Ramón 'Mone' Cambra

Ramón was raised in Barcelona, with Durruti and Luis Andrés Edo as near neighbours. As a youngster Ramón wore his hair long and wrote poetry, took part in cultural societies and was involved in anti-militarist campaigning. During this time he trained as a printer and shortly after that joined the CNT. A week ahead of the army coup attempt he kept watch day and night over union headquarters, anticipating that something was about to happen. In two days the male and female workers of Barcelona snuffed out the army mutiny. When we made him a present of a copy of La Barcelona rebelde, he flicked through its pages and proudly showed us a photo of a barricade from 19 July 1936: “That was my barricade in the Plaza Pes de la Palla”.

He fought for the social revolution in the ranks of the Ortiz Column, the first column dispatched to the Aragon front after 19 July. He was still an anti-militarist and still just a boy, and he recognised this as one of history’s ironies. From that point on he developed a curious fascination with warfare and weapons. In November 1936 he wanted to go to Madrid to help in the defence of the city but was unable to do so because of a run-in with a tank on the front. His life was saved by the fact that he was in his dug-out: after he recovered he joined the ‘Rojo y Negro’ Column in Huesca. He was made sergeant of his unit and in February 1939 crossed the border into France with all his men (300 or so).

He was arrested in Arles in the south of France and conscripted to work in a coal mine where he carried out sabotage by supplying the mine operators with phony figures. He served with the French resistance and tried to blow up a viaduct just as British troops were arriving in Dieppe. But was betrayed by his own radio operator. All the members of his team perished except for Ramón who was captured: he was tortured in two concentration camps in the south of France. He was hauled in front of an SS officer who asked if he was Ramón Cambra. To which he answered: “Yes”, He thought his number was up but the SS officer turned out to be a Resistance agent who urged him to make a run for it. Ramón ran.

Between 1943 and 1963 he lived clandestinely in Spain using the name of a relation of his wife’s and sharing his wife’s family home. Working first as a docker and then continually changing jobs. From 1950 onwards he turned to photography and was active in the underground as a courier-cum-lieutenant with the Republican Army’s ‘Spanish Armed Forces Group’. Always carrying his membership card with his code name hidden in his belt.

Two days after the end of the Second World War, on 10 May 1945, María and Ramón got married. In 1947 they had a daughter, Montserrat. In 1956 Ramón managed to earn himself a clean sheet by convincing a bishop that he was a good parishioner, thereby embarking upon a new life under his real name. After that the family settled in Castres, 70 kilometers from Toulouse.

In 1964 he moved to Germany, settling in Hamburg, where Ramón was to spend many years working for the German Federal Post Office. As a driver on the nightshift. Ramón had fond memories of his co-workers. Ramón suffered a serious injury at work while loading and unloading his van. In 1970 he joined the German Social Democratic Party, the SPD, and established a leftwing circle. But, disappointed, he quickly turned his back on the party. He and his wife applied for German citizenship because, as they saw it “since we have all the duties we may as well claim all the rights”.

From: cnt No 375, January 2011. [The obituary was the work of "Some of your younger friends and comrades in Hamburg". He died there on 26 December 2010.]. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.