HISTORICAL MEMORY

“I will never forget the screams of the executed”

Josep Almudéver, 94, is one of the five survivors of the International Brigades

Almudéver lied about his age to fight for the Republic.
Almudéver lied about his age to fight for the Republic.josé jordán

They met by chance in a city square in Marseille, stared at each other, then came together in a brotherly embrace. Both had been part of the International Brigades and had fought on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). They knew it right away, because they were both wearing the same outfit, the one that the Spanish government gave away to brigade members when they were forced to leave Spain.

"Doctor Juan Negrín gave us clothes and 310 francs," recalls Josep Almudéver, now 94, producing a photograph of the Marseille meeting with Antonio Arenas. "We didn't know each other at all, but when we saw we were wearing the same clothes, we knew we had Spain and the Republic in common."

He was always a man of action, and even at his advanced age he still travels nonstop to tell his story in schools, universities and a variety of forums.

Almudéver was born in Marseille following another chance encounter. His mother, a Valencian woman, worked for a circus that was on a European tour when World War I broke out. It was in the southern French city that she met the man who would become her husband, who had fled his native Alcàsser to avoid reprisals after he tried to burn down the local church when the priest prevented a dance from being held there.

Young Josep Almudéver took up his father's political views and bricklayer trade, and when the family moved back to Valencia and the Spanish Civil War broke out, he enlisted on the Republican side, lying about his age. But the ploy was discovered and he was sent home. Josep returned to the front nevertheless, where he was wounded. After recovering, he saw a chance to rejoin immediately as a foreigner with the Garibaldi Brigade, where he was accepted as a French translator and combatant.

When the brigade members left Spain, Almudéver managed to return to Valencia, towards the end of the war. Later he and his father fled to the port of Alicante, but he was caught and interned at the Albatera concentration camp. Even later, he became a maqui, an anti-fascist guerrilla fighter hiding out in the mountains.

At this point in the story, his lively tone dies down somewhat. "I don't know why, but they always made me watch the executions of those who attempted to escape from the concentration camp. I will never in my life forget the screams of the executed," he says, gazing at the horizon for an instant before continuing the conversation.

For someone who is 94, Almudéver remains extraordinarily agile, both physically and mentally. He says he knows a few of the five brigade members who are still alive according to the International Brigadiers Friendship Society (of the more than 45,000 who came to Spain to fight for the Republic). "I am one of the few who can still travel," he notes. "And I will not stop doing so for as long as I can."

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