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Martin Friedman Papers

Call Number



1931-1966, inclusive
; 1937-1938, bulk


Friedman, Martin, 1914-1966


0.5 Linear Feet
(1 box)

Language of Materials

English .


Martin Friedman (1914-1966) fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and worked as a union organizer with the International Association of Machinists for over 25 years. This collection consists chiefly of weekly letters written by Friedman from Spain to his family in New York from 1937 through 1938. The collection also contains printed matter, artifacts and ephemera documenting Friedman's time in Spain and his affiliation with the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade following his return to New York.

Historical/Biographical Note

Martin Friedman was born into a working-class family in Trenton, New Jersey on November 24, 1914 to Morris and Rose Friedman. He came of age during the Depression in the Bronx, and was raised by his older sister Zelda after his mother's death. Following his graduation from a vocational high school in 1930, Friedman attended the Baron de Hirsch Trade School in New York, trained as a machinist, and found work in Pennsylvania and New York in machine shops and metal works. He became a member of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and from 1932 to 1935 was a volunteer in New York's 258th Field Artillery Unit of the United States National Guard. In February 1936, he joined the American League against War and Fascism and served as the Secretary of the Tremont Branch in the Bronx. Through his older sister Zelda and her husband Nat Baral, Friedman became active in the Communist Party and in November 1937 formally became a party member.

Motivated by anti-fascist sentiments, Friedman traveled to Spain to fight with the International Brigades to aid the Republican Army. He sailed for France in February 1937 and then made his way to Spain where he was initially assigned to an artillery unit in a French battalion, and by March was made sergeant of an American heavy artillery unit. He served in this capacity on the battlefront until the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain in October 1938. Before departing Spain he spent time in Valencia and later Barcelona before returning to New York on the Queen Maryin February 1939.

Upon his return he resumed working as a machinist, and became active with the IAM as a labor organizer and shop steward. At a Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade dance in early 1941, Friedman met, and soon after married, Anne Naginsky. The couple had twin boys, Neil and Robert. Ineligible for military service during WWII (a blow to the head during a violent strike action left his vision impaired), Friedman worked at Todd Shipyards in New Jersey. In the years following the war Friedman organized Hispanic workers at Berger Industries and initiated a successful program of English language classes. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Friedman remained an active member of the Communist Party, working as an organizer and serving as an aide to chairman William Z. Foster; but in 1956, following the revelations of Stalinist atrocities, Friedman withdrew in disillusionment from the party. Beginning in 1962, Friedman applied and was admitted to Queens College where he pursued studies in history and politics. Martin Friedman died in 1966 following a heart attack. He was 52 years old.


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

Organized into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I. Correspondence, 1937-1939; 1966.
  2. II. Subject Files, 1931-1944.

Scope and Content Note

Series I. Correspondence, 1937-1939; 1966. This series consists chiefly of letters written by Friedman from Spain to his sister Zelda, brother-in-law Nat, his father Morris, and friends Mary and Ben, who shared a Jackson Heights apartment with his family. Full of warmth and humor, Friedman's weekly letters home cover the period from his arrival in Spain in February 1937 to his demobilization in January 1939. These letters offer keenly observed accounts of the ravages of war, the quotidian existence of combat volunteers, the political and social conditions in Spain, and the beauty of the architecture and rural landscape. Also included are references to the Friedman family's fundraising activities in New York, extended commentary on the "Daily Worker," and declarations of Friedman's commitment to the Republican cause. Of particular note is a description of cooperative farming and land distribution in Catalonia (4/14/1937); a letter that details the plight of orphans and refugees (5/7/1937); and a Christmas greeting from Friedman's Spanish comrades at the front written on the back of a pre-printed International Brigade card (12/25/1937).

In addition this series includes a few letters written by fellow volunteers Arthur Goldberg (a.k.a. Gorgan) and Keith Harry Hubbard to Zelda and Nat. Goldberg served in Spain as an ambulance driver and was killed in April 1938. Hubbard, who signs his letters "Duke," served in the artillery unit with Friedman. A 1966 condolence letter from Moe Fishman, in his capacity as Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Secretary, to Friedman's widow Anne and a February 1939 (misdated 1938) telegram from Zelda received by Martin onboard the Queen Marycan also be found here.

Series II. Subject Files, 1931-1944. This series includes Friedman's carnet militairefrom Spain, his VALB membership card, and Spanish vocabulary sheets that he carried with him in Spain. Also here are Spanish political party, International Brigade and Socorro Rojo postcards; annotated copies of the International Brigade publication, The Volunteer for Liberty; and four published graphic works of Spanish Civil War-era prints and photographs. Of particular note are three 1937 pen-and-ink drawings by K. H. Hubbard satirizing life at the front and in the camps, and Friedman's well-worn International Brigade signet ring with circular inscription in Spanish reading, "International Volunteers for Liberty." [Note: This ring is physically housed with the processed artifacts from the ALBA collections. Consult staff.]

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, or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, 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.


The Martin Friedman Collection was donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in June 2004 by his son Neil Friedman and daughter-in-law Ellen Bogolub.

Separated Material

Two photographs were separated from the Martin Friedman manuscript materials in the course of processing and have been transferred to the non-print section of the ALBA collection in the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

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

ALBA collections at the Tamiment Library.

Collection processed by

Jessica Weglein, January 2005.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 13:56:07 -0500.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

FriedmanM ALBA 218.htm


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012