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Defending the Republic: The García Atadell Brigade in Madrid, 1936

Julius Ruiz
Journal of Contemporary History
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jan., 2007), pp. 97-115
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30036431
Page Count: 19
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Defending the Republic: The García Atadell Brigade in Madrid, 1936
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Abstract

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, an estimated 50,000 executions took place in the Republican zone. Of these, around 9000 were killed in the Spanish capital. Explanations of Republican violence still tend to assume that it was the work of 'uncontrollables' and frequently cite Agapito García Atadell as an example. Atadell led a brigade of 48 men that spread terror in Madrid during the summer of 1936 before he attempted to escape for Cuba that October. However, he was captured in the Nationalist-held Canaries and executed in July 1937. This article considers whether Atadell was really an 'uncontrollable'. It shows not only that Atadell was a significant figure in Madrid's Socialist movement before the Civil War but also that his brigade was the result of an initiative by the Socialist Party bureaucracy in early August 1936 to reinforce the police with loyal Republicans. This does not imply the existence of a Republican 'programme of terror'. It suggests that the brigade operated autonomously in its pursuit of dangerous 'internal enemies'. It also argues that the brigade was widely perceived to be efficiently defending the Republic against the 'Fifth Column' and that Atadell's departure did not harm the career prospects of many of his subordinates in the reorganized Republican police after 1936.

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