Biographies/Hyman Epstein

Tags: Jewish Canadian Belchite Member Of Communist Party Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion Battle of Caspe

Researcher: Michael Kamela, Stuyvesant '22

Hyman Epstein was born in Montreal on the 17th of January, 1900. There is little information about his early life other than that his family was Jewish and that he was a Communist. Spanish records say he lived in Chicago. He worked as a sailor, but it is unclear whether he served in the navy or simply sailed commercial vessels.


Epstein arrived in Spain on March 1st, 1937, aboard the Washington. His journey was easier than that of most recruits, as the Canadian Parliament only passed the Canadian Foreign Enlistment Act (which prohibited volunteering in foreign wars) in April of 1937. It was formally applied to Spain in July of 1937. However, recruits were heavily screened by the Communist Party to eliminate the "adventurous" types. Most of those recruited had to have a history of working for the left.


Spanish records say that Epstein served in transport service in the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, which fought as part of the XV International Brigade. However, Epstein would have had to arrive with either the Lincoln or Washington Battalions, as Mackenzie-Papimeau was not formed until May of 1937. The Transport Service unit consisted of 280 men, including drivers, dispatchers, and mechanics. Records suggest he was involved in artillery transport.


There are discrepancies regarding the date and location of Epstein's death. Spanish records say he could have died on either the 10th of March, 1938 in Belchite, or on the 17th of March in Caspe. Canadian records say he was killed in Caspe on the 17th of March, 1938. It is possible that in the chaos of Belchite, Epstein became separated from his unit and they assumed he had died, leading to the discrepancy in records.


"Battle of Belchite." Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, November 10, 2008.

“Canadian Cultural History about the Spanish Civil War.” Hyman Epstein | Canadian Cultural History About The Spanish Civil War. Accessed June 16, 2022.


“Epstein, Hyman.” SIDBRINT. University of Barcelona. Accessed June 16, 2022.


“Jarama Series The Regiments.” The Volunteer. Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, July 13, 2016.