Archive/Moses (Moe) Fishman

Tags: Young Communist League Brunete Offensive Jewish Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade WWII Veteran

Researcher: Gar Bi Chan, Stuyvesant '20

In 1915, Moses (Moe) Fishman was born in New York City. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and enrolled at City College. Due to the financial burden of attending university, Fishman never completed his degree. Before volunteering to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Moe Fishman was part of a number of anti-fascist groups. Fishman’s anti-fascist sentiment grew as he researched Hitler and Mussolini. This led him to join the Young Men's' Hebrew Association. There, he actively participated in the campaign against the United States’ participation in the 1936 Olympics because it was being held in Germany. As an anti-fascist, he refused to support this, so he later joined the Young Communist League at the 92nd St YMCA. At the time, they were the most active group against the Olympics.

At just 21-years-old, Moe Fishman decided to volunteer to fight in Spain in April of 1937. His parents were not supportive of his choice. Moe Fishman had no prior experience in fighting, so it was understandable that his parents did not want him to do this. When Fishman volunteered, he was just working as a truck driver. When he was later accepted to be a part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as a truck driver, he called his parents after he made the decision to go. At that point, it was too late for Fishman to go back on his decision. He was committed to going despite his parents' wishes. The only thing that Fishman brought with him to Spain was his toothbrush.

However, Fishman did not go directly to Spain. He and others first went to France. There were 40 or 50 other men with him on this journey. While in France, Fishman and a group of 6 other men were hiding with farmers. They used buckets as toilets and were only allowed to go outside at nighttime. These were some of the precautions that they took because they did not want to be caught by other people. When it was safe to leave France, Fishman and the other men who were hiding got on a bus to the Pyrenees mountains. Fishman and the other volunteers would have to cross this mountain on foot to reach Spain. 

As they were climbing over the mountains, they were warned about straying from the group. If someone got lost, they were instructed to stay put and wait for someone to come looking for them. In an interview, Fishman recalled that he had heard of people who got lost whose bodies were never found. Eventually, Fishman safely reached Spain.

 

He recalled that the Republic had bought weapons from Mexico and Czechoslovakia. They also obtained weapons from the Soviet Union. He said that although the weapons were backward compared to that of Hitler’s army, they were doable. However, the Republic was outnumbered in terms of weapons and ammunition. In 1937, they were outnumbered by 7 to 1. By the end of the war, they were outnumbered by 11 to 1. Despite the disadvantages that the Republic had, Fishman was eager to fight the Fascists.

His first battle in Spain was the Brunete Offensive. Unfortunately, he was shot in the thigh and severely wounded. He said that if the Republic had not won that battle, it is likely that he would not be alive at the time of the interview. He had to lay on the ground, unable to move the whole day until people could safely transport him to Hospital 16. There, they temporarily set his knee with pins. Fishman was in and out of hospitals the whole time that he was in Spain. He was hopeful that he would be able to recover to see more fighting in Spain but never did. He did, however, recover enough to fight as a merchant marine in World War II.

Fishman never regretted fighting in Spain because he was so strongly anti-fascist. In fact, he went on to be a board member of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade organization (VALB). It was the first of its kind as it offered rehabilitation services, such as access to jobs and medical treatment. When the organization was first formed, they faced strong opposition from the government. They labeled it as a communist organization and even passed the subversive activist control act, which specifically targeted members of the VALB. The act demanded that all communists register as so. Failure to comply resulted in a fine of $1000 each day that they did not register as a communist and a year's worth of time served in jail. However, Moe Fishman and the rest of the board fought this in court and won.

Through it all, Moe Fishman had an unwavering commitment to defeating fascism. In addition to helping the veterans, Fishman also worked closely with the Joint Anti-Fascist Committee to help Spaniards settle into new and better lives. They helped Spaniards go to places in Latin America where they could safely reside and sent them resources like food, money, and clothes. They also sent care packages to jails where Spanish refugees were being held. Fishman worked tirelessly to fight fascism and helped rehabilitate those affected by it.


Sources

“Guide to the Mosess (Moe) Fishman Papers ALBA.224.” Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive, New York University, dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/alba_224/alba_224.html.

MoeFishman1, 30. Apr. 2020; Media Entertainment, Inc. Oral History Collection; ALBA 074; Box: 2 Dvd : Fishman; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University, http://digitaltamiment.hosting.nyu.edu/s/albafilms/item/4126.

MoeFishman2, 30. Apr. 2020; Media Entertainment, Inc. Oral History Collection; ALBA 074; Box: 2 Dvd : Fishman; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University, http://digitaltamiment.hosting.nyu.edu/s/albafilms/item/4126.

MoeFishman3, 30. Apr. 2020; Media Entertainment, Inc. Oral History Collection; ALBA 074; Box: 2 Dvd : Fishman; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University, http://digitaltamiment.hosting.nyu.edu/s/albafilms/item/4126.


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