Last German and Scottish volunteers pass on

March 1, 2012

Fritz Teppich. Photo W. Frotscher

Thomas Watters. Photo STV

Within a couple of days’ time, the last surviving German and Scottish volunteers of the Spanish Civil War, Fritz Teppich (b. 1918) and Thomas Watters (b. 1912), passed away. Victor Grossman sends us a note on Teppich (below); an obit from Neues Deutschland is here (in German). A BBC obit for Watters is here; a brief video interview from last year is here.

Yes, it was inevitable. Fritz was 93, it was known he was fading after his wife passed away – but the news of his death hit hard. Fritz Teppich was the last of the German volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.

He was born in Berlin. When Hitler took over his mother was far-sighted enough to send his older brother and him – a 14-year-old Jewish “Red Pioneer” – to Paris as an apprentice cook, and later to Belgium. She and his younger brother were murdered by the Nazis. When the war began, Fritz, at 17, found his way to Spain and immediately enlisted on September 5 1936. In April, stationed on a mountain nearby, he watched helplessly as Guernica was destroyed. After a perilous voyage to France, one of the last to escape the Basque country, he rejoined what was left of his unit in Barcelona and fought on as an officer in the Spanish Republican army until the end. After an incredible trek and escape from imprisonment he made it back to Belgium and France, where he was soon interned as a foreign alien. Just before his work unit was sent to Auschwitz he slipped away and with the help of a business suit and false ID traveled through Franco Spain to Portugal where he was interned. After the war he became a journalist in West Berlin. Always strong-willed when defending his principles– some said (with a grin) cantankerous – he did not have an easy time, but played a key part in building a West Berlin peace movement. He was always a convinced leftist fighter for a better world –active almost till the end. He will be missed by all who knew him.