BERLIN -The German organization “Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic” held its annual conference in Berlin in late October, as always with friends from similar organizations in other countries – this time Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. The group was especially happy to welcome one of the very last International Brigade [volunteers who defended democracy and fought fascism in Spain from 1936 to 1939] survivors, Joseph Almudever, 95, who has lived in France for many years and was known by many from ceremonies in Spain. Almudever was as amazingly vital as ever, both singing and speaking vividly about the history of the war, including his own participation and lucky escape afterwards.
Among other items of great interest were remarks by the Danish visitor, Allan Christiansen, about the first four Danes to fight in Spain and the contribution by Col. Pavel Vranský, 93, who fought not in Spain but in North Africa and with Czech forces flying out of England. As president of the Czech organization of all anti-fascist veterans, he hopes to establish a small group, similar to that in Germany, with descendants of Spanish volunteers and others close to the cause of the Republic.
A highpoint of the conference was the British film “Goodbye Barcelona,” a musical about the war and the participation of a young British volunteer and his mother. Most of the audience was curious as to whether a musical could offer love duets and dancing and yet pack in a political message. Many admitted afterwards to having tears in their eyes – and yet were convinced of its clear, strong punch and fair story-line – and hoped it can be shown to many youthful audiences.
In less dramatic but also interesting discussions, participants discussed how best to coordinate activities in the next few years, especially to commemorate the 70 anniversary of the liberation of Europe — except Spain — from fascism in May 1945 and then, in October 2016, the 80 anniversary of the founding of the International Brigades, aiming for well-popularized events in many parts of Europe before concluding in Barcelona, Albacete and Madrid.
As every year, there was also a moving gathering, with short speeches and songs, at the statue, plaque and large relief honoring International Brigaders.
Photo: Joseph Almudéver, veteran of the International Brigade, attended the Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic’s annual Spain Conference in late October in Berlin. The Volunteer.