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EMERSON GALLERY HOSTS PANEL DISCUSSION WITH AMERICAN VETERANS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

By staff  |  Contact staff
Posted August 27, 1997
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In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Shouts From the Wall: Posters and Photographs Brought Home From the Spanish Civil War by American Volunteers, the Emerson Gallery at Hamilton College will present a panel discussion on The Meaning of the Spanish Civil War with American veterans of the war, Abe Osheroff and Saul Wellman.

The panel will take place on Sunday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m. in Dwight Lounge of the Bristol Campus Center. Peter Carroll, a co-curator of the exhibition, will moderate the session.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) has been called the "last pure war," the "Good Fight" and a "dress rehearsal for the Second World War." Just three years before Hitler plunged the whole world into war, he and Mussolini bankrolled Generalissimo Francisco Franco in a brutal military coup in Spain, providing his Nationalists with arms and supplies in their suppression of the democratically-elected Republican government.

The western democracies, including the U.S., chose to remain non-interventionist, thereby cutting off the flow of arms to the beleaguered Republicans (also called Loyalists.) In an unprecedented international response to the threat of fascism, nearly 40,000 idealistic volunteers from 52 countries around the world went to Spain to assist the Republic. Over 2,800 Americans, collectively dubbed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, were among them. Wellman and Osheroff were two of these volunteers. They are among perhaps 175 surviving Lincoln Brigade veterans.

Abe Osheroff was a 21-year-old labor organizer from New York when he volunteered in 1936 to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In the years since World War II, in which he also fought, he has worked as a carpenter, filmmaker, history teacher and activist, joining the Mississippi voter registration drive in 1964 and building houses for the poor in Nicaragua in 1985. A self-described "radical humanist and working-class intellectual," Osheroff produced an award-winning documentary on the Spanish Civil War, Dreams and Nightmares, in 1974.

Saul Wellman was 23 years old and working as a truck driver and activist in Brooklyn when he volunteered to go to Spain. He fought for 20 months in Spain, rising through the ranks to become a major and commissar in his battalion. In 1945, Wellman, serving in the Second World War, was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. Soon after, he moved to Detroit to be involved in labor politics and to work as a printer. A victim of the Cold War purges of the McCarthy era, Wellman spent a year in a federal prison in 1953.

Peter Carroll is one of the leading authorities on the American experience in Spain and author of The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, the definitive study of the Brigade. Carroll, who teaches history and film at Stanford University and at the University of California at Berkeley, is chair of the Executive Committee of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives.

Emerson Gallery Director Lise Holst says the public is invited to attend the panel discussion and to participate in a dialogue with these extraordinary men about the significance of the volunteer effort of the Spanish Civil War and other humanitarian causes to which they have dedicated much of their lives.

Following the panel discussion, the public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibition and the speakers from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Emerson Gallery in Christian A. Johnson Hall. The exhibition continues through October 19. These events and admission to the gallery are free and open to the public. The gallery hours are weekdays, 12-5 and weekends, 1-5. The gallery is closed national holidays.

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