The Hofmann Twins

September 27, 2017
Albert and Herb Hofmann

Albert and Herb Hofmann










Shortly after the publication of the blog post Seven American Volunteers Refused Permission to Land in France, Paul Hofmann the son of volunteer Albert Hofmann, sent an email correcting and clarifying some of the information in the article. The most important correction was to the brother’s last name.  The Hofmann brothers were identical twins. The hospital recorded their last name as “Hoffman.”[i]  The misspelling on their birth certificate carried over was onto their passports as well as the United States State Department Records.

The Hofmann’s were both single and living with their older sister Edna Marie Margarete Lafler when they left for Spain. Paul Hofmann noted “Margaret was active in the famous San Francisco waterfront strikes of the Thirties that established San Francisco as a union town.”  He believes that she “probably influenced the twins’ brief activism.” The brothers were likely party members when they left for Spain but drifted away soon after their return.[ii]

Paul Hofmann recounted that:

My father never talked much about the past.  He only mentioned his volunteer misadventure to me once and that was in the mid-Sixties, when I was in my twenties and he was in his fifties.  His version was that Herb was allowed to go through but that he, Al, was not, and that when the authorities realized that Al and Herb were twins, they called Herb back and would not let either of them through.  My father was not given to fabrication, so I don’t know why his story is so different from yours.  Perhaps Herb was carrying all the money. But Al mentioned nothing about money or about other volunteers. [iii]

After their return the Hofmann brothers resumed the lives they had left behind to volunteer in the International Brigades. Albert went to sea, sailing out of New York aboard cruise ships along the east coast and to South America. Herb worked as a Bartender in Alameda, California. During World War II, Albert worked in a shipyard and Herb “served in Germany.” Albert had a back injury that exempted him from the draft.[iv]

Post-war, Herb married and had one child. Albert married and raised three children while working as a salesman and businessman.  He returned to the shipyards shortly before his retirement.

The only consequence either of the twins experienced from their Spanish Civil War experience came in the form of a visit by the FBI.  An agent from the Los Angeles Office visited Albert in the late 1940s or early 1950s. According to his son Paul Hoffman, the FBI agent came “knocking at the door on some pretext, apparently checking up on him.” He observed “During the time that I knew them, neither Al nor Herb showed much interest in politics.” There were no apparent repercussions from the visit.[v]

Updated biographical entries are now online for both Albert Clarence Hofmann and Herbert Frank Hofmann.

[i] P. Hofmann to ALBA, email, August 14, 2017.

[ii] IBID, and P. Hofmann to Brooks, Email, August 16, 2017.

[iii] P. Hoffman to Brooks, Email, August 16, 2017.

[iv] IBID.

[v] IBID.