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Abe Osheroff, 92, veteran of Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Douglas Martin
New York Times News Service / April 13, 2008

NEW YORK - Abe Osheroff - a carpenter by trade and leftist provocateur by proclivity who was wounded in the Spanish Civil War, then helped keep alive the memory of that struggle with two documentary films and thousands of speeches - died April 6 at his home in Seattle. He was 92.

The cause was a heart attack, said Anthony L. Geist, Mr. Osheroff's friend and chairman of Spanish and Portuguese studies at the University of Washington.

Mr. Osheroff wove his most enduring legacy from the threads of his life. It was a 1974 film, "Dreams and Nightmares," which told of his journey from the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Spanish battlefields of the 1930s to a melancholy return to Spain a generation later.

He used the film, which won several prizes in Europe, as an entree to teaching jobs at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Washington, and to countless speaking engagements at colleges, high schools, and other forums across the nation. He continued to work as a union carpenter.

Mr. Osheroff's last speech was in San Francisco on March 30, when he spoke from a wheelchair at the unveiling of a monument to the 3,000 American volunteers in the first against Franco in what came to be called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Nine hundred were killed.

"The stuff we're made of never goes away, with or without monuments," he said in the oldtime Brooklyn accent he never lost, Geist and other friends said.

Eleven of the 39 surviving Lincoln Brigade veterans attended the speech. Three, including Mr. Smorodin, have since died.

Mr. Smorodin ran a candy store for many years and was the last secretary-treasurer of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Osheroff achieved a higher profile among generations of leftists, not least because of his gift of gab. His political involvement began at 12, when he joined the broad protest against the conviction of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.

Soon, he was arrested for helping evicted tenants immediately move their belongings back into their apartments. He organized coal miners and steelworkers and once ran for the New York Legislature as a communist.

Going to Spain in May 1937, he swam the final 2 miles to shore after his ship was sunk. He fought in four battles before machine-gun fire shattered a knee, and he returned home in August 1938.

He even managed the obligatory fistfight with Ernest Hemingway, in his case over food he admitted he was stealing from the writer.

Mr. Osheroff was married three times. He leaves his companion, Gunnel Clark; a daughter, Sarah of Portland, Ore.; and two sons, Dov of Berkeley, Calif., and Nick of Los Angeles.

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