We celebrate the 70th anniversary of FIR

1. Juli 2021

From June 30 to July 3, 1951 in Vienna took place the International peace congress of the resistance movement. This was the birthday of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR), the umbrella organization of veterans of the antifascist fight, deported ones and victims of Nazi-persecution from all parts of Europe. Since seventy years Internationalism was and is the answer to the nationalistic and chauvinistic ideology of the respective fascist rule. Moreover, fascist ideology and politics, racism and imperialist expansionism were and are a direct threat to all peoples. They could and can be fought only in the common struggle of all countries and peoples threatened by these regimes. Nor do we forget that fascist barbarism could only be defeated through the common struggle of peoples and especially of the armies of the anti-Hitler coalition.

The women and men of resistance and persecution wanted to support the process of democratic reorganization with a political voice throughout Europe. To this end, immediately after liberation, representatives of organizations of political prisoners and resistance fighters from 17 European countries from East and West came together to found FIAPP (Fédération Internationale des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques, International Federation of Former Political Prisoners) in Warsaw in February 1946. In 1948, the anti-fascists from Germany and Austria were also admitted to this community.

The Cold War did not leave the FIAPP unscathed. Instead of promoting the unity of the resistance fighters, a drifting apart of the political forces of anti-fascism threatened. Therefore, in the early 1950s, a new approach was made to bring together the different positions and organizations of former resistance fighters and deportees in the interest of the political effectiveness of the voice of resistance fighters throughout Europe, because the euphoria of departure of the anti-fascist new beginning had been dissipated by the reality of increasing restoration and remilitarization, East-West tension and increasing danger of war. At the end of June 1951, the survivors’ associations invited to an international peace conference in Vienna.

In this situation – as Oskar Wiesflecker, longtime secretary general of the FIR described it – he people, who had actively participated in the anti-fascist resistance and national liberation struggle against the Nazi and fascist aggressors and occupiers and had taken suffering and persecution upon themselves, recognized, that the unification of the European resistance fighters was an imperative to oppose the rebirth of Nazi fascism, to watch over the democratic freedoms that had been regained, to defend the values of the, resistance movement and to strengthen those principles that were the basis of the foundation of the United Nations Organization. This was the spirit from which the FIR was born and to which it has maintained its unbreakable loyalty to this day.

With the foundation of the organization in the summer of 1951 in Vienna, the “International Federation of Resistance Fighters” (FIR) took over the task to represent the political ideas and visions of the resistance fighters “Never again fascism! Never again war!” to represent. It represented the victims of fascism in their social and medical claims and it worked for the commemoration of the resistance struggle and the illegal resistance groups in many countries.

There is not the space here to list all the fields of political action in the past decades. This included the dissemination of knowledge about the history of the resistance struggle, which was attempted with various history conferences and several resistance movement booklets, as well as educational consultations with scientists, teachers and university lecturers. This included the struggle for peace and détente, as well as advocacy for arms limitation and disarmament initiatives not only in Europe but also in the Middle East. This included political solidarity against the persecution of anti-fascist associations and their members, which was successful in the support of the German VVN against its banning trial in 1962, and was reflected in international solidarity actions for persecuted Greek anti-fascists or against occupational bans in the FRG. This included the broad mobilization against historical revisionists from the former SS associations, who contributed to the rehabilitation of the Nazi regime with tradition meetings.

Since 2004, the organization carries the name “International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) – Federation of Anti-Fascists”. Today the FIR has member organizations in more than 25 European countries, Israel and Latin America. The political circumstances have changed, but the central task is fixed in the slogan “Never again!”.

This means the preservation of the historical truth about the resistance struggle, about the reality of fascism and the role of the anti-Hitler coalition, the Allied forces – among them the Soviet soldiers who bore the brunt of the war – in the crushing of fascist barbarism.

The FIR and its member federations act as an international network locally and on European level against racism, anti-Semitism, anti-gypsyism, xenophobia, neo-fascism, nationalism and right-wing populism. They support groups and networks that oppose such developments.

The FIR as “Ambassadors of Peace” of the United Nations has in recent decades repeatedly advocated non-military solutions to conflicts in the world. It acts both against causes of war and against war-mongers, who want to enforce their imperialistic goals, their need for raw materials and their geopolitical interests, and military alliances, which regard themselves as “world police”.

The strength of the FIR is its commonality, which arises despite different political orientations, social visions or religious values. Every way to anti-fascism is welcome in the FIR. This unity must be renewed repeatedly, especially now that the generation of survivors is leaving us. All member federations are called to open their structure for today’s generations. All member federations are challenged to share the ideals of the anti-fascist heritage with the generations of today, who bring their own issues and perspectives to the political debates.

Based on the common ground of the struggle against fascism, the associations of FIR preserve the legacy of the survivors and continue to stand up for peace, political and social human rights and democracy, “a new world of peace and freedom” in the next decade.