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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Spanish Civil War Volunteer Biography

An International Brigade veteran from Germany is portrayed in this new book.

Having met and interviewed several Swedish veterans of the Spanish Civil War (see Swedes at War 1914-45) I have most books written by or about them. There is a strange gap among them that I have been thinking about lately, thanks to a new book.

Walter Struck was one of the many thousands of Germans who fought in Spain 1936-39. Most were in the German pro-Franco Condor Legion, but there were also rather large groups of Germans within the opposing International Brigades of the Comintern (Communist International). Struck was one of the Germans in the Brigades that joined up via Norway. His eventful life in Spain and afterwards in Sweden has now been documented by his son Rune Struck in the book Pappa ville aldrig prata om Ebro, which translates as "Dad never wanted to talk about Ebro". This is a book that attempts to, and succeeds, in painting a vivid portrait of a German Spanish Civil War volunteer. One gets to know the man behind the strong convictions and it is no simple hero portrait.

Rune Struck knows how to write and has had access both to good notes from his father and has searched for traces of him in today´s Spain. Like yours truly he found out that the memory of the war is still very much alive in Spain, in surprising ways and in spite of the fact that most war participants are now dead. I also recognize the author´s joy in actually finding places described so many decades ago, almost as they were. Those moments will never go away.

The book does not end with Ebro and the fall of the Spanish Republic but follows Walter Struck to his refugee life in Sweden, from which he took part in the information war (to use a more modern term) against the Third Reich. After 1945 he for a time considers returning to Germany, but opts for joining Swedish society together with his Norwegian wife and children.

Rune Struck´s quest for his father´s and also mother´s wartime past is a moving one. I suspect that I will many times look back at this book´s questions about Germany and the Germans. Reading the book I also came to think of the very small number of Swedish biographies about Spanish Civil War veterans. If one excludes a handful of autobiographies, I can only come up with two previous biographies in Swedish: Frisco-Per (1985) by Arvid Rundberg and Helmut Kirschey (1998) by Richard Jändel. Considering that over 550 Swedes took part in the Spanish Civil War, plus the Spain veterans from other countries (like Walter Struck and Helmut Kirschey), the number of biographies in Swedish is surprisingly low.

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