European Reunion in Berlin

November 23, 2010

Joined by guests from Spain, France, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the German Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic 1936-1939 held their 13th annual get-together in Berlin last September. The young author Jochen Voit read from his new biography of the great singer and actor Ernst Busch (1900-1980), who sang for the International Brigaders in Spain and compiled a legendary song book for them in many languages, Cantos Internacionales. The next evening they thrilled to the singing of Busch’s best known songs by the dedicated progressive Gina Pietsch. Among the loudest to continue the singing till very late was 93-year-old Austrian veteran Josef Eisenbauer. Those attending listened, far less happily, to Professor Heiner Fink, head of the Union of Victims of Nazi Persecution/ League of Anti-Fascists, who described current attempts to form a new movement, or maybe a political party, based on anti-Polish and anti-Muslim prejudices. Such parties have become a worrisome menace in the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland, Britain, Denmark, and now Sweden.

Major themes at the meeting concerned plans for next October’s 75th commemoration of the founding of the International Brigades and how to coordinate activities with similar groups elsewhere, especially as an answer to the extreme right-wing menace. Representatives from the Alliance of Friends of the International Brigades, centered in Madrid, were heartily welcomed for the discussions based on a coordination meeting with 15 countries last May in Paris.

The German organization, originally based on veterans, includes their widows and children plus historians and others interested in telling the story of Spain as part of the fight against neo-Nazis and racists in Germany. There is only one German survivor, Fritz Teppich, a Berliner who became a young commissioned officer in the regular Spanish army during the Civil War.