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Guide to the Fred Schofs Papers ALBA.056

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Alexandra Gottely, 2010

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 20, 2017

Descriptive Summary

Source: Kolbe, Ulrich
Creator: Schofs, Fred, 1910-1975
Title: Fred Schofs Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1939-1975
Dates [bulk]: bulk
Abstract: Gottfried Jakob (Fred) Schofs (1910-1975) was a leftist German national who went to the U.S. in 1928 and lived there as an illegal alien. He volunteered for Spain in 1937, and served as a Mess Sergeant for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He also took part in the battles of Brunete, Quinto, Belchite, Fuentes de Ebro and Teruel, and was wounded twice. At the end of the war he was incarcerated in several camps in France, and in december 1943 escaped back into Spain, where he spent more than two years in a camp at Miranda del Ebro. After World War II he settled in West Germany where he was a union organizer and political activist. The collection includes his resume (in German), a questionnaire of the West German Spanish Civil War veterans' organization, Letters from authorities in the U.S. and France relating to his return to the U.S., passports from the 1940s through the 1970s, correspondence, journal entries written from Miranda del Ebro, and various VALB publications. Also included is his Hans Beimler Medal awarded by the German Democratic Republic in 1956.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language: Materials are in English, French, German and Spanish.
Call Phrase: ALBA.056

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Historical/Biographical Note

Gottfried Jakob (Fred) Schofs was born on August 28, 1910 at München-Gladbach, Germany, the eldest of seven children. His parents were Jakob and Anna Schofs. His father was a socialist and initiated his son into politics. Schofs entered the Sozialistische Arbeiterjugend (SAJ = Young Socialist Workers) in 1926. He left Germany for the United States in 1928. He attended evening school at Philadelphia and worked as a cook in hotels and restaurants. After working briefly at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading, PA, he became a cook in at the Esplanade Hotel, New York City, in 1937. A member of the Communist Party USA, of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, and of the American League against War and Fascism (later American League for Peace and Democracy), he decided to join the American volunteers leaving for Spain. His decision was made stronger by the fact that his father, still in Germany, had been sent to a camp.

Schofs crossed the French border through the Pyrenees and entered Spain on April 19, 1937. Working as a cook, he was promoted to Mess Sergeant on November 24, 1937. He also took part of the battles of Brunete, Aragon, Teruel and the Ebro offensive. He was wounded twice, the first time on May 10, 1938, the second time on October 20, 1938, both times from artillery barrage. He was injured in the head and arms. Staying on active duty until the retreat of the International Brigades, he left Spain in 1939. As he arrived in France he was arrested by the French police and sent to camp Saint-Cyprien from February 9, 1939 until the end of March 1939. Freed, he then worked as secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Committee at Le Havre. He was arrested again and sent back to a camp, first in Varimpre, then briefly near Lisieux, and finally near Bordeaux, from October 1939 until June 20, 1940. At that time, facing the advance of the German army, the authorities of the camp decided to free all the political refugees. Leaving Bordeaux, he went to Perpignan and worked at the prefecture, at the Service technique des camps, managing to elude the Gestapo. From time of the occupation of the south of France in November, 1942, he became involved in the French underground and took part in sabotage actions against the German army, along with two other International Brigades veterans. They were racked by the Gestapo, and Schofs was the only one of the three who escaped the arrest, fleeing across the border to Spain on December 6, 1943. Caught by the Spanish police on December 8th, he was sent to prison, first in Gerona, then in Saragossa, finally in Barcelona, and was eventually put in the Miranda de Ebro camp on January 11, 1944.

As a prisoner there for more than two years, worked as a cook for the camp. Along with other German former International Brigaders and anti-fascists, he published a newspaper, Deutsche Nachrichten (German News) and tried to organize political discussions. The group was turned over to the Guardia Civil by other prisoners. Four prisoners of the camp who had fought with the Spanish Republic were sent to a prison in Madrid in February 1945. They eventually were freed, the last two in the spring of 1946. From December 1943, Schofs corresponded intensively with various authorities, trying to find a way out of Spain. At first, pretending to be an American citizen, he discussed with the American consulate in Spain a possible return to the United States. He had already made several applications to U.S. authorities since 1939. But the only result he got was receiving material aid from the Representation in Spain of the American Relief Organizations.

By the end of summer 1944 Schofs had almost given up on returning to the U.S., and tried instead to get a visa to France. Yet, he remained unsuccessful until the end of 1945, when he decided to ask for a temporary stay in France, as first step toward a return to West Germany. He finally obtained his visa to France on January 21, 1946 and crossed the Spanish border on January 24th. He arrived at Frankfurt-am-Main on April 8, 1946, and lived there until his death in 1975.

He was a member of the VVN (Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Nazisregimes = Union of Persecuted of the Nazi Regime) and was active in the Communist Party, Hessen, first as an adviser and then as an instructor. He traveled regularly to East Germany and Spain. He married Vicencia in 1967, and served as secretary of the German veterans of the Spanish Civil War until weakened by heart disease in his later years. A lifelong trade-unionist, he belonged to the ÖTV (Union of public Services Employees and Transport Employees) and later to the Union for Textile Employees in West Germany.

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Scope and Contents

The major part of the collection consists of correspondence written by or addressed to Fred Schofs, dated between 1940 and 1946. It reveals Schofs' attempts to get out of the Miranda de Ebro Camp, contacting various authorities, American and French, and former International Brigaders; correspondents include Peter Rhodes and Aurelio Vila. In the letters, Schofs tells the story of his life, and explains his current situation. The collection also includes Schofs' identification papers from United States, France and Germany. One document, a draft of a speech he gave in 1972 at a gathering of the German Communist Party, on behalf of the Veterans of the Party, relates his political motivations and choices throughout his life. Finally, a few documents testify about life in the camp in Spain: examples are a hand illustrated menu for Christmas 1944, and three typescripts related to the denunciation of Schofs and his group’s political activities (a list of the prisoners who took part in the denunciation, a copy of the text of the denunciation itself, and a list of other German prisoners in the Miranda de Ebro Camp). Schofs’ Hans Beimler Medal (GDR) for German Veterans of the Spanish Civil War is present in the collection, along with a certificate related to it.


The collection is arranged alphabetically.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Kolbe, Ulrich
  • Speidel, Hans, 1897-1984
  • Schofs, Fred, 1910-1975

Document Type

  • Documents.
  • Correspondence.
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Identity cards.

Subject Organizations

  • Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Abraham Lincoln Battalion

Subject Topics

  • Anti-fascist movements -- Germany.

Subject Places

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Prisoners and prisons.
  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- International brigades.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Ulrich Kolbe and Frank Dittmeyer in 2002. The accession number associated with this gift is 2002.041.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Correspondence
Sep 4, 1940-Mar 21, 1941
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Correspondence
Dec 15, 1943
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Correspondence
Feb 2, 1944-Apr 25, 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Correspondence
May 8, 1944-Aug 30, 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Correspondence
Sep 3, 1944-Dec 26, 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Correspondence
Jan 2, 1945-Jun 22, 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Correspondence
Jul 5, 1945-Aug 20, 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Correspondence
Sep 3, 1945-Dec 21, 1945
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Correspondence
Jan 12, 1946-Mar 7, 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Correspondence
undated; [Jan 11, 1944-Mar 31, 1944?]
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Documents: Communist Party, West Germany
[1946?] / 1970-Aug 28, 1975
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Documents: Honors, Germany
[Jul 18, 1956-1975]
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Documents: Identification Papers, France
Feb 28, 1946-Feb 19, 1952
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Documents: Identification Papers, Germany
Apr 8, 1946-Apr 18, 1975
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Documents: Identification Papers, USA
May, 1939
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Documents: Miranda de Ebro, Life in the Camp
Dec 25, 1944-Jan 26, 1946
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Former German Volunteers in Spanish Civil War Committee: Form, Fred Schofs
Aug 4, 1973
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Hans Beimler Medal: Certificate and Medal, in Cases
Jul 18, 1956
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Hans Speidel Case: Clippings
Mar 1957-[Apr?] 1957
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Notebook: Fred Schofs (Article Translations, 1942; Accounts, 1943)
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Obituary: Fred Schofs
Dec, 1975
Box: 1 Folder : 22 Spain: Communist Party, Clippings
Jan, 1972-Mar 13, 1975
Box: 1 Folder : 23 Spanish Civil War: Clippings
Jun, 1946-1967

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