Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War

Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill Read Free Book Online

Book: Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amanda Vaill
Tags: History, Biography & Autobiography, Europe, Artists; Architects; Photographers, Spain & Portugal
touching the torchbearer’s shoulders for guidance. They had been Capa’s age when they lost their sight.
    As dusk began to fall, Capa followed the crowd of Peace Pilgrims into the floodlit cemetery, where each former combatant took his place behind one of the white crosses that marked the graves. Click, click, click went Capa’s camera as each veteran laid a single flower on the mound before him. A trumpet called from the ossuary, and was answered by the boom of a cannon. Then silence, followed by a second cannon salute. From the loudspeakers at the corners of the cemetery came the order to cease fire, doubly poignant on this occasion. Into the echoing stillness a child’s voice spoke: For the peace of the world. And the assembled thousands swore aloud, each in their own language, to ensure the peace for which the dead had made the ultimate sacrifice.
    When Capa at last headed back to Paris he knew he had some good pictures in his camera; he knew, too, that the odds were stacked against the promises the Peace Pilgrims had just made so solemnly. He’d seen enough of the world to figure out what was coming: he might be only twenty-two, but he was already a political refugee twice over. As a teenager in Budapest—son of a spendthrift carriage-trade dressmaker and his hardworking wife—he’d gotten involved in avant-garde and antifascist circles, joining in demonstrations against Admiral Miklós Horthy’s iron-fisted and anti-Semitic regime; shortly before he passed his final examinations he’d made the mistake of being seen talking to a known Communist Party recruiter. That night Horthy’s secret police picked him up and took him for “questioning” to headquarters, where his interrogator, an officer with a taste for Beethoven, whistled the Fifth Symphony while beating him up in time to the music. In an act of teenage bravado he’d laughed at his tormentor, after which two thugs knocked him senseless and threw him into a cell; the next morning, since there was no hard evidence against him, they’d turned him loose with orders to leave the country as soon as possible.
    So he’d gone to Berlin, whose Weimar-era adventurousness had only just begun to be tainted by encroaching Nazi brutality, and enrolled in journalism classes at the Hochschule für Politik, where all the young bohemians went; but hard times put an end to the allowance he’d been receiving from his parents, and he had to drop out of school. Hungry, homeless, desperate for money, he talked himself into a job as a darkroom assistant at Dephot, one of the agencies that had sprung up to supply the new illustrated magazines and newspaper supplements that suddenly seemed to be everywhere. His good eye and his eagerness earned him a few small assignments, and then came a big break: Sent to cover a Copenhagen speech by the exiled Russian leader Leon Trotsky, he smuggled his flashless little Leica into the lecture hall, where bulky box cameras, which might have concealed a gun, were prohibited, and captured Trotsky at the podium at point-blank range. Der Welt Spiegel gave his dramatic pictures a full page— with a credit—but his triumph was short-lived. Three months later, Adolf Hitler, riding a tide of anti-Semitic nationalism, was appointed chancellor of Germany; a month after that, the new government suspended all civil liberties, banned publications “unfriendly” to the National Socialists—the Nazis—and started rounding up Communists, Social Democrats, liberals, and Jews. Berlin, already unsettled, was now unsafe, and André Friedmann was on the run again.
    Like many other refugees from Nazism, he ended up in Paris; despite the French economic downturn, it was still the place where everything was happening—art, theater, literature, philosophy, fashion, le jazz hot . As an émigré, however, he couldn’t get a regular job when so many Frenchmen were out of work, so he subsisted on a variety of short-term, low-paying gigs, cadging meals or

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