Adolphe Low (1915-2012)
Victor Grossman in Berlin writes to report sad news: the death, earlier this month, of German IB veteran Adolphe Low, who was granted French citizenship in 1945 and remained in France. He was the last of the German International Brigade veterans.
Adolphe Low was born as Adolf Löw in Cottbus, south of Berlin, in 1915, but soon moved with his family to the capital, where he joined first a left-wing Jewish youth organization and then the Communist Youth League. At 16 he was arrested for the first time for taking part in a meeting of Polish Jewish antifascists. When his home was raided, to arrest him once again, he was luckily absent and managed to escape to France, where he worked illegally, constantly pursued and arrested by the French authorities and ordered to leave the country. But he kept returning to Paris and worked in a Jewish canteen until on September 8th 1936 – together with 50,000 others – he heard the famous speech by Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria) in the Vélodrome d’Hiver and decided to volunteer to fight in Spain.
In October, sailing in an old coal ship from Marseilles, he landed in Alicante and joined the newly formed International Brigades as a member of the Edgar André Battalion, named after the heroic German Communist leader who had been beheaded by the Nazis in Hamburg a few days before, on November 4th. His first battalion commander was Heinz Hoffmann, who years later became Minister of Defense in the (East) German Democratic Republic. In that exceedingly bitter battle to save Madrid his new Belgian friend and fellow-fighter died in his arms, killed by a dum-dum bullet. Adolphe Low fought at Jarama, Guadalajara, Teruel, and Belchite – of the 600 volunteers who had landed with him in Alicante only 20 survived.
After Spain’s defeat he was imprisoned in the prison at Les Milles and then sent to Algeria with the Foreign Legion. When World War Two began and France was defeated he was able to escape inside France; sought by the police, he had to hide in the forests, aided with food and clothing by anti-fascist supporters, but then became one of the first partisans in Département Creuse to form the local unit of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). As a lieutenant, he helped liberate the town of Guéret on June 7th 1944 and, when the war was won, a decree by President De Gaulle awarded him French citizenship. Adolphe Low remained in France, living in Strasbourg near the Rhine border. In 2005 he was accepted into the French Legion of Honor. His parents and his sister had been murdered in Auschwitz.
On May 8 2012 he and his wife Nicole were honored at a joint French-German meeting commemorating liberation in 1945 and attended by organizations from both sides of the Rhine, including the French party Front de Gauche, the German party Die Linke and a Jewish group. He was also awarded the special medal for volunteers of the German group, Friends and Fighters of the Spanish Republic 1936-1939, but died on November 11, shortly before it could be given to him personally. There are now no more German veterans.