The year 2016 is drawing to a close. Back from the journey Paris – Benicàssim – Albacete – Madrid, you Wonderful, with young and old, well-known and new friends from 15 countries my thoughts and emotions still stay in the „transit area“. In Spain and the world over the commemoration of the struggle of the Republican Spaniards, of the unique example of solidarity with them by internationalists – Communists, Socialists, Christians, pacifists from 53 countries – is taking place to the greatist possible extent without the protagonists of the past.
80 years after the beginning of the Spanish war, after the formation of the International Brigades to defend the democratically legitimate Second Republic and the outbreak of a social revolution, we are challenged to reorient the political remembrance work without the immediate actors in history. Together with the descendants we are called upon to continue their legacy and stand up for it.
These words emotionally spoken in appeals and speeches – what do we mean by that? How does it begin? One possible answer: By raising the biographies of mostly young people, who were then going to Spain to fight the fascism already prevalent in some European countries, from the threatening oblivion to the public. Who were they? What did they expect? How did their lives go after the war?
Like many from the KFSR group I was accompanied by a badge: „Otto Kühne 1893-1955 está presente, Batallón Hans Beimler, XI. Brigada Internacional, Teniente Coronel en la Resistencia „. He was member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). Fellow passengers, Spaniards, journalists from the Spanish station RTVE asked questions – answers were given by personal memories of his daughter Evi Lüders, archive notices, literature and the Biographical Lexicon of the Germans on the side of the Spanish Republic.
This year many local anti-fascist initiatives commemorated „their“ Spanish fighters, such as in Wuppertal, Radebeul, Hamburg, Chemnitz, Stuttgart, Bremen, Saarbrücken or Berlin. A student project, an international workcamp at memorial sites, belongs to the indispensable experiences against forgetting. In Spain numerous regional organizations of historical memory (memoria histórica) are active without any state support.
Young people are asking questions today: What did young people from that time move their lives for this cause? What was it? It were initially fundamental civil-democratic values, anchored in the constitution of the Spanish Republic of 1931; Article 6 reads as follows: „España renuncia a la guerra como instrumento de política nacional. „(Spain renounces war as an instrument of national politics.) In these politically extreme years, which resulted in the Second World War, generals of Franco with the support of German, Italian and Portuguese fascists countered this deeply humanist constitution. We must not let go of the question why the Federal Government of Germany has not apologized by now for the German crimes against the Spanish population and does not ensure its legal conviction why the „Spanish Avenue“ in Berlin – named after the solemn reception for the Legion Condor 1939 after its return from Spain – still bears this name. Why, on the other hand, over 100,000 Euro are paid for pensions year by year to Nazi collaborators like former members of the „Blue Division“ (according to the Treaty signed by Adenauer and Franco in 1962) and on the other hand a state honour for those who went to Spain to defend democratic fundamental rights is still missing.
The example of Spain means more than international solidarity of anti-fascists from all over the world. This also includes the example of a social revolution: What were its aims, what practical forms existed, but also what are the reasons for its failure? In search for today’s social alternatives in working with young people and in standing up against counterfeiting of history we can not leave this tragic part of history aside if we want to be taken seriously.
In Paris during the performance of the documentary film „Brigadas internacionales entre memoria y silencio“ (IB between memory and silence), Director Jean Ortiz drew attention to the serious de-politicization of the historical collective memory. In order to counteract this tendency effectively qualified scientific exchange, co-opertion at international level are needed.The historically concrete elaboration of the example of Spain in its complexity must become an European concern for all those who stand for democracy and anti-fascism as a logical consequence out of the classification of the Spanish Civil War as an international confrontation.
KERSTIN HOMMEL, Chairwoman of the Association „Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic 1936-1939“, from ¡NOPASARAN !, No. 3-2016, pages 1 and 2.
Übersetzung: Herbert Grießig.