Iceland, Benjamin Isaac.


Iceland, Benjamin Isaac 28 years old; Single; Social Worker; American Labor Party, CP 1934 unit organizer, American Labor Party, American Federation of Government Employees; Received Passport# 435169 on June 7, 1937 which listed his address as 735 Mace Avenue and 3952 48th Street both Bronx, Long Island, New York; Sailed October 2, 1937 aboard the Georgic; Arrived in Spain via Espolla on October 15, 1937; Training Base, Tarazona, Training Company 4; Served with the 35th Anglo-American Battery, Plana Mayor, December 29, 1937 to February 10, 1938, Teruel; Transferred to DECA, Battery 17, Klement Gottwald Anti-Aircraft Battery, February 10, 1938-March 24, 1938, Retreats; Returned to the 35th Anglo American Battery April 28, 1938-May 23, 1938; In hospital at Denia and Valencia March 28, 1938-April 14,1938 and again from May 23, 1938-July 3, 1938; Then to the 14th Battery, 2nd Group, John Brown Battery, July 23, 1938-October 21, 1938; Rank Soldado; Served at Teruel, Huesca, Aragon, Cuenea, and Toledo; Returned to the US on February 4, 1939 aboard the President Harding; WWII Armed Forces; d. September 10, 1990, Plainfield New Jersey; Was editor of The Volunteer in the 1980s; Spoke English, Spanish and French. Code A.
Source: Sail; Scope of Soviet Activity; Cadre; Figueres List; RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 915, ll. 1-5; ALBA 054 Benjamin Iceland Papers; Good Fight C.
Biography: Ben Iceland (1910-1990), son of the Yiddish poet Rueben Iceland, was born on New York’s Lower East Side and raised in the Bronx. Iceland graduated from New York University in 1933 with a degree in classics. Upon graduation he held a series of makeshift jobs, everything from shoveling snow to working as a theater usher, until taking a position in 1934 with New York City’s Home Relief Bureau, the forerunner of the Welfare Department. Once he landed a steady job, Iceland married Claire Brown, a union organizer. In 1937, Iceland, against the wishes of his wife and unbeknownst to his mother, joined the International Brigades. During the Spanish Civil War he was a machine-gunner with the Czech and John Brown anti-aircraft batteries, and he was among the last American volunteers to leave Spain. Upon his return from Spain, Iceland, a member of the Communist Party from the mid-1930s, rejoined the city’s Welfare Department. When his membership in the Communist Party was exposed, however, he lost his job. By the early 1940s Iceland’s marriage had ended. When World War II broke out, Iceland joined the United States Army, and spent the war years on duty in California. After the war Iceland took a job helping displaced European Jews find work and housing, and he worked briefly as a union organizer. Finding himself increasingly under investigation by the FBI, Iceland bought a farm outside Albany, and took up farming near Frank “Ski” Buturla, a friend from the Spanish Civil War. In 1962, after having obtained a graduate degree, Iceland moved to New Jersey and taught Latin in a local high school until he retired in 1976. Iceland had by this time remarried. His second wife, Marianne, was a native of Vienna. Iceland was an active member of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB). In 1982 Manny Harriman, then retiring as editor of The Volunteer, VALB’s newsletter, tapped Iceland to become the next editor thus moving editorial functions of The Volunteer from the West Coast to the East. Changing the location of the Volunteer's editorial board was only one of many VALB controversies over which Iceland would preside as editor. Iceland served as editor of The Volunteer from 1982 until shortly before his death in 1990. - Courtesy of Tamiment Library, NYU.