Jan Kurzke: The Good Comrade – Memoirs of an International Brigader
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ISBN: 978-01-913693-06-0 The Clapton Press
Publication Date: 21 May 2021
Jan Kurzke was a left-wing artist who fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s and tramped round the south of Spain, witnessing first-hand the poverty of the rural population. On his travels he met the photographer Walter Reuter and fell in love with the beautiful Margarethe Zembal, who later fought as a miliciana with Anarchist volunteers on the Aragon front under her nom de guerre, Putz. He later found his way to England.
When the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, Jan went back and joined the International Brigade, to defend the democratically elected Republic. Many of his fellow volunteers died in the savage battles on the outskirts of Madrid and Jan himself was seriously wounded at Boadilla, nearly losing his leg. He was dragged off the battlefield by the poet John Conford, who was killed a few weeks later. For several months, Jan was shunted between various military hospitals in Spain, eventually making his way across the border into France with the help of his English girlfriend, Kate Mangan, who was working in the Spanish Republic’s international press office in Valencia.
On their return to England he and Kate each wrote their memoirs. Kate’s volume, Never More Alive: Inside the Spanish Republic, saw print for the first time in 2020. Now for the first time Jan’s memoir is also to be published. This edition includes an introduction by historian Richard Baxell, and appendices with previously unpublished letters by Bernard Knox, an afterword by Jan’s daughter Charlotte Kurzke and a brief biography of Putz.