Person - Steck, Robert (1912-2007)

Steck, Robert (1912-2007)




Preferred form:

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Fechas de existencia:

Illinois (Estados unidos)  1912-07-29 - Arizona (Estados Unidos)  2007-01-30


Steck, Robert was born in 1912 in Rock Island, Illinois. He inherited a keen awareness of society's injustices from his father, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and member of the Freethinking Society, leading Steck to a lifelong commitment to public service and political activism. While attending St. Ambrose College in Iowa, Steck discovered the theater and, after a stint as a truck driver for his father's business, landed in New York City, where he worked on the staff of New Theater Magazine alongside editor Herb Kline. Here Steck wed his theater skills to social activism.

Steck in 1937 went to the Spanish Civil War. He sailed on the "Ile de France" in February 1937, where he joined the first group of U.S. International Brigades volunteers. In France, he had to walk from France over the Pyrenees to get into Spain. In the following months, Steck served in the International Brigades with the First Regiment of Trains, where he was elected political commissar. He worked with the British writer Ralph Bates, putting out the magazine Volunteer for Liberty and headed the Tarazona Base Cultural Commission, adapting his theater experience to the political and social realities of the war and creating skits.

On the 9th of April 1938, during the retreat from Gandesa, Steck was captured by Italian fascists, who would have executed him were it not for Mussolini's order to exchange International Brigadiers for captured fascists. Steck was first kept for two days in complete darkness at the bottom of a cistern, and then transferred to the prison at San Pedro de Cardeña, where he spent the following seventeen months. Meanwhile, Steck's father joined the Friends of the Prisoners committee in the U.S. to work for his son's release. It was only after the war had ended that the State Department finally negotiated the release of a group of eleven prisoners that included Steck.

He also quickly connected with the recently-formed Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB), chairing the Committee for the Release of the International Prisoners in Spain. Steck joined the U.S. Army in 1943, serving until 1946 in the Medical Corps at Fort Meade, in the Specialized Training Program at Georgetown University, and in Intelligence training at Camp Ritchie. His deployment overseas was repeatedly put off, however, and Steck became convinced that this was due to discrimination based upon his participation in the Spanish Civil War but he was discharge with honor. He retired in 1978, affording him more time to devote his energies to a broad spectrum of social issues, including nuclear disarmament, the Nicaraguan revolution, the struggle in El Salvador, and justice for Palestinians.

Steck remained a core member of VALB, serving on the Executive Board of the National Council, and chairing the Prisoner Historical Committee. From 1979 through 1986, he worked closely with veteran Carl Geiser on Geiser's "Prisoners of the Good Fight" (1986). Steck wrote 120 biographical profiles that underlay Geiser's account of the Americans' experience in Spanish prisons. During this period, Steck also used his research to write and publish a pamphlet on Walter Fairbanks Grant, a prisoner killed in Spain; and an article about Sol Leiserowitz, another prisoner who disappeared. He died on the 30th (probably on the 31st) of January 2007in Green Valley, Arizona.

Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Date of the event: 1936 - 1939






Lugar de Residencia:

Estados Unidos

Lugar de Nacimiento:

Illinois (Estados unidos) in 1912-07-29

Lugar de Defunción:

Arizona (Estados Unidos) in 2007-01-30


Martínez Reverte, Jorge. Guerreros y traidores: de la guerra de España a la Guerra Fría. 1ª ed. Jorge M. Reverte. Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg. 2014. 242 páginas. 978-84-672-5803-5 .

External Links

Recurso web:

Alba Volunteer

Recursos web:

Jewish Virtual Library

Recurso web:

The Volunteer

Recurso web:

The Volunteer

Recurso web:

The volunteer


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