I am a retired litigator, a Yiddishist, a Yiddish translator, historian, and writer. I have translated many Yiddish Yizkor (memorial) book excerpts, military reports, memoirs, letters, reportage, and recorded Yiddish memoirs into English, many of which I will publish on this site. Being the daughter of Holocaust survivors and fluent in Yiddish, I felt it was my obligation to keep their history, and the history of others like them, alive. And, as my very wise husband, Dr. Martin Green, reminds me when I falter, if I don’t do it, who will?
While translating Yizkor books, I came across random comments made by WWII Jewish partisans such as: “Moshe was in Madrid so he could handle a machine gun”; “Duvid was in Barcelona, so he knew how to blow up a train”; “Hinde was with the medical units near Belchite—she had a touch like an angel when she removed a bullet.”
Who were these people and why were they in Spain during the 1930s? The Spanish monarchy exiled them if they refused to convert to Catholicism or burned them at the stake if they converted but maintained their Jewish customs. By the 16th century, there were no openly Jewish people living in Spain, so finding Jews fighting in Spain, for Spain, in mid-twentieth century, intrigued me.
I began researching these Jewish fighters—why did they volunteer to fight in a Spanish war, what happened to them in Spain, and, finally, what happened to them afterward. Many books have been written about the Spanish Civil War, but they seldom mention the Jewish experience. Although several papers have been published recently about these Jewish Spanish Civil War volunteers, they only reference an occasional comment made by one of these men. These comments are generally used to support one of two propositions: Jews went to Spain because the Communist Party ordered them to do so, or Jews went to Spain to prove they weren’t cowards. I found no supporting facts in anything I read that had been written by these men in Yiddish that would support either contention.
I let the Jewish people who took part in the Spanish Civil War speak for themselves. By translating all their words into English, not just the words that an author chooses to prove their point, readers can make up their own mind. I chose books, articles, and reportage written by pro and anti-Communist writers. Their stories became the primary source material for Kaddish for the Fallen: Jews Fighting Fascism, the story of the Jewish International Brigade volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (expected to be completed in early 2024). Kaddish tells the stories of those Jews who actively fought fascism from 1933 through 1948.
Kaddish For the Fallen is based on my translations of memoirs, books, and reportage of the time and my subsequent research on the Spanish battlefields. It is a history of Jewish antifascists who understood that appeasement is never the answer. As I write, I will also include many of my related translations on this site. I have no vested interest in any position taken by my readers, but I hope to hear from you and your comments about these translations.