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Chapter 5: The Return

Juan Negrin
loyalist soldiers postcard
Juan Negrin
VALB Brigade Records 1933-2006
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 019:6:9)
Loyalist Soldiers
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:3)

     The withdrawal of all internationals by Negrin did not produce the desired effect. The same month, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who had famously remarked that war wins nothing, cures nothing, ends nothing, signed a pact in Munich, giving Germany a virtual free hand in Czechoslovakia. From then on it became apparent that the European powers would do nothing to halt German and Italian involvement in Spain. Their assistance continued unabated.

Dolores Ibarruri
Barcelona parade
Dolores Ibarruri
Lawrence Cane Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:4)
Larry Cane (front right) Marching in the Barcelona Parade
(From the Collection of Professor David Cane)

     Meanwhile, the Americans were sent for rest and demobilization. A portion of the men went to Barcelona on October 29, 1938, in order to participate in a farewell parade for the International Brigades. Larry Cane marched at the head of his unit, the machine gun company of the Mac-Paps, amid the tears, cheers, and applause of thousands of Spaniards who were out in the streets to bid goodbye to the volunteers.
     Dolores Ibarruri addressed the men:

     Comrades of the International Brigades: Political reasons, reasons of State, the welfare of the same cause for which you offered your blood and boundless generosity, are sending you back, some of you to your own countries and other to forced exile. You can go proudly. You are history. You are legend. ...

     We shall not forget you, and when the olive tree of peace puts forth its leaves again, entwined with the laurels of the Spanish Republic's victory - come back!...

     Come back to us. With us those of you who have no country will find one, those of you who have to live deprived of friendship will find friends, and all of you will find the love and gratitude of the whole Spanish people who, now and in the future, will cry out with all their hearts:

     "Long live the heroes of the International Brigades!" (from a booklet in Lawrence Cane Papers, ALBA 029:1:4)

League of Nations letter
Cane affiliation letter
Former CCNY Student Irving Gold's League of Nations Repatriation Document
VALB Records 1933-2006
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 019:1:24)
Larry Cane's Affiliation Questionnaire
Lawrence Cane Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:4)

     The Americans were moved thirty five miles from the French border to await their evacuation. Soon commissioners from the League of Nations arrived to confirm the nationality of the men and supervise their withdrawal.
     The volunteers bristled over the protracted amount of time this process was taking. In New York, worried members of The Ticker made inquiries about their former editor. They published a letter their former chief had sent to his parents:

Dear Mom and Pop:

     We have a song out here which has always been one of the standing ditties of the XV International Brigade. It's called "Waiting, Waiting, Waiting," and that's what we're still doing - with a vengeance.
     The Control Commission from the League of Nations is in Barcelona and according to the papers they've just had their seventh or eighth banquet and official presentation to someone or other. Looks as if they're going to make their stay in Spain as pleasant and as lengthy for them - as possible.
     We also hear that the French Government is placing all kinds of exasperating obstacles in the way of our evacuation.
     If it were up to the Spanish Government alone, we'd have been evacuated and home already. But as it is, the League of Nations (Great Britain) and the French reactionaries are doing their best to detract from the importance and lessen the effect of Negrin's announcement to retire us.
     So we're hanging around making half-hearted attempts to organize various activities in a small Catalan town. Our time is occupied with reading, with grabbing up and discussing the latest rumors about our moving with highly imaginative conversations on the subject of food and good things to eat; we can't drink and gamble anymore we cut it out by agreement. So generally we're stewing in our own juice and yearning to be back home.
     Looks as if getting home would be postponed even more than I thought it would. If I get back before New Year's Eve, I'll be lucky - goddamit!
     Anyhow, I'm hoping for the best and getting along O.K. yet - which information is the reason for this letter.
     So con mucho, mucho love and Salud! I'm still
                                   Your loving son,

                                   (The Ticker, November 28, 1938, 2)

Cane repatriation papers
Cane repatriation papers
Lawrence Cane's Repatriation Papers
Lawrence Cane Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:4)
Lawrence Cane's Repatriation Papers
Lawrence Cane Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:4)

     With the formalities out of the way, the main group Americans was soon allowed to depart from Spain. France stipulated that these men were to travel in sealed trains, with all the proper documentation, and with their transit expanses paid in advance.

fundraising leaflet
Bernard M. Baruch
Fundraising Leaflet from FALB
VALB Brigade Records 1933-2006
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 019:6:9)
Bernard M. Baruch
(Baruch College Archives)

     Back in the United States the campaign to raise funds to bring the volunteers back to America and to take care of the wounded had been going on for a while. A group called Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (FALB) was actively seeking funds to accomplish these goals. Bernard Baruch, one of the major supporters, put up $10,000 to bring 83 wounded American veterans to the United States. When asked why he was doing it, Baruch replied, "They were willing to fight for something they believed in, and I had the money to bring them home" (Rosenstone, 339)

berthing card
cane abord Ausonia
Larry Cane's Berthing Card
Lawrence Cane Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:3)
Larry Cane (bottom right corner) and other Volunteers on the Ausonia
December 20, 1938
Spanish Refugee Relief Collection
(RBML/Columbia University)

     On December 2, 1938, the first group of Americans set out for France and soon arrived at the port of Le Havre. The Americans were due to take the Normandie, the same ship which brought the first volunteers from New York almost two years before. However due to a seamen strike, the men were forced to go back on other ships. Larry Cane, together with some of the other volunteers, departed on the Ausonia, on December 9, 1938.

     It's very difficult to describe the kind of mood, when you've lived and survived, and you know you're young and you're strong and you're healthy and you've got a life to live. The mood was great. ... We had new battles to fight. Our enthusiasm was not dampened. Our feeling about the justice of our cause was not changed... for most of us (Hoar 1974 interview, part 5)

     The men indulged in whatever food was available. Larry claimed to have gained seven or eight pounds during the eleven-day journey. At last, on December 20th 1938, the ship steamed into New York. A photograph taken upon the deck of Ausonia displayed the jubilant Americans who had finally arrived home. In the lower right side of the Ausonia photograph stood Larry Cane. His hands clasped together in front of his belt, wearing a homburg hat, an open oversize overcoat, and a scarf that he had been given in Le Havre before the voyage, Larry was at last home.

Union Square
New York parade
Parade on Union Square
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 036:1:50:1)
Lincoln Veterans Parading in New York
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 015:5:8:4)

     The returning men received a boisterous welcome from their families, friends, and supporters. The Americans who returned could count themselves lucky. Very few of them returned unscathed, emotionally or physically, from their experience. "War is a horrible business," confided Larry. "There is no such thing as a humane war. It's brutal and it's indescribable, in terms of normal understanding." (Hoar 1974 interview, part 3)

General Franco
devastation postcard
General Francisco Franco
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:3)
"The Deserted Village"
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:3)

     As the survivors were trying to readjust and pick up their lives back in the United States, General Franco launched his final offensive, in December of 1938. Barcelona fell in late January and Madrid surrendered in late March. The end of the war had come. Franco declared complete victory on April 1, 1939.

Ernest Hemingway
Ernerst Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway (right) in Spain
Archie Brown Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 207:1:48:2)
Ernest Hemingway (right) in Spain
Archie Brown Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 207:1:48:1)

     The same year Ernest Hemingway, who had been a reporter in Spain and knew many of the internationals personally, wrote a eulogy to the men who fell in Spain titled, "On the American Dead in Spain."

     The dead sleep cold in Spain tonight. Snow blows through the olive groves, sifting against the tree roots. Snow drifts over the mounds with small headboards. (When there was time for headboards.) The olive trees are thin in the cold wind because their lower branches were once cut to cover tanks, and the dead sleep cold in the small hills above the Jarama River. It was cold that February when they died there and since then the dead have not noticed the changes of the seasons.

     It is two years since the Lincoln Battalion held for four and a half months along the heights of the Jarama, and the first American dead have been a part of the earth of Spain for a long time now.

     The dead sleep cold in Spain tonight and they will sleep cold all this winter as the earth sleeps with them. But in the spring the rain will come to make the earth kind again. The wind will blow soft over the hills from the south. The black trees will come to life with small green leaves, and there will be blossoms on the apple trees along the Jarama River. This spring the dead will feel the earth beginning to live again.

     For our dead are a part of the earth of Spain now and the earth of Spain can never die. Each winter it will seem to die and each spring it will come alive again. Our dead will live with it forever.

     Just as the earth can never die, neither will those who have ever been free return to slavery. The peasants who work the earth where our dead lie know what these dead died for. There was time during the war for them to learn these things, and there is forever for them to remember them in.

     Our dead live in the hearts and the minds of the Spanish peasants, of the Spanish workers, of all the good simple honest people who believed in and fought for the Spanish republic. And as long as our dead live in the Spanish earth, and they will live as long as the earth lives, no system of tyranny will ever prevail in Spain.

     The fascists may spread over the land, blasting their way with weight of metal brought from other countries. They may advance aided by traitors and by cowards. They may destroy cities and villages and try to hold the people in slavery. But you cannot hold any people in slavery.

     The Spanish people will rise again as they have always risen before against tyranny.

     The dead do not need to rise. They are a part of the earth now and the earth can never be conquered. For the earth endureth forever. It will outlive all systems of tyranny.

     Those who have entered it honorably, and no men ever entered earth more honorably than those who died in Spain, already have achieved immortality.
(taken from http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/scw/hemingway.htm)

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