The Guardian, “Lost photos from Spanish civil war reveal daily life behind anti-fascist lines”

Rediscovered work by two Jewish women has gone on display in Madrid for first time

By Guy Lane, June 10, 2022

Photographs by two Jewish female photographers who worked behind anti-fascist lines during the Spanish civil war have gone on display in Madrid after 80 years. For decades the negatives and prints, many of which have never been published, were believed to be lost or destroyed. They are now on show in the capital for the first time.

As the Spanish civil war neared a conclusion in 1939, anarchists of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo and Federación Anarquista Ibérica (CNT-FAI) fighting in Barcelona took steps to preserve records of their struggle and achievements. Apprehensive of the war’s outcome, they sealed documents and 2,300 photographs, 5,000 negatives and almost 300 photographic plates in 48 wooden crates, which they smuggled out of the city away from the fascist bombardment, destined for the safe haven of the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam.

Years later, having travelled via Paris, Harrogate and Oxford, the crates, known as the Amsterdam boxes, duly arrived. They remained sealed while the anarchists pursued undercover lives during the decades of the Franco regime. When they were finally opened in the 1980s the records and documents inside were inventoried but the photographic material was overlooked.

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