Madrid Ateneo honors the Lincoln Brigade

March 8, 2013

Abe Osheroff. Photo courtesy of

(Versión en castellano.) This past February I received a call from the Ateneo in Madrid—a long-standing cultural institution—asking for a brief presentation about some aspect of the Second Republic for the weekly Monday gathering of a group of Republicans, many of whom lived the years of the Civil War and postwar personally. The five years of the Republic (1931-36) gave a glimpse of hope that was prematurely cut short by Franco’s military coup that, in turn, unleashed the Civil War and the dictatorship.

The request from the Ateneo arrived just as the second issue of our magazine, La Marea, rolled off the presses. Since it included a piece about the Lincoln Brigade by ALBA Chair Sebastiaan Faber, I decided to focus my Ateneo talk on the International Brigades.

Why did the volunteers risk their lives to fight in far-away war in a country they did not know? No one explains it more compellingly than Abe Osheroff. “In Spain,” he says, “I learned that I didn’t have to know I was going to win in order to fight. It became the main theme of my life. And that is that you resist whether you win or lose. You resist. And that the process of resistance itself is rewarding to you as a person. Because once you know that it’s shitty, and lousy, and you do nothing about it, you lose a piece of yourself.”

Abe Osheroff, that bearded old man appearing in the four-minute video that Sebastiaan writes about, was only 21 years old when he came to Spain. He was among those who returned to the United States, and continued to fight for freedom until his death in 2008.

The memory of Abe, and the love of freedom and Spain that shine through in his words, helped the audience in the Ateneo this past Monday put a voice and a face to the Lincoln volunteers—those young Americans from all walks of life who, as one of the audience members put it, “disobeyed their own countries to come and fight and die on our soil to defend freedom and justice.”

Trinidad Deiros is part of the editorial staff of La Marea.