Robert Steck Audio Recordings on Spanish Civil War Prisoners of War
Language of Materials
In January 1937, Robert Steck, actor and social activist, sailed to Europe to volunteer for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. He was taken prisoner by Nationalist forces in April 1938 and held for seventeen months. After serving in World War II, Steck became a history teacher and lectured widely on his experience in Spain. He was active the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) and assisted Carl Geiser, another Lincoln Brigade veteran, in a VALB research project that collected reminiscences of veterans who had been prisoners in Spain. The audiotapes in the Robert Steck Audio Recordings on Spanish Civil War Prisoners of War were conducted as part of that project, or are reports on the project.
In January 1937, Robert Steck, actor and social activist, sailed to Europe to volunteer for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. In the following months, Steck served in the International Brigades with the First Regiment de Tren, where he was elected political commissar; worked with British writer Ralph Bates, putting out the magazine Volunteer for Liberty; headed the Tarazona Base Cultural Commission, adapting his theater experience to the political and social realities of the war and creating skits performed off the back of trucks (known as "Buffoons on Trucks"); and was rifleman, runner and battalion scout for the Third Lincoln company.On April 9, 1938, during the retreat from Gandesa, Steck was captured by Italian fascists, who would have executed him were it not for Mussolini's order to exchange International Brigaders for captured fascists. Steck was first kept for two days in complete darkness at the bottom of a cistern, then transferred to the prison at San Pedro de Cardena, where he spent the following seventeen months. While in prison Steck organized an "Institute for Higher Learning" and, together with fellow-prisoners Hy Wallach and Sidney Rosenblatt, put out a handwritten newspaper, "Jaily News," illustrated by British prisoner Jimmy Moon. They made only a single copy of each issue, concealing it beneath the floorboards when it wasn't being surreptitiously circulated among the prisoners (Steck later smuggled two issues home under his clothes). It was only after the war had ended that the State Department finally negotiated the release of a group of eleven prisoners that included Steck.
After returning to the States he quickly connected with the recently-formed Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB), chairing the Committee for the Release of the International Prisoners in Spain. After serving in World War II, Steck became a history teacher. Steck remained a core member of VALB, serving twice on the Executive Board of the National Council, and chairing the Prisoner Historical Committee. From 1979 through 1986, he worked closely with veteran Carl Geiser on Geiser's book Prisoners of the Good Fight (Lawrence Hill and Co., 1986), organizing fundraising endeavors, conducting research -- including taped interviews, and traveling internationally to locate American ex-prisoners.
This collection is arranged in alphabetical order by the narrator's last name or the topic of the recording.
Scope and Content Note
The Robert Steck Audio Recordings on Spanish Civil War Prisoners of War consist of ten audio recordings of interviews conducted by Steck and others for a Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) research project to collect reminiscences of veterans who had been prisoners in Spain. The collection consists of audio recordings interviews with people who were prisoners of war during the Spanish Civil War, and two presentations by Steck on his project to collect these interviews. The project was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s and some of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open to researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-998-2630.
Identification of item, date; Robert Steck Audio Recordings on Spanish Civil War Prisoners of War; ALBA AUDIO 104; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of ALBA collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 2001.214 and 2001.078.
The Robert Steck Audio Recordings on Spanish Civil War Prisoners of War were donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at Brandeis University by Robert Steck between 1979 and 1998. The collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of ALBA collections, formerly housed at Brandeis University.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Access CDs for some audiovisual materials in the collection are available by appointment for reading room viewing and listening only. Access to other audiovisual materials in this collection is available through digitized access copies. Researchers may view an item's original container, but the media themselves are not available for playback because of preservation concerns. Materials that have already been digitized are noted in the collection's finding aid and can be requested in our reading room.
About this Guide
Decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2021 are unknown. In May 2021, cassettes were moved from audio cabinet drawers into cassette boxes. New container numbers were created and cassettes were assigned to the appropriate top containers.