Biographies/Abraham Sirotof

Tags: Member of Communist Party WWII Veteran Jewish Ebro Offensive Painter Battle of Ebro

Researcher: Pimada Phongsuriya, Stuyvesant '23

Abraham Sirotof, also known as Albert Serota, was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 8, 1914 to Morris Sirotof and an unnamed parent. He was Jewish. He was educated up to his second year of high school, and amidst the initial signs of economic trouble of the Great Depression, he registered with the Communist Party when he was 15. Abraham became a painter.

He moved to New York City sometime before 1938, and although his address was listed as both 2921 West 29th St Brooklyn and 2812 West 36th St, NYC, his actual address was 2812 West 30th St in Coney Island. At the time, communism thrived in New York City. Abraham Sirotof was one of the 38,000 communist party members in NYS in 1938, and he lived right at the heart of the communist wave in NYC. Madison Square Garden held communist meetings with as many as 20,000 participants, and the annual May Day parades had an audience of tens of thousands. The Communist Party involved itself with leftist politics and labeled itself as the “20th-Century Americanism.” Abraham Sirotof was unemployed for 16 years, which could have fostered his involvement with the Communist Party. In NYC, the communist party was a proponent of unionism for a variety of job fields, such as the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT). The IUPAT would’ve supported painters like Abraham Sirotof through unemployment.

After nine years of being a member of the communist party, Abraham Sirotof decided to join the XVth Abraham Lincoln Brigade (ALB) to support the Republic, arriving in Spain on July 16, 1938, when the Nationalists pushed into the Province of Valencia. He was a member of the Lincoln-Washington Battalion Company 1. Sirotof’s only battle with the Republicans was at the Battle of the Ebro. In a response to the Nationalist push, the Republic launched an all-out offensive. Sirotof received little training and was sent into the fray. On the evening of July 24, 1938, he, amongst other members of his company, crept through the mud and reeds towards the banks of the Ebro to distract the Nationalist armies that were advancing towards Valencia. The Nationalist armies were caught off guard, which allowed for a successful Republican attack. Abraham Sirotof and the other soldiers were trained to do specific tasks as a part of their rudimentary training, and the Republican forces were able to coordinate the maneuver. Despite the knowledge that the Nationalist forces would be near impossible to totally defeat, Sirotof was still in good spirits and focused on the Republic’s goal of seizing, entrenching, and holding territory. They fought fiercely, and on August 1 the XVth ALB launched an attack at Hill 481 in front of Gandesa, leading to many casualties. The Nationalists had backed the Republic back to the Ebro.

On September 21, Negrín announced the withdrawal of the International Brigades to the League of Nations in hopes that the foreign powers backing the Nationalists would follow suit. Sirotof’s battalion left on September 23, 1938. Sirotof returned to the US on December 20, 1938 above the RMS Ausonia with fifty other ALB members, such as Arthur H. Landis. He moved to the Bronx with his wife, Fanny, and his four-year-old son, Robert, by 1940. They lived on Brook Avenue in South Bronx, and Sirotof supported his family on his painter salary. He also served in the Armed Forces in WWII. In the 1950s, he moved to Bloomfield Essex, New Jersey and lived on Olive Street. He remarried Evelyn Sirotof (nee Garlock) and had four children. However, there is the possibility that the remarried Sirotof differs from the veteran Sirotof.

Abraham Sirotof passed away in May, 1963, in New York.


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‌History, Military. 2023. “Spanish Civil War: The Battle of the Ebro | the Past.” January 12, 2023.