Miriam Sigel Friedlander Papers
Language of Materials
The Miriam Sigel Friedlander Papers consist of letters written by three individuals who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War. Ernest Arion, Harold Malofsky (Melofsky) and Miriam's brother, Paul Sigel were acquaintances in New York City before traveling to Spain in 1937. Arion and Malofsky were involved in cultural and political activities with the International Workers Order and Sigel was politically active while studying Engineering at New York University. All three wrote detailed letters to Miriam Sigel (later Friedlander) about their travels to Spain, their social activities and military duties, and their experiences fighting in the battles of the Spanish Civil War.
Miriam Sigel was born in Pittsburgh in 1914 to David Sigel and Hannah Lipman. She graduated from New York University in 1935 with a bachelor's degree in education and in 1939 married Mark Friedlander. The couple had a son whom they named Paul, in memory of her brother who died in Spain fighting with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Friedlander forged a career in community politics and between 1973 and 1991 served as city councilwoman for New York's 2nd Council District (Lower East Side).
During the Spanish Civil War Friedlander received letters from her brother Paul, and their mutual friends Ernest Arion, and Harold Malofsky. The three men were acquaintances in New York City before traveling to Spain in 1937. They were all killed in action.
Ernest Arion grew up in the Midwest. He lived in New York in the early 1930s where he was a member of the Young Communist League and was involved in an International Workers Order theater group called the Convulsionaries. In Spain, Arion fought with the Washington Battalion and continued to perform, providing entertainment to troops and the inhabitants of towns that hosted Loyalist training camps. Arion was a Group Leader before he was killed on July 9, 1937.
Harold Malofsky (Melofsky) was a composer, playwright, and comedian. Before he joined the International Brigades, Malofsky lived in New York and was active in the Youth Section of the International Workers Order. Malofsky wrote politically conscious songs and skits and performed with the International Workers Order youth theater group, the Convulsionaries, at meetings and events. In Spain, Malofsky wrote songs for the International Brigades. Malofsky fought at Brunete and Belchite, where he was killed in action on September 5, 1937.
As a student at New York University in the 1930s, Paul Sigel was active in progressive political activities. When he graduated with a degree in engineering in June 1937, he joined the International Brigades and went to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Sigel worked as an engineer for the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion, laying and checking communication wires. He was killed at Fuentes del Ebro in the summer of 1938.
Miriam Sigel married and became Miriam Friedlander. She was active in community politics for many years, most notably as a city councilor for New York's 2nd Council District (Lower East Side) between 1973 and 1991.
Folders are arranged alphabetically.
The files are grouped into two series:
- I, Correspondence, 1937.
- II, Subject Files, 1937-1939.
Scope and Content Note
Series I, Correspondence, 1937, consists of correspondence written by Ernest Arion, Harold Malofsky, and Paul Sigel.
Ernest Arion's letters to Miriam Sigel describe his trip across the Atlantic, his time in Paris before traveling to Spain, performing for troops and townspeople in Spain, and his military duties. These letters convey Arion's sense of hope and optimism about the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War.
Harold Malofsky wrote long, detailed letters. His letters to Julius Blickstein and Miriam Sigel describe the Spanish landscape and the political climate among International Brigaders. Malofsky vividly describes his experiences fighting in the Battle of Brunete and an invigorating weekend vacation in Madrid.
Paul Sigel wrote home to his sister Miriam and mother frequently during his first months in Spain. His letters describe his experiences traveling over the Atlantic, his time in Paris, and getting acquainted with Spain. Sigel's letters contain descriptions of nature and stories about the people he met in Spain; they convey a deep sense of political justice.
Series II, Subject Files, 1937-1939, contains three Spanish Civil War leaflets written in Spanish, an obituary and announcements of memorial services for Harold Malofsky, hand-written sheet music by Harold Malofsky for the "Song of the International Brigades," and two copies of the International Brigades periodical Our Fight-- one annotated by Harold Malofsky and containing an obituary he wrote for Ernest Arion, and one annotated by Paul Sigel.
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Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
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The Miriam Sigel Friedlander Papers were donated to Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in 1992 by Miriam Friedlander. This collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of ALBA collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.
Photographs from the Miriam Sigel Friedlander Papers have been transferred to the non-print section of the ALBA collection in the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.