A Volunteer’s Farewell: Sam Levinger

November 23, 2010
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Editor’s Note:

When he volunteered in 1937 to fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War, 20-year old Samuel Levinger was an undergraduate at Ohio State University in Columbus, a Socialist, and the son of a rabbi. He was an exceptionally sensitive man. He was also an excellent writer—of stories, letters, and poetry.

After giving a lecture recently at the University of Vermont, I was approached by Levinger’s niece, Laurie Levinger, who offered an example of her uncle’s writings.

The first is a letter that is self-explanatory as to its purpose and intention and, fair warning, will touch most readers deeply.

The second is a work of poetry.

We publish both pieces with the permission of Ms Levinger, who is currently working on a biography of her uncle. These writings may not be reproduced without her permission. She asks that anyone with information about young Levinger contact her at Laurie@Levinger.net.

Peter N. Carroll

Samuel Harold Levinger (1917-1937). Courtesy of Josh Levinger, http://www.levinger.net/josh/2005/12/18/sam

In case of death only,

please send this to

Mrs. Lee J. Levinger

2257 Indianola Ave.

Columbus, Ohio

U.S.A.

Do not send in case of injury.

Thanks, comrade. Samuel Levinger

Dear Mother and Father:

I suppose that by the time you receive this, I will have been dead several weeks. Of course, war is a confused thing, and I have seen enough certified corpses walking around to make me a little skeptical, but if you receive this and an official announcement too, count it as definite.

This is the last day of relief. We are going up to some front tomorrow to clear out the Fascists. I do not doubt that we will be successful in repatriating the boys across the street, but it will be at considerable cost, and as the Lincoln Battalion is good it should be in the middle of it.

I still stick by my original conviction that I will be alive long after a whole lot of dictators have died of lead poisoning or hardened arteries; but I’ve been wrong on other matters before. Hence I decided to write this letter.

Certainly I am not enthusiastic about dying. I’ve gotten a good bit of fun out of my first twenty years despite the fact that, except for the last six months they were pretty useless. I suppose I would have enjoyed my next twenty just as much. I wanted to write this letter, however, to make clear that there is absolutely nothing to regret.

If I were alive again I think I would join in the battle again at this crucial place. There was an extremely important job to do over here and I was one of the men who decided to do it. That a good many of us were killed while doing it is unfortunate, and the fact that I was killed is still more unfortunate from our standpoints. However, this has no relevance to the necessity of doing the job. This difference between world Fascism and world socialism is too great to permit our safeties to be a factor for consideration.

Next I want to beg both of you not to see this out of context. World change is a stern master. It has killed and will kill millions of boys as dear to somebody as I am to you. The Fascists want war, and bitter war we will give them.

You are more fortunate than many of the parents, for you still have two children with extremely bright futures. You have your extremely valuable work. I am less able to evaluate Father’s work, though I realize its great worth; but in my field, that of an author, I can say I think Mother should become one of the most valuable authors of the generation. And you still have the emancipation of America to be achieved.

I think my ideas on immortality agree largely with yours. I once wrote a lousy poem “If there is darkness beyond I shall sleep, if light I shall wake.” So if I meet you folks again all to the good— if not, we’ve had quite a bit of pleasure in each other’s company while it lasted.

As for my friends, give them my love if you run across them. Tell them I said there’s only one thing to remember—that there’s one comrade less to do the job of soldier of discontent. They’ll all have to do some work to make up for my getting perforated. See if that will get a few of these mugwumps into action.

This has been a clumsy letter. I just want to say that I love you both a great deal, and so forth. Also that it isn’t such a serious thing.

Love and revolutionary greetings.

Joy to the world.

Samuel Levinger

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2 Responses to “ A Volunteer’s Farewell: Sam Levinger ”

  1. Judith Hochberg on December 6, 2010 at 10:44 am

    As the widow of Emanuel Hochberg, VALB, 1908-1987 who had who had two sons before he went to Spain and many children after (his youngest grandchild is three), a poet and an artist, I would like to say we still have to do some work to make up for those who got perforated and it is still a lifelong and longer task to get any of these nugwumps into action, Salud! Judith

  2. Dean Burrier on January 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

    In accordance with Judith, there are so many stories that we have the task of telling. To Ms. Levinger, best of luck with your work. Your grandfather´s letter exemplifies a truly driven and passionate human spirit. In fact it reminds me a lot of the poem “Hero-International Brigade” by Langston Hughes. Particularly the part: “But had I lived four score and ten, life could not´ve had a better end. Ive given what I wished and what I had to give that others would live”

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