Blast from the Past: A Vet’s Chronicle
Editor’s note: At the initiative of ALBA board member Chris Brooks, who maintains the online biographical database of US volunteers in Spain, the ALBA blog will be regularly posting interesting articles from historical issues of The Volunteer, annotated by Chris. Today Alexander Hormess recalls the political commitments that drew him to Spain and how his life unfolded upon his return.
A Vet’s Chronicle by Alexander Hormess
[Originally published in The Volunteer, Volume 11, no. 1, 1989.]
As a German-American and a poor working stiff, I hated the Nazis, was and still am against their beliefs and actions.
My political and anti-Nazi activities before going to Spain were mainly in Yorkville, NYC. The German-American Workers Club on Third Ave. was a center of Anti-Nazi activities. There were other clubs in the Big Town. Lots of money had to be constantly raised for financial support of Anti-Nazi newspapers, magazines, and publications – of which there were a lot. It never ended.
In 1937, when Adolph Hitler decided to send German soldiers to help Fraco set up Fascism in Spain, I and quite a few other young members of the German-American Workers Club decided to fight with and for the Spanish Democracy against Fascism. Most of these volunteers fought in the XIth Brigade. Many died in Spain.
After arriving in Spain, and getting a little Infantry training, I and a small group of others were sent to the 86th Brigada Mixta on the Southern front. There I received some light shrapnel wounds in the arm and face. I was sent to the hospital.
The small group of International volunteers in the Brigada was withdrawn and sent to Albacete. There I stayed a few months and then was transferred to the Anti-Tank Battery of the British Battalion. After the battle of Brunete, where our Battery was most used, we were withdrawn to some other sector of the front, where I got some more shrapnel in my left hand. It healed, but left my hand is partially stiff.
Came the withdrawal of the volunteers arranged by the League of Nations, my being held in a French camp for eleven days and three days in Ellis Island, and the final return to New York City.
Although called for an examination to enter the American Army, I was not taken because of the condition of my left hand. I rejoined Local 6 of the Hotel Workers Union and worked as a waiter, which I was before Spain. After the war in the late Forties, I went to visit my family in West Germany twice. There I got to know my future wife – the best woman in the world – and we got married in 1950. She came to the USA and we had a daughter in 1951. Our Joy!
My wife and I worked hard to save a little money, to be able to buy a small property in the countryside where my wife and I still reside.
Although many Americans elect movie actors to the Presidency, and many politicians make me laugh frequently, my garden is more fun. Viva Espana.