Last survivor of Spain's International Brigades dies at 101

MADRID (Reuters) – The last surviving member of the International Brigades, which enlisted foreign nationals to fight against fascism for the Republicans during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, has died at the age of 101 in France.

Born in Marseille and holding dual Spanish and French nationality, Josep Almudever Mateu joined the Republican army in 1936 at the age of 17 and fought in Teruel before getting injured.

After recovering, he enlisted with the International Brigades, whose exploits achieved legendary status through the works of writers and filmmakers like Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, George Orwell and Andre Malraux.

Mateu was captured in Alicante in 1939 when the Republican side lost the war, spending time in prison camps and jails.

When he got out he became an anti-fascist fighter between 1944-1947 before going into exile to France.

The Spanish Association of Friends of the International Brigades confirmed he died on Sunday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Josep, the last of our admired brigadiers still alive,” association chairman Almudena Cros said on its website on Tuesday.

“A man of great intelligence, with a strong heart, hardened in battles and prisons, he never ceased to denounce the fact that the Spanish Republic had been cruelly abandoned to its fate,” Cros said.

His story was featured in the documentary “The Last Brigadier” (2018) and his memoirs “The non-intervention pact. Poor Republic” (2014).

Founded three months after the start of the Civil War in October 1936, the brigades attracted some 35,000 members from 53 countries and sustained 10,000 losses during the conflict.

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The 9,000 French were the largest contingent in the Brigades which also included 5,000 German and Austrian exiles, 4,000 men each from Poland and the Balkans, 3,100 Italian anti-fascists and 2,000 each from Britain, the United States, Belgium and Scandinavia.

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