harbinger of World War Two. Many Jews, filled with a collective sense of betrayal from the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain and a strong desire to support socialist movements, are some of the first to take up arms and fight against the fascists.
Fonen in blut: Shpanye 1936 (Bloodied Flags, Spain 1936) is a book of poetry published in Mexico in 1936. It was written by Jacob Glantz, who authored a number of volumes of poetry. These poems tell the story of the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of a Jew living abroad. In the foreword, the publisher expresses a wish that the partisan fighters could read the poems, many of which seem to be written in their honor.
This sentiment is echoed in Glantz’s own introduction to the book, or rather, as he puts it, “Nisht keyn araynfir—nor an oysfir” (“Not an introduction—but a conclusion”). In the first lines of this conclusion, Glantz writes: “Un tsaytn zenen do, ven mir muzn nisht shvaygn; mir torn nisht farshvaygn!” (“In these times, when we must not be silent; we must not be silenced!”), invoking a certain kind of political message that continues to resonate.
In addition to powerful poetry, this book includes a few striking illustrations that contain a number of striking and not-so-hidden symbols of their leftist cause. For example, near the end of the collection, there is an image of a young person with a bayonet strangling an eagle with the Nazi swastika on its chest. The young person looks terrified of the eagle, but also ready to act in defiance.