The Strange Death of Gerda Taro

Hosted by the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Cañada Blanch Seminar Room 1.11, Cowdray House, Portugal Street


Richard Baxell

Richard Baxell

International Brigades Memorial Trust

Jane Rogoyska

Jane Rogoyska

Writer and Filmmaker


Paul Preston

Paul Preston

Professor of Contemporary Spanish Studies

In January 2018, the former Director General of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom and National President of the Royal British Legion, Lt General Sir John Kiszely, discovered an old photograph of his Hungarian father, Dr Janos Kiszely, who had volunteered for the International Brigades' Medical Services during the Spanish Civil War.

In July 1937, Dr Kiszely was posted to an English hospital near Madrid, where he treated many hundreds of the wounded arriving from the Brunete front. A photograph was taken of him there, as he tended a young, gravely-wounded woman. It is a striking image. Thinking that it might appeal to people with an interest in the Spanish Civil War, Sir John decided to post it on social media. Within hours, an excited user pointed out that the injured young woman bore a remarkable resemblance to the celebrated photojournalist Gerda Taro, who was tragically killed while reporting on the Battle of Brunete. The question triggered an intense online debate about the provenance of the photograph and the identity of the injured young woman. Soon, the international media were involved.

Biographer of Gerda Taro, Jane Rogoyska, and historian of the International Brigades,  Dr. Richard Baxell, will discuss the background to the controversial image, explaining the context in which it was taken and offering an insight into the work of Gerda Taro and the activities of the international medical services during the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. They will also attempt to provide a convincing answer to the question: does this photograph really depict Gerda Taro on her deathbed?


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