Biographies/Bertram Bakerman

Tags: National Lawyers Guild Brunete Offensive Brooklyn Law School Jewish Aragon Front Russian George Washington Battalion New York University WWII Veteran Communist National Student League Jarama Battle of Belchite Belchite Quinto Aragon Valencia Office International Red Relief (SRI) Lawyer Young Communist League Member Of Communist Party Villanueva de la CaƱada

Researcher: Emma Buller, Stuyvesant '22

Bertram Bakerman was born on March 7th 1915. He grew up in Bay Ridge with three sisters (Florence, Anita, Rosalind) and five brothers (Theodore, Seymour, Harold, Edwin, Charles). His parents, John and Birdie, were Jewish immigrants from Russia and they probably immigrated due to the oppression Jewish people faced in Russia during the late 19th century. While many Jewish immigrants faced discimintion in America, his family did well for themselves. His dad was a Columbia-educated real estate lawyer who helped with the development of Bay Ridge and could afford many luxuries like maids. However, John did practice in a few shady business practices. In 1930, he was accused of theft and larceny.
Despite his father’s career, Bertram got involved in Communism at a young age. He, alongside siblings Rosalind and Harold, joined many well-educated and idealistic Jewish Communists during this time.They thought that through their involvement in Communist movements, they would be able to get rid of the inequality that existed in the Great Depression and defeat Anti-Semitic movements like Nazism. He was well read in the writings of Communists Marx, Engels, Lening, and Mehring. His studies often focused on the history and development of Marxism. He first got involved with professional communist organizations during his college years at NYU. In 1934, he joined the Young Communist League and the National Students League, a grassroots Communist organization that first started as a protest against the City College of New York suspending a student who wrote an anti-ROTC article in a publication. He then joined the Communist Party proper in 1936.
When people around the world first started to go to Spain to fight in the war in 1937, Bakerman was determined to join them, but he couldn’t join the first wave in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in January 1937. He got a passport on February 17th 1937, and less than a month later, he was sailing on The Washington on March 10th. When he got to Spain on April 6th, he joined the other American latecomers in the Washington Battalion. Originally, the Battalion was going to be named after labor organizer Tom Mooney but the Communist Party stated that it would be “politically expedient” This brigade was led by Mirko Markovics. Mirko was the current head of the CPUSA's Serbian Section and the Yugoslav Coordinating Bureau and had war experience from being a Lieutenant in the Red Army. Bakerman and about 100 other volunteers faced great discipline and a lot of hardship. After becoming a formal battalion on April 30th, training began on May 10th. Most of the training happened in Tarazona, which began a week later. When the training was complete, they were told to move to the Jarama front, which proved to be difficult with the lack of resources and food. At Jarama, they withstood a difficult storm and a Nationalist attack. In early July, they participated in the Battle of Brunete. This battle proved to be deadly for the brigade. Around half of their men died and they had to join with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as a consequence.
When fighting the war, Bertram was described as a good comrade, courageous, and disciplined, but a bit nervous. He had a good record in the frontlines and participated in the battles of Brunete, Quinto, and Belchite. Bertram was in the frontlines until July 1937 when he was injured in a battle at Villanueva de la Canada. He would return to the frontlines on August 2nd, 1937, in which he would participate in the Battle of Aragon. On September 24th, 1937, he was officially moved to the rear of the army after experiencing shell shock. He spent a lot of 1938 not in the fighting. He mainly worked in the censorship office at Valencia. He also served as a member of the International Red Relief (SRI) in February 1938 at Godella, Valencia, where he helped provide important services to the people living there. He ultimately returned to the United States on September 21st, 1938, around the time that Prime Minister Negrin removed International troops from Spain.
After the war, Bertram followed his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer, but one that did not deal in shady business practices. He went to Brooklyn Law School, where he was an honor roll student and participated in student government. He passed the bar exam in May 1942. Before participating in law, he was enlisted in World War II in 1943. After the war, he married Esther Weintraub in 1948, presumably after he divorced his first wife Judith Novikoff, who he married in 1940. Bakerman joined the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive bar association that was founded as an alternative to the conservative American Bar Association. Their goal was to connect lawyers to cases that dealt with human rights and was the first bar association to be racially integrated. Many Communist Lawyers joined this association, to the point that the House Committee of Un-American activities declared it to be a “Communist Front” during the McCarthyism era. Bakerman participated in many cases. Most notably, he was a counsel for Robert Talbott Miller, an analyst for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA) who was accused of sending information to the Communist Golos network, in a hearing done by the Committee of Un-American activities. He ultimately died on March 11th, 1985 at the age of 70.


“778.” Essay. In Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the U.S. Government. Hearings under Public Law 601. July 31; August 3-7, 9-13, 16-18, 20, 24-27, 30; September 8 and 9, 1948, 1948.
Brooks, Chris. “The Making of the the Washington Battalion.” The Volunteer, n.d.
Ink, Social. “Bakerman, Bertram.” The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, May 26, 2020.
“John J. Bakerman, Reality Lawyer.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle. February 19, 1951.
“Lawyer Stole His $89,982 Says Invalid.” The Standard Union. July 14, 1930.
“Marriage Announcement 1 -- No Title.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 21, 1948.
“Marriage Announcement 1 -- No Title.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 6, 1940.
“Wealthy Lawyer's Son Held on Girl's Charge.” The Standard Union. November 17, 1927. “The Hamm. Lawyers Guild - the Harold Weisberg Archive.”, n.d.
RGASPI. F. 545. Op. 6. D. 860