Barsky, Edward K., 1895-1975

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Dr. Edward K. Barsky was a prominent surgeon who led a group of American medical volunteers during the Spanish Civil War. For further biographical information on Edward Barsky, and to review the scope and contents of his manuscript collection see, The Guide to the Edward K. Barsky Papers, ALBA 125. The images in this collection were either taken by Barsky and his assistant or accrued in the course of his work as a surgeon in Spain.

From the guide to the Edward K. Barsky Photographs, circa 1937, (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Dr. Edward K. Barsky (1897-1975) was a prominent physician who led a group of American medical volunteers in Spain during the Civil War.

From the description of Edward K. Barsky photograph collection [graphic]. ca. 1937. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 60326905

Edward K. Barsky (1897-1975) was a prominent physician who spent his professional career at Beth Israel Hospital in New York. During the Spanish Civil War, he led a group of American medical volunteers in Spain, the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy (AMB). After the war, he served as Chairman of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee (JAFRC), an organization dedicated to aiding Spanish refugees and lobbying the U.S. leadership on behalf of the deposed Republican government. Barsky and the entire board of JAFRC were charged with contempt of Congress and convicted in June 1947 for refusing to turn over the groups records to HUAC, the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Barsky was sentenced to six months in prison. Following his release the New York Board of Regents moved to suspend his medical license, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1954. In a dissenting opinon, Judge William O. Douglas asserted, "When a doctor cannot save lives in America because he is opposed to Franco in Spain, it is time to call a halt and look critically at the neurosis that has possessed us." Barsky was also involved with the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the New York labor movement, the American Labor Party, and the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which provided emergency medical services for civil rights and peace movement workers in the South.

From the description of Edward K. Barsky papers, 1936-1970 (bulk 1943-1955). (New York University). WorldCat record id: 476150542

Edward K. Barsky was born in New York on June 6, 1895, the son of Dr. Joseph Barsky, a promiment New York physician and a founder of Beth Israel Hospital. One of a family of six children, he attended public elementary school, graduated from Townsend Harris High School and received his college degree from City College of New York. Following the example of his father and two of his brothers, Barsky pursued a career in medicine receiving his formal education at Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons and subsequently conducting post-graduate study abroad in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Beginning in 1919 he served a two-year internship at Beth Israel Hospital where he subsequently advanced through the positions of Visiting Staff, Assistant Adjunct Surgeon, and Adjunct Surgeon before assuming the position of Associate Surgeon in 1934. In November 1935, Barsky became a member of the Communist Party.

With the outbreak civil war in Spain in 1936, Barsky joined with a group of concerned New York physicians to establish the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy (AMB) -- an adjunct organization to the North America Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, later known as the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. The AMB arranged for the shipment of ambulances and other medical equipment and supplies, and in January 1937 sent a fully outfitted medical team of doctors, nurses, and technicians to Spain with Barsky at the helm. Additional medical personnel soon followed and under Barsky's command, base hospitals and convalescent homes were set up in schools and monasteries. Emergency units were established on the front lines in ambulances, makeshift tents, and a mobile medical hospital outfitted with a battery-powered operating room. By the following year 117 American doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers had volunteered to serve in Spain. Barsky returned briefly to the United States in 1937 to conduct a national speaking tour, securing additional funds and supplies for the AMB. With his returned to Spain, he assumed charge of the Sanitary Services of the International Brigade, overseeing hundreds of international medical volunteers -- a position he held until the withdrawal of the foreign forces in January 1939.

Back in the United States Barsky resumed his work at Beth Israel Hospital. He married Vita Lauter, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and the couple had one child -- a daughter named Angela. In the wake of the war in Spain, Barsky turned his attention to securing relief for Spanish exiles who were living in deplorable conditions in French refugee camps, and Republican prisoners in Spain. In 1941 Barsky played a key role in the formation of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee (JAFRC), an organization dedicated to aiding Spanish refugees and lobbying the U.S. leadership on behalf of the deposed Republican government. With Barsky as chairman, the organization raised closed to $400,000 in its first two years of operation. By 1945, however, the JAFRC's progressive agenda attracted the hostile attention of the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Barksy, Executive Secretary Helen R. Bryan, and Executive Board members of JAFRC were subpoenaed to appear before the committee, surrender financial records, and turn over the names of contributors and recipients of aid. After refusing to comply with HUAC demands, Barsky and entire board of JAFRC were charged with contempt of Congress and convicted in June 1947.

Three years of appeals that challenged the constitutionality of the HUAC hearings ended in 1950 when the Supreme Court refused to review the convictions. The board members, including novelist Howard Fast, were sentenced to three months in prison, and Barsky, as the JAFRC's chairman, was sentenced to six months in the Federal Penitentiary in Petersburg, Virginia and fined $500. Following his release, the New York State Board of Regents moved to censure Barsky and -- citing his conviction and subsequent imprisonment -- suspended his medical license. Although he received the unstinting support of his medical colleagues who filed an Amici Curiae on his behalf, in 1954, after four years of appeals, the Supreme Court upheld a six-month suspension of his license. Writing in a dissenting opinion, Judge William O. Douglas asserted, "When a doctor cannot save lives in America because he is opposed to Franco in Spain, it is time to call a halt and look critically at the neurosis that has possessed us."

Barsky remained committed to progressive causes throughout his life. In 1952 he worked on behalf of the American Labor Party and its candidate, Vincent Hallihan, who was chief counsel for Harry Bridges and at the time of the election was serving a six months sentence for contempt of congress. During the 1960s, Barsky was active with the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which provided emergency medical services for civil rights and peace movement workers in the South. He was also affiliated with the New York labor movement, working for many years as a security plan panel physician for District Council 65. In 1967, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade marked their 30th anniversary with a tribute honoring Barsky's achievements on behalf the Spanish Republic. Barsky continued his professional relationship with Beth Israel Hospital throughout the remainder of his life, serving as consulting surgeon in his later years. On February 11, 1975, Edward Barsky died at the age of 78.

From the guide to the Edward K. Barsky Papers, Bulk, 1943-1955, 1936-1970, (Bulk 1943-1955), (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Edward K. Barsky was born in New York on June 6, 1895, the son of Dr. Joseph Barsky, a promiment New York physician and a founder of Beth Israel Hospital. One of a family of six children, he attended public elementary school, graduated from Townsend Harris High School and received his college degree from City College of New York. Following the example of his father and two of his brothers, Barsky pursued a career in medicine receiving his formal education at Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons and subsequently conducting post-graduate study abroad in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Beginning in 1919 he served a two-year internship at Beth Israel Hospital where he subsequently advanced through the positions of Visiting Staff, Assistant Adjunct Surgeon, and Adjunct Surgeon before assuming the position of Associate Surgeon in 1934. In November 1935, Barsky became a member of the Communist Party.

With the outbreak civil war in Spain in 1936, Barsky joined with a group of concerned New York physicians to establish the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy (AMB) -- an adjunct organization to the North America Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, later known as the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. The AMB arranged for the shipment of ambulances and other medical equipment and supplies, and in January 1937 sent a fully outfitted medical team of doctors, nurses, and technicians to Spain with Barsky at the helm. Additional medical personnel soon followed and under Barsky's command, base hospitals and convalescent homes were set up in schools and monasteries. Emergency units were established on the front lines in ambulances, makeshift tents, and a mobile medical hospital outfitted with a battery-powered operating room. By the following year 117 American doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers had volunteered to serve in Spain. Barsky returned briefly to the United States in 1937 to conduct a national speaking tour, securing additional funds and supplies for the AMB. With his returned to Spain, he assumed charge of the Sanitary Services of the International Brigade, overseeing hundreds of international medical volunteers -- a position he held until the withdrawal of the foreign forces in January 1939.

Back in the United States Barsky resumed his work at Beth Israel Hospital. He married Vita Lauter, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and the couple had one child -- a daughter named Angela. In the wake of the war in Spain, Barsky turned his attention to securing relief for Spanish exiles who were living in deplorable conditions in French refugee camps, and Republican prisoners in Spain. In 1941 Barsky played a key role in the formation of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee (JAFRC), an organization dedicated to aiding Spanish refugees and lobbying the U.S. leadership on behalf of the deposed Republican government. With Barsky as chairman, the organization raised closed to $400,000 in its first two years of operation. By 1945, however, the JAFRC's progressive agenda attracted the hostile attention of the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Barksy, Executive Secretary Helen R. Bryan, and Executive Board members of JAFRC were subpoenaed to appear before the committee, surrender financial records, and turn over the names of contributors and recipients of aid. After refusing to comply with HUAC demands, Barsky and entire board of JAFRC were charged with contempt of Congress and convicted in June 1947.

Three years of appeals that challenged the constitutionality of the HUAC hearings ended in 1950 when the Supreme Court refused to review the convictions. The board members, including novelist Howard Fast, were sentenced to three months in prison, and Barsky, as the JAFRC's chairman, was sentenced to six months in the Federal Penitentiary in Petersburg, Virginia and fined $500. Following his release, the New York State Board of Regents moved to censure Barsky and -- citing his conviction and subsequent imprisonment -- suspended his medical license. Although he received the unstinting support of his medical colleagues who filed an Amici Curiae on his behalf, in 1954, after four years of appeals, the Supreme Court upheld a six-month suspension of his license. Writing in a dissenting opinion, Judge William O. Douglas asserted, "When a doctor cannot save lives in America because he is opposed to Franco in Spain, it is time to call a halt and look critically at the neurosis that has possessed us."

Barsky remained committed to progressive causes throughout his life. In 1952 he worked on behalf of the American Labor Party and its candidate, Vincent Hallihan, who was chief counsel for Harry Bridges and at the time of the election was serving a six months sentence for contempt of congress. During the 1960s, Barsky was active with the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which provided emergency medical services for civil rights and peace movement workers in the South. He was also affiliated with the New York labor movement, working for many years as a security plan panel physician for District Council 65. In 1967, the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade marked their 30th anniversary with a tribute honoring Barsky's achievements on behalf the Spanish Republic. Barsky continued his professional relationship with Beth Israel Hospital throughout the remainder of his life, serving as consulting surgeon in his later years. On February 11, 1975, Edward Barsky died at the age of 78.

From the guide to the Edward K. Barsky Papers, Bulk, 1943-1955, 1936-1970, (Bulk 1943-1955), (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Correspondence with Wanda Gág, 1944. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Barsky, Edward K., 1895-1975. Edward K. Barsky papers, 1936-1970 (bulk 1943-1955). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee Records, 1942-1954 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Arthur H. Landis Oral History Collection, 1963-1965 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Correspondence of Sean O'Casey, 1925-1959 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Department of Special Collections
creatorOf Marshall, George, 1904-2000. George Marshall papers, 1933-1955. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Pedro Salinas papers, ca. 1912-1975 (inclusive), 1936-1951 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Edward K. Barsky Papers, Bulk, 1943-1955, 1936-1970, (Bulk 1943-1955) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn The, Daily Worker, and, The Daily World, Photographs Collection, Bulk, 1930-1990, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Spanish Civil War album [picture]. University of New Mexico-Main Campus
referencedIn Boas, Ernst Phillip, 1891-1955. Papers, 1907-1980. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Felix Kusman Papers, Bulk, 1937-1963, 1937-1983 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Landis, Arthur H., 1917-1986. Arthur H. Landis audiotape collection, 1963-1965, 1984. Churchill County Museum
creatorOf Edward K. Barsky Photographs, circa 1937 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Edward K. Barsky Papers, Bulk, 1943-1955, 1936-1970, (Bulk 1943-1955) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Barsky, Edward K., 1897-1975. Edward K. Barsky photograph collection [graphic]. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
referencedIn Martin, Fredericka I. Papers, 1926-1990 (bulk 1968-1984). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Fredericka Martin Photographs, 1937-1938; 1970s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Kusman, Felix, 1909-1983. Papers, 1937-1983 (bulk 1937-1963). Churchill County Museum
creatorOf North American Spanish Aid Committee. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1940. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn James Neugass Photographs, 1937-1938 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Fredericka Martin Papers, 1926-1990 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Neugass, James, 1905-1949. James Neugass photograph collection [graphic]. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Simon, Mildred Rackley, 1906-1992. Papers, 1937-1938. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Mildred Rackley Simon Papers, 1937-1938 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Barsky, Vita person
associatedWith Barsky, Vita person
associatedWith Barsky, Vita. person
associatedWith Beth Israel Medical Center (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Boas, Ernst Phillip, 1891-1955. person
associatedWith Briggs, Judson Reynolds, 1906- person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980. person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955. person
associatedWith Franco, Francisco, 1892-1975. person
associatedWith General Photographic Company, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Joliot-Curie, Irène, 1897-1956. person
associatedWith Kristanov, Tsvetan Angelov. person
associatedWith Kristanov, Tsvetan Angelov. person
associatedWith Kristanov, Tsvetan Angelov. person
associatedWith Kusman, Felix, 1909-1983. person
associatedWith Landis, Arthur H., 1917-1986. person
associatedWith Libsohn-Ehrenberg. person
associatedWith Marshall, George, 1904-2000. person
associatedWith Martin, Fredericka I. person
associatedWith Medical Bureau and North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. corporateBody
associatedWith Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy. corporateBody
associatedWith Medical Committee for Human Rights (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Mussolini, Benito, 1883-1945. person
associatedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Neugass, James, 1905-1949. person
associatedWith North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. corporateBody
associatedWith North American Spanish Aid Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith O'Casey, Sean, 1880-1964. person
associatedWith Parker, Dorothy, 1893-1967. person
associatedWith Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976. person
associatedWith Rosenblum, Walter, 1919- person
correspondedWith Salinas, Pedro, 1892-1951 person
associatedWith Sean O'Casey, 1880-1964 person
associatedWith Sheean, Vincent, 1899-1975. person
associatedWith Simon, Mildred Rackley, 1906-1992. person
associatedWith Simon, Mildred Rackley, 1906-2003 person
associatedWith Smith, Jessica, 1895- person
associatedWith Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Abraham Lincoln Battalion. corporateBody
associatedWith Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Abraham Lincoln Battalion. corporateBody
associatedWith Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Abraham Lincoln Battalion. corporateBody
associatedWith Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Brigada Internacional, XV. corporateBody
associatedWith Spain. Ejército Popular de la República. Brigada Internacional, XV. corporateBody
associatedWith Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Brigada Internacional, XV. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities. corporateBody
associatedWith Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. corporateBody
associatedWith Voros, Sandor. person
associatedWith Voros, Sandor. person
associatedWith Voros, Sandor. person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Wolff, Milton. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Portraits.
Spain
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Participation, American.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Foreign public opinion.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Prisoners and prisons.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Medical care.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Hospitals.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Participation, American.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Hospitals.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Personal narratives.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Pictorial works.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Participation, American.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Prisoners and prisons.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Hospitals.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Foreign public opinion.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x Medical care.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Biography.
Spain
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Biography.
Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Personal narratives.
Subject
Political prisoners
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1895-06-06

Death 1975-02

Information

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