History of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR)

Internationalism in the resistance

The sixty-year history of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) is inextricably linked to the internationalism of the anti-fascist struggle of the peoples. Internationalism has always been the answer to the nationalist and chauvinist ideology of the respective fascist regime, whether in Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and other countries. Fascist ideology and politics was and is a direct threat to all peoples, it was and is linked to imperialist expansion and domination plans. Fascist regimes could and can only be fought in the common struggle of all threatened by these regimes, countries and peoples.

This anti-fascist struggle was an alliance of nations that was demonstrated in practical solidarity with the persecuted and resistance. This included the rescue of the persecuted and the support of resistance groups in the cross-border anti-fascist work. Even in the countries of exile this internationalism was alive. It created the conditions that in Prague the exile board of “Sopade” was able to work, in Moscow the Central Committee of the Communist Party and in London the “German Cultural Union”. In other countries, German anti-fascists could build exile committees for “Free Germany” and other political structures of the anti-fascist action.

Anti-fascism as internationalism was particularly evident in the struggle to defend the Spanish Republic. Here, the internationalism formed in the International Brigades, which practised practical solidarity with the threatened Republic against the alleged non-intervention attitude of Western governments. The power of international solidarity could stop the fascist march for several months successfully. Many anti-fascists went to Spain with the awareness, there not only to stop Franco, but also, indirectly, to counter the fascist threat in their own country. And not only in Spain lived internationalism. The participation of foreign anti-fascists in the ranks of the armies of the Anti – Hitler – Coalition and the armed resistance of the peoples was a visible sign of this unity of the anti-fascist ideas across borders, nations and peoples of time.

Internationalism is also found in the concentration camps. By trusting illegal cooperation between German and foreign prisoners, the common survival was assured. In almost all the major camps were formed conspiratorial international committee. The political prisoners of the concentration camp Buchenwald were able to establish even an illegal military organizations that constitute the basis for self-liberation of prisoners on 11 April 1945. And it was only logical that the liberated prisoners of the camp on 19 April 1945 spoke a common oath, which is still the legacy of all survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp, from whatever country they come from.

The establishment of the International Federation of Former Political Prisoners (FIAPP)

The resistance fighters and persecuted by the Nazi regime wanted to redesign a political voice to the support of the democratic process. For this purpose representatives of organizations of political prisoners and resistance fighters from 17 European countries from East and West came together in 1945, to found in February 1946 in Warsaw the FIAPP (Fédération Internationale des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques, International Federation of Former Political Prisoners). The objectives of the FIAPP have been formulated in statute as follows:
“Fight vigorously for the total suppression of fascism in all its forms and wherever it comes to light, and for the eradication of fascist ideology;
to combat by all means any visible and invisible work in favour of a rebirth of fascism. …
to develop an activity which aims to strengthen international solidarity for the close cooperation of the peoples in the various fields of political, economic and cultural life, that a lasting world peace secured and a new war is prevented. …
to represent the interests of former political prisoners towards governments and other national and international agencies …
fight for the democratic education of the people; to erect monuments for the victims of fascist barbarism and to maintain the memorials of the martyrs; establishing international archives about the fascist prisons and camps. ”
These goals are even 60 years later, still relevant today.

Member of the FIAPP were across national and party lines those organizations, “who rose up in fidelity to the ideals of freedom in fraternal solidarity against fascist oppression. The survivors of the glorious partisan groups, those on the side of the Allied armies won the victory over Nazi Germany, the survivors of the International Brigades in the freedom struggle of the Spanish people, the large number of illegal fighters against Nazism and finally all for religious and national reasons persecuted, escaped from the hell of fascist concentration camps and prison. “(Unser Appell, July 1, 1948)

The Cold War influenced in a massive way also the FIAPP. Here, the conflict resulted in the socialist countries (USSR and Yugoslavia conflict) the unjust exclusion of the Yugoslav Partisan Association SUBNOR. The East-West confrontation have had the result that in Western Europe, especially France and Italy in addition to the FIAPP – Member organizations expanded other organizations of the partisans and victims of fascism. Instead of supporting the unity of the resistance fighters it run the risk to a range of different political forces of anti-fascism.

A new beginning – the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR) is formed

Therefore, the early 50s was an attempt, to bring together the different positions and organizations of former resistance fighters and deportees in the interest of political effectiveness the voice of the resistance fighters in Europe, since the initial atmosphere of change of the anti-fascist new beginning was faded marked by the reality of the increasing restoration and re-militarization, the East-West conflict and increasing threat of war.

That was in 1951, the founding year of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (Fédération Internationale des Résistants, FIR), “characterized by a growing flare-up of fascist and Nazi propaganda. The breach in the alliance that had existed between the Allies of the anti-Hitler coalition, favours offers to old Nazi and neo-Fascists in the countries of Western Europe, that had been incorporated into the Atlantic alliance, as anti-Soviet bulwark.

In this precarious situation the people, who had actively participated in the anti-fascist resistance and national liberation struggle against the Nazi and fascist aggressors and occupiers and made suffering and persecution, recognized that the merger of the European resistance fighters was the need of the hour to oppose the rebirth the Nazi Fascism, to watch over the back-won democratic freedoms to defend the values of resistance movement and to strengthen the principles that formed the basis of the founding of the United Nations. This was the spirit in which the FIR was born and which it has preserved its unswerving loyalty. “(Oskar Wiesflecker)

With the founding of the organization in the summer of 1951 in Vienna FIR took over to defend the tasks, the political ideas and visions of the resistance fighters “Never again fascism! No more war”. FIR represented the victims of fascism in their social and medical needs and it worked for the commemoration of the resistance fighters and the underground resistance groups in many countries.

In the following decades, FIR organized conferences on medical, political and historical themes. Already in the 50 years the need was seen to preserve against all forms of social oblivion the memory of the achievements and contributions of the resistance struggle. The aim was also to prove that the destruction of German fascism was not only the work of Army organizations, but that the role of partisans and resistance fighters were kept in good memory. To preserve the memory of the post-war generations continued FIR a historical commission, which published a total of ten “International issues of the resistance movement”, studies of the antifascist resistance fight in various European countries, including impressive reports on the uprising in Paris, Prague and Northern Italy. Also the resistance struggle in the concentration and extermination camps and the international participation in the national liberation struggle in various European countries has been documented, much attention has been paid with the Jewish resistance movement. The aim of this memory was the historical education of young generations.

The medical and social conferences of the FIR were of high scientific quality. It was about the health consequences of persecution in Nazi prisons and the medical consequences for family members and the enforcement of appropriate compensation. There were repeated argumentation with social supply points about how long-term health damage by the prison time can be evaluated. Reputable physicians sat for the interests of a former persecuted and helped those that appropriate care and financial compensation was given.

In the Cold War, the work of the FIR was closely connected with issues of peace, disarmament, understanding and cooperation of countries of different political systems. The FIR gave the former resistance fighters a voice against the policy of military confrontation and the real threat of war. Member organizations in West and East took numerous initiatives to end the policy of confrontation.

A highlight is the political solidarity of the FIR for the German member federation VVN. When the West German government tried at the end of the 50th to ban the organization of the persecuted as “successor to the banned German Communist Party”, organized FIR an international solidarity movement for the VVN. Protests from almost all European countries led to a failure of the ban process.

A key task was the struggle against the resurgence of neo-fascist organizations and political restoration particularly in the Federal Republic of Germany. FIR repeatedly documented the reality of fascist crimes, to show what were the inhuman results of such a policy. But FIR did not only intelligence work. As Nazi graffiti became increasingly impertinent in Germany and in December 1959 with the desecration of the Cologne synagogue showed its despicable character, FIR suggested to convene an “International Conference against the resurgence of Nazism and anti-Semitism”. Together with the International League for Human Rights, the Union of Israeli Jewish communities in Italy, the ANPPIA and ANED FIR initiated this conference, attended by early March 1960 in Florence 130 delegates from 13 countries.

A further step in the struggle against the forces of the past, the consistent activity against the machinations of former SS men, who in Germany had merged organization in the SS tradition Association HIAG (“Aid Society of former member of the Waffen-SS”) and occurred more and more provocative in public. The highlight of this campaign was initiated by the FIR the “International meeting against the re-emergence of Nazism and Fascism” in October 1963 in Florence. Under pressure from the FIR initiated international protest campaign the SS could be retreated and HIAG call off their planned “European Convention”.

The FIR in the phase of policy of détente

The FIR supports the creation of a system of common security and cooperation in Europe. Along with other veterans organizations, particularly the World Veterans Federation (FMAC), the FIR was preparing a “world meeting of former combatants for Disarmament” in 1979 in Rome. Due to various activities and initiatives for disarmament and international cooperation, the United Nations proclaimed the FIR to an “ambassador of peace”.

The continuing neo-Nazi and right-wing machinations in several European countries led the FIR, in 1973, to call an “European Meeting against neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism” to Brussels, which was attended by 150 delegates from 17 European countries. This meeting and other activities helped to prevent a European neo-fascist meeting in Antwerp. As a result of these activities one year later have been forced even the Spanish authorities to prohibit an event of the neo-Fascist International in Barcelona.

Against the open fascist representatives of traditions and historical revision, like HIAG or neo-fascist groups, the FIR organized in Strasbourg and Cologne mass demonstrations and other activities. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the SS units and against a statute of limitations on Nazi and war crimes. While the West German government had tried to Adenauer’s time to draw a legal line under the persecution of the Nazi crimes, it was the international movement of resistance fighters to prevent the legal statute of limitations on Nazi crimes in Germany. This was a political and legal signal that the principles of the international community formulated by the Nuremberg international trial should have permanent validity.

The FIR in the today’s world

Like other organizations, in the 90 years the FIR had to respond to the changing political situation in the world. The social and political problems of former partisans and resistance fighters in the former socialist countries increased dramatically, the financial resources of the political work decreased. At the same time increased the average age of the former resistance fighter and persecuted by the Nazi regime. Therefore, it was essentially to open the political structures of the FIR and its member federations for today’s generations. This process has been completed in 2004 on the XIII. regular Congress in Berlin, when the FIR adopted a new statute that allowed the integration of young anti-fascists. Since that time the organization is named “International Federation of Resistance Fighters – Association of Anti-fascists” (FIR). The Congress 2007 in Athens and 2010 in Berlin confirmed that stance.

Today, the FIR incorporate member organizations in more than 25 European countries and Israel. The political circumstances have changed, but the main problem is fixed in the slogan “never again”. This means to disclose the historical truth about the resistance struggle, the reality of fascism and the role of the anti-Hitler coalition, the allied forces – including the Soviet soldiers who bore the brunt of the war – the destruction of the fascist barbarism.

Based on the commonality of the struggle against fascism the federations of the FIR are connected now for peace, political and social human rights and democracy. Together with members of the present generation FIR stands against neo-Fascism, anti-Semitism, racism and terrorism and its social roots.