Gert Hoffmann (1917-2014)
One of the last veterans of the International Brigades, Gert (Gerhard) Hoffmann died in Austria on July 8, 2014.
When Hitler’s army marched into Vienna in March 1938, Hoffmann had to leave. Not only was he Jewish but as an active young Communist he had narrowly escaped five years in prison because of a recent amnesty. From Czechoslovakia he tried ceaselessly to follow his older brother, a seaman, into the International Brigades. When he finally made it to the Sierra Pandols on the Ebro Front, his Austrian comrades welcomed him but said he might have saved himself the effort; the IB was soon withdrawn from action.
He joined in final efforts by Brigaders, now without a homeland, to protect the bitter exodus of Spanish families to France and landed with them in the desolate camp at St. Cyprien, followed by the giant, also barren camp at Gurs. False papers identifying him as a Spaniard saved him from deportation to German death camps. He worked in France as a farmhand and lumberjack under varied restrictions before reaching liberated Belgium in 1944, where he learned of the murder of his mother, father and brother. As a US Army recruit, he joined in the final campaign through Germany and back to his native Vienna. There he remained, except for work as a good carpenter with young Brigadistas in Nicaragua in 1985 and 1987, and at memorials to the anti-fascist fight in Spain. One of the very last volunteers to fight in Spain, he became one of the last to pass.