Farewell To Arms As The Last Of The International “Brigadistas” Dies
The last surviving volunteer of the International Brigades, which enlisted foreign nationals to fight for the Second Republic against the Nationalist uprising during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 -1939, has died at the age of 101, in France.
Josep Almudever Mateu was born in Marseille and held Franco-Spanish nationality.
He enlisted in the regular Republican army in 1936 at the age of 17 seeing combat at the Battle of Teruel where he was wounded.
The battle which took place in the severe winter of 1937/38 was one of the bloodiest actions of the war.
Both sides suffered nearly 150,000 casualties as they engaged in bitter street to street fighting for control of the city.
Teruel eventually fell to Franco´s forces and is considered by historians a turning point in the course of the war.
After recovering, he joined the International Brigades, who were considered one of the Republicans chief assets in the fight against the numerically superior and better equipped Nationalist army.
Almudever was captured in Alicante in 1939 with the capitulation of the Republic and spent 5 years in a prison camp before being released in 1944.
Founded in Madrid at the start of the war, the brigades numbered over 55,000 volunteers from over 40 countries including 9,000 French, 5,000 German and Austrian exiles and large contigents from Poland, Yugoslavia, Italian anti-fascists, Britain, the United States and Scandinavia.
The brigades were credited with playing a key role in the defence of the Second Republic but were eventually disbanded before the wars end.
The strong links forged between France and Spain by the Civil War were recently celebrated at the heads of government Franco-Spanish Summit.
In 1996, the Spanish government gave Spanish citizenship to the remaining Brigadistas, fulfilling a promise made by the Second Republic´s last Prime Minister Juan Negrín in 1938.
The Spanish Association of Friends of the International Brigades confirmed he died on Sunday 23rd May saying on its website “It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Josep, the last of our admired brigadiers”
The Association´s chair, Almudena Cros, said Almudever, was “a man of great intelligence, with a strong heart, hardened in battles and prisons, he never ceased to denounce the fact that the Spanish Republic had been cruelly abandoned to its fate.”