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Fred Schofs
Willi Remmel

This article in:

  Harry Fisher  was one of about 2,800 U.S. volunteers who went to fight in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.
The commitment they made there keeps inspiring and encouraging people around the world to continue the good fight for a better world, peace, and justice.

Willi Remmel, German IBer


Harry Fisher's 2001 book tours across Germany will never be forgotten by anyone who had the opportunity to attend one of his readings.  Among the people in the audience, many came whose late husbands, brothers, or uncles had fought in Spain. 
A 93-year-old former prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp showed up in Hamburg as did the widow of the last commander of the Thaelmanns.

However, the memories of two German brigadistas are now directly linked to Harry Fisher's book tour, and without this event, their stories might have gone untold. 

In the German version of the article about Willi Remmel, his nephews Herbert and Hans Remmel, who live in East Germany, tell the story of how they tried to find out more about his time in Spain. 
Now his nephew Hans Remmel came all the way to the Leipzig reading with some pictures and other documents to ask Harry Fisher, if, by any chance, he had met their uncle in Spain.  Unfortunately, this hadn't been the case.

However, Harry Fisher's translator remembered reading the name Willi Remmel just shortly before, most likely on the  ALBA-online discussion forum.
Sure enough, as things turned out, Michael O'Shaugnessy, a New Zealand historian, had tried to find out more about Willi Remmel.

Why a historian in New Zealand?
While fighting with the International Brigades in Spain, Willi Remmel had been wounded and fallen in love with a nurse from New Zealand, Rene Shadboldt.

Now, after Harry Fisher's book tour across Germany, Michael Shaugnessy and the Remmel brothers were able to get in touch with one another and exchange the information they had, much to the delight of everybody involved.

Willi Remmel was a Cologne communist and fought actively against German fascism.  He got arrested and tortured by the Gestapo in 1936.  He managed to escape to the Netherlands at New Year's Eve 1936/37.
On May 30, 1937 Willi swam to Spain as his ship had been torpedoed by an Italian submarine.
He took part in his first action at Guadelajara on June 10 (on March 10th according to a July 2017 comment by Josep Xaubet - note by webmaster), then on July 2nd near Escorial, July 5th at Brunete.  Willi also took part in the Quijorna offensive of July 8th and got wounded there.
He was in the "Hospital English" in Huete, Cuenca province, from July 25 to October 1st, 1937.

This is where he met Rene Shadboldt, one of three New Zealand nurses there.  They fell in love, and Rene kept supporting Willi even after his capture and imprisonment in France.

First, however, Willi went back to fight at Teruel, Quinto, and Belchite.  He took part in the retreats at Vinaseite and kept fighting with his unit near Caspe on March 14 and Corbera on March 16.  Only 165 fighters in his outfit left, they joined the Ebro-offensive.  Willi got wounded again at Serra de Cavalls / Serra de Pndols, and reunited with Rene at Matar Hospital on August 20.

One month later, the International Brigades had to leave Spain.  Rene's attempt to take Willi along to New Zealand was rejected by New Zealand authorities. 

Willi and Rene would never see each other again.

Willi died in Leipzig, GDR, in 1970.
Rene Shadboldt died in New Zealand in 1977.
Maurice Shadboldt, Rene's nephew and a well-know New Zealand author, wrote: "On her coffin there was a lone bouquet of red roses, placed there by a sister who knew her story.  The attached message read:
"With love everlasting from Willi."


Note by Webmaster on July 15, 2017:

Willi Remmel was among the brigadistas who were on the "Ciudad the Barcelona" when it got torpedoed and sunk off the city of Malgrat de Mar.


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