Ivry sur Seine remembers

January 27, 2012

Ivry sur Seine, a working class municipality on the southern outskirts of Paris, celebrated ten sons of the town who were killed in Spain fighting in the International Brigades yesterday when a plaque in their honor was unveiled. The ceremony was organized by the ACER (Asociation of Friends of Combattants in Republican Spain, for those francophones on the list: www.acer-aver.fr) and the town government of Ivry. The plaque was placed next to another one inaugurated in 1996 which reminded passers-by that the school building was the place from where the 60 some Ivry volunteers left for Spain in November 1936.

In attendance were several persons with close connections to the Second Spanish Republic. Carmen Negrín, granddaughter of Juan Negrín López; Cecile Rol-Tanguy, widow of Henir Rol-Tanguy, former Commissar of the XIV Brigade and commander of the French Resistance in Paris during its Liberation. Three sons of French International Brigaders were also present: José Fort retired journalist from l’Humanité, Jean-Claude Lefort, retired Member of Parliament (PCF) and Pierre Gosnat, mayor of Ivry sur Seine and Member of Parliament (PCF).

Following a reception, the documentary film “The Blue Triangle” was shown. Spanish Republicans interned in Nazi camps wore blue triangles with an “S” stamped on it to indicate that they were “apatrides” or stateless persons of (Red) Spanish origin. The video traces the work of ten local teenagers and their Spanish teacher as they comb the municipal archives in search of information on the 45 Spanish Republicans who survived the Nazi death camp of Mathaussen and were welcomed to Ivry in 1945. The documentary underlined the relationship of this working class municipality with the Spanish Republic of the 1930s, but also subtily illustrates the importance of retaining family memories and histories, something especially relevant to the ten teenage students most of whom are members of immigrant families whose parents or grandparents were not born in France.

Alfonso Cañete, a 93 year old Andalusian and sole remaining suvivor of Mathaussen living in Ivry sur Seine, was in attendance for the film premiere as well as several family members of other deported Spaniards long since passed away.

Ivry sur Seine continued to have a strong link to Spain in many aspects even after 1945. Julián Grimau lived in Ivry prior to his return to Spain where he was arrested and executed by the Franco Regime in 1963. Grimau’s widow Angela continued to live and work in town until her passing.