Edward K. Barsky

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Edward K. "Eddie" Barsky (June 6, 1895 - February 11, 1975) was an American surgeon and political activist. Barsky is best remembered as the head of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, a Communist Party-sponsored organization which raised funds to aid refugees from the regime of Spanish strongman Francisco Franco in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. In the 1950s Barsky became a cause célèbre as a victim of McCarthyism when he was imprisoned for refusing to provide information to the House Un-American Activities Committee.


Edward K. Barsky, known to his friends as "Eddie," was born in Manhattan, New York City on June 6, 1895.[1] He attended the public schools of the city, graduating from Townsend Harris High School.[2] He was the son of a surgeon at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.[3]

Barsky attended City College of New York and graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1919.[2] He began his own internship at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City in 1921.[2]

Barsky was made an Associate Surgeon at Beth Israel Hospital in 1931.[2]

Spanish activities

Children preparing for evacuation, some giving the Republican salute. The Republicans showed a raised fist whereas the Nationalists gave the Roman salute.

Barsky sailed for Spain on January 16, 1937, arriving early the next month.[4] There he served with the Republican Medical Service in various American Hospitals.[4] Barsky returned to US from Spain to be appointed Surgeon General of International Sanitary Service.[4]

After the defeat of the Republican force, Barsky returned to the USA, arriving in August 1938.[4]

Pre-McCarthy period

Chairman Dies of HUAC proofs his letter replying to President Roosevelt's attack on the committee, October 26, 1938

Barsky was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on February 13, 1946, where he refused to turn over the books, ledgers, and other financial documents of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, as was demanded.[5] As a result, Barsky was charged with Contempt of Congress and brought to trial for his willful defiance of Congressional subpoena.[5]

Edward Barsky died on February 11, 1975 in Manhattan, New York City.


Barsky's papers are housed as part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives at New York University in New York City.[6] The Barsky material encompasses 2.5 linear feet of material, housed in five archival boxes, and is open to researchers without restriction.[6] Included in this material is an undated manuscript of a memoir by Barsky entitled "Someone Had to Help."[7]

See also


  1. ^ Edward Barsky passport issued on 6 October 1921
  2. ^ a b c d Phillip Deery, Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York. New York: Empire State Editions/Fordham University Press, 2014; pg. 13.
  3. ^ Deery, Red Apple, pg. 166, fn. 5.
  4. ^ a b c d "Edward K. Barsky: Biography," Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, www.alba-valb.org/
  5. ^ a b Haig A. Bosmajian, The Freedom Not to Speak. New York: New York University Press, 1999; pg. 1.
  6. ^ a b Jessica Weglein, "Guide to the Edward K. Barsky Papers: Descriptive Summary," Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives, New York University, 2014.
  7. ^ Deery, Red Apple, pg. 116, fn. 8.

External sources

  • Photo of Barsky
  • Jane Pacht Brickman, "Medical McCarthyism and the Punishment of Internationalist Physicians in the United States," in Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Theodore M. Brown (eds.), Comrades in Health: US Health Internationalists, Abroad and at Home. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013; pp. 82–100.
  • Peter N. Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.
  • Walter J. Lear, "American Medical Support for Spanish Democracy, 1936-1938," in Anne-Emanuelle Birn and Theodore M. Brown (eds.), Comrades in Health: US Health Internationalists, Abroad and at Home. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013; pp. 65–81.
  • Joseph North, "A Case for the Doctor," New Masses, August 19, 1947, pp. 8–9.
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