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Milt Wolff and Moe Fishman

Mosess Fishman

Born in New York on September 28, 1915, Fishman had left school during the Depression and became a laundry worker and truck driver. He participated in unionizing his fellow workers and found a commitment to social justice issues as a member of the Young Communist League.

When the Spanish war began, he volunteered to fight, but was rejected for lack of military experience. However, his skill as a truck driver was needed and a second application for service was "accepted”with the proviso that he recruit ten other volunteers. Fishman quickly found the men, though none actually showed up. The recruiters took him anyway. He arrived in Spain in April 1937 and was shot in his left leg during his first action. During his lengthy recuperation from war injuries, Fishman stayed in touch with New York humanitarian aid organizations providing assistance for the civilian refugees of the Spanish Civil War. He eventually worked in the warehouse of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, while studying to become a licensed radio operator.

When the United States entered World War II, Fishman's skills enabled him to serve in the Merchant Marines. After his second war, Fishman continued to work with the refugee aid committee, even after it was targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for alleged subversive activities in 1946. Indeed, it was Fishman's proximity to that case that changed his life when HUAC set its sights on the VALB and President Harry Truman's Attorney General listed the group as a subversive organization in 1947 as part of the postwar anti-Communist crusade.

When Congress passed the McCarran Act in 1950, obliging all designated subversive organizations to register with the federal government and creating heavy penalties for leaders who refused to cooperate, the entire executive committee of the VALB resigned in 1950. In its place, two Lincoln veterans stepped forward: Milton Wolff became the National Commander; Moe Fishman became the Executive Secretary/Treasurer and served the organization in an executive capacity for the rest of his life.

The seemingly indestructible Moe Fishman, the public face of the Americas' Spanish Civil War Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) for more than half a century, died of pancreatic cancer on August 6, 2007 in New York. He was 92.

This is an excerpt by Peter N. Carroll.

To read the narrative in its entirety, click here.

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