Hans Landauer (1921-2014)
Hans Landauer, the last surviving Austrian volunteer in the International Brigades, died at his home on July 19. In recent years, he attended many reunions of Spanish Civil War veterans in Spain.
Hans was born into a leftist tradition; both grandfathers were Social Democratic mayors in villages south of Vienna—until 1934 when, on February 12th the leftist Bundesschuetzler lost its struggle for workers’ rights to a clerical-rightist putsch. The bloody events turned Hans, only 13, into a devoted “underground” fighter, delivering forbidden publications smuggled in from Czechoslovakia.
When the Spanish war began, though only 16, he decided to volunteer. Once in Paris, in the designated bistro, he asked for “Monsieur Max.” “Max” told him in good Viennese dialect: “Are you nuts? We don’t send kids to Spain! None under 21.” Yet somehow he lied his way through, hinting that if forced to return, Austrian cops might squeeze information from him.
In June 1937 he joined the Austrian unit, the “February 12th 1934 Battalion” (in the largely German-speaking 11th Brigade), and fought all through the war. He suffered only one minor wound. By January 1938, only 70 of the original 500 Austrians were alive.
Like his countryman Gert Hoffman and most volunteers with no homeland to return to, he took up weapons again to defend exodus of Spanish refugees to France. Like them, he was interned in the miserable camps. He escaped but was arrested in Paris. The Nazis sent him to Dachau concentration camp, where he remained from April 1941 until the war’s end. Because of his fluency in German, Hans was able to assist the Spanish prisoners there. When he was transferred to a work assignment, he had access to food which he shared with the Spaniards. After the liberation in 1945, all the Spanish survivors presented him with a certificate of gratitude, a small card made with colors the Republican flag. He was prouder of that thank you than anything.
In the early post-war years, he worked with Austrian the police and served with a UN contingent in Cyprus. Later in his life, he worked on books about the French camp at Gurs and the Austrian resistance movement, and compiled a biographical dictionary of Austrian Fighters in Spain.