Marion Wachtel; Fought Against Spanish Fascists

Share via

Marion Merriman Wachtel, an author and freedom fighter in the Spanish Civil War who chronicled her colleagues’ escapades, has died. She was 82.

Mrs. Wachtel died in her sleep Monday at her home in Palo Alto.

First married to Robert Hale Merriman, who led the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, she became the only woman in the group of Americans who fought with the Spanish Loyalists against the Fascists. Her husband lost his life for the cause, and she told his story in the biography she co-authored in 1986, “American Commander in Spain.”

She and others believed that Merriman was the model for Ernest Hemingway’s hero in the novel he wrote about the war, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”


Mrs. Wachtel traveled to Spain when Merriman was wounded and stayed to fight beside him, earning the rank of corporal. At the time her husband was killed in 1938, she was in the United States to raise funds for the cause.

True to a promise to Merriman that she would remarry if he died, she married attorney Emil Wachtel in 1939. He died in 1977.

Mrs. Wachtel never lost her zeal, urging in 1982 at her 50th class reunion at the University of Nevada, Reno: “Fight, in every way you can, against repression, against tyranny, for freedom.”

She described her first husband in her book’s dedication as “a giant among men, a fighter who chose his enemies carefully--and who fought to the death for a better world.”

The diaries she and Merriman kept in the late 1930s became the basis for the book, co-authored by Warren Lerude.

Mrs. Wachtel told The Times that during the McCarthy era, her second husband suffered discrimination in his government job because of her background.


“There was a government report that alleged we were Communists,” she said, denying that either she or Merriman had been.

Mrs. Wachtel worked several years in the Stanford University administration.

She is survived by three sons, Will Wachtel of Redmond, Wash.; Jeff Wachtel of Palo Alto; Joe Wachtel of Santa Clara; a sister; a brother and four grandchildren.