Biographies/Leo Solodkin

Tags: Young Communist League American Student Union Harlem Youth Club Lincoln-Washington Battalion XV Brigade Scouts Sierra Pandols Ebro Offensive WWII Veteran Jewish Member Of Communist Party Battle For Teruel Quinto City College of New York Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians (FAECT)

Researcher: Hannah Scheuer, Stuyvesant '22

Leo Solodkin was born on August 3rd, 1912 in New York City to Harry Solodkin, a shopkeeper, and Anna Solodkin. Prior to the war, Leo Solodkin studied Civil Engineering at City College of New York (CCNY) and was employed as a construction estimator. He was a part of FAECT, the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians. FAECT was a union based in New York City that formed after splitting off from the International Federation of Technical Engineers, Architects and Draftsmen's Union for 'excessive radicalism' while protesting low wages during the Great Depression. FAECT tried to have a presence in technical colleges across NYC in an attempt to give students exposure to the union and have them join once they had graduated. FAECT eventually affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Many FAECT members were communists and FAECT was accused of having soviet spies. Solodkin was also a member of the Young Communists League which was rebranded as the Young Workers League of America to appeal to a wider audience. Solodkin participated in the Harlem Youth Club and American Student Union, the latter containing many communist members. He was also one of many other Jews who chose to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Leo Solodkin sailed to Spain on May 8th, 1937 via the American Importer. By way of France, he arrived in Spain on June 1st of 1937. Solodkin wrote as his reason for joining the war “The fight against fascism” and that his father’s communist ideologies influenced his own. From August 7th-17th, 1937 he was a part of the Lincoln-Washington Battalion. He then transferred to the XV Brigade Scouts until December of 1937. From December of 1937 to August of 1938 Solodkin served as a topographer in the 58th Battalion of the XV Brigade. As a topographer, or topographic engineer, his job was to turn reconnaissance from scouting missions into topographic maps. Solodkin served at Quinto, Belchite, Teruel, and Retreats and the Ebro Offensive. Belchite, a small town situated a few Kilometers away from the City of Zaragoza, was a two week long but intense battle resulting in near complete destruction of the town. The battle of Teruel lasted over two months during the winter of 1937-38. Casualties were extremely heavy on both sides and control of the city changed several times. The suffering of the Republican Soldiers was immense, as they were under-equipped and over exposed to the elements, during what was the coldest winter of the past two decades. On August 16th, 1938 Solodkin was wounded in his right arm during the battle of Sierra Pandols which was a part of the larger Battle for the Ebro River Valley and surrounding hills. The Ebro Offensive-the longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War-was the last battle for the International Brigades.

Upon leaving the Brigade in October of 1938 Solodkin was described as “steady”, “willing”, “moral”, and “a good comrade”. Solodkin returned home to New York City on December 20, 1938, aboard the Ausonia. He became an electrician and not many years later, after the start of America's involvement in World War Two, he served in the U.S. Army from 1942-1946. After WWII, Solodkin created a stationary store and newspaper delivery service with his brother. Prior to his death in 2001, Leo Solodkin had two children with his wife, Ada Solodkin, and four grandchildren.


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