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July 19, 2013

“No pasarán!” – They shall not pass!


During the long siege of Verdun in World War I, French military leaders urged their troops to fight the invading German army with the rallying cry “Ils ne passeront pas!” (“They shall not pass!”)

Some books of quotations attribute this to General Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), some to Henri Phillipe Pétain (1856-1951). Others say it’s a proverbial saying of anonymous origin.

The quotation books do agree on who popularized the Spanish version, No pasarán!

Credit for that goes to the fiery Spanish Communist party leader Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989), whose popular nickname was “La Pasionaria” (“The Passion Flower”).

On July 18, 1936, mutinous Spanish Army troops led by Generalissimo Francisco Franco invaded the Spanish mainland from Morocco, with the goal of overthrowing Spain’s elected Republican government. This was the beginning of the bloody Spanish Civil War.

The next day, July 19, 1936, Ibárruri made a brief but eloquent speech on Radio-Madrid.

She urged her fellow citizens to put aside their other political differences and join together to fight against Franco’s Fascist forces.

“Young men, prepare for combat!,” she said. “Women…fight alongside your men in order to defend the lives and freedom of your sons…All workers, all anti-fascists must now look upon each other as brothers in arms.”

Ibárruri ended her speech with the famous words:

“The fascists shall not pass! THEY SHALL NOT PASS!”
(“Los fascistas no pasarán! NO PASARÁN !”)

“No pasarán” became the motto of the anti-Fascist side during the Spanish Civil War. It is still used as a slogan for other causes today.

Ultimately, the Spanish Fascists did pass and took over the country in 1939, starting a long era of dictatorship by Franco.

Ibárruri survived and continued on as a fervent supporter of Communism in other countries, first in France and later in the Soviet Union.

In 1977, two years after Franco died, “La Pasionaria” returned to Spain. She remained active in politics there as a member of parliament and honorary president of the Spanish Communist party until her death at age 93 in 1989.

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