The XIX regular congress of FIR

23. Oktober 2023

Interview with the Secretary General of the FIR Dr. Ulrich Schneider

At the end of October the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) – Federation of Anti-Fascists will hold its XIX Congress in Barcelona. What is the FIR and whom does it represent?

The FIR is the umbrella organization of these federations, which were founded after the end of the Second World War in whole Europe by resistance fighters and partisans, deportees and survivors, fighters in the ranks of the anti-Hitler coalition and their family members and in many countries also include anti-fascists of today’s generations.
When it was founded in Vienna in 1951, the central theme during the Cold War was the preservation of peace and the political legacy of the survivors. At the same time, it was a matter of remembering the anti-fascist resistance in all its political breadth to future generations. In the course of more than seven decades, we have lost some associations that did not open for new generations. Others who were able to make the generational change and new associations who, for example, see themselves as friends of the International Brigades, have joined.
In this sense, the goals of 1951 apply also today to the approximately 60 member federations of the FIR in 25 countries of Europe, Israel and Latin America. The idea of anti-fascism is alive.

Is the FIR a traditional federation or which tasks does it see today?

The FIR understands itself in the meritorious tradition of the women and men from the resistance against Nazism. In this respect we are a “tradition association”. For us, however, the legacy of the survivors, as it was formulated for example in the “Oath of Buchenwald”, is a current and forward-looking obligation.
If there is talk of “smashing the Nazism with its roots”, then we see today in numerous countries – not only in Europe – the social and societal causes for the resurgence of neo-fascist and extreme right-wing political groups and parties, against which we must become politically active if we stand up for a democratic future. The “creation of a new world of peace and freedom” is unfortunately also not yet a reality. Therefore we are active as “Ambassadors of Peace” of the United Nations together with our member federations in the peace movements. The joint peace message of FIR and the World Veterans Federation (WVF) of November 2022 for an immediate ceasefire and the start of negotiations instead of arms deliveries in the Ukraine war is still relevant. Its urgency in the interest of the people in all war regions is underlined anew every day. But we are also not forgetting the countless other theaters of war in the world.
And when we speak of freedom, we also mean securing democracy and social rights for all people, i.e. also help for refugees. The legacy of the survivors still demands all our strength and attention.

In Spain and Portugal, many contemporary witnesses of the anti-fascist struggle are still alive. But in most of the countries formerly occupied by Nazism, their number has become small. What does that mean for the mediation of the historical experiences?

This is one of the great challenges for many associations of FIR. The disappearance of contemporary witnesses and the increasing historical distance, combined with the resurgence of extreme right-wing forces lead us to experience terrible forms of historical revisionism in many European countries. Monuments to the liberation from fascism and the liberators are destroyed, fascist collaborators are honored as “freedom fighters” – and this is not only happening with the Bandera cult in today’s Ukraine.
At the same time, we see that new ways are needed to provide young people of today’s generations with access to and historical knowledge about the anti-fascist struggle in their respective countries. Many member federations are very engaged in this work and quite successful. We want to evaluate these experiences together in the ranks of the FIR and help thereby to strengthen the historical and memorial work. The historical places of the concentration camp memorials play an important role. Thus we plan together with the member federations for 2025 again an international youth meeting with 1000 participants in the CC-memorial Buchenwald.

The election results for extreme right-wing parties in various European countries are frightening. In May 2024 the next elections for the European Parliament will take place. What is the FIR’s position on this?

At our congress we will formulate a clear political message on the occasion of these elections. Of course, we do not give an election recommendation for any party. We plead for the fact that the civil society forces of the trade unions, the ecological and social movements, the youth and migrant organizations interfere actively in common networks into this election campaign and bring their democratic and on all humans in Europe related demands to hearing.
Because we stand up for a Europe that is aware of its anti-fascist roots, a Europe of all people, in which the social rights especially of the weaker are strengthened, that takes joint responsibility for refugees who come to us from wars, hunger and other disasters, that stands up for peace, European détente policy and against the militarization of the EU. These are big issues. It is our perspective on an anti-fascist Europe.

What does the FIR expect from the congress in Barcelona?

We experience in the preparation in Barcelona and Spain altogether a high readiness of support for the idea of anti-fascism represented by us. That is very encouraging.
During the congress we will participate in several commemorative events in memory of the International Brigades and the Spanish victims of the Franco dictatorship. This shows the social vitality of historical memory.
The feedback so far from the member associations confirms that after the Corona pandemic and with the impact of the Ukraine war, there is a need for a real political exchange. In this regard, the congress will show that an international umbrella organization of associations in the tradition of the anti-fascist struggle is politically needed not only today, but also in the future. And how we succeed in integrating today’s generations into this work. That is the basis for a future of the FIR.