Thomas Schwätzer (Max Watts)

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Thomas Tomi Schwätzer

Birthplace: Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Death: November 23, 2010 (82)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Emil Schwätzer (Ast) and Gisela Giza (Gitel Lea) Schwätzer - Barinbaum
Husband of ? Schwätzer
Ex-husband of Ettie Schwätzer and Simone Schwätzer
Father of Private
Brother of Martin Schwätzer and Katharina Kitty Schwätzer

Managed by: Itai Hermelin
Last Updated:

About Thomas Schwätzer (Max Watts)

It was a life and a half. From fleeing Nazi persecution to looking after himself from the age of 10 to fighting the US's presence in Vietnam to arriving in Australia and making a living as a freelance journalist, Max Watts did it all.

Watts was born Thomas (Tomi) Schwaetzer into a secular middle-class Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, on June 13, 1928. His father, Emil, was a doctor and wrote a medical column for a local progressive paper. His mother, Giza, worked as a journalist on the paper until it was closed down by the Austrian fascists in 1934.

Pen is mighty ... Max Watts travelled the world, immersing himself in political activism and journalism. Pen is mighty ... Max Watts travelled the world, immersing himself in political activism and journalism. After the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, the family went to France, where they were separated. The British government would not give visas to whole families, just one adult and a child. So Tomi went with Emil to England and Giza and his sister Kitty to the US, where Giza became a psychoanalyst in New York.

A few months after Emil and Tomi arrived in England, Emil committed suicide after getting a letter saying his application for an extension of their visas had been refused. Tomi was sent to a succession of foster homes and supported the war effort by plane-spotting and earned pocket money gathering mortar shells. After the war, he found out the letter his father received had been a clerical error.

At 12, he joined the Young Communist League in Britain and six months later was a district organiser in Slough. The Communist Party paid for him to stay at school to complete his secondary education after the funds from the refugee agency ceased when he turned 14.

In 1944, Tomi raised his age and worked his passage to the US, where he was reunited with Giza and Kitty. He studied political science, economics and aeronautical engineering and completed a BA, then qualified as a proof-press operator. He was active in the International Typographical Union and an organiser for the electrical workers' union. He was also a member of the American Communist Party. However, Watts was always his own man.


He later described himself as a Maxist and rejected all dogmatism and sectarianism.

He travelled the US by motorbike, then, to avoid fighting in Korea, wound up in Israel, the one place he could go without a passport. Then, to avoid fighting in the Israeli Defence Forces, he went to France, where he studied and eventually graduated as a geophysicist.

In the mid-1950s, he was employed for several months in Cuba and was offered a permanent job but declined with thanks and returned to work in France. He visited much of socialist eastern Europe.

In the mid-1960s in Paris, he became involved in supporting US GI resistance to the Vietnam war. Around this time, Tomi became Max Watts, most probably from Watts in Los Angeles because of the 1965 rioting and Max from maximum wattage.

At its height, more than 400 GI anti-war newspapers were issued in Europe and the US. Watts's book Left Face (1991), co-written with American fellow-activist and close friend David Cortwright, was a comprehensive study of soldier unions and resistance movements in modern armies.

At one point, Watts was kidnapped by the French security forces and transported to Corsica. He got away with the help of Danish supporters and, after further arrests and deportation from France, moved to Heidelberg, where the US Army headquarters in Europe was based. He supported soldiers on court martial for offences from refusal to cut their hair to refusing to serve in Vietnam.

During this time, he was also a freelance journalist and wrote for leading publications such as Der Spiegel and Stern, as well as left-wing papers. He reported extensively on the Baader-Meinhof Group and other political actions and movements.

He maintained his life as a totally engaged left political activist in Australia when he arrived (illegally) in the late 1970s.

During the war on Bougainville in the early 1990s, Watts relayed Waratah Rose Gillespie's dispatches from the heart of the conflict. He was a consultant to the lawyers bringing cases for the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea against mining companies.

Watts most recently wrote for Reporteurs sans Frontieres as its representative in Australia, Ossietzky (Berlin), Junge Welt (Berlin), Wochen-Zeitung (Zurich), Akin (Vienna) and Overland (Australia).

Watts rejected monogamy but nonetheless had extended relationships with women who, despite his insistent maintenance of a male chauvinist image, generally remained his friends.

Max Watts is survived by his daughter, Katinka, his cousin, Susie, as well as friends Rosie, Lydia, Vivienne and Liz.

Historical Note Max Watts (1928-2010) was born as Thomas (Tomi) Schwaetzer into a secular middle-class Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. Tomi and his father Emil, a doctor, fled to London in the 1930s, his mother Gisela (Giza) Schwaetzer-Barinbaum (1895-1981), a journalist and later psychoanalyst, and sister to New York. His father committed suicide in London 1938 after getting a letter saying his application for an extension of their visas had been refused, and Tomi stayed in foster homes and became a member of the Young Communist League at the age of 12. He went to New York in 1944, studied there but left for Israel when he was drafted for the war in Korea. After a stay in Israel he went to Paris where he studied geophysics. As a geophysicist he worked in France, Algeria and Cuba. During the Vietnam War he helped GI deserters by getting them from Germany via Amsterdam to Paris, where deserted American soldiers were not prosecuted. Started with a group of deserters Resistance Inside The Army (RITA), with the purpose of building class consciousness among the US army's rank and file. Around this time he started using the alias Max Watts. In 1970 he was expelled from France to Corsica and later to Austria. Watts eventually settled in Dilsberg near Heidelberg, West Germany, where he did GI work as he did in Paris. He also started writing articles for various media as a journalist, mostly on military subjects. In 1981 Max Watts emigrated to Australia where he continued his journalistic and activist work, focusing on Australian politics, Aboriginals, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, but also Israel and the GDR, calling himself a 'semi-retired journalist, writer and stirrer'. See the obituaries of Max Watts by Vivienne Porzsolt in The Sydney Morning Herald of December 29, 2010 and on Mygreennews.

homas Schwätzer (Pseudonym: Max Watts) (* 13. Juni 1928 in Wien; † 23. November 2010 in Sydney) war ein Journalist und Aktivist, der sich für Resistance Inside the Army (RITA-ACT) engagierte.

Leben[Bearbeiten | Quelltext bearbeiten] Sein Vater, der Arzt Emil Schwätzer, war auch Dozent an der Universität. Seine Mutter Giza arbeitete bis 1934 als Journalistin. Als die Familie 1938 nach Frankreich emigriert war, musste sie sich auf Grund von Visabeschränkungen trennen: Während seine Mutter mit seiner Schwester Kitty in die Vereinigten Staaten ging, folgte er seinem Vater nach England. Bald darauf beging sein Vater, der irrtümlich glaubte, dass ihm eine Visumsverlängerung verweigert worden sei, Suizid, worauf Thomas in verschiedenen Heimen aufwuchs. Als Zwölfjähriger schloss er sich der Kommunistischen Jugend in England an. 1944 konnte er in die USA reisen, wo er Politik, Ökonomie und Aviatik studierte und sich als Drucker qualifizierte. Er engagierte sich in der 1952 gegründeten Gewerkschaft International Typographical Union und trat der Kommunistischen Partei der USA bei.

Um nicht als Soldat für den Koreakrieg (1950–1953) eingezogen zu werden, emigrierte er Anfang der fünfziger Jahre nach Israel, wo er auch bald Kriegsdienst leisten sollte und darauf nach Frankreich weiterzog. In Paris studierte er Geophysik und erwarb mit der Dissertation La Géophysique au service de l'industrie charbonnière (ca. 1967[1]) seinen Bachelor of Arts. Er arbeitete kurzzeitig auf Kuba und möglicherweise in Algerien.

Zurück in Frankreich engagierte er sich im, im Dezember 1966 von Maria Jolas gegründeten Pariser Amerikanische Komitee zum Stop des Vietnamkrieges (PACS). Nachdem die De Gaulle-Regierung den Vietnamkrieg kritisiert hatte, organisierte er für nach Amsterdam desertierte GIs mit den Provos Fluchtrouten (Untergrund-Bahn genannt) nach Frankreich, ab Oktober 1967 auch nach Schweden, wo die GIs 20 US-Dollar pro Woche Sozialhilfe erhielten. Unter Richard (Dick) Perrin (* 1948[2]) wurde die Organisation in RITA umbenannt.

Von der Polizei nach Korsika verbannt, konnte er fliehen und kam nach Heidelberg, wo er weiterhin widerständische GIs sowie deren halblegale Zeitungen unterstützte und June (Mary-Jo) van Ingen kennenlernt. Er vertrat den Pressedienst Liberation News Service in Deutschland, wo er unter heimlicher Überwachung durch einen Nachrichtendienst des US-Militärs stand. Als ihm 1973 ein GI durchsickern ließ, dass jener sein Telefon abhören ließe,[3] resultierte daraus ein Presserummel.

1981 emigrierte er nach Sydney in Australien, wo er über die Kämpfe der Einwohner von Papua-Neuguinea und anderer Länder des Südpazifiks berichtete. 1997 engagierte er sich in der Sandline-Affäre.[4]

Veröffentlichungen[Bearbeiten | Quelltext bearbeiten] US-Army-Europe : von der Desertion zum Widerstand in der Kaserne oder wie die U-Bahn zur RITA fuhr; 1989 mit David Cortright : Left face : soldier unions and resistance movements in modern armies; 1991 Einzelnachweise[Bearbeiten | Quelltext bearbeiten] Hochspringen ↑ Hochspringen ↑ Zugriff am 31. August 2014 (Archived by WebCite® at (Memento vom 31. August 2014 auf WebCite)) Hochspringen ↑ Hochspringen ↑

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Thomas Schwätzer (Max Watts)'s Timeline

June 13, 1928
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
November 23, 2010
Age 82
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia