5-6 Abril “Grumblings” about Merriman’s new job

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 5th and 6th of April 1937.

Robert Merriman is now settled back in the region of Albacete and will take on the role of Commander in the Officer’s School.  In this role, he will meet literally hundreds of “old” and “new” International Brigaders and he will note the name of nearly everyone he meets in his diary.  Interpreting who they are is often not easy and, it should be noted, the transcription is still a work in progress.  If we make mistakes, please comment below.  As noted on the previous diary page, Hans Amlie has taken over the Command of the American Training Base at Villanueva de la Jara.   It is 25 minutes by car  from there to Albacete.

Klaus Becker and Henry Winkler
Identified as Klaus Becker and Peter Winkler, summer 1937 (Photograph 177_175028 of the ALBA 177 Photo collection, NYU Tamiment Collection Digital Library, dlib.nyu.edu/alba-moscow/photos/177_175028.  We have come to believe that this is Peter Winkler (left) and Lucien Vidal (Vital Gayman), right.
Pierre Lamotte, officer in the Intendencia and later the Armorer for the Brigade. Lamotte will leave the Brigade in the summer of 1937 under suspicion of money theft. Source: RGASPI Archive, Moscow, 545/6/929.

Merriman meets with George Brodsky who is the Brigade Commissar at this point.  Brodsky warns Merriman that he will not be a popular choice as Commander amongst the men.   Merriman tries to land a position for Marion in the Cadres Service which is led by Peter Winkler, the Chief of Personnel in the Cadres Service.  This effectively is the Communist Party office where CP members from the various nations will check in at Albacete and be given assignments. We see that Marion is given the job and she will be an insider at Albacete until Fall of 1937.  She describes her new job:

As a member of the International Brigades myself, I was assigned to the headquarters in Albacete, where I took up office duties.  I rewrote stories for the daily newspaper published for the volunteers.  And I continued to help the men write letters home.  I also dealt with some of the letters that came to us.¹

Marion goes on in her book to share a letter sent by a worried mother to Commander Merriman, trying to get her son home.  Merriman refers to a letter that he transcribed on the November 1 page of the diary (this section of the diary will end in September and he starts writing in another diary book):

Robert Merriman’s diary. After September, Merriman used his diary as a notebook. This is a letter he received on April 5.

Merriman also meets with Samuel Stember and Pierre Lamotte, who apparently are both responsible for the Intendencia, the Brigades supply depot, food store, and mess hall.

Gordon and Begelman
Joe Gordon (Joseph Mendlowitz) and Elias Begelman in the Summer of 1938. Source Randall Photo Collection ALBA 11-0098 Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman starts dropping many names on us.  Jacobs, Hagileou, Begelman and Miller are all new to the diary.  Hagelos is probably John Hagileou who was the Mess Sergeant.  There are a large number of Millers in the Brigade and this could be anyone.  Elias Begelman will move up in ranks as an officer in the Spring of 1937.

Merriman says he met with Jock Cunningham of the British Battalion and tried to talk with a “Rochefort”.  French writer Christiane Rochefort‘s father was in Spain (all the online sources say “her father joined the International Brigades in Spain”, but never give his name).  Merriman met with Platone and notes the name of a Russian who is transcribed as Millukich.  Merriman met with Walsh who we take to be Joseph Martin Walsh, Jr., who was the head of the NCO School in February, and Walsh talks about Arturo Corona, who was a Cuban who supposedly commanded Company 2 at Jarama.   ALBA has the following on Corona:

Corona, Arturo. Cuban; Student; CP; Sailed January 16, 1937 aboard the Paris; Deserted (?); Had returned by April 1938; Corona was accused of stealing money from a fundraiser for the FALB; Article published in the Daily Worker states he deserted.
Source: Americans.

Merriman as Commander would have displicline cases landing in his lap for the next year and he did not reveal in his diary the details of these cases but just made notes for himself when they occurred.   “Fogarty and fake bills” is similarly cryptic.  Eugene Fogerty was a Canadian who served in the Medical Service.  Michael Petrou got to the bottom of this mystery in his book, Renegades:

Unlike Bethune, however, not all Canadian doctors had respectable careers in Spain.  Eugene Fogerty worked as a medical officer in the 17th Battalion at a hospital in Villaneuva de la Jara.  His personnel file lists his citizenship as Canadian and indicates that he claimed to have a degree, presumably in medicine, from McGill University in Montreal.  But reports on Fogarty conclude that he “is not a physician and did more harm than good”.  His file records numerous complaints aside from the most serious one of impersonating a doctor.  He reportedly worked privately but drew pay from the International Brigades, he married a local girl and charged his wedding expenses to the International Brigades, he made enough money from his fraud to live in comfort, and he was a drug addict and trafficked in narcotics.  Fogarty was dismissed from the International Brigades, but stayed on in Villaneuva de la Jara before disappearing sometime in the summer of 1937.  A search of records at McGill University revealed no trace of Fogarty ever having attended medical school there.²

The next sentence says that Merriman attended a high level meeting with Lucien Vidal and André Marty, whom we have met before.  The sentence appears to say that Merriman “was on the presidium” perhaps meaning the dais at the front.  It also could read “meeting on war on the presidium”, perhaps being more a serious discussion about the Comintern leadership battles themselves.  The rest of the paragraph would tend to support the lighter, first interpretation.

Merriman ends a long busy day by eating with Lou Wolf.   A Miss Arnold is introduced as his interpreter.  Lou Wolf is not on the Lincoln list nor is Ms Arnold.


¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pp 123-4.

² Michael Petrou, Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, ibid., pp 166-167.

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