Archive/Harry Blum

Tags: Jewish Young Communist League Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion WWII Veteran Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Researcher: Sophia Zhao, Stuyvesant '20

Harry Blum (Kline) was born on December 5th or 6th, 1916 in New York. He attended school through Junior High and became a salesman afterwards. He had two listed addresses: 143 East 16th Street (or 145 East 16th St) in Gramercy Park, and 36 Lewis Street on the Lower East Side, both NYC. With many other young Jewish workers at the time, Blum became a member of the YCL in November 1936 and joined the volunteers to fight for the Republic in Spain a year later, receiving his passport in April 1937. He sailed on May 1, 1937 aboard the Britannic, taking the route from New York to London, and arrived in Spain on the 25th of May.


In Spain, Blum fought for the Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion (Mac-Paps), the Canadian branch of the XV International (Abraham Lincoln) Brigade. Even though the Mac-Paps were nominally Canadian, the battalion was initially made up of more volunteers from the United States than from Canada. He was one of approximately 1,250 Jewish volunteers from the US, which made up 38% of the total. The Jewish volunteers went into Spain to fight for their sense of justice as much as they did for socialism or communism or against fascism. In the 1940s however, the Stalinist opposition to Zionism led to discrimmination against Jewish vertans by the Left and a minimization of their role in the war. As such, much of the information on Jewish volunteers was not maintained.


Blum also faced discrimmination, this time for having supported Communism and fighting in the Spanish Civil War, when he and nearly 500 other Abraham Lincoln Brigade veterans enlisted to serve in WWII. With his fellow veterans, Blum wrote against the apparent policy that prohibited those that had volunteered in Spain from receiving promotions or participating in active service. Letters from more than 70 veterans, including some written by Blum and Jack Bjoze, VALB Executive Secretary, document examples of discrimination and discuss means of exposing this policy to the media and putting an end to it. Blum survived WWII and died in March 1974.


Sources

“Harry Blum.” Harry Blum - Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Plone Foundation et al., http://alba-valb.org/volunteers/harry-blum.

Sugarman, Martin. Against Fascism - Jews who served in The International Brigade in The Spanish Civil War, Cert. Ed. 7 Dec. 2016.

“Guide to the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Complaints of Discrimination during World War II ALBA.069.” Processed by Craig Savino, Katya Vehlow, Jessica Weglein. Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries. http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/alba_069/alba_069.html.

“Veterans of the International Brigades. Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion.” RBSC/OSC Archives.


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