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Franco's International Brigades: Adventurers, Fascists, and Christian Crusaders in the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War set brother against brother when centuries of grievances erupted into a bloody settling of accounts in 1936. The conflict quickly turned international. The left-wing volunteers who came from around the world to fight for the Spanish government are well known. But Spain also attracted thousands of right-wingers from Europe and beyond, including crusading Catholics, fascist fanatics, and Muslims with a grudge. They played a vital role helping General Francisco Franco and his rebels overthrow Spanish democracy.

These foreign adventurers were on the winning side, but their role has remained strangely hidden until now. Men from Portugal and Morocco signed on for money and adventure. General Eoin O'Duffy organised 700 Irishmen in a modern Crusade; 500 Frenchmen fought in the 'Jeanne D'Arc' unit; and thirty British volunteers, including aristocrats and working-class fascists, also took up arms. Romanian Iron Guard extremists died at Majadahonda and an Indian volunteer fought in the fascist militia. There were Russians, Americans, Finns, Belgians, Greeks, Cubans, and many more. Goose-stepping alongside the volunteers were fascist conscripts from Germany and Italy, in training for the next world war.

It was a vicious conflict. Englishman Peter Kemp fought against British communists in a drive the Mediterranean. After the war he asked a surviving opponent what would have happened if he had been captured - 'We'd have shot you,' came the reply, 'sorry.' - Kemp assured him he would have done the same if the positions had been reversed.


“Christopher Othen provides an accessible introduction into this neglected aspect of the Spanish Civil War”

The Irish Times (Book of the Day)

“Othen is a clear and thoughtful guide to this odd aspect of the war and commendably avoids editorialising.”

The Tablet

“This well written book tells the story of the foreign troops who fought on Franco’s side in the Spanish Civil War. The book’s tone is generally sober and non-partisan.”

The Volunteer

“In 'Franco’s International Brigades', Christopher Othen offers a serious and timely corrective to the historiography of Europe’s last major conflict before the Second World War [...] An engaging book to read.”

Michigan War Studies Review

“Its subtitle says it all – 'Adventurers, Fascists, and Christian Crusaders in the Spanish Civil War'. White Russians, British conservatives, Romanian fascists and countless individuals looking for the thrills of combat were among them. Christopher Othen uncovers their history in a highly readable, often entertaining manner.”

The Budapest Times

“An entertaining read which draws on many hitherto unexplored books, newspaper articles and personal sources, Franco's International Brigades offers an intriguing insight into a ragbag of extreme right-wingers, adventurers and misfits.”

Michael Alpert, author of A New International History of the Spanish Civil War

Buy Christopher Othen