Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933, singer Ernst Busch (1900-1980) spent four years in the Soviet Union before heading to Spain to fight General Franco (1892 –1975) in the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, Busch met fellow German expatriate and writer, Erich Weinert (1890 – 1953). Together, they produced many of the songs and poems written about the International Brigades fighting in the war.
Busch wrote many anthems for the Brigades and transcribed the “Ballad of the XI Brigade,” for which Weinert wrote:
Always in world history, when freedom engaged tyranny, when right engaged wrong, the mood of people rebelling was most clearly and most beautifully mirrored in their songs. The poets, who were on the side of the people, wrote these songs; and where there were no poets, the people them themselves.
In the war of the Spanish people against their enemies, innumerable songs were composed. Their language was not Spanish alone; for the soldiers of the International Brigades contributed songs in their own languages which became alive and popular in the army and amongst the general population.
Ernst Busch transcribed some of the best and most popular songs of the Eleventh International Brigade and had them put on records under the most difficult conditions.
Those who hear them should remember that these records were not made in the quietude of peaceful conditions. How often were the recording session or the actual pressing of the records interrupted while Franco’s bombs fell on Barcelona breaking the electric current. However, precisely because of this, the songs which originated in the heat and fire of battle have retained their special flavor.
We hope, that wherever they are heard in the world, they will again kindle something of the spirit of the struggle and revive the fire out of which they were born.
Barcelona, July 1938
Listen to “Ballad of the XI Brigade,” from the newly released album, “Songs of the Spanish Civil War: Volumes 1 & 2.”