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Guide to the Benjamin Gardner Papers ALBA.141

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Jessica Weglein

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 09, 2017
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gardner, Benjamin, 1907-1944
Title: Benjamin Gardner Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1937-1944
Abstract: Benjamin Gardner (1907-1944) fought in the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigades and served with the United States Army during World War II. He was mortally wounded in action at Luneville, France in October 1944, and posthumously was awarded the Purple Heart. The bulk of this collection consists of transcribed copies of letters written by Gardner to his wife from Spain, 1937-1939, and over the course of his 13 months of service during WWII.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: ALBA.141

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Historical/Biographical Note

Benjamin Gardner was born in Uman, a small town outside of Odessa in the Ukraine, on September 10, 1907. Gardner's father immigrated to Duluth, Minnesota and once he established himself, sent for his wife and three sons in 1917. Sometime after their arrival, the family dropped the patronymic Poberesky, and assumed the name Gardner. The youngest of the three boys, Benjamin came of age and received his primary and secondary education in Duluth. An avid student, he reluctantly abandoned high school at age 17 and, at his father's instance, sought employment. For the next four years, he found steady work as an automobile painter. The end of his formal schooling marked the beginning of his political education. Under his brother's guidance he became a regular attendant at Young Communist League meetings and, in 1930, joined the Communist Party.

Throughout the early 30s, Gardner was a dedicated Party organizer, participating in strikes, and demonstrating on behalf of Ernst Thaelmann and the Scottboro Boys. In 1931, to call attention to the plight of unemployed and destitute laborers and farmers in Minnesota, he organized a march on the Duluth capitol for relief and assistance. In the same year, he traveled East to organize textile workers in Passaic, New Jersey. It was here he met Alice Ruth Hodes, and soon after, wed. In 1933 his work with the Party took him to Pennsylvania, where he organized unemployed anthracite miners, leading rallies and strikes. During these years, his activities resulted in numerous arrests, indictments, and brief imprisonments. His involvement in 1934 in an American League against War and Fascism protest at the German Consulate in Philadelphia led to a conviction that brought with it a stiff one-year sentence at Holmesburg Prison. This incarceration did nothing to deter his activism and, following his release, he resumed work with the Unemployed Councils, assisting tenants to resist eviction.

On June 19,1937 Gardner embarked from New York aboard the S.S. Berengaria and traveled to Spain, under the name Poberesky, to join the International Brigades to fight the rising tide of Fascism. During his service in Spain, he fought in the battles of Quinto and Belchite, attaining the rank of sergeant, before being transferred from the front to work in an administrative capacity with the Commissariat. Following the withdrawal of the International Brigades from Spain, Gardner awaited repatriation in Paris, returning to New York in March 1939 on the S.S. Roosevelt. Back in New York, he became the executive director of the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and worked with the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, raising funds for Spanish refugees.

By 1941 Gardner was working for R.C.A. and active in the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of American. He was drafted into the United States Army in September 1943, leaving Alice to care for their then nine-month-old son Steven. He was stationed at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi for six months before shipping out to Europe in the spring of 1944. Gardner was wounded in action at Luneville, France on October 2, 1944 and was taken to a hospital in Nancy. On October 3, 1944 he died of his wounds and later was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. Following the war, Gardner's remains were disinterred from the cemetery in Nancy and shipped back to the United States for burial in a veterans' cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island.

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Scope and Content Note

The letters in the following two series are typed transcriptions prepared by Alice Gardner Jacobs in 1989. [NOTE: The originals of Benjamin Gardner's Spanish Civil War correspondence are part of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade collection, BANC MSS 71/105 z, housed at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley].

Series I: Correspondence: Spanish Civil War, 1937-1939. This series consists of letters written by Gardner from France and Spain to his wife, Alice. These letters cover his sixteen months of service with the International Brigades, from his night crossing over the Pyrenees in June 1937, through his final days in Paris awaiting return to New York. He describes his military training, enemy aerial combat, the Spanish countryside, and leisure activities in the towns and villages. Of particular note is his account of the taking of prisoners at the battle of Belchite (9/8/1937), and the farewell procession through the streets of Barcelona to mark the withdrawal of International troops (11/1/1938). This series also includes a letter addressed to Alice Gardner from Political Commissar Steve Nelson praising Gardner's valor in battle and promotion to sergeant.

Series II: Correspondence: World War II, 1943-1944. This series primarily consists of letters and V-mail from Gardner to Alice written while Gardner was serving with the United States Army in World War II. They cover his months of basic training when he was stationed in Mississippi at Camp Van Dorn, and his active service in France, including his participation in the Cherbourg Campaign. In his last letters (9/25/1944 and 9/28/1944), Gardner reports on hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” at an U.S.O show and attending a packed-to-capacity synagogue for a Yom Kippur service. Also included are several letters written by Alice, who reports on the growth of their son Steven and recounts the trials of coping on the home front.

Arrangement

Folders are arranged alphabetically within each series.

The files are grouped into two series:

Missing Title

  1. I, Correspondence: Spanish Civil War, 1937-1939.
  2. II, Correspondence: World War II, 1943-1944.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Crosby, Bing, 1903-1977
  • Nelson, Steve, 1903-1993

Document Type

  • Correspondence.

Subject Organizations

  • United States. Army
  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Brigada Internacional, XV
  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Abraham Lincoln Battalion

Subject Topics

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- France.
  • World War, 1939-1945.

Subject Places

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Campaigns.
  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Participation, American.
  • Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Aerial operations.
  • Belchite (Spain) -- History -- Siege, 1937.
  • Barcelona (Spain)

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The Benjamin Gardner Papers were donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in 1990 by his wife Alice Gardner Josephs. This collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of ALBA collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

ALBA collections at the Tamiment Library.

Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade collection, BANC MSS 71/105 z. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Copies of photographs and a sketch of Gardner owned by Gardner's family can be found in the accession file.

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence: Spanish Civil War

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Jun 24, 1937-Oct 24, 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Nov 2, 1937-May 27, 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Jun 14, 1938-Feb 11, 1939
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Nelson, Steve to Alice Gardner
undated

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Series II: Correspondence: World War II

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Gardner, Alice to Ben Gardner
Dec 1943-Jan 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Sep 1943-Oct 1943
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Nov 1943-Dec 1943
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Feb 1944-Mar 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Apr 1944-May 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Jun 1944-Aug 1944
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Gardner, Ben to Alice Gardner
Sep 1944

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