Hamburg remembrance

Post date: 07/06/2016

Victor Grossman reports from Germany…


The Hamburg group of KFSR (Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic 1936-1939) had its annual get-together on 27-29 May, again honouring those bravest of the brave men women who risked and often lost their lives fighting for democracy in Spain. Only a handful survive, none at all in the US, Germany or Austria, but a video greeting from Gert Hoffmann in Vienna, who came to these meetings until shortly before his death, was especially moving.


A boat trip around the harbour and a visit to a seamen’s club hidden in the amazing labyrinth of piers and channels in the giant port facilities, with a fine workers’ choir and militant songs, offered chances for German and foreign participants to exchange ideas on past and present.


There was a fascinating mix of accents of people, from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, various regions of England and the US and that of the good German translator. A group of Danes, a Dutch fellow, a Frenchman and two Russian women were also there. Most were children of volunteers in Spain, which made a ceremony at three monuments especially moving. 


One monstrous structure built by the Nazis in 1936 showed soldiers marching off to battle in World War I with the slogan ‘Even if we die Germany must live’. All attempts to get rid of it were in vain, but now, next to it, a smaller, modern structure honors men the Nazis executed because they refused to join in the killing and deserted. 


Next to it a large statue recalls the Nazi burning of the books in 1933 and the horrors that followed, up to the burning of Hamburg in 1943. Death prevented its great, defiantly leftist sculptor from Austria, Alfred Hrdlicka, from finishing it. 


For now a large banner (pictured) concealed part of the Nazi monument and listed the names and ages of 25 Hamburg volunteers – and where they had died in Spain.


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