Maritime Workers, the Spanish Civil War, and the Struggle against Fascism

August 3, 2017

Maritime_PosterA group from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands has created a website to share and exchange information about the maritime workers who supported the Spanish Republic and who continued the fight against fascism after the International Brigades were withdrawn. The organizers of the website emphasize that the SCW must not be seen as an isolated event but in the larger context of the struggle against fascism. The site can be accessed here.

Some of the stories on the website will not be unfamiliar to Americans. For example, the story of Marius Christiansen, previously a ship’s stoker, who became an ambulance driver for the Lincolns, and had a particularly unlucky relationship with Ambulance #7.  Or the story of Captain Archibald Dickson, master of the S.S. Stanbrook, who rescued more than 2000 Spanish refugees before Alicante fell to the fascists.

What will be a surprise to most of us are the stories about the Wollweber Group, whose members supplied arms to the Spanish Republic and  committed acts of sabotage against ships sailing from northern European ports to fascist countries. They were seafarers, dockers and members of the International Transport Workers Union. They came from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Most died at the hands of the Gestapo, and we know little about their deaths.

The website includes biographical information about German, Dutch and Belgian members of the Wollweber Group, and includes photos and poignant recollections by comrades. As to the Belgian Group Members, almost no traces remain, except for the places that they lived in Antwerp, and, amazingly, we have photos of these places. Scant though this information is, it enables us to remember their lives. The website also includes British Intelligence documents about the Wollweber Group.

The site can be accessed here.