Letter from ALBA: The Work Ahead

August 30, 2017
By

Dear Friends and Comrades:

Almost 80 years after her father Timoteo’s violent death during the Franco dictatorship, Ascensión Mendieta has finally been able to re-bury his remains. In her 90s now, Mendieta last saw Timoteo when she was 13. A labor leader in the tiny village of Sacedón, east of Madrid, he was picked up from the family home in the middle of the night by Franco’s fascists. The year was 1939. ALBA honors Mendieta along with the family members of the thousands of other victims of fascist violence. With the support of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, recipient of the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism in 2016, they are forcing Spain to confront the legacy of Franco’s reign.

But the story of Ascensión Mendieta’s victory is set against a checkered background. As Spanish journalist Miquel Ramos points out in this issue’s Human Rights Column, Europe’s extreme right has been busy reinventing itself—and quite successfully so. As Ramos points out, it is more necessary than ever to reflect on the legacy of the struggle against fascism. Elsewhere in this issue, ALBA’s own Dan Czitrom does precisely that in the context of his own family, which produced two Lincoln volunteers. Meanwhile, Kenyon Zimmer covers the little-known story of American Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, and Gerben Zaagsma reflects on the Jewish volunteers in Spain. We also reprint a powerful piece by Lincoln vet Alvah Bessie—one of the Hollywood Ten—about the murder of two French writers by the Nazis.

We are proud members of a global movement for social justice and the defense of human rights. ALBA strongly believes this cause is political but also educational. This coming academic year, we will offer as many as a dozen institutes for high-school teachers—our highest number yet. From Brooklyn and Bergen County to Cleveland, Milwaukee, and California, we’re helping teachers discover new ways to show their students how the power of history can help build a more equitable world. In the same vein, this September ALBA’ s human rights documentary film festival will bring three days of groundbreaking documentaries from around the world to New York City. The films speak powerfully to the social and political challenges the world is facing.

Among those most concerned about these challenges are this country’s young people. “The Spanish Civil War is inherently interesting to students,” Brooklyn history teacher George Snook and ALBA institute alum tells us. “[T]he narratives of the volunteers raise questions about courage, sacrifice, and commitment to a cause.” “With little prompting,” he adds, “students connect the issues of the 1930s to what they see and read every day. They are eager to make sense of their world, and the records of the volunteers offer a window into how an earlier generation confronted challenges to freedom and justice.”

We have much work to do and we rely on your continued help to make it possible. Please give as generously as you can.

In solidarity,

 

Marina Garde Executive Director

Marina Garde
Executive Director

Fraser Ottanelli, Chair of the Board of Governors

Fraser Ottanelli, Chair of the Board of Governors

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