The Thälmann Battalion was a battalion of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.It was named after the imprisoned German communist leader Ernst Thälmann (born 16 April 1886, executed 18 August 1944) and included approximately 1,500 people, mainly Germans, Austrians, Swiss and Scandinavians. The battalion fought in the defence of Madrid. Amongst the commanders of the battalion were the German writer, historian and World War I officer Ludwig Renn (later Chief of Staff of the XI International Brigade) and Prussian World War I officer Hans Kahle, later promoted to lead the Republican 45th division for a time. The battalion, like the International Brigades in general, also attracted its share of intellectuals, such as the well-known writer Willi Bredel who became its commissar.
The German-speaking battalionswere one of the first and eventually largest groups that formed in the International Brigades, coalescing out of the 'Thälmann Centuria' of the early war days. Most of the Germans volunteering were working-class people, "members of the Weimar Republic's 'lost generation', who had never known stability nor regular employment", and to many, the simple arrival in Spain (through the French blockade) to join the fight on the Republic's side was their first victory after years of losing their political struggle at home. In their home countries of Germany and Austria, fascism had already conquered, giving their foreign struggle a special grim context. As Robert G. Colodny writes in The International Brigades:
John Cornford, an English communist and poet, echoed these thoughts, describing the Germans as:
Ernest Hemingway, the American writer, described them as follows:
Until December 1936 the battalion boasted a significant British contingent, including Winston Churchill's nephew, Esmond Romilly; however, many of them were killed fighting to defend Madrid in the early months of the war.
Ernest Hemingway went even further in his admiration, calling them representative of the "true Germany" and contrasting them unfavourably with the Germans fighting on the other side in the Legion Condor.The respect with which the Germans were accorded – by the others in the International Brigades, as well as by the Republican populace – lifted their spirits as well. Many of them had been stripped of their nationality by the Nazis, and had spent years underground or in exile, and the war gave them the opportunity to reclaim an anti-fascist identity, their vision of a better Germany. For many it was also a time of either communist re-affirmation or political enlightenment (the largest block of all volunteers in the International Brigades was communist or had been recruited by communists).
However, the German volunteers were not above human faults and despair – especially as the war dragged on, and got increasingly difficult for the Republican side, which lacked the plentiful supplies and superior organisation of their Nationalist opponents. Records show that about one tenth of the volunteers eventually found themselves imprisoned at least for a certain duration for crimes like desertion, breaking discipline, or for political reasons as the Stalinist tendency in the Brigades increased (usually being accused of Trotskyism). Infighting between anarchists and communists, eventually resulting in outright battles with several hundred dead and the purging of rival communist groups like the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), also further poisoned the atmosphere as Francisco Franco's victory came closer.The Thälmann Battalion was memorialized in the song " Die Thälmann-Kolonne " (also known as "Spaniens Himmel", "Spain's Sky") by Gudrun Kabisch and Paul Dessau (writing pseudonymously as Paul Ernst and Peter Daniel, respectively), famously recorded by Ernst Busch.
On 8 August 1943, a Thälmann Battalion was founded in West Slavonia as an ethnic German unit within Josip Broz Tito's Partisan army in the former Yugoslavia. It was composed mainly of German Army (Wehrmacht) deserters and local ethnic Germans (Shwoveh) led by Commander Hans Pichler (a former fighter in the Spanish civil war) and Johann Mucker (Muker), a Shwovish Communist in the interwar period, as political commissar. Mucker's son was killed by Ustashe on 13 March 1942, and later earned the honor of "People's Hero" after the war. The battalion comprised roughly 200 men and was refreshed from Shwovish recruits from Croatia and the Serbian Banat. It remained a separate unit with its own Germanic Black, red, and gold insignia. It is said that Tito ordered that it not be engaged in combat against German Army units (the Partisans also fought Italian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Slovenian and Serbian forces.) In the end it was nearly destroyed in an engagement against heavily armored units at Mikleus (near Slatina) in November 1943, but continued to exist with some replacements. It was used often for its propaganda value. It adopted its own version of the Spanish Civil War song "Die Thälmann-Kolonne".
East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a country in Central Europe that existed from its creation on 7 October 1949 until its dissolution on 3 October 1990. Until 1989, it was commonly viewed as a communist state, and it described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state". Before the establishment, its territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces with the autonomy of the native communists following the Berlin Declaration abolishing German sovereignty in World War II; when the Potsdam Agreement established the Soviet-occupied zone, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The GDR was dominated by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) a communist party from 1949 to 1989 before being democratized and liberalized under the impact of the Revolutions of 1989 against the communist states, helping East Germany be united with the West. Unlike West Germany, SED did not see its state as the successor one of the German Reich (1871–1945) and abolished the goal of unification in the constitution (1974). Under the SED rule, GDR was often judged as a Soviet satellite state; most scholars and academics described it as a totalitarian and repressive regime.
The International Brigades were military units set up by the Communist International to assist the Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The organization existed for two years, from 1936 until 1938. It is estimated that during the entire war, between 40,000 and 59,000 members served in the International Brigades, including some 10,000 who died in combat. Beyond the Spanish Civil War, "International Brigades" is also sometimes used interchangeably with the term foreign legion in reference to military units comprising foreigners who volunteer to fight in the military of another state, often in times of war.
The Lincoln Battalion was the 17th battalion of the XV International Brigade, a mixed brigade of the International Brigades also known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. It was organized by the Communist International and named after President Abraham Lincoln who led the US during the American Civil War.
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in the Weimar Republic between 1918 and 1933, an underground resistance movement in Nazi Germany, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned by the Federal Constitutional Court in 1956.
Ernst Johannes Fritz Thälmann was a German communist politician, and leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) from 1925 to 1933.
The Free German Youth is a youth movement in Germany. Formerly, it was the official youth movement of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Busch was a German singer and actor.
The Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation, consisting of the Young Pioneers and the Thälmann Pioneers, was a youth organisation of schoolchildren aged 6 to 13 in East Germany. They were named after Ernst Thälmann, the former leader of the Communist Party of Germany, who was executed at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The Connolly Column was the name given to a group of Irish republican socialist volunteers who fought for the Second Spanish Republic in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. They were named after James Connolly, the executed leader of the Irish Citizen Army. They were a company-strength unit of the XV International Brigade, which also included the US, British and Latin American battalions in Spain. The name is now retroactively applied to all Irish volunteers who fought for the Spanish Republic.
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"Jarama Valley" also known as "El Valle del Jarama" is a song from the Second Spanish Republic. Referring to the Spanish Civil War Battle of Jarama, the song uses the tune of Red River Valley.
Hans Beimler was a trade unionist, Communist Party official, deputy in the 1933 Reichstag, an outspoken opponent of the Nazis and a volunteer in the international brigades fighting for the Spanish Republic.
The International Brigades (IB) were volunteer military units of foreigners who fought on the side of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. The number of combatant volunteers has been estimated at between 32,000–35,000, though with no more than about 20,000 active at any one time. A further 10,000 people probably participated in non-combatant roles and about 3,000–5,000 foreigners were members of CNT or POUM. They came from a claimed "53 nations" to fight against the Spanish Nationalist forces led by General Francisco Franco and assisted by German and Italian forces.
The XII International Brigade was mustered on 7 November 1936 at Albacete, Spain. It was formerly named the Garibaldi Brigade, after the most famous and inspiring leader in the Italian Independence Wars, General Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The XI International Brigade fought for the Spanish Second Republic in the Spanish Civil War.
Willi Bredel was a German writer and president of the DDR Academy of Arts, Berlin. Born in Hamburg, he was a pioneer of socialist realist literature.
Thälmann is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Bodo Uhse was a German writer, journalist and political activist. He was recognised as one of the most prominent authors in East Germany.
Anti-fascism is a political movement in opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals. Beginning in European countries in the 1920s, it was at its most significant shortly before and during World War II, where the Axis powers were opposed by many countries forming the Allies of World War II and dozens of resistance movements worldwide. Anti-fascism has been an element of movements across the political spectrum and holding many different political positions such as anarchism, communism, pacifism, republicanism, social democracy, socialism and syndicalism as well as centrist, conservative, liberal and nationalist viewpoints.