Axel Sigurd Holger Andersen and Viggo Alexander Lindenbaum were both members of the Danmarks Kommunistiske Ungdom (DKU) (the Communist Youth of Denmark). Within the space of a few months, they both left for Spain in 1937 and were enrolled in the XV and XI International Brigade, respectively
Their paths must have crossed, because they cosigned a letter sent to Denmark. From the letter we get some insight into life as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War as well as their thoughts and feelings about the civil war and the Spanish population and its future

By Allan Christiansen/Translation (from Danish) by Maria Busch

International Brigade combatant, Axel Sigurd Holder Andersen, in Spanien, 1937

Axel Sigurd Holder Andersen in Spanien, 1937

Axel Sigurd Holger Andersen was born 20 June 1916 on Nivågade 1, 1st floor, Copenhagen. He was a member of the Communist Youth of Denmark. Axel Andersen left for Spain 1 July 1937 and was subsequently enrolled in the 35 Division, XV International Brigade’s sanitation service and ambulance service. He returned to Denmark in January 1938.

7 November 1942, Axel Andersen, like so many other volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, was arrested by the Danish Police and incarcerated in Vestre Fængsel (‘Western Prison’; a Copenhagen prison used by the Gestapo during the occupation) and later transferred to Horserødlejren (Horserød internment camp). Axel Sigurd Holger Andersen was released from Horserød internment camp 12 June 1943.

In 1948 Axel Andersen took up residence on Statholdervej 11 in the north-west district of Copenhagen. 1971 he moved to Oldermandsvej 41, also in the north-west district of Copenhagen.

Viggo Alexander Lindenbaum was born 7 January 1908. He too was a member of the Communist Youth of Denmark. In the spring of 1937, the left for Spain where he was enrolled in the XI International Brigade, 3 Battalion Ernst Thälmann as a chauffeur.

After the war, Viggo Alexander Lindenbaum settled in HF Engvang (an allotment association with perennial status) on Amager in Copenhagen.

Heading to the front

There was a lot of yelling and shouting until we had settled into our postions. We, the new Brigade, were to leave for our place of destination: the Jarama front. We were transported in our new lorries. It was interesting to watch 40 large, modern vehicles at snail’s pace, lights switched off to avoid airstrikes. The air resounded with worker’s songs in all sorts of languages. Enthusiasm ran high. Being among these comrades, you could really tell that they were the best sons of the World Proletariat who had left their homes to fight international fascism. Once in a while, a short Frenchman says that he is proud to help crush fascism and ensure world peace.

After driving all night, we arrived at a small town where we were accommodated for a couple of days. The Brits have a penchant for churches; in this town, as in many others, they lodged in the churches. To us, the Danes, the best thing about travelling with the Brits was their ability to cook rice pudding that made you feel like you were back home. It is not to be understood as saying that we flet homesick. After a few days, we continued our course towards the front.

The first day, in a little town near the front, we had our baptism of fire in the form of three large bombs from Franco’s German Heinkel aircrafts. The bombs didn’t cause much damage though, as they exploded just outside the town.

The Spanish population greatly welcome the International Brigade. They greet us with  clenched-fist salutes and are very helpful. Most interestingly, in spite of war and devastation, the workers and farmers get on with their work and care for the fields about one kilometer from the front lines. They know that the country will one day be theirs.

Unbreakable Camaraderie

When we first arrived, the fascists were positioned on a large hill pouring fire on us. By now, they were pushed several kilometers back, totally demoralised. It isn’t exactly an army fighting for rights. If they don’t get paid, they immediately stop fighting. They do not hesitate to kill their own officers. Our morale is excellent and our camaraderie unbreakable. We have self-discipline and respect our leading comrades. Here, officers and soldiers eat the same kind of food and eat it together. I don’t think that would be conceivable on the other side.

For the time being, things are quiet here and we enjoy life. The day will come when we’re going to need everything we got. By then, there will be no more lounging around. We have never been getting that much food as we get in the International Brigade. Those of us who have been in the Danish Army often had to starve, because the so-called Food Officer did not see fit to provide food. An army with self-discipline is stronger than an army with cadaver discipline. Today, we demonstrate that to all fascists worldwide and that is why victory is ours. We will conclude with an impassioned appeal to all Danish Antifascists to stand united in the fight against the fascist executioners:

Solidarity with the fighting people of Spain!
Long live the international working class! Long live socialism!

Chauffeur, Viggo Lindenbaum
Sanitarian, Axel Andersen

FEATURED IMAGE: Roger Davies. License