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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol06 (Page 2)

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Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives - vol06
ALBA: Past, present, and
especially the future
-- An Interview with Bill Susman --
by Abe Smorodin
Q: Bill, as the founder of ALBA (The Abraham
Lincoln Brigade Archives) will you tell where and
when the idea came from and with whom you work ?
A: At the last annual convention of the Veterans of the
Abraham Lincoln Brigade, some 22 years ago, we discussed
the fact that VALB would eventually disappear and that
the story of the International Brigade would fade. We
decided to help establish an autonomous organization with
a more youthful governing board which would assure its
continuing renewal with young members. The vets who
were selected to work with me were Lenny Lamb, Oscar
Hunter, Morris Brier and Abe Osheroff.
Our first chair was Professor Will Watson of MIT. He
was able to attract a number of academics who were
experts on the Spanish Civil War. They included such
friends of the Lincoln Brigade as Professor Gabriel Jackson
and our fellow vet, Professor Bob Colodny.
Our first and most important task was to gather, with
VALB's help, the personal papers, posters and other memo-
rabilia of the VALB members. Our next task was to raise
the money to catalogue these acquisitions and to raise
funds to buy existing collections, such as the Fredericka
Martin papers and to acquire the manuscripts of VALB
authors like Steve Nelson, Alvah Bessie and Carl Geiser.
When we learned of the IB archives in Moscow, we dis-
patched Peter Carroll to Russia. He confirmed that they
were invaluable and that $100,000 would be needed just to
procure copies. ALBA raised this sum.
Our next task was to make certain that our Board
would become a working group of activists who would
expand our outreach with an agenda designed to reach
younger people.
Q: Why Brandeis? What does Brandeis contribute
to maintaining the archive?
A: Brandeis came to us in the person of Victor Berch,
whose main vocation was the collection of material on the
Spanish Civil War. As the archivist in charge of Special
Collections in the Brandeis University Library, he fre-
quently visited the VALB office to inspect our memorabilia.
When he saw how they (including many posters) were piled
in a tiny room, he proposed that we send them to Brandeis
for safekeeping. We complied and so our Brandeis collec-
tion was born. After Victor retired from Brandeis, ALBA
retained him on a part-time basis to assure the care of our
papers. To help ALBA acquire the Moscow records,
Brandeis gave us $35,000 over a three-year period.
Q: Would you explain the evolution of ALBA into
its present activist role in such projects as the Shouts
From the Wall poster exhibit, The Aura of the Cause
photo exhibit and the George Watt Memorial Fund's
Spanish Civil War student essay prize contest.
A: We have always been an outreach organization.
From the very beginning we helped organize university
seminars, lasting from one day to one week. Our vets and
Board members spoke at universities throughout the coun-
This activity led to more support and to new people
joining our board. New grants and donations made it pos-
sible to mount exhibits. ALBA Board officers like Chair
Peter Carroll and Vice-Chairs Professors Cary Nelson and
Fraser Ottanelli -- all were able to exercise their expertise
in selecting and mounting exhibits and finding venues for
The results have been startling. The exhibits were
made more interesting by collateral programs that includ-
ed talks by Board members, film showings of The Good
Fight, Dreams and Nightmares, Between the Wars
many others. Some were shown at New York's Lincoln
Center as part of its 1997 Spanish Film Festival. There
Journal of the
Veterans of the
Abraham Lincoln Brigade
an ALBA publication
799 Broadway, Rm 227
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-5552
Editorial Board
Marvin Gettleman · Leonard Levenson
Abe Smorodin · Bill Susman
Submission of Manuscripts
Please send manuscripts typewritten and double-spaced, if possible.
If you wish your manuscripts returned, enclose a self-addressed,
stamped envelope
Material for The Volunteer may also be sent via
E-mail at:
Abraham Lincoln Brigade Veterans Bill Susman and
Abe Smorodin are members of The Volunteer Editorial

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