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Another world is possible

Report from Berlin

by Lynda Walker

Kämper und Freunde der Spanischen Republik (Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic) held its summer meeting in Berlin last week, under the slogan Another world is possible. The meeting was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the International Brigades.
     The programme was interesting and varied. It included the showing of the film Brigadistas, made by Daniel Burkholz. A series of lectures and debates were led by the historian Dr Werner Abel, and there was a fantastic concert with the actor and singer Erich Schaffner, who sang Ernst Busch’s songs. (If you do not know Busch look him upon the internet.)
     The ninety-year-old brigadista Erik Ellmann from Estonia participated in all the events and spoke at the film evening. He spoke of the difficulties of living in Estonia in the 1930s, his life when he got back from Spain, and the fact that he cannot speak now in Estonia about the fight against fascism in Spain because of right-wing politics.
     The historical debates centred on revisionist history, and another topic of debate was the “other Majorca.” Everyone knows the holiday place of today, but in 1936 it was an entirely different story. The Battle of Majorca was an amphibious landing early in the anti-fascist fight, aimed at driving Franco’s troops from Majorca and reclaiming the island for the Spanish Republic. Captain Alberto Bayo commanded the republican forces, but the fascists counter-attacked with ground troops and a massively superior air force that drove the republicans into the sea. There was much debate and discussion around the issues.

Ernest Walker, Erik Ellmann, Lynda Walker

     A session of the meeting was given over to guests, who spoke about the work in their own countries. Lynda Walker (International Brigade Commemoration Committee, Belfast) spoke about the events and memorials that had been organised since its formation in 2006. She gave greetings on behalf of Marlene Sidaway, president of the International Brigade Memorial Trust. Lynda also noted: “We continue to uphold the values and ideals of the brigaders in present-day politics.”
     Indeed this was brought home very forcefully on the streets of Berlin, where political parties were vying for publicity in advance of the elections that took place on 18 September. Posters put up by the fascist NPD and other “pro-German” parties are hate posters reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany. One depicts a man on a motorbike that says Gas geben (Give more gas), with the obvious double meaning. The slogan on the NPD web page is Arbeit, Familie, Vaterland—work, family, fatherland. There are many other right-wing posters, for example one that depicts people from ethnic minorities sitting on a “magic carpet” with the word Flug (Fly).
     Some parties fought to prevent the posters being displayed, but they lost the battle.

Everyone from everywhere should protest to the German government
against this blatant display of fascism and racism.

     The fraternal delegation also visited the socialist cemetery and memorial of people like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. On part of the surrounding wall are recorded the names of 327 men and women who gave their lives in fighting fascism between 1933 and 1945.

Erik at the memorial

     On the Saturday evening a rally was held at the International Brigade Monument, and flowers were placed on the stand.
     On Sunday a visit was made to an anti-fascist event, where stalls of the VVN (victims of fascism), DKP, Die Linke, Cuba Support and many other organisations were present.

At the memorial on Saturday evening

     The people in attendance at the weekend event were steeped in the history of the fight against fascism, past and present. As can be imagined, many participants had personal backgrounds that reflected this history, people from Italy, France and Spain as well as Germany. It was interesting to meet Victor Grossman, who fled to the GDR, deserting the US army in the 1950s; Pepita León Gonzales, who was born as her father fought at the Battle of Jarama and whose grandparents and other relatives were killed by the fascists. In 1939 Pepita went with her mother in flight over the Pyrenees to France, where she still lives.
     It is difficult to do justice to all that took place over the summer meeting, but suffice it to say that the overall experience gave motivation and comradeship. The event was indeed a tribute to the International Brigadiers as well as the fight for a better life in today’s world.

Keeping the flame against fascism alive. The monument was built in the GDR in 1966.
Today friends of the brigaders fight to keep the memorials and street names in place and free from graffiti.

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