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The Battalion of Death (Batallón de la Muerte), also known as Centuria Malatesta, was a unit composed mainly by Italian anarchist volunteers which took part in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the anarchist and Republican forces.
They were concieved as shock troops, thought to assault and capture enemy positions using daggers and hand grenades while taking advantage of the night with their black uniforms, before retreating and allowing the main forces to occupy those positions, following the example of Italian Arditi corps of World War I. As such, the batallion had many Italian WWI veterans among its ranks, though recruitment was open not only for Italians or anarchists, but for nationals of the other countries with proven antifascist affinity.
In march 1937, the members of the Battalion of Death marched through the streets of Barcelona, where the picture above was taken. Their martial appearance initially caused fear among the confused bystanders, as it reminded the aesthetic of the Italian Blackshirt fascist paramilitaries. They wore black and olive green uniforms with black turtleneck sweaters, black berets with the patch of a skull and crossbones that reminded the flag of the Ukrainian Mahknovist anarchists of the 1920 decade, and leather belts from which a dagger hanged.
The unit fought in several fronts during the war and took part in the infighting of May 1937 in Barcelona on the side of the anarchist militants, until it was eventually merged into other units.