Jewish Volunteers, the International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War discusses the participation of volunteers of Jewish descent in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. It focuses in particular on the establishment of the Naftali Botwin Company, a Jewish military unit that was created in the Polish Dombrowski Brigade. Its formation and short-lived history on the battlefield were closely connected to the activities and propaganda of Yiddish-speaking Jewish migrant communists in Paris who described Jewish volunteers as ’Chosen Fighters of the Jewish People’ in their daily newspaperNaye Prese.
Gerben Zaagsma analyses the symbolic meaning of the participation of Jewish volunteers and the Botwin Company both during and after the civil war. He puts this participation in the broader context of Jewish involvement in the left and Jewish/non-Jewish relations in the communist movement and beyond. To this end, the book examines representations of Jewish volunteers in the Parisian Yiddish press (both communist and non-communist). In addition it analyses the various ways in which Jewish volunteers and the Botwin Company have been commemorated after WWII, tracing how discourses about Jewish volunteers became decisively shaped by post-Holocaust debates on Jewish responses to fascism and Nazism, and discusses claims that Jewish volunteers can be seen as ’the first Jews to resist Hitler with arms’.