Biographies/Philip Crane

Tags: Assassinated Tarazona Brooklyn Shell-Shocked Deserters Russian YCL Ill de France. Castillo de Fells Albacete SIM Battle of Brunete Valencia Austrian Actor Jewish Barcelona Executed Brunete Offensive Student

Researcher: Nozima Rahmatova, Stuyvesant '24

Philip Crane (Also known as Jacob/Jack Rotter; or Phillip/Philip Conway) was born on March 21, 1910, in NYC. He was Jewish and of Austrian descent. Although there is no solid evidence of the identity of Rotter’s parents, they were likely to be Hyman Rotter and Annie Rotter, who immigrated to the United States in 1904.

In the 1930s, Crane was a student, and it was during the economic depression that he got involved with the YCL. Many young men from New York City who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War were initially part of the Young Communist League. In mid-1935, the YCL membership amounted to 8,000 people. The organization consisted of students and unemployed young men. When Crane Philip received his passport in 1937, he listed his address as 411 Hinsdale Street, Brooklyn, New York. During that time, Hinsdale Street belonged to the East New York neighborhood. Crane Philip arrived in Spain on March 17, 1937. During the time Crane Philip spent in Spain, the war outcome was still hard to predict. In June, General Mola died, and in August, Madrid was bombed for the first time by the Nationalists. In few months after his arrival, on November 10, Philip Crane violated military discipline by deserting, presumably from Tarazona, with Bernard Abramofsky and Albert Wallach. Tarazona de la Mancha was a town where the soldiers of the Lincoln Brigade trained in the summer of 1937. Bernard Abramofsky (also known as Bernard Aibel) was Jewish and of Russian descent; he was born in Brooklyn, NYC, on April 21, 1914, to Ida and Isadore Abramofsky.

He was an actor before the war and was involved with the Young Communist League in 1934. Abramofsky served in the XV Brigade, Washington Battalion. It is not evident how Abramofsky and Crane came to know each other; it is most likely when the Washington unit and the Lincoln Battalion merged during the Brunete campaign (6-25 July 1937). The Brunete battle was a Republican offensive that initially succeeded but ultimately failed with devastating casualties for the Republic. Abramofsky became shell-shocked on the first day of the Brunete, and his morale steadily declined until he finally deserted with Wallach and Crane.The number of deserters from the Lincoln Brigade can be placed at about one hundred or four percent of total volunteers. Throughout the war, a stream of men wanted to flee the battlefield, but the numbers increased greatly during and after major battles. The most common route of escape was through one of the major Spanish ports like Barcelona and Valencia. Then they would sail away from the ports through the help of sympathetic seamen. In fact, on July 24, 1937, four Americans from the Washington battalion had arrived at the U.S embassy in Valencia and requested assistance in returning home. These four men were James Doyle, Vachel Lindsay Blair, Robert G. Bready, and Hamilton Alden Tyler. When the four men were refused help by the consul, they decided to go to Barcelona where they were captured by the Spanish officials and jailed. In the end, the four Americans were successfully evacuated from Spain with the permission of the Republican authorities. Most likely Wallach, Crane, and Abramofsky had heard about this ordeal and wanted to replicate it. As a result, they also went to the U.S. Embassy in Valencia for an appeal to return home. After the consul refused to help, the three men departed Valencia and went to Barcelona for a repatriation request. They were arrested in Barcelona and jailed in Albacete. However, unlike the case of the earlier four men , the Republican authorities were becoming stricter in their handling of deserters. In the end, Abramofsky got assassinated by the Republican official based on him threatening the unity and morale of his battalion because of his several attempts to desert even after getting captured in Barcelona. Wallach, who was also Jewish, met a similar fate. After he was re-arrested in civilian clothes around Barcelona, after his 3rd attempt to flee, Wallach was confined in the brigade prison at Castillo de Fells. In the end, Wallach was murdered brutally by Spanish Military Intelligence. Philip Crane, on the other hand, managed to return to the U.S. on October 25, 1938, aboard the Ill de France.


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