In July 1936 insurgent Spanish troops organised a military coup to oust the elected republican government in Madrid. The generals in charge of the uprising hoped that the regime change would be quick and clean but it was not. What followed was a bloody civil war. Hundreds of thousands died and the country was torn apart in what became a dress rehearsal for the even greater conflict to come – World War II.
The siege of Madrid was the key battle of the war. As General Franco’s nationalist troops closed in on the Spanish capital in the autumn of 1936 Europe watched and waited for city to fall. Instead Madrilenos fought tooth and nail to defend themseleves and helped by volunteers from other countries – the International Brigades – they held out against all the odds until almost the end of the conflict in 1939. Their slogan “No Pasarán” (they will not get past)” has become a clarion call for anti-fascists around the world since that time.
Despite its importance the siege of Madrid remains a topic remains too sensitve for officialdom: the city offers no information for the intelligent, interested visitor let alone a guide to sites of historical interest associated with the battle. Yet off the beaten track, from the University district in the city centre to the mountains of Guadarrama an hour away, the remains of the war can still be found – gun emplacements, bunkers, trenches and occasional debris. This site tells you where to find them and something about the history which surrounds them.
Spanish Sites fills a gap left by all other guides. It offers virtual and real tours of the battlefield. You can just browse here or book a guided tour during a stay in Madrid. Following the steps of four famous authors and artists associated with the International Brigades – Ernest Hemingway, Gerda Taro, Charlie Donnelly and John Cornford – we will leave the usual tourist trail far behind and enter the fascinating world of the war which shaped modern European history.
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