Milton Wolff

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Milton Wolff

Wolff in 2007
Born October 7, 1915(1915-10-07)
Brooklyn, New York
Died January 14, 2008 (aged 92)
Berkeley, California
Known for Lincoln Battalion
Height 6ft 2[1]

Milton Wolff (October 7, 1915January 14, 2008) better known as Milt Wolff, was a communist Jew from the United States who participated in the Spanish Civil War. He was the last commander of the Lincoln Battalion of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. After the war he continued various forms of communist and politically correct activism.[2] He died in Berkeley, California on January 14, 2008 at age 92.[2]

Early life

He was born into a communist Jewish immigrant family in Brooklyn, New York. His parents originally came from Lithuania and Hungary. He was also a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.[2] He became active in the Young Communist League on returning to Brooklyn after the CCCs. It was there that he volunteered to go to Spain.[2]

Spanish Civil War

In early 1937, Wolff set off to join the International Brigades in Spain, reaching Albacete by March. As a pacifist, a belief common in the 1930s, he originally wished to be a medic.[2] However, after the International Brigades' heavy losses at the Battle of Jarama, he became a combatant instead, joining a machine gun company.[2] "Largely self-educated, ... [he] was an intellectual"[3]. He "detested elegant uniforms", customarily wearing "baggy trousers, a stained leather jacket" and, in wet weather, a "woolly poncho".[3]

After a year's fighting in Brunete, Belchite and Teruel, the Brigade lost two senior officers, David Doran and Robert Hale Merriman at the Gandesa battle on the Aragon front. After which, in March 1938, Wolff became the battalion commander.[2] He led the now Lincoln-Washington Battalion during the Battle of the Ebro and left Spain in November 1938 when the International Brigades were demobilized.[4]

World War II

In 1940, Wolff volunteered for the British Special Operations Executive, and arranged arms for the European resistance/partisan organizations. After the United State's entry into World War II, Wolff volunteered for the infantry in June 1942.

He saw action at the end of 1943 in Burma. There, General "Wild Bill" Donovan met him and assigned him to the O.S.S. to work with communists in northern Italy.

Later life

Wolff appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee to defend VALB (Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) from being banned as a Communist front organization. His explanation for his actions owed to his ancestry: "I am Jewish, and knowing that as a Jew we are the first to suffer when fascism does come, I went to Spain to fight against it."[5]

According to historian Peter Carroll:

When Congress passed the McCarran Act in 1950, obliging all designated subversive organizations to register with the federal government and creating heavy penalties for leaders who refused to cooperate, the entire executive committee of the VALB resigned in 1950. In its place, two Lincoln veterans stepped forward: Milton Wolff became the National Commander; Moe Fishman became the Executive Secretary/Treasurer and served the organization in an executive capacity for the rest of his life.[6]

Wolff also supported forced integration. He suported the communists during the Vietnam War and even offered the services of the aging veterans of the Lincoln Brigade to the communist North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, who declined them. Later, Wolff campaigned against the South Africa and in support of the Sandinista regime of Nicaragua in the 1980s.[2] Milton wrote three autobiographical novels documenting his life, including A Member Of The Working Class about his early life in New York, Another Hill about his communist and Spanish experiences; and The Premature Anti-Fascist, describing his experiences after leaving Spain and during World War II, but could not bring himself to finish it.


  1. Merriman (1986), p. 206.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Douglas, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Eby, p. 319.
  4. Notes by Hemingway on "Major Milton Wolff", in Davidson (1939).
  5. Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (2008)
  6. Peter Carrol "Mosess 'Moe' Fishman (1915-2007)". Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Peter Carrol. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 


  • Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (2008). Jewish Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War Accessed: 11 March 2010.
  • Davidson, Jo (1939). Spanish Portraits. Georgian Press.
  • Eby, Cecil (2007). Comrades and Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0271029108
  • Martin, Douglas (2008). "Milton Wolff, 92, Dies; Anti-Franco Leader", New York Times, 17 January 2008 (accessed: 11 March 2010)
  • Merriman, Marion; Lerude, Warren (1986). American Commander in Spain. Reno: University of Nevada Press. ISBN 0-87417-106-7

External links