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Full text of "We fought Hitler"

By 



ALBERT PRAGO 



5 cents 




VETERANS OF THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE 



7 




Lib- 

University of Tafto 
Austin 



We Fought Hitler 



Published by; 
VETERANS OF THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE 
77 Ptfth Avenue Nuw York Ci(.y 

Auirmit, 1041 



: ' 



( \ . . drive the fascists into the sea." 

"Ready! Aim! Fire!" 

In the peaceful, sun-drenched hamlet of Madrigueras in the La Mancha 
region of Spain, for the first time in my life I held, aimed, and fired an 
army rifle. For years I had fought for peace, only to find myself in 1937 
preparing for war. The inescapable logic of events had made it necessary 
that peaceful men and women take up arms to defend themselves against 
fascism — against war. The Lincoln Veterans had gone to Spain not only to 
help the Spanish people but primarily to defend America front- fascism. We 
knew that a victory for fascism in Spain meant its spread throughout Eu- 
rope and encouragement to the fifth columnists of the American nations. 

In Spain, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, part of the thousands of inter- 
national volunteers that formed the International Brigades of Republican 
Spain, solemnly swore that they would never, never stop fighting, by what- 
ever appropriate means, against Hitlcrism or any brand of fascism that 
might exist. One of our training officers, a leathery-faced Englishman who 
had seen more than twenty years of active service in two armies, said to 
us, "This war will never end, as did the first World War, around a confer- 
ence table. The fascists either will be driven into the sea or , , . ** 



8JL&29 



He could not finish, and one of our company very quietly suggested, 
*\ . . or we'll keep on fighting until we do drive all the fascists into the sea." 

Since Spain, Hitlerism has gone on to win many more battles: Czecho- 
slovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, France, Hungary, Rournania, Bulgaria, 
Greece. However, every soldier knows that to win battles alone does not 
signify ultimate victory. The forces led by General George Washington did 
not win a single important engagement until the last months of a war that 
lasted seven years. Napoleon did not lose a single battle until his retreat 
from Moscow and his utter annihilation at "Waterloo. In a futile, desperate 
effort to attain the desired goal, Hitler attacked the Union of Socialist 
Soviet Republics. 

The unprovoked attack against that powerful neutral is very real evi- 
dence that this Is a war of fascism against all peoples. The enslavement of 
the two hundred millions of peoples of the U.S.S.R. and the spoliation of its 
vast resources by the monster, Hitler, could serve as a basis for the en- 
slavement of the world. The recently concluded Soviet-British pact of 
mutual assistance reveals the main aim of the Allies to be the preservation of 
national independence and of human dignity from Nazi conquest and bar- 
barism. 

Now, today, is the time for all anti-fascists to seize the opportunity 
to defeat the modern vandals, to drive the Hitlers, Mussolini?, Francos, 
Petains, Hoovers and Coughlins into the sea. 



Morale And Armaments 

More important than anything else to people defending their lives, 
much more important than weapons — is morale. Today the military experts 
are "surprised* at the strong morale of the Red Army despite the terrific 
Hitlerian blitz. In Spain an unprepared people were able to fight on for 
thirty-two months because they knew what they were fighting "for. It 
should have been no surprise to anyone who realized that the Soviet peoples, 
too T know for what they are fighting. Lieutenant Commander Seely of the 
U. S^ Navy (Retired) in the July issue of the service publication "Navy 
News" put it succinctly in writing that he believes "that the Russian people 
are united to defend themselves against fascism as no great nation has ever 




been united to defend itself against anything , , . against this unity <>l 
purpose it is inconceivable that Hitler and his allies can overcome Russia's 
might." It is the explanation, too, for the splendid spirit evidenced by the 
brave British people whose morale has not been shaken despite months and 
months of the most destructive bombings. 

The great confidence which the Lincoln Veterans invest in the Soviet 
Army was built through our experience in fighting alongside a people who 
fought bravely because they had something to fight for; it was built also 
through our experience in using Soviet weapons and tactics. The great ma- 
jority of all the weapons used in Spain was Soviet manufactured. Stamped 
on that rifle I used was the mark "U.S.S.R- 193 6.'* We tested the superior 
quality of the Soviet heavy Maxim-type machine gun in action. The simpli- 
city of its mechanism (any soldier can learn in a day's time how to field 
strip it; any trained machine gunner can strip it completely within 100 
seconds) in no way detracts from its quality; I have seen its deadly hail o£ 
600 bullets per minute mowing down wave after wave of attacking enemy 
infantry • The members of the Tom Mooney machine gun company can tell 
you of their respect and admiration for this machine gun; in one of the 
daily battles at Jarama it was a Soviet gun that saved the day after all others 
had jammed or gone haywire. 

The Soviet anti-tank gun, of which we arc reading so much these past 
few weeks, likewise a marvel of simplicity, is a marvel of accuracy and de- 
pendability. It can be fired with the highest degree of accuracy and effect- 
iveness on an almost flat trajectory for about three kilometers and has a 
maximum range of about seven kilometers. It can be fired with such rapid- 
ity that during a particularly dangerous moment during the Aragon retreats 
one anti-tank gun was put to the unusual use of dispersing a heavy enemy 
cavalry attack I 

The quality of the Soviet planes was proved in Spain to the amazement 
of the 'experts* and to the joy of the Spanish people. For days on end Madrid 
had been bombed incessantly. But one day the famous Chatos (snub-nosed 
monoplanes that have been described as being "a pair of wings and several 
machine guns") and the equally famous pursuit planes called the Moscas 
( "Flies'*) appeared over the Madrid skies, While the Madrilenos cheered 
themselves hoarse and danced through the streets, the newly-trained Spanish 
pilots chased off all the enemy planes. They appeared in later days only in 




overwhelmingly superior numbers. The fascist enemy did not dare meet the 
Soviet planes in the air unless they out-numbered them by as least four to 

one — and then they were hard put to it. 

The Loyalists benefited also in learning tactics from Red Army officers. 
The recrossing of the Ebro by the International Brigades and the Spanish 
Republican Army has been described in all military journals as one of the 
most brilliant exploits in all military history, The splendidly coordinated ac- 
tion of only four battalions of men of the 1 5th Brigade (a Spanish, the 
English, the Canadian, and the Abraham Lincoln Battalions) enabled us in 
half a day's fighting to seize some strongly fortified hills outside Segura de 
los Banos with a very minimum of casualties. 

The effectiveness of guerrilla activities in Spain was enhanced by the 
instruction of Soviet officers. Captain William Aalto and Lieutenant Irving 
Goff, two Americans who still live to tell the tale, were guerrillas for almost 
two years and the knowledge of their deeds resounded on every Spaniard's 
tongue. 

Several Soviet advisers were attached to each guerrilla outfit from the 
very first days of the organization of those groups. The training afforded 
these picked men, in the guerrilla schools and through months of practice, 
had its permanent effect as manifested by the guerrillas operating today in 
Asturias, Galicia, Extremadura, Andalucia, Aragon, and Catalonia. 

The excellent quality of Soviet material is a known factor to us. Several 
weeks of the bloodiest battles on the Eastern front is proving to millions 
what we learned from first-hand experience, to the discomfiture of Herr 
Lindbergh and other military 'experts.' Today the Red Army is reproving 
to the world, as we did at Guadalajara, Brunete, Jarama, Belchite, Quinto, 
Segura de los Banos, the Ebro, and other great battles in Spain, that the 
Nazis arc not invincible. 



All-Out Aid To Great Britain, Soviet Union 

"Letting George do it" has never been an essential characteristic of che 
American people. That the hope and faith of millions rest on the Red Army 
in no way will aid its soldiers or those of Great Britain to achieve a military 
defeat over Hitler one whit sooner. The Lincoln Veterans were not content 




to sit as interested spectators in 193 6-3 9 and we do not propose to do 
so now. 

For this is everyone's fight. And it cannot be a successful one by ol In 
ing as a sacrifice one army after another or by splitting into a dozen isolated 
energies what should be a tremendous international united anti-fascist front 

with one common aim — the military defeat of Hitler. 

This is not the time for hair-splitting debates, for arm-chair philosophy, 
for after-dinner speculations, for "I told you so" recriminations. It is in the 
realm of actuality, not theory, to speak of the enslavement of tens o£ mil- 
lions of Europeans. Americans cannot accept casually the colossal, almost 
unbelievable fact, confronting us like a never-ending horrible nightmare, 
that more than two million lives have already been lost, within a very few 
weeks, on the Eastern front. 

Let us ponder that fact very soberly. Two million youths slaughtered 
in a few weeks! W recked lives of millions of parents, wives, sweethearts, 
children! Two million youths I This should not be considered only as a big 
number. Fifteen hundred of our comrades lie buried in Spanish soil. To us 
us they are not numbers but living voices, men with whom we joked, ate, 
slept. They were sons, brothers, fathers, husbands; Dave Doran, Milt Hcrn- 
don, Joe Streisand, Dave Reiss, Joe Stone, Malcolm Chisolm, Gene Bron- 
stein, Paul Block, 'Butch' Entin and all the others — they were our comrades, 
fifteen hundred of them whom we knew and loved. And now in England 
and in the Soviet Union, and in Germany and in the occupied regions, men 
and women whom we don't know as well but whose deaths we feel as keenly 
are being slaughtered by the mechanized forces unleashed by a maniac and 
his confreres who would rule the world, 

Is this a localised battle as certain people said of Spain? Is this a crusade 
against Communism as certain people said of Spain? Those people who may 
have been fooled a few years ago must surely have their eyes open now. As 
in the instance of Spain, the defense of Great Britain and of the Soviet 
Union is the defense of all progressive mankind. 

Until June 22nd, the U.S.S.R. constituted a six thousand mile bulwark 
against any territorial encroachment of the U, S, A. by the Nazis. A 
successful Nazi conquest of that vast region, coupled with the exploitation 
of its limitless resources, would place the Nazis within very practical strik- 



ing distance of the American continent. Even before territorial invasion 
would come a terrible wave of fascist terror unleashed by our native reac- 
tionaries — our native fascists, and by the Nazi agents already in every 
country o£ this continent. Ersatz instead of bread; forced labor; trade unions 
smashed; Jews destroyed en masse; the Negro people trampled underfoot 
worse than anything comparable in the slave days; frightful persecution of 
the foreign born and of every minority people; government of, by and for 
the people only an historical memory— the unspeakable horrors of fascist 
dictatorship would be visited upon the whole American continent. 

The British people, as Churchill so clearly enunciated* know full well 
that invasion of Britain would follow a Nazi success over the U.S.S.R. It 
is not too difficult to visualize also an invasion of America under such cir- 
cumstances* To say that to defend Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. is to de- 
fend the U.S.A. is no figurative statement; it is based on cold facts. 

Those who would lend aid only to Great Britain and not also to the 
Soviet peoples are engaging in the most dangerous of splitting maneuvres. 
Great Britain's mutual defense pact with the Soviet Union and the pledges 
recently made by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill is 
trenchant evidence that talk of aiding one and not the other is only an at- 
tempt to divide the unity of all peoples who are willing to fight against 
Hitlerism. The defense of both means the defense of America. 

We, like most Americans, are in complete accord with President Roose- 
velt's promises of aid to the Soviet Union. Wc ask only that the American 
people see to it that the promise be translated quickly into deeds. 

We Lincoln Veterans have the utmost confidence in the ultimate vic- 
tory of the Allies, But not for one moment do we underestimate the strength 
of the Nazi Army. The Soviets and Great Britain cannot win an easy victory. 
Every month, every day of delay permits the Munichmen to nurse their 
contemptible double-crossing schemes. Every month, every day of delay 
means additional frightful cost of Jives and cities laid waste. Hitlerism must 
be destroyed, not eventually, but as quickly as possible. The great suffering 
now being visited upon all the peoples of Europe and Asia must be ended as 
quickly as possible. Peace must come to Europe and to China and Japan 
as quickly as possible. To effect this, aid, all-out aid in every conceivable 
form must be extended to Great Britain and above all to the U.S.S.R. whose 
soil constitutes the principal battleground against fascism, 

8 



To this end, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade pledge all 
their resources, We went to Spain to defend America and we stand ready, if 
need be, to march again. 



Fifth Columnism — fn Spain and America 

The period of the epoch-making American Revolutionary War saw its 
Benedict Arnolds and Tories; Jeffersonian Democracy during the War of 
1812 was faced with the treachery of the Federalists, who, like the Tories, 
remain only as historical blots on the glorious records of diose progressives 
like Franklin and Jefferson whose ideals still live. 

Today, in the universal struggle against fascism, we are confronted by 
the Quislings. We warn the American people against ex-Col. Charles A* 
Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover, Senator Wheeler, Norman Thomas and their 
like for they are the Quislings of America. As did Quisling in Norway, and 
Laval and Pctain in France, the Lindbergh-Hoover outfit would bring Hit- 
lerism to America. It is for that reason that they are so vehemently opposed 
to aid to England and the U.S.S.R. Did not the Nazi-decorated aviator him- 
self recently declare that he would rather see Hitler win! Lindbergh is not 
interested in defending Britain or the U-S.S.R. precisely because he is not 
interested in defending America against Hitlerism. 

Good generalship in this campaign to defend America demands that 
the main blow be aimed at the appeasers, the Munichmen, the Quislings of 
America — at the Lindbergh-Hoover-Thomas America First Committee. 
(America First After the Nazis!) 

The wonderful La Pasionaria, the heroine loved by all Spain, said, 
"Fascism is brave when the democracies are cowardly." Yes, the Quislings, 
the Lindberghs, the despicable Munichmen plotted the sell-out of Spain 
while Barcelona was in flames, and plot the sell-out of their own countries 
while Coventry, London, Leningrad and Moscow are bombed. Fortunately 
the U.S.S.R. cleaned out its fifth columnists and became immeasurably 
strengthened thereby; the execution of the Tukhachcvskys and Bukharinites 
and Trotskyites was the Soviets* measure of strength, not weakness. 

Wc have seen the bombings of cities in Spain. For three days in March 
the fascist swine poured ton upon ton of high explosive and incendiary 



bombs on defenseless Barcelona, We saw the corpses o£ women and children 
by the hundreds. They were the targets of the deadly Capronis and Junkers 
whose pilots in this way demonstrated their "defense of Christianity against 
Bolshevism." March 16th, 17th, 18th, 1938— Barcelona— 28,000 casualties. 
A gnarled old peasant, supporting on his knees the head of his dead son, in 
a voice full of emotion and hatred, cried out to the Junkers overhead, "La 
culpa cs de Chamberlain" (It is Chamberlain's fault.) 

While this was going on, while the Spanish people fought with their hands 
against the tanks and planes of the fascist enemy, the Munichmen said that 
the war in Spain was a "private feud" of the Spaniards. When the Spanish 
envoys made their final desperate pleas before the League of Nations, the 
Cliveden set, the Petains and Lavals, the Hoovers and Lindberghs shrugged 
their shoulders in complete indifference, and behind our backs dickered with 
Hitler and Mussolini on how best to sell out Republican Spain. Only now 
are the American people realizing that that war was not a private feud and 
that while the Spaniards fought for national independence, the Lincoln 
Battalion was fighting to defend America and the International Volunteers 
constituted an international front against Hitlcrism, 

The traitor General Mola said that he would launch "'four columns" 
against Madrid, but that only the "fifth column" would begin the offensive. 
The people of Spain, ready to make any sacrifice, withstood the onslaught of 
the external enemy, the four columns, We saw the dauntless Asturian 
f dinamiteros, 3 with nothing but lit cigars clenched between their teeth and 
sticks of fused dynamite in their hands, fearlessly meet the savage onrush of 
Italian tanks before Madrid; we have fought side by side with the Spanish 
peasants whose matchless courage calls forth the admiration of everyone. But 
it was the fifth column of Casados, Besteiros, Nins and Munichmen who 
sold Spain out. Casado, in the same way that Lindbergh promises the Amer- 
icans, promised peace to the Spanish people, an end to the horrors of war, 
an end to the killing of Spanish sons and husbands and children. Peace? 
From the hour Casado and Bestciro handed Madrid over to the fascists on 
that unforgettable day in March, 1933, the Spanish people have known only 
death and destruction. Since that day more than five hundred thousand 
Spaniards have been butchered by Franco, and more than two million suffer 
the hell of concentration camps and forced labor gangs. Against the fifth 
column in America — the Lindberghs, and all those who oppose effective aid 



to all the peoples embattled against Fascism — against these internal envmhs 
the American people must hunch their offensive. 



Democratize The Army 

The Lincoln Veterans did not stop fighting fascism on leaving Spain. 
We did not and do not forget those Internationals who still arc in Spanish, 
French and African concentration camps, tortured but not broken. Among 
other activities, picket lines and demonstrations before the Vichy and Franco 
consulates netted us the praise of Americans and arrests by city govern- 
ments. National Commander Milton Wolff was arrested for picketing the 
French Consulate and demanding the cessation of the barbaric tortures 
against the anti-fascist International Volunteers in the concentration camps. 
Ramon Durcm, for his sturdy fight against the fascist-like Yorty Commit- 
tee of California, the counterpart of New York's Rapp-Coudcrt Committee, 
was imprisoned and was recently released only through the pressure exacted 
by hundreds of thousands of trade unionists and progressive Californians. 
Pennsylvania jails house several more Lincoln Veterans who were guilty 
(sic!) of soliciting signatures to a nominating petition of the Communist 
Party, One of the greatest anti-fascist fighters, one whom we are proud to 
have inducted as an honorary member of our Brigade, Earl Browder, is 
serving an outrageously severe prison sentence on the flimsiest of charges. 
We have made him an honorary member because he was foremost in helping 
to build the people's unity during the Spanish struggle; and we take part in 
the campaign to secure his immediate freedom because we know that Earl 
Browder can effect even greater services now in building the anti-fascist 
unity of all the American people. 

We warn the American people against thu traitors in the highest ranks 
of the American Army. To ensure a genuine fight against Hitlerism, we 
demand the ousting of those officers who arc fascist-minded; we demand 
the democratization of the Army- Wipe out the disgraceful stigma of Jim- 
Crow in the Army! What a travesty on the concept of democracy to segre- 
gate one anti-fascist soldier from another because of the color of his skin! 
Open up the ranks of the officers to all who qualify through merit and 
merit alone! Admit to the officer training schools all who qualify rcgardlcsM 
of race, creed, color or social origin! 

11 




The Spanish Republican Army was a genuine people's army. Just as 
the Government had extended, during the war, democratic rights in every 
form to all the people* so was the army democratized, Humble origin or 
previous station in life was no barrier to attaining rank. The names of Lister 
(the stone-cutter), Campcsino the farmer), Modesto (the carpenter) are 
known to everyone. And in our own brigade, Johnny Gates* who began 
as a private on the Cordoba front consistently rose in rank so that at the 
age of twenty-four he was a Lieutenant Colonel, highest ranking officer of 
the Lincolns, Milt Wolff* through the courage and clear-headedness he dis- 
played through a half dozen gruelling campaigns from Brunctc on, became 
a Major, Commander of the Lincoln-Washington Battalion. A Negro, Oliver 
Law, killed in action, was a Battalion Commander; Aaron Johnson, Walter 
Garland and other Negroes became high ranking officers. The Negro was 
treated on an absolute level of equality in that people's army. 

One of the most significant acts of the Government in democratizing 
the army was the establishment of the milicia de cultura (cultural militia.) 
Think of it! In time o£ war, at the very moment when all of Spain was 
engaged in a life and death struggle with the most ruthless of enemies, an 
army of cultural militamen set about educating the peasant and workingman 
in uniform. The campaign to eradicate illiteracy (although this campaign 
was not limited to the teaching of reading and writing but included other 
subjects such as geography, arithmetic* political economy, etc.) went on 
not only in training camps but in the very front linesl I recall very vividly 
the young Spanish soldier who, on concluding the literacy course and find- 
ing himself able to read the newspapers, exclaimed aloud, "Now I am a 
man! Now I know how to read and write! With lesson book in one hand 
and rifle in the other, as though I were mounting guard over my right to 
education, I shall smash the fascist invaders of my land." 

As a direct consequence of the democratization of the Spanish Army, 
the morale of the men, of the International Volunteers, was so great and 
the Army was so strengthened thereby that Republican Spain was able to 
fight against the overwhelming odds of the "Unholy Three" for almost three 
years. And the morale that was built so firmly then still is not crushed, 
evidenced by the guerrilla warfare that goes on to this day against the hated 
butcher Franco- 
Guerrilla warfare requires a high degree of political awareness of the par- 

12 



uorary 

University of Tews 

Austin 

ticipants. It means that the Government must have the utmost confident I 
in the people before giving them arms. The Spanish people had the morale, 
the courage, and warranted that confidence; the fascists couldn't possibly 
have utilized guerrilla tactics. The Chinese people today have that morale, 
And the Soviet peoples arc making guerrilla warfare so effective at this very 
writing exactly because they have the morale, the willingness to die on their 
feet rather than live on their knees. The lesson for the American people in 
this respect is quite plain, 



Not Sympathy But Action 

The cause of Spain, it was said, was "the cause of all progressive man- 
kind. The Soviet Union, alone of all the great nations, realized that and gave 
not only military but political and economic aid to the young Spanish Re- 
public. Tn the League of Nations Spain had at least one strong voice con- 
sistently raised in her behalf. The people of the Soviet Union and its Gov- 
ernment contributed tons and tons of clothing, medicinal supplies and food 
to Spain. The people of Spain knew that it was the U.S.S.R. which was their 
only friend among all the great powers, and voiced its appreciation in many 
dramatic ways. Every tall member of the International Brigades, if not 
sometimes considered as *' Americano," was affectionately called "Ruso"; 
against protestations and denials the Spaniard would nod slyly and say, 
"Bneno; ya entiendo, Eres Mejicano.*' (All right; now I understand. You 
are a Mexican!) When the Soviet motorship "Komsomol," loaded with food, 
steamed into the Barcelona harbor, T think every man, women and child was 
down on the docks to greet ner and her sailors, A tremendously enthusiastic, 
spontaneous demonstration, paralleling only the most popular of Fiestas, 
swept the entire city for trie several days that the Komsomol stayed in port. 
When months later it was announced that the Komsomol had been sunk 
by an Italian submarine, the multitudes, grief-stricken, wept publicly. 

The cause of Spain was the cause of all progressive mankind. Not 
everyone realized that then. Much that was muddled for some people then, 
is quite apparent today. The great majority of the British people are realiz- 
ing, and the great majority of the American people must come to realize, 
and very quickly too, that the defense of the U.S.S.R. and of Great Britain 
is the cause of all progressive mankind. 



M 



The hearts of millions of Americans quickened in sympathy with the 
three thousand American youths who fought in Spain. That sympathy did 
not lift the criminal embargo against Spain. Such an embargo must not be 
repeated. Lease-Lend provisions must be extended to the Soviet Union and 
in general more aid should be sent more quickly to the Allies. 

What is called for now is not sympathy but action. In 1936 and 193 7 
International Brigades of thousands o£ men from more than thirty nations 
constituted the token of universal solidarity with the cause of Spain. Now 
in 1941, one hundred and thirty millions of Americans must form a nation- 
wide front, in alliance with all the peoples embattled against fascism, to take 
decisive, immediate action so that "Government of the people, by the people 
and for the people shall not perish from the earth." 



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I 4 




Al Prago, the author of this pamphlet, put his fjnger on i. 
when he wrote, "What is called for now is not sympathy but 
action," The seriously wounded men of our Brigade, the men re- 
leased from the concentration camps of France and Spain — these 
men who still are in hospitals, who still are under medical care — 
ask not for sympathy but action. They ask for the opportu- 
nity to get back into the anti-Nazi fight in this most crucial period. 

Cort Bevinse, although still using crutches, found his place 
on a picket line before the Vichy Consulate. Soon Cort's smashed 
ankle will be operated upon for the ninth time. Only a short time 
ago the infection in Norman Perlman's leg necessitated ampu- 
tation below the knee. Morris Dash is about to reenter the hos- 
pital to undergo an extremely serious hip operation which will 
confine him in a cast for about one year. 

These are but a few of many cases we might cite of men 
whose anti-fascist courage and spirit have not been dampened 
by physical hurt and who are anxious to bring their rich experi- 
ences to the American people. 

Help rehabilitate the men who were among the first Ameri- 
cans to fight Hitler. Contribute your bit so that these men, who 
have undergone years of untold suffering, will be enabled to re- 
turn quickly to the anti-fascist ranks. 

Salud, 

Irving Fajans, Executive Secretary 



Please send your money order or check to: 




Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade 




77 Fifth Avenue 




New York City 


!^^2S4