Biographies/Rubin "Rubin" Schneiderman

Tags: Brunete Offensive Jewish Jarama Member Of Communist Party WWII Veteran

Researcher: Adam Avnet, Stuyvesant '22

Rubin (“Ruby”) Schneiderman was born on April 21, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Rose Zuckerman and Max Schneiderman, and he was Jewish. His father immigrated from Russia, and his mother came from Romania. He had three older brothers: Harry, Louis, and Isidore, and a younger sister: Ruth. He graduated from Osing High School in New York in three years and had no further formal education. According to the Soviet archives, Schneiderman joined the Communist Party in 1932. Possibly as a result of joining the party, he decided to acquire some military training through the Citizen’s Military Training Camp at Fort Dix, New Jersey, for four weeks each summer from 1934-1936. CMTCs were military training programs held across the country each summer from 1921 to 1940. They were a legacy of “preparedness camps” created during World War I but before the US entered it, to train potential officers in the event of war. The camps taught physical fitness, discipline, and basic use of weaponry. 


Schneiderman was unmarried at the time of the Spanish Civil War and worked as a shipping clerk at a clothing store, organizing the union there. When he decided to volunteer in Spain, he applied for a passport and received passport number 364705 on February 1, 1937. In his passport, he had two addresses listed, one at 1273 Stebbins Avenue, in the Bronx, and the other at 1703 Union Street, in Brooklyn. His address in the Bronx was likely his primary residence. He left for Europe aboard the “Paris” on February 6, 1937, just five days after getting his passport. He finally arrived in Spain on February 15.


Schneiderman fought with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, in the XV Brigade, first with Company 2, Section 1, Group 2, and later with Company 1. Just twelve days after arriving in Spain, he was wounded in action at the failed attack on Pingarrón, on February 27, 1937, within the Battle of Jarama. He was soon able to recover and rejoin the fighting. He was injured again at the battle of Brunete. He then became Master Sergeant in charge of Americans at a rehabilitation center behind the front. Due to his injuries, he returned to the US on September 24, 1937, on the “DeGrasse”, ending his participation in the Spanish Civil War. 


Regarding Jewish volunteers in general, it is estimated that 38% of American volunteers in the war and 25% of all international volunteers were Jews. These are relatively large percentages considering that only 4% of the US population and less than 1% of the world was Jewish at the time. But despite the large number of Jews who fought, there has been relatively little mentioned about their impact because of the Soviet role as historians and archivists of the war. The Soviet Union’s control of much of the documentation surrounding the war and their anti-Israel stance in later years led to a minimization of the important role played by Jews in the war, especially by American and British historians. In many cases, historians emphasized the socialist beliefs that many Jews held rather than the additional factor that Judaism played for so many in their desire to fight fascism. But despite Jews being ignored internationally, in Spain, there has always been open recognition of the many Jews who came to fight. Moreover, many Jews used aliases to hide their religion, so the real number who volunteered could potentially be much higher.


After serving in the Spanish Civil War, Schneiderman got married at some point before October 16, 1940, to a woman named Dorothy. He enlisted in the US Army as a Private on May 5, 1943, soon after he turned 28 years old. Despite all of his experience from the Spanish Civil War, he would serve stateside during World War II. It is possible that like many veterans of the International Brigades, he was discriminated against during World War II because of his perceived Communist beliefs. There was no formal policy of discrimination, but many veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion complained about how they weren’t given an opportunity to fight in Europe despite their combat experience. In a letter Schneiderman sent in May of 1943 to someone named Jack, (most likely Jack Bjoze, the Executive Secretary of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade at the time), he wrote, “I got 128 on the army test and you only need 110-120 for officers school. After the test I got an [...] interview about the [Abraham Lincoln] Brigade and then they put ‘Probable leadership’ down on my papers which is promising.” But despite his qualifications, Schneiderman was sent to an M.P (military police) training center at Fort Ontario. In another letter to Jack, he told him, “I’ve had some interesting talks with my Louie [Lieutenant] and also the Public Relations and Intelligence officer here at the Post and I told them all about my Spain experience. He seemed very much interested but said I could do nothing about getting out of limited service because my eyes are 20/40 without glasses, but they can’t keep a good man down or as the saying goes, ‘talent will win out’.” In a letter from a year later, Schneiderman wrote, “I was DISQUALIFIED for overseas service on two counts, eyes and feet and between you and I, I can’t honestly say it was a surprise to me.” But he still stayed upbeat, joking, “I’ve been destined to be an M.P. ever since I stopped a fight between two 9 year old kids, 10 years ago.” The thing that stands out the most from Schneiderman’s letters is his positive attitude despite being confined to a non-combat role. Schneiderman would serve as an M.P. at various military prisons and POW camps for the duration of the war.


He was released from the army on March 11, 1946. Rubin Schneiderman died on June 11, 2001, at the age of 86, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  


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