Why So Many Foreigns Volunteered to Fight in the Spanish Civil War

In July 1936, a failed military coup plunged Spain into civil war. The conflict pitted the left-wing republican government against the nationalists backed by the fascists led by General Francisco Franco. With Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini already in power in Germany and Italy, anti-fascists around the world feared that Spain was next to fall, threatening the future of European democracy.

When world powers like the United States and United Kingdom refused to intervene in the Spanish Civil War, more than 35,000 anti-fascist volunteers poured into Spain from 52 countries to take up arms against the nationalists. They included Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, idealistic intellectuals like a young George Orwell, and Communists determined to crush an ideological enemy.

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