Books for Children
Children in both zones were the targets of efforts to mobilize them behind their war efforts, something historian Verónica Sierra Blas calls the cultural mobilization of children. Schools were the primary vehicle, but such efforts extended well beyond their walls.
Published in Vitoria in Francoist Spain in 1938, this children’s book, A Ten Year Old Hero, or Arise Spain!, is one example of the various tools that were used. The book tells the story of Pepe, obedient son, devout Catholic, and hardworking student. As a reward, he is allowed to visit his beloved grandmother in her village, but shortly after he arrives the Civil War breaks out. The village is taken over by Republican militiamen who commit all kinds of atrocities including burning two priests at the stake. After the Francoists retake the village, they give Pepe a medal for his bravery during the occupation.
A similar children’s book in the Republican zone was author and illustrator Lola Anglada’s popular The Smallest One of All. Published in 1937 in Spanish, French and English as well as the original Catalan, Anglada’s book promoted the ideal of a new, more just society. The figure of the Smallest One was originally created in 1936 by the Propaganda Office of the government of Catalonia to encourage enlistment in the Catalan army. Its popularity led to it being made into statuettes which were sold or even given away by stores. There was also a song with lyrics set to a traditional tune.
Books, magazines, and comics were among a variety of vehicles of cultural mobilization. There were also toys and games. Some were directly military. These included cut-out and lead soldiers, paper and iron tanks and planes, toy rifles, and even militia puppets that were sold in the Madrid Metro. War-themed versions of traditional ones like snakes and ladders, dice, and toy kitchens were created as well.
Not all mobilization efforts came from the state. Some political parties put out their own comic books, and parties and unions of all kinds had youth organizations that promoted children’s contribution to the war effort. Uniformed, flag carrying members of the Communists’ Pioneers, the Carlists’ Pelayos, and the Falange’s Arrows would celebrate military victories and participate in rallies. The Communist and Socialist youth organization JSU even established special Alerta! schools that prioritized military preparation.
Children were not just passive recipients of these messages. They also mobilized themselves. They dressed up as soldiers or nurses, re-enacted battles, and played games like “ration queues”. They also self-mobilized to support the war effort, especially in the Republican zone where they volunteered as messengers for the militias and overseeing lines outside shops.