A Untimely Antifascist and The Anti-warrior Warrior, Milt Felsen

“In Geneva,” Hemingway grunted, “the Republic is being lower into many items. League of Nations,…

“In Geneva,” Hemingway grunted, “the Republic is being lower into many items. League of Nations, my ass. League of connivers. Austrian Anschluss, Munich Pact — Hitler scowls and Chamberlain feeds him one other nation.”

by Erica P. Wissinger

There are most likely one million folks on the market who’ve learn a biography of a departed warrior from the previous ~ decide a century, any century ~ and wished they might have met them or patted them heartily on the shoulder for his or her power of character. With this flock of smart outdated owls who’ve studied navy historical past far past the few books I’ve learn, little doubt this concept will intrigue like a vole scurrying throughout an open meadow at night time. Let me know within the feedback whom you would like you possibly can have met, or the dwelling legends you met in particular person.

Just lately I had time and incentive to learn a biography, attributable to having been laid up with an unlucky huge toe harm (don’t chortle); so limping over to the bookcases, I wandered by way of my bibliophile partner’s library. The overstuffed cabinets yielded a title, The Anti-Warrior, a Memoir by Milt Felsen. Milt was born in 1912 in New York Metropolis, grew up on the streets of New York, after which grew up some extra within the countryside exterior New York the place he realized the distinction between things like cows and bulls, and ended up as a scholar on the College of Iowa, the place he escaped stern punishment for his political activism by his wit and humor. Folks discovered it laborious to hate the man. I’ll present you why. Right here is an excerpt from his school years.

“In September of 1936, we determined to carry an anti warfare rally. We took copies [of the announcement posters] to be routinely stamped, ‘authorized by the President’s workplace’ earlier than placing them up round campus. The president’s workplace was artistically and politically shocked to its shoelaces, and refused to use its little stamp.

“I referred to as a gathering of the American Scholar Union (ASU) govt committee, and we determined to defy the ban and put up the posters late that night time. The Iowa campus is graced by among the oldest, leafiest and most stunning timber to be discovered on the inexperienced earth, and my brother Hank and I and Merle have been effectively up in certainly one of them, when a robust beam of sunshine was geared toward us.

College of Iowa

“Standing beneath was your entire Iowa Metropolis police power of eight males, the sheriff and the top of the American Legion.

“‘Come down out of there!’ the shout got here from the sheriff. He was weaving a bit. He and the American Legion had been consuming, fairly closely.

“‘Sorry,’ I mentioned, ‘we’re busy. Acquired some work to do up right here.’

“‘You’re below arrest, goddammit. Come down!’

“‘What’s the cost?’ I demanded. I prided myself on my data of constitutional rights.

“There was a brief, intense convention down beneath, then settlement.

“‘For COMMITTING COMMUNISM!’ the sheriff shouted, waving his long-barreled pistol.

“‘Yeah,’ added the American Legion, impressed, ‘AT NIGHT.’

“I consulted with Hank and Merle. ‘It sounds to me,’ I mentioned, ‘like an actual conceptual breakthrough. I believe it will be greatest to go down.’

“We have been thrown into the police automobiles and brought to the station home. We sat, whereas one of many cops twirled the barrel of his pistol menacingly, pointing it at us simply as he had seen it finished within the films. I demanded our proper to make a telephone name. The chief got here in.

“‘And simply whom is it you want to name?’ he requested sardonically.

“‘Mayor Tom Martin,’ I mentioned. Merle and I had headed up a scholar political motion committee that had helped Martin win.

“A few of the air went visibly out of the chief’s balloon. Martin got here on the telephone, half asleep. It was after 1 a.m.   I defined.

“‘Let me speak to the dumb bastard,’ mentioned the mayor.

“We sat and loved the chief’s discomfiture and listened to his ‘Sure, Mr. Mayor. OK, Tom, instantly, Tom.’

“Lastly he hung up, turned to us and snapped, ‘All proper, you possibly can go residence now.’

“‘We want our posters,’ mentioned Merle.

“‘No approach,’ mentioned the chief.

“‘Gimme the telephone once more,’ I mentioned.

“The chief glared, however he gave up the posters.

“We nonetheless hadn’t received, although. Not fairly but. There was a vagrancy legislation in Iowa — after 11 P.M. it was unlawful to cease transferring. Wherever we went, the cops adopted us, so we lastly went residence.

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“A few of the most politically energetic ASU members have been within the sororities, and we referred to as round and defined the emergency. A dozen younger girls, amongst them the Hickenlooper sisters, eagerly accepted such an thrilling and difficult project. By 4 A.M., posters had sprouted like night time blooming flowers everywhere in the campus.

“Bourke B. Hickenlooper, proudly owning a reputation that sounded prefer it belonged within the first line of an off shade limerick, was president of the Iowa state senate and would quickly grow to be one of the atrocious U.S. senators. He made a telephone name to the college’s President Gilmore. In response to the Hickenlooper sisters, who have been mightily amused, the dialog went one thing like this.

“Hickenlooper: ‘Gilmore? I hear there’s a complete bunch of goddamn Reds operating your goddamn college down there. When you don’t see to it that my daughters cease being molested by Commie New York Jews, you possibly can kiss any of these appropriations you requested for goodbye. You’ve seen your final goddamn state greenback. Perceive?’ Gilmore: ‘Sure, Sir. I perceive.’

“Shortly thereafter there was a gathering in President Gilmore’s workplace. He hinted that he had had a message from Senator Hickenlooper, chairman of the committee that appropriated, or withheld, funds for land grant establishments, of which the college was one.

“Clearly uncomfortable, he addressed his remarks to me. ‘If this college has any validity, it lies within the encouragement of free inquiry, free expresson, the pursuit of reality in an open market of concepts. I consider your group has expressed comparable targets.’ He paused. ‘The liberty of scholars is to not be inhibited, however the college should take care of the true world, with sensible issues.’ He went on to speak about appropriations and budgets and to ask of what use have been beliefs in the event that they couldn’t maintain the doorways open.

“I smiled to myself, pondering, He who pays the piper calls the tune. All of us on the committee had gotten the purpose, and I sensed it was time to make a deal. We held a powerful hand.

“‘OK, President Gilmore, we see the issue and we’ve no want to embarrass the college We can have a chat with the Hickenlooper sisters. We can’t, after all, censure them, however we are going to attempt to get their cooperation, and we’re positive we are able to. We count on in return that there can be no extra nonsense about stamps on our posted materials. Yet one more factor. We’re planning a public debate entitled ‘What’s Americanism?’ We wish you to be one of many individuals.’

“President Gilmore knew when to fold the playing cards. ‘I predict for you,’ he remarked to me, ‘an excellent future within the discipline of extortion.’

“In 1936 there have been 13 thousand college students on the U of I, the overwhelming majority of whom concentrated their usually temporary span of consideration on their probabilities for materials development, soccer, and informal intercourse. But virtually 800 of them attended the anti-war rally we had undergone such trauma to promote, and virtually all signed a type of the Oxford Pledge, in essence, ‘I refuse to bear arms in any warfare.’ (The practice of historical past takes many turns. Solely 5 years later, they’d overlook they’d ever made such a pledge.)”

After collaborating within the Spanish Civil Warfare as an ambulance driver within the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and assembly Ernest Hemingway, Milt returns to America and his surveillance information listed him with the dreaded, “P.A.”, stamped in huge crimson serial killer letters on his file, which implies Untimely AntiFascist.

That is how the US authorities flagged union organizers and/or communist leaning residents who opposed fascism, earlier than the US introduced its approval for opposing Fascism.

The US checkered flag to oppose fascism was solely waved when America joined the warfare towards Germany in 1941, but when, within the Nineteen Thirties, you opposed fascism earlier than the checkered flag dropped, you have been stigmatized and couldn’t get a authorities job.

A overview of the e book, The AntiWarrior on Goodreads by Tbfrank speaks in regards to the ambivalence by nations on the fascist query:

“From [Felsen’s] perspective, the [Spanish Civil] warfare demonstrated the assist of the world’s democracies for Fascism because the pure opponent to Communism. Whereas Russia supported the Loyalists, the Soviet Union was criticized for supplying weapons relatively than troops (recognized elsewhere as its customary follow – expend others relatively than your individual), then blamed agitators for creating divisions throughout the Loyalist teams.

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“(True or not, Alan Furst adopted a few of these concepts in two of his pre-WWII novels relating the Spanish Civil Warfare.) Oh, and by the way in which, Felsen met and pal’d round with Hemingway.

“Between one warfare and the subsequent, Felsen turns into built-in within the financial machine he usually disparages. He comes to grasp the character of energy in America, who has it, and who doesn’t, as dictated by economics.”

Ernest Hemingway

Wild Invoice Donovan snapped up among the Lincoln Brigade, together with Milt, to coach them for his newly shaped OSS, and despatched them to Algiers in 1942. Felsen has essentially the most wonderful approach of describing the motion, so I felt like I used to be there with him. I’m going to excerpt a passage from the e book printed in 1989, which you’ll be able to nonetheless purchase on Amazon, as there are a couple of copies left.

Wild Invoice Donovan

Scene: They have been wounded and captured; and earlier than Felsen and others have been despatched to the German jail camp, Stalag 17, they have been prisoners in Italy, and have been planning a jail break, however their garments and sneakers had been confiscated.

“‘Very first thing we’ll want,’ mentioned Jim, ‘is our garments and sneakers.’ We determined we had higher meet with the overall. Gordon Forrester was the very mannequin of an English main basic – tall and slender, with a grey moustache and a voice so higher class it was just about unattainable to grasp a phrase he mentioned. For the six months the prisoners had been there, he had sulked in regards to the ignominy of his seize, and had hardly ever been seen exterior his personal room.” A gathering with the overall was organized.

“Ever since seize, I had tried and failed to grasp the European navy custom that mandated prisoners to behave as in the event that they weren’t prisoners. Foot troopers needed to salute and obey corporals, corporals obeyed sergeants, sergeants obeyed lieutenants, and so forth up the road. Their captors, in flip, gave directions for what they wished finished solely to the very best rating prisoner, from whom orders went again down the road and have been carried out with out resistance, since troopers aren’t within the behavior of defying their very own superiors. As a system for controlling hundreds of males who would possibly in any other case have thought-about it their responsibility to proceed to battle in each approach they might towards the enemy, it was nearly good. Nevertheless it had the odor of collaboration about it, like a pact amongst nations to guard one another’s entrenched bureaucratic institutions above all. Warfare is so instructional, I mused; they need to give a course in a few of these issues to highschool seniors simply earlier than they graduate.

“The shock was that once we lastly bought to him, the overall was respectable and useful. Jim turned the spokesman, and he got here on to the purpose.

“‘Sir,’ he mentioned, ‘the inside track is that Italy has had about sufficient of this bloody warfare and should quickly stop. However in line with the data that you’ve given us your self, most of Italy, together with this space, continues to be held by the Germans… The minute Italy goes, we wish out of right here. Now we have good proof the inhabitants is anti-German and could be doubtless to assist us.’

“The overall nodded. ‘Fairly proper,’ he mentioned, ‘it’s the unquestionable responsibility of each prisoner no matter rank to flee and rejoin his unit. I admire figuring out your plans. However certainly there should be another excuse for coming to me, mustn’t there?’

“‘Sure,’ mentioned Jim, ‘we’ve no garments, no sneakers. And we do not know the place they’re saved. We thought you would possibly know or have the ability to discover out.’

“‘Proper,’ mentioned Forrester, ‘I do know. However you will have greater than that. I’ll instruct one of many officers to attract an entire schematic of the inside, indicating stairways, exits, and so forth.’ He hesitated. ‘Report back to me please, earlier than you act.’

“‘Sure, Sir.’ We saluted and left, feeling fairly good. It was September of 1943. For 2 weeks, there had been just one matter of dialog. When would give up come? Ought to those that supposed to make an escape go away singly, in pairs, or in teams? We determined to go in pairs and fan out in several instructions. Then it got here, late one afternoon. Each radio station within the nation introduced that as of the subsequent morning, Italy could be out of the warfare.

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“Jim and I and the remainder of the escape committee referred to as a gathering of your entire group. At 7:30 P.M. the assembly was drawing to an in depth, when Normal Forrester’s aide de camp made his approach to the entrance of the room.

“‘Maintain it!’ he ordered. ‘Now we have new data, and Normal Forrester has issued new directions.’ We waited.

“‘Twenty minutes in the past a BBC broadcast carried an official communiqué from the Allied Excessive Command. The gist of it’s that each one prisoners in all areas are to stay precisely the place they’re. Particular models of the Allied forces are being dispatched instantly to launch all captives.’ The aide de camp completed, appeared round on the shocked faces, and added, ‘Orders are to get your asses again in mattress.’ He left.”

The prisoners determined to go get their garments and get away anyway. Once they reached the clothes storeroom, there was a guard in entrance of the door holding an Italian rifle. The guard was an English corporal, posted there by Forrester. They argued with the guard, after which Normal Forrester appeared.

“Everybody, after all, saluted. ‘Gents,’ he mentioned, ‘we’ve no selection. The printed was very clear. The armies know precisely the place we’re, but when the prisoners have been to go away, they’d be in peril of being shot by the Germans, or by the Italians. It might additionally imply a wasteful, time consuming effort attempting to spherical up such personnel wandering round at random.’

“He spoke to an indignant, unconvinced viewers. ‘Sir, how do we all know when they may come to free us?’ requested somebody. ‘Sir, we wish to take that likelihood. We’re purported to take it. So far as being shot at, that’s a part of it; that’s how we bought right here.’

“The speak continued, however all of us knew it wouldn’t matter. Forrester had decided as pure to him as respiration: FOLLOW ORDERS.

“Morning got here. Exactly at 11:30 A.M. they got here, a dun-colored bike with a plump Gestapo officer within the sidecar, adopted by a half-track troop provider spilling tough-looking German troopers.

“Vehicles had come, and we have been boosted and packed aboard. It had taken lower than half an hour to roust us all out.

“The BBC broadcast had been a pretend. Normal Forrester had been following the orders not of the Allies, however of the North Italian Sector of the German Excessive Command. He will surely face a courtroom martial when he bought again to Britain. Because it occurred, he didn’t wait. He dedicated suicide in Offiziers Lager XII close to Breslau, in Germany. It had been a intelligent ruse by the Germans, and never solely Forrester had been fooled.”

I looked for Felsen’s obituary. He died in April 2005, in the identical month as Pope John Paul II, and my outdated buddy, The Reverend Robert D. It might appear {that a} outstanding delegation of human souls marched on to their third property in April 2005.

Milt Felsen was a producer on the flicks, Saturday Night time Fever (1977) with John Travolta; and The Bell Jar (1979) with Julie Harris; and the documentary TV collection, The Administrators (1997-2008). He labored within the impartial film trade; and lived contentedly along with his spouse in Florida till he handed on. Thanks, Milt, wherever you’re, for leaving 245 pages of written phrases for us in regards to the nature of warfare and life.

I’m happy to see {that a} video interview with Milt Felsen is featured among the many Abraham Lincoln Brigade Movie Archives, Oral Historical past Assortment, on the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives of New York College at,

https://digitaltamiment.internet hosting.nyu.edu/s/albafilms/merchandise/4122

“Too many won’t get throughout [the Ebro River],” mentioned Hemingway,
“Too many will die as a result of a superior trigger
will not be a match for superior hearth energy.”

Hitler’s Rehearsal for World Warfare II:
“I’d identified Milt Felsen for years with out figuring out he was a veteran of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade. . . The Spanish Civil Warfare will not be taught in American colleges regardless that it was Hitler’s rehearsal for WWII.” Paul Leaf, e book reviewer.