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Spanish Refugee Aid Records

Call Number



1941-2006, inclusive
; 1953-1983, bulk


Spanish Refugee Aid (Organization)
Carvey, Robert (Role: Donor)
Solé , Felip, 1948- (Role: Donor)


119.5 Linear Feet


(197 boxes)

Language of Materials

English .


Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA) was founded in 1953 to assist refugees of the Spanish Civil War who were then residing in France. Nancy Macdonald (1910-1996) was the leading figure in the founding of Spanish Refugee Aid and remained at the organization's helm until her retirement in 1983. SRA maintained an office in New York City and coordinated aid efforts in France from Paris, Toulouse and Montauban. Between 1953 and 2006 when SRA, by then a program of the International Rescue Committee, was dissolved, over 5,500 refugees received aid from SRA. The collection includes case files, photographs, and office records consisting of correspondence, administrative files, financial records and clippings. The case files of the Spanish refugees are a rich source of demographic data. Many of the case files also have corresponding photographs. The voluminous correspondence files for both the New York and Toulouse offices highlight the concern of those working in SRA for the needs of the individual refugees, and reveal the contacts and working relationships SRA developed with other aid organizations, political groups and individuals to assist the refugees. Records documenting aid distribution are also extensive. Although the needs of the Spanish refugees were always paramount, the correspondence in the SRA records also reflects the political allegiances of those involved with SRA (as staff, as contacts and as recipients of aid) and of Nancy Macdonald in particular. The SRA records, therefore, provide extensive information not only on Spanish refugees residing in France following the Spanish Civil War, but also on left-wing politics in the United States and Europe from the World War II era through the 1980s.

Historical/Biographical Note

Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA) was founded in 1953 to assist refugees of the Spanish Civil War who were then residing in France. Nancy Macdonald (1910-1996) was the leading figure in the founding of Spanish Refugee Aid and remained at the organization's helm until her retirement in 1983. SRA maintained an office in New York City and coordinated aid efforts in France from Paris, Toulouse and Montauban. Between 1953 and 2006 when SRA, by then a program of the International Rescue Committee, was dissolved, over 5,500 refugees received aid from SRA.

With the defeat of Spain's Republican Army at the hands of Generalisimo Francisco Franco in 1939, five hundred thousand Spanish citizens, often with no more than the clothes on their backs, fled over the Pyrenees to seek asylum in France, which received more Spanish exiles than any other country. Upon arrival in France, most of the refugees were interned at St. Cyprien, Argeles-sur-Mer, Gurs, Barcares, Vernet d'Ariege and other overcrowded camps with few facilities. While a portion of the refugees returned to Spain, in spite of reprisals against Loyalists, and some were transferred to other countries, at least 350,000 refugees remained in France as 1939 drew to a close. As the Second World War loomed the situation of the interned refugees, already precarious, worsened. Tens of thousands of Spaniards were conscripted as laborers in the Groupement de Travailleurs Etrangers, and many were captured at Maginot when the Germans entered France. During the war some refugees joined the French resistance, including General de Gaulle's Free French army, while others joined the French Foreign Legion, most pledging loyalty to the Allies during the North African campaign. Thousands were sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp (where most died), and thousands more were put to work for the Organisation Todtin Nazi-occupied France. In all, an estimated forty-eight thousand Spaniards were sent to Germany -- to labor camps, to work in German industries, or as political prisoners in concentration camps -- and approximately a third died there.

After the war, the surviving Spaniards still in France were given the status of political refugees, and a majority eventually assimilated into the French workforce. The oldest and youngest refugees, as well as those disabled by disease, infirmity, or physical or mental trauma, however, were impoverished and ineligible to receive pensions from their work and military service in Spain. Of the approximately two hundred thousand Spanish refugees in France at the end of World War II, at least ten percent needed some form of assistance. Spanish Refugee Aid (SRA) was founded in 1953 to assist those refugees of the Spanish Civil War who still struggled in France long after the war had ended. Nancy Macdonald (1910-1996), the leading figure in establishing SRA, remained at the organization's helm until her retirement in 1983.

Nancy Gardiner Rodman Macdonald was born into an affluent New York City family. After some years in the care of a Swiss governess, she attended the private Brearley School. A family trust fund long provided her with a financial safety net. Inherited along with the family's trappings of wealth and privilege, however, was the notion that charitable work was mandatory. Macdonald's maternal grandmother, Sarah Van Nostrand Marvin, who volunteered for over thirty years at the Henry Street Settlement House, set a pattern of hands-on philanthropy that would be followed through the generations. Even as a child, Macdonald was expected to assist those less fortunate than herself, by "adopting" orphans of World War I, or by visiting the poorer parishioners of Madison Avenue Presbyterian, her family's church.

In 1934 Nancy Rodman, by then a graduate of Vassar College, married Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982), a graduate of Yale and writer for Fortune Magazine. They would have two children, Michael born in 1938 and Nicholas in 1944, before divorcing in the early 1950s. Although the mores of her day often kept married women and mothers from working outside the home, Nancy Macdonald maintained a career and was active in committee work. Indeed work, politics and committee obligations were a family affair in the Macdonald household.

Already favoring a libertarian orientation and dedicated to social causes, Nancy Macdonald became increasingly politicized throughout the 1930s. In New York, she attended meetings for a variety of Popular Front causes, often accompanied by Dwight, whose nascent critical and political philosophy developed more concrete form during this period. When Dwight Macdonald left Fortune Magazinein 1937 to become an editor of the Partisan Review( PR), an independent political and literary magazine, Nancy Macdonald became the business manager of PR. The couple joined the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group with an anti-war stance, in 1939, and then joined with the minority faction that split off to form the Workers Party in 1940. Nancy Macdonald served as executive secretary of the group's Committee of Emergency Aid to Refugees, her first foray into organized refugee aid. When both Macdonalds left the Workers Party in 1941, Nancy took the refugee committee with her. She was also active in PR's Fund for European Writers and Artists in the early 1940s and ran its operation out of her home. In 1943 she added the Lynn Committee to Abolish Segregation in the Armed Forces to her roster of committee work.

In 1944 Nancy again followed Dwight when he founded the journal Politics, once again in the position of business manager. Politicsserved as Dwight Macdonald's vehicle for independent expression of his idiosyncratic political views, as well as those of a close circle of writers and intellectuals who contributed to the magazine. As World War II ended, Politics' European writers and contacts told the Macdonalds of refugees across Europe in need of money, food, clothing, and medicine. In response, the Macdonalds organized Politics' Packages Abroad (PPA). Much like the relief committee they had established at PR, PPA sent packages of food and clothing, provided limited financial aid, and lent moral support to a handful of refugees, mainly anarchist and socialist activists as well as like-minded writers and intellectuals, throughout Europe. Among the recipients of aid from PPA were many Spanish refugees.

Nancy Macdonald's first contact with Spanish refugees began with her involvement in PPA, but she had long been interested in Spain and the plight of those who fled Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil War. During the Civil War Macdonald, like any self-respecting leftist of the time, attended rallies in support of the Spanish Loyalists and took an avid interest in their cause. Macdonald's interest in Spain, however, preceded the political upheavals. She had made several lengthy trips to Spain before the outbreak of Civil War, having visited the country first in 1932 after her graduation from Vassar, and again the following year on a trip to Europe with her mother. Finally, she and Dwight Macdonald had visited Spain in 1935.

When Dwight Macdonald's journal, Politics, unraveled in 1951--and with it PPA--Nancy Macdonald took a position with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where she continued the refugee aid work she had initiated more than a decade before as a member of the Workers Party. While at the IRC she began to focus specifically on Spanish refugees, even as the IRC turned its attention increasingly to refugees from Eastern Europe. Within a year, due to lack of funding, Macdonald lost her job with the IRC, but somehow she could not give up on the Spanish refugees. In the summer of 1952 she made a four-month-long exploratory trip to Europe to meet Spanish refugees and to assess their needs. She also began a lengthy correspondence with domestic and international contacts to discuss the feasibility of forming a committee solely to assist Spanish refugees living in France. She returned from Europe with 101 IRC case files and immediately began to organize a committee.

The timing was right for the founding of SRA. The Macdonalds' marriage had ended, the Spanish refugees were competing with a host of causes and refugee groups for the world's attention, and Nancy Macdonald was out of a job. Macdonald's heritage of philanthropy, her experience with committee work, her contacts in activist and political circles, her interest in Spain, combined with her compassion and willingness to do what ever needed to be done to complete a task, all converged in the creation of Spanish Refugee Aid.

By January of 1953, SRA was incorporated to: "improve the health and social conditions and alleviate the human suffering and distress of Spanish non-communist refugees presently residing in France by their physical and mental betterment, by the development of plans for their education and establishment of centers for social services…" SRA's certificate of incorporation was signed by James T. Farrell, Mary McCarthy, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Norman Thomas and George Shuster. Many of SRA's earliest supporters, including McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, and Albert Camus, were American and European intellectuals and writers well known to the Macdonalds through their work with Politicsand other political engagements. The novelist James T. Farrell, for example, had also served as honorary chairman of the Workers Party refugee committee that Nancy McDonald had organized. SRA's office, at 45 Astor Place, was in the same building where Partisan Review, Politics, and PPA had also operated.

Within six months after its incorporation, SRA had case files on 561 refugee families or individuals and had raised over seven thousand dollars for their aid. Over the next few decades SRA handled the cases of over 5,500 Spanish refugees through its New York office and French offices in Paris, Montauban and Toulouse. Along with aid in the form of food, clothing and cash allowances, SRA arranged medical and dental care, and supplied refugees with sewing machines, typewriters, tools and radios. SRA established scholarship funds, acted as a clearinghouse to provide refugees with information and connections to other aid or governmental agencies, and also set up "adoptions" between Americans and refugees in an effort to sustain both the refugees' financial well-being and their morale.

While the files do not contain complete demographic information on every refugee, a majority record the refugee's place of birth, birth date, occupation in Spain, and wartime role. The refugees aided by SRA originated from all parts of Spain, with the largest groups coming from Catalonia, Andalusia, and Aragon. More than half the refugees on SRA's rolls were over the age of fifty, as these were the people least able to assimilate into the French workforce; most were in poor health due to the effects of illnesses such as tuberculosis, which many of the refugees contracted while at St. Cyprien, Argeles, and other internment camps in France. The refugees included men and women, both single and in couples, as well as their children, but the majority of primary clients were men. Many were active participants in the Spanish Civil War as Republican soldiers or workers and fled Spain to avoid reprisals by the Franco regime against Loyalists. Others had been largely uninvolved in the war and left Spain when their homes were destroyed or occupied. A significant number of the refugees were members of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo(CNT), the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista(POUM), and the Union General de Trabajadores(UGT). Most of the refugees had fled Spain at the end of the Civil War; a small number came to France later after being imprisoned in Spain. While SRA focused primarily on the refugees living in France, it also helped a small number of Spanish refugees living in other countries, the majority in Morocco, Belgium, and Algeria.

The work of SRA was facilitated greatly by organizations, committees and individuals in the United States and Europe. The IRC, based in New York, in addition to handing over the first one hundred cases to SRA, shipped packages of clothing to France gratis, donated food to be distributed among the refugees, made financial contributions and for many years lent the aid of their accountant, Wille Werner, to the SRA. Likewise, Hanne Benzion, head of the IRC in France, made referrals to and worked closely with the SRA.

Two committees, the Aide aux Refugies Espagnoles(ARE) of Switzerland and the Deutsche Komitee zur Hilfe fur Spanische Democratische Fluchtlingerof Germany, were set up specifically to assist the efforts of SRA. ARE was founded in 1956 by Dan and Elizabeth Gallin and the German refugees Henry and Frieda Jacoby. Peter Blachstein and Rose Froelich were the founders of the Deutsche Komitee, which assisted SRA from 1954-1984. SRA also received much assistance, beginning in 1963 and through 1981, from Individuell Manniskohjalp(IM), a Swedish aid organization. Siv Follin, a social worker with IM, spent half of every year in France distributing aid and visiting refugees. IM also provided scholarships to Spanish refugees.

Although Macdonald was unsuccessful in setting up a committee in Great Britain to assist SRA, she did receive assistance for many years from individual British citizens including Chloe Vulliamy, who had sheltered Basque children during the Spanish Civil War and World War II and, in 1961, spent several nights in a Spanish jail after attempting to distribute money to families of Spanish political prisoners. From 1967 to 1973 Vulliamy regularly visited Spanish refugees in remote parts of France and reported to SRA on their well-being. Others in England, including John McNair (secretary of the Independent Labor Party), Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's widow), and Stephen Spender (poet and novelist), assisted SRA by introducing Macdonald to aid agencies and serving as sponsors. Two English organizations, the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM) and Aid to European Refugees (AER), contributed to SRA's work.

Political and labor groups and veterans' organizations also worked with SRA by referring members in need of assistance. SRA's first one hundred cases had been referred to the IRC by the Liga de Mutilados e Invalidos de la Guerra de España/ Ligue de Mutilés et Invalides de la Guerre d'Espagne en Exil(LM, a veterans' aid organization), Solidaridad Democratica Espanola(SDE, the solidarity committee of the Spanish Socialists), Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista(SIA, an anarcho-syndicalist group), and Solidaridad Socialista(SS, part of POUM). These organizations, which together represented thousands of members in France, eventually referred over 1,700 cases to SRA. With these initial cases a pattern was set of accepting refugees based primarily on the recommendation of a trusted organization or individual. A mixture of other groups--government, relief, and political--also submitted names for SRA's rolls, including: CNT, UGT, Agrupacio Catalana, Agrupo Republicana Española, Aumonerie des Etrangers Protestants, the Basque Delegation, Croix Rouge, Federación Espanola de Enfermos Cronicos e Invalidos, Service Sociale d'Aide aux Emigrant (SSAE), Solidaridad Confederal, the Pablo Casals Foundation, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Morocco. Julio Just, the Interior Minister of the Spanish Republican Government-in-Exile, referred dozens of cases to SRA. José Rodes, a POUM member who had been mayor of Lerida during the Spanish Civil War, was, in exile, serving as head of the Spanish section of the IRC's Paris office, and also referred a number of cases to SRA. A majority of cases were referred by SRA's staff in France, who met refugees in need as they traveled throughout the country visiting areas where large numbers of Spaniards resided.

The work of SRA in France was carried on from offices in Paris and Toulouse, and from the Pablo Casals Foyer in Montauban. The Paris office had difficulty initially in sustaining a permanent staff. Francine Camus (wife of Albert Camus), Miriam Chiaromonte (wife of Italian journalist Nicola Chiaromonte) and Cleta Mayer (wife of Daniel Mayer, a prominent French socialist and member of the resistance) were among those who briefly ran the Paris office. Not until 1960, when Suzanne Chatelet left Perpignan to head SRA's office in Paris, did that branch of SRA become fully functioning; she ran the Paris office until her death in 1973. Chatelet's companion, Francois Olivé, was the bookkeeper for the Paris office. Olivé had been a trade union organizer and POUM member in Tarrasa and was helped by PPA after he fled Spain. Olivé and Chatelet were among Nancy Macdonald's earliest connections to the Spanish refugees. After Chatelet's death, Odette Ester (wife of José Ester Borras, a CNT militant and participant in the French resistance who served as secretary general of the Federación Española de Deportados e Internados Politicos), Ramón Alvarez (a leader in the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement and CNT member in Spain and in exile), and Mathilde Droulin maintained the Paris office for various periods until it was closed in 1978.

In 1957, with Anne Marie Berta as its representative, SRA opened an office in Toulouse. Berta was a native of Catalonia who had lived in France since childhood and before joining SRA presided over the Toulouse branch of Croix Rouge Espanole. Jacques Vive, a Spanish refugee and secretary of Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista, joined the Toulouse staff of SRA. Maria Batet, also a Spanish refugee, an anarchist and CNT staff member in Toulouse, continued the work of Berta and Vive after they retired. When Batet grew too old to manage the office, Antoinette Caparros took her place.

SRA established Foyer Pablo Casals, a center for elderly Spanish refugees in Montauban, France, in 1961. The Foyer was named for famed cellist Pablo Caslas, a native of Catalonia, who served as SRA's honorary chairman from its inception. Casals had made an international appeal for the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and after their defeat, vowed never to return to his native country. Montauban was the city where Nancy Macdonald had seen the greatest need among refugees in her exploratory trips there in 1952. By 1960, there were still over a thousand Spanish refugee families living in and around Montauban, many having been there since the end of the Spanish Civil War. The Foyer provided a clean, warm place for relaxation and fellowship, and was SRA's distribution point for packages of food and clothing and monetary aid. Teresa Palacios, who had formerly worked for an office of the Croix Rouge Espanolein Montauban, ran the Foyer with her husband Manuel. The Palacios were natives of Madrid, where they had worked for a Republican government office; in France, Manuel Palacios had helped organize the Spanish Socialist Party-in-exile in Montauban and Toulouse. The work of the Foyer continued until 1983.

From 1984 until 2006 when it was disbanded, SRA, with Margaret Childers as director, operated as a program of the International Rescue Committee. Childers, daughter of former Irish President Erskine Hamilton Childers, immigrated to the United States in 1960 and worked for the Ford Foundation. Fluent in French, she joined the SRA staff in 1973. Before becoming director in 1984, Childers coordinated SRA's adoption and scholarship programs. From this point on, SRA maintained a French office only in Toulouse. Aid was distributed by Antoinette Caparros, based in Toulouse, and Childers on her annual trips to Spain. SRA continued to work closely during this time period with French social service agencies, especially SSAE and Amigos de los Refugiados Espanoles(AARE), a Spanish committee based in Madrid that was established in 1984 to aid exiles remaining in France.

The death of Franco in 1975 and the transition of Spain to a parliamentary monarchy raised hopes that the estimated 40,000 Spanish refugees still in France could return to their native country. While many took advantage of the amnesty to return to Spain, others were too old or ill to relocate, especially if they had no family members residing in Spain. Though the Spanish government agreed in 1976 to provide pensions for disabled Republican veterans, it was often difficult in practice to obtain the pensions. In addition, Spain's widespread poverty, high unemployment rate, and large population over the age of 65 made it difficult to care for an influx of aging refugees. Although France revoked their political refugee status in the late 1970s, the refugees continued to receive basic social service--including health benefits, social security, housing subsidies, and household help--from the French government. These factors led many refugees to choose to remain in France. As a result, SRA continued to aid refugees as long as they lived in France, providing moral support in the form of packages and visits, assistance in navigating France's social service system, and supplemental financial support. In 2006, when the SRA closed, it had less than one hundred individuals remaining on its aid roster. The IRC assumed responsibility for these cases.

Although SRA received money over the years from foundations and individual bequests, the vast majority of its contributions were from individual donors. At its peak, SRA received contributions from thirteen thousand individuals whose average donation was ten dollars. In addition to its regular appeal letters and annual reports to donors, SRA occasionally sent special appeals signed by prominent sponsors of SRA, including Pablo and Marta Casals, Salvador de Madariaga and Mary McCarthy. Fundraising benefits such as parties, concerts and especially art sales also enriched SRA's coffers. The most important contributor to the art sale phenomenon was Alexander Calder. Calder made his first contribution to SRA, a monetary one, in 1954, but over the years he donated prints and sets of lithographs. By the time of his death in 1977, SRA had received half a million dollars from the sale of Calder's donated prints. Louise Crane, publisher of Ibericamagazine, was one of SRA's earliest and most sustained major donors; some of her contributions to SRA helped sustain the work of the Ligue de Mutilesin France. Margaret De Silver (wife of Albert De Silver, a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, and later of the Italian anarchist Carlo Tresca), served as SRA's treasurer and was also a regular contributor.

SRA personalized the aid that Spanish refugees received through a program of "adoptions." Donors were matched with a particular refugee or family. They were encouraged to correspond with their "adoptees" and to send packages of food or clothing as well as provide financial assistance in quarterly payments. SRA served as a clearing house, translating the letters between adopters and refugees to and from Spanish, and ensuring that payments were made regularly to the adopted refugees.

In addition to its staff in France and New York, SRA was supported by both a board of directors and a group of sponsors. Prior to its merger with IRC, SRA had five chairpersons: Hannah Arendt, James T. Farrell, Dwight Macdonald, Nancy Macdonald, and Mary McCarthy. Alexander Calder, Luisa Calder, General Lazaro Cardenas, Pablo Casals, Marta Casals Istomin, and Salvador de Madariaga served as honorary chairpersons. SRA's sponsors included Roger Baldwin, Herman Badillo, John T. Bernard, Hans Bethe, Claude G. Bowers, Fenner Brockway, Albert Camus, Noam Chomsky, Dorothy Day, Jesus de Galindez, Waldo Frank, Erich Fromm, Michael Harrington, Lillian Hellman, Irving Howe, Christopher Isherwood, Alfred Kazin, James Loeb Jr., Robert Lowell, Allard K. Lowenstein, Juan Marichal, A. Phillip Randolph, Victor G. Reuther, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Adelaide Schulkind, Ramón Sender, José Luis Sert, Ignazio Silone, Norman Thomas, and George Woodcock.

From its inception, SRA reflected Macdonald's anti-communist bias. Although SRA's incorporation papers did not expressly prohibit assisting communist refugees, they did state the organization's intention to help "non-communist refugees." SRA did help individual refugees who were communists, but it concentrated on non-communists and did not work with any political or relief agencies perceived to be communist-affiliated. This anti-communist position dated to Nancy and Dwight Macdonald's Trotskyist activism in the late 1930s and to their earliest refugee aid work in 1940 on behalf of Victor Serge, a Belgian-born anarchist and former staff member of the Communist International who was accused of leading a Trotskyist conspiracy and imprisoned in Russia in 1933. Released and living in France in 1940, Serge, who had written for PR, contacted the Macdonalds for assistance as he tried to flee Nazi-occupied France. Several of PPA's cases were referred by Serge, establishing a pattern of focusing on anarchist and socialist refugees.

When Macdonald was coordinating relief for the handful of Spanish refugees on PPA's aid roster, she asked Erma Arnstein, a supporter of PPA and resident of San Francisco, to research the Spanish Refugee Appeal (part of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee) in Berkeley. Macdonald did not wish to ask the Spanish Refugee Appeal for support if it was a "Stalinist organization." (The Macdonald-Arnstein correspondence can be found in the Case Files, PPA 46, Lorenzo.) In addition, the Appeal's work was increasingly hampered by the House Un-American Activities Committee's ongoing investigations of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Macdonald concluded that a new organization was needed to focus specifically on non-communist refugees, whom she feared were being neglected by existing organizations. Throughout her years at SRA, Macdonald was particularly sympathetic to Spanish anarcho-syndicalists and former members of the POUM, a small revolutionary party opposed to the Popular Front, most of whose members were Catalans.

Decisions about whether to aid Communist refugees or whether SRA should accept any affiliation with individuals or groups who were even rumored to have connections with communism kept the board of SRA busy until the early 1980s. In particular, debates over whether to keep as sponsors Waldo Frank and Lillian Hellman, both believed to remain close to the Communist Party in the 1960s and 1970s, divided the SRA board. Gabriel Javsicas, an anarchist and SRA sponsor, and Mary McCarthy, who feuded with Hellman in the late 1970s, both opposed Hellman's involvement in SRA.

Although it is evident that the needs of the Spanish refugees were always paramount to Nancy Macdonald and to the staff and supporters of SRA, the SRA records are more than simply a source of information on the distribution of aid and on the fates of individual Spanish Civil War refugees and their families. The political allegiances and activism of those involved with SRA, and of Nancy Macdonald in particular, are clearly reflected in much of the SRA correspondence and other documents. Macdonald's correspondence with prominent trade union leaders, social critics, and political activists documents SRA's connections to leftwing and radical individuals and organizations in the United States and Europe.


International Rescue Committee. "Spanish Refugee Aid." (15 Aug 2006)Macdonald, Dwight. The Memoirs of a Revolutionist. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1957.Macdonald, Nancy. Homage to the Spanish Exiles: Voices from the Spanish Civil War. New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1987."Outside, Inside." TimeJune 19, 1939.,9171,761503-1,00.html (20 Aug 2007)Républicains espagnols en Midi-Pyrénées: Exil, Histoire et Memoire. Presses Universitaires du Mirail. Toulouse. 2004.Sumner, Gregory D. Dwight Macdonald and the politics Circle. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.Wreszin, Michael. A Rebel In Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald. New York: Basic Books, 1968.


Arranged numerically within Sub-series I:A, I:B, I:C, and I:E; arranged alphabetically within Sub-series I:D, and Series II, and III; arranged chronologically within Series V.

Organized into five series:

Missing Title

  1. I: Case Files, 1941-2006.
  2. II: New York Office Records.
  3. III: Toulouse Office Records.
  4. IV: Office Files, Card Indexes.
  5. V: Scrapbook, 1952-1981

Scope and Content Note

The Spanish Refugee Aid records include case files, photographs, and office records consisting of correspondence, administrative files, financial records and clippings. The case files of the Spanish refugees are a rich source of demographic data. Many of the case files also have corresponding photographs. The voluminous correspondence files for both the New York and Toulouse offices highlight the concern of those working in SRA for the needs of the individual refugees, and reveal the contacts and working relationships SRA developed with other aid organizations, political groups and individuals to assist the refugees. Records documenting aid distribution are also extensive. Although the needs of the Spanish refugees were always paramount, the correspondence in the SRA records also reflects the political allegiances of those involved with SRA (as staff, as contacts and as recipients of aid) and of Nancy Macdonald in particular. The SRA records, therefore, provide extensive information not only on Spanish refugees residing in France following the Spanish Civil War, but also on left-wing politics in the United States and Europe from the World War II era through the 1980s.

Series I: Case Files, 1941-2006.

The Case Files comprise five sub-series: Spanish Refugee Aid Case Files, International Rescue Committee Case Files, "New Cases" Files, Politics' Packages Abroad Case Files, and Case File Photographs.

The container list for this series records the refugee's name, SRA-assigned case number, the person or organization referring the case to SRA, and dates of the case. It also indicates the location of corresponding photographs in Sub-Series I:E. In addition to the container list, which is organized numerically by case number, a biographical report, arranged alphabetically, is available on request here: The report includes information on birth date, place of birth, and place of residence for each refugee, when known.

Sub-Series I: A: Spanish Refugee Aid Case Files, 1946-2006.

This sub-series is a nearly complete record of SRA's aid distribution. It contains at least minimal records for all but about one hundred of the 5,500 SRA cases and is a rich source of demographic data. The majority of files contain an intake form used by SRA to gather basic information about each refugee, including the aid recipient's date and place of birth, pre-Spanish Civil War occupation and home, as well as the refugee's occupation and address in France, and the name of the person or agency that referred the refugee to SRA for assistance. Often included are names and birthdates of family members. Many of the intake forms also include a narrative. Some of these narratives simply recount the refugee's current tribulations. Other narratives detail everything from the refugee's associations with the Spanish Republican army or government, role during the Spanish Civil War, stints in French internment camps, and life in German labor and concentration camps during World War II to the refugee's situation in France in the 1950s and later.

In addition to these documents, the majority of files also contain brief case summaries recorded on index cards. SRA maintained an extensive card index, organized alphabetically by refugee name, to record basic data about each refugee as well as ongoing updates about the refugee's family, housing arrangements, economic status, and health. A second card index, also organized by refugee name, recorded every instance of financial assistance provided by SRA to each refugee. When cases were declared inactive--due to a refugee's death, return to Spain, or improvement in financial circumstances--the cards were often removed from the card index and placed in the corresponding case files, which were stored with other inactive records. During processing, all refugee cards from the card index have been integrated into their corresponding case files.

The case files run the gamut from the briefest of documentation, consisting only of index card summaries, to extensive records containing correspondence spanning decades, and occasionally even generations, within one family. Many also contain correspondence between refugees and SRA staff; receipts for clothing and food aid; physician referrals and other medical records; reports of visits with refugees filed by aid workers in France; and correspondence with Americans who sponsored or "adopted" refugees. A portion of the most minimal files are for refugees that were referred to SRA but never placed on SRA's permanent aid roster. Others may have once had more extensive documentation that was lost before the collection was given to NYU.

Files in this sub-series are arranged numerically according to the file number assigned by SRA upon initiating a case, beginning with 1 and continuing through 6074. Case numbers in the 6,000-range were assigned by archivists while processing the collection to identify files that, for unknown reasons, were never assigned a case number by SRA. The earliest cases in this series were initiated in 1953, though the files occasionally contain personal or medical records pre-dating SRA's involvement; the latest cases in this sub-series were added to SRA's rolls in 2000. These more recent files are usually for refugees who had lived in France without assistance for many years, but whose need for aid grew later in life due to changes in work or family situations.

Of special note are the files of several refugees whom Nancy Macdonald adopted personally, including: Jesus Yuste, Juan Porcel Zamorano, Quintin Sarmiento del Collado, Purificacion Acon, Francisco Fuentes, and Rosario Jimenez.

Sub-Series I: B: "New Cases" Files, 1953-1968.

This sub-series consists of brief files, without intake forms, but with a request for aid by a refugee or with a summary of an aid request. The term "New Cases" was used by SRA to distinguish this group of records from its permanent cases. Unlike the SRA and IRC records, most of the "New Cases" were the result of independent appeals to SRA by refugees rather than a referral from an agency or group cooperating with SRA. Upon receiving an unsolicited request for aid, SRA would inquire with social service agencies or veterans' groups operating in France to obtain additional information about the refugee's situation. In some instances, SRA determined that it could meet the refugee's particular needs and moved the case into its permanent files. It then assigned the file a regular case number; these files are located in Sub-Series I:A. The majority of cases that remain in the "New Cases" sub-series are those that SRA decided not to move to its permanent roster, either because the refugee's needs were less acute than others' or because SRA was unable to gain additional information about the refugee's circumstances.

Files in this sub-series are arranged numerically according to the file number assigned by SRA. The file names begin with "NC" and are numbered 1 through 583. Gaps in the file numbers reflect those cases that SRA re-assigned to its permanent files.

Sub-Series I: C: Politics' Packages Abroad Case Files, 1941-1965.

Politics' Packages Abroad (PPA) was organized by Dwight and Nancy Macdonald to assist those displaced by World War II, particularly socialists and anarchists, as well as intellectuals and writers. These files reflect Dwight and Nancy Macdonald's early interest in the plight of Spanish refugees. Approximately half of the files in this sub-series concern Spanish refugees; the others concern refugees from Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This sub-series provides significant documentation of the networks established between European and American leftists and writers during this period to address the refugee crisis immediately following World War II. Of particular note in the PPA sub-series is the case file for Francisco Olivé, POUM member and long-time companion of SRA staff member Suzanne Chatelet, who was one of Nancy Macdonald's earliest connections to Spanish refugees. Other significant cases in this sub-series include: Juan Andrade (POUM member who had been imprisoned in Barcelona); Pedro Bonet (POUM secretary who supplied Macdonald with names of Spaniards needing aid); Hede and Juan Lorenzo (Spanish anarchists who translated articles from Politicsfor anarchist publications in France); Antonio de la Pasion (POUM secretary in Carcassonne); and André Delacourt (contributor to Politics).

Files in this sub-series are filed alphabetically as they were in SRA's original record-keeping system. Each file has been assigned a number, beginning with "PPA," from 1 to 78.

Sub-Series I: D: International Rescue Committee Case Files, 1951-2006.

The 101 IRC case files that Nancy Macdonald brought back to New York in 1952 after her trip to survey the situation of the Spanish refugees represent the foundation of SRA. The majority of these cases were initiated in 1952 and were referred by the Ligue des Mutiles, Solidarite Internationale Antifasciste, Federación Espanola de Enfermos Cronicos e Invalidos, and Solidaridad Democratica Espanola.

Files in this sub-series are arranged numerically according to the file number assigned by Nancy Macdonald when she received the files from the IRC. The file names begin with "IRC" and are numbered 1 through 101.

Sub-Series I: E: Case File Photographs, Undated

Passport-size photographs of individual refugees, stapled onto index cards, represent the bulk of the photographs in this sub-series. Occasionally informal photographs of the refugee or of refugee families, depicting them in their homes in France, were also included. When SRA asked refugees to fill out demographic questionnaires, it also requested a photograph of the refugee for its files; approximately 2,000 complied with this request. The photographs are labeled with the refugee's name and SRA-assigned case number corresponding with the numbers in Sub-Series I:A. They are arranged numerically by case number. Note: No item-level listing for this sub-series is provided in the finding-aid; instead, the (box number) location of each individual's (or family's) photograph is listed in the container list for Series I:A, next to the name on that case file.

Series II: New York Office Records, 1944-2006 [Bulk 1953-1983].

The New York Office Records comprise four sub-series: correspondence, administrative files, clippings, and financial records.

Sub-series II: A: Correspondence, 1948-2004.

Nancy Macdonald was a prolific correspondent and this sub-series reflects both her concern for individual refugees and the many networks with other aid organizations, political groups and individual donors that she developed to assist the refugees. Included in this sub-series is correspondence with aid organizations throughout the world including: Aid to European Refugees (AER), Amigos de los Antiguos Refugiados Españoles(AARE), Aumonerie des Etrangers Protestants en France(AEPF), Comité D'Aide Exceptionnelle aux Intellectuels Réfugiés, Croix Rouge Espanole, Deutsches Komite zür Hilfe Demokratische Spanischen Flütchtlinge, Federacion Espanola de Enfermos Cronicos e Invalidos, Individuell Människohjälp(IM), Fédération Espagnole des Déportés et Internés Politiques, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Liga de Mutilados e Invalidos de la Guerra de España en el Exilio(also known as Ligue des Mutilés et Invalides de la Guerre d'Espagne en Exil(LM)), Norwegian Refugee Council, and OXFAM Committee for Famine Relief.

Also included is correspondence with European political organizations including Basque Delegations, Confederación Nacionale del Trabajo(CNT), Gouvernment de la Republique Espanola en Exile, Solidaridad Democratica Espanola(SDE), and Solidarite Internationale Antifasciste(SIA), as well as American political and cultural groups such as the American Committee for Iberian Freedom, Ateneo Español, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas, and numerous trade unions. The sub-series also contains correspondence with artists and intellectuals who lent ongoing support to SRA, including Louisa and Alexander Calder, Albert and Francine Camus, Pablo and Marta Casals, Salvador de Madariaga, Joan Miró, and Robert Motherwell, as well as prominent American supporters and advisors such as Hannah Arendt, Roger Baldwin, James Farrell, Waldo Frank, Lillian Hellman, James Loeb Jr., Mary McCarthy, Rose Pesotta, Muriel Rukeyser, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Norman Thomas.

A significant portion of this sub-series consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence between the New York-based staff of SRA and the three SRA offices in France. With SRA's French staff responsible for aid distribution and its New York staff responsible for allocating funds and record-keeping, detailed coordination required weekly, and sometimes daily, correspondence concerning the particulars of individual cases. More recent correspondence includes email print-outs.

Sub-series II: B: Administrative Files, 1944-2002.

Much of this sub-series consists of records of fundraising efforts, publicity campaigns and scholarship aid information. Arranged by subject, files contain reports, correspondence, and printed material. They detail SRA's procedures for cooperating with international aid agencies, administering its "adoption" program, and distributing aid such as clothing, blankets, fuel, artificial limbs and hearing aids. Also included are the minutes of board meetings and annual reports. Of particular note are the files of the SRA census reports and summaries from 1954-1982. Many of the files, including "SRA: History" and "SRA: Closing, Proposal," document SRA's formation and its dissolution.

Also included in this sub-series are the portions of SRA's card indexes unrelated to the case files. These include alphabetical series on allies in Europe, American "adopters," donors, scholarship recipients, board members, sponsors, and scholarship recipients.

Sub-series II: C: Clippings, 1951-1980.

This sub-series consists of newspaper clippings collected by SRA from a variety of American and European newspapers and magazines to track political issues concerning Spain under Franco and during its transition to parliamentary monarchy from the 1950s to 1980s.

Sub-series II: D: Financial Records, 1953-2006.

This sub-series contains routine financial records including annual budgets, accounts, and records of bank drafts, receipts and disbursements.

Series III: Toulouse Office Records, 1953-2005.

The Toulouse Office records comprise three sub-series: correspondence, administrative files, and financial records.

Sub-series III: A: Correspondence, 1953-1998.

Most of the correspondence in this sub-series consists of the outgoing and incoming correspondence between Maria Batet and Antoinette Caparros of the Toulouse Office and Nancy Macdonald and Margaret Childers of the New York Office; and correspondence between Anne Marie Berta of the Toulouse office and Suzanne Chatelet of the Paris Office. Also of note is the correspondence between Anne Marie Berta and the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

As with correspondence in the New York Office Records, the inter-office correspondence in this sub-series reflects the detailed, transatlantic case management that SRA's record-keeping system required. Telephone calls and in-person visits were too costly to occur frequently; as a result, members of the SRA staff in France and the United States wrote to each other several times per week to discuss the details of cases. Most letters discuss multiple cases.

Sub-series III: B: Administrative Files, 1954-2006.

Records of the distribution of aid accounts for the bulk of this sub-series. Included in this sub-series are lists of the recipients of general financial aid and of scholarships, and receipt books with records of the distribution of food and clothing. Of particular note are the questionnaires completed in 1977 by recipients of SRA financial aid. Information in the questionnaires includes the name, address, place and date of birth, occupation, salary and financial allotment of the aid recipient and family members. In the wake of Franco's death, the refugees were also queried on their desire to return to Spain and their reasons for doing so or not, as well as being asked to evaluate the importance of the aid they received from SRA.

Sub-series III: C: Financial Records, 1955-2005.

The bulk of the Toulouse Financial Records consists of monthly accounting receipts and summaries (1975-2005), and lists of processed money orders or mandats.

Series IV: Office Files, Card Indexes.

This series contains two boxes of card indexes including office information on donors, adopters, sponsors, contacts, etc.

Series V: Scrapbook, 1952-1981.

The scrapbook contains clippings of articles and letters on issues related to the Spanish refugees. This scrapbook was maintained by SRA from 1952 to 1981 to document publicity about its activities. It contains clippings from European and American newspapers and magazines as well as SRA-related stories from a variety of organizational newsletters. Of particular note in the scrapbook files are clippings documenting Eleanor Roosevelt's appeals on behalf of SRA in her syndicated newspaper column, "My Day." In several of her articles beginning in 1952, Mrs. Roosevelt, who frequently discussed the post-war refugee crisis, encouraged readers to contribute to SRA.


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions with the exception of Series I: Case Files. Repository permission is required for access to Series I. Please contact Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive,, 212-998-2630.

Conditions Governing Use

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Spanish Refugee Aid were transferred to New York University in 2004 by Robert Carvey. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive. Please contact

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were donated by Robert Carvey, Vice President of the Internation al Rescue Commiittee on behalf of Spanish Refugee Aid (IRC/SRA), in 2004; additional materials were donated and found in the repository in 2018. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 2004.002, 2004.005, and 2018.051.


Spanish Refugee Aid office records and inactive case files were placed, on deposit, at Brandeis University in 1984 when SRA was absorbed into the International Rescue Committee; a subsequent transfer of inactive case files was made to Brandeis in 1992. SRA donated all records held by Brandeis and some additional materials to the Tamiment Library, New York University, in 2004. When SRA was dissolved in 2006, a final donation of records from the SRA/IRC offices in New York and Toulouse was sent to NYU.

Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures

Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Born-digital materials have not been transferred and may not be available to researchers. Researchers may request access copies. To request that material be transferred, or if you are unsure if material has been transferred, please contact with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.

Separated Material

Ephemera, audio, and non-refugee photographs have been separated to non-print collections.

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

Spanish Refugee Aid Photographs (Photographs 246)

Collection processed by

Finding aid prepared by Laura Helton and Alix Ross; with student assistants Mark Berger, Jesse Gant, and Craig Savino

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 14:04:21 -0500.
Language: Description is in English.


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