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Guide to the Papers of Jacob (Jack) Shafran ALBA.215

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 Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Jessica Weglein and Beth Compa

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 11, 2017
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Shafran, Jacob Joseph (Jack)
Title: Jacob (Jack) Shafran Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1937-1938
Abstract: Jacob (Jack) Shafran (1917- ) fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain and later served in the United States Army during World War II. The collection consists chiefly of letters written to his girlfriend Ruth Goldstein during the Spanish Civil War.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: ALBA.215

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Historical/Biographical Note

Jacob Joseph (Jack) Shafran was born on December 25, 1917. His stepfather Philip was a carpenter and his mother Mary was a worker in the garment industry and an active union member. During Shafran's early childhood the family moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Union County, New Jersey, before settling on the Lower East Side of New York City. The young Shafran receive his earliest political education walking picket lines with his mother, and through his Aunt Eva, an Eastern European immigrant with strong ties to the Communist Party. He became a member of the Young Pioneers (a children's Communist Party organization), and advanced through the Young Communist League, before joining the Communist Party in 1933. After attending James Monroe High School, Shafran labored as a sheet metal worker and a carpenter, and was an organizer for the Department Store Employees Union, Local 1250. During a strike, he was arrested, convicted of assault, and sentenced to 60 days on Rikers Island.

With the outbreak of war in Spain, Shafran and ten other members of Local 1250 including Harry Fisher, Gerald (Jerry) Cook, and Norman Berkowitz volunteered to join the International Brigades to fight for the Spanish Republic. Shafran departed for Spain on the S.S. Beregariaon July 3, 1937. On his arrival he trained as a new recruit with the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion before transferring to the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. He served in Spain from July 1937 until October 1938 participating in the battles of Quinto, Belchite, Fuentos del Ebro, and the Ebro offensive. He was hospitalized on two occasions, once with typhoid late in 1937 and again in August 1938 after sustaining an injury to his hand while carrying a stretcher in the Sierra Pandols during the International Brigades' final month of combat. With the withdrawal of the International Brigades from Spain, the 21-year-old Shafran returned to New York on the S.S. Paris on December 15, 1938.

Financial assistance from the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade enabled Shafran to have reconstructive surgery on his wounded hand. (The operation was performed by plastic surgeon Dr. Arthur J. Barsky, brother of Edward Barsky who led the 15th International Brigade's medical unit in Spain). For the next year Shafran worked as chauffeur and handyman to the legendary burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. In 1941 he enlist in the United States Army, was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey and later served in Europe. He was discharged in October 1945 and found work in construction. In 1947, while attending a course at the New School, he met Mary Zunk -- a college graduate from Dearborn, Michigan, -- and soon after the couple wed. They adopted three children and settled on Long Island where Shafran established himself as a contractor. He returned to Spain for the first time in 1986, returned again in 1987 for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades, and ten years later for the 60th anniversary. In 2003, the 86-year-old Shafran traveled to the barren hills of the Sierra Pandols in the company of his grandchildren to mark the 65th anniversary of the Lincoln Brigade's final offensive.

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Scope and Content Note

Series I: Correspondence, Outgoing, contains letters written by Shafran's during the 16 months he served in Spain, from July 1937 to October 1938. His letters are addressed to his girlfriend Ruth Goldstein (an organizer and business agent for the Department Store Employees Union, Local 1250), who later married Shafran's friend and fellow Lincoln Brigade veteran Harry Fisher. Shafran chronicles his experiences in Spain beginning with his crossing of the Pyrenees and concluding with the withdrawal of the International Brigades. His letters offer insights on the training of the new recruits, and describe daily life in the brigade, at the front and in makeshift hospitals. Notable are descriptions of the aftermath of the battles of Quinto and Belchite, aerial warfare, the destruction of Barcelona, and the heavy artillery bombardment in Gandesa during August 1938. His letters also include inquiries and responses related to Ruth's work organizing for Local 1250. Also of note is a leaflet in Catalan, an International Brigade postcard, and a letter written on the back of an ammunition box.

Series II: Correspondence, Third Party, consists of four letters written to Ruth Goldstein from other Local 1250 members who were serving with the Lincoln Brigade. Also here is a joint letter written to the editors of the "1250 News" and signed by Shafran, Harry Fisher, Gerald (Jerry) Cook, Norman Berkowitz, and Irving Chocheles protesting a lack of coverage of events in Spain and China. This series also includes a letter to Harry Fisher from Anne Friedman.


Series I is arranged chronologically. Series II is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

The files are grouped into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I. Correspondence: Outgoing
  2. II. Correspondence: Third Party

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Cook, Gerald.
  • Shafran, Jacob (Jack)
  • Fisher, Harry, 1911-2003
  • Berkowitz, Norman.
  • Chocheles, Irving

Document Type

  • Correspondence.

Subject Organizations

  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion
  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Brigada Internacional, XV
  • Department Store Employees Union. Local 1250
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Subject Topics

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939.

Subject Places

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Hospitals.
  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Campaigns.
  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Participation, American.

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Administrative Information


The Jacob (Jack) Shafran Papers were given to Jack Shafran in 1993 by Harry Fisher following the death of Ruth Goldstein, Fisher’s wife. In January 2004 Jack Shafran gave the collection to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, which in turn donated the materials to the Tamiment Library at New York 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

Harry Fisher Papers, ALBA 039.

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence: Outgoing

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Outgoing Correspondence
Jul 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Outgoing Correspondence
Aug 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Outgoing Correspondence
Sep 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Outgoing Correspondence
Oct 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Outgoing Correspondence
Nov 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Outgoing Correspondence
Dec 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Outgoing Correspondence
Jan 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Outgoing Correspondence
Feb 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Outgoing Correspondence
Mar 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Outgoing Correspondence
Apr 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Outgoing Correspondence
May 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Outgoing Correspondence
Jun 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Outgoing Correspondence
Jul 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Outgoing Correspondence
Aug 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Outgoing Correspondence
Sep 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Outgoing Correspondence
Oct 1938

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Series II: Correspondence: Third Party

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 17 ?, Mitch (to Ruth Goldstein)
Sep 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Berkowitz, Norman (to Ruth Goldstein)
Aug 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Cook, Pat (Gerald) (to Ruth Goldstein)
Aug 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Entin, Bernard "Butch" (to Ruth Goldstein)
Mar 1937
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Fisher, Harry, et al. (to Department Store Employees Union Local 1250)
Jun 1938
Box: 1 Folder : 22 Friedman, Anne (to Harry Fisher)
Sep 1938

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