Frank’s International Brigade personnel file in the Comintern Archives: 2

I feel like most of the posts so far have been about Elizabeth (more of the ephemera is associated with her), but that when there is a post about Frank it is a cracker. I have described previously how I was sent the information on Frank from his International Brigade personnel file held in the Comintern archives (now in Moscow). The most exciting things in this file were a photograph of a very young (c. twenty-one) Frank, and an account in his own words of how he ended up in Spain (see Frank’s International Brigade personnel file in the Comintern Archives: 1 for more on all this). There were also two other main items: a “Biografía en España” questionnaire (answered by Frank in French), and an intriguing-looking three page document in German, that looks like some kind of security report on Frank by someone called Kurt.

My German is almost non-existent, so two very kind friends (Hannah and Jenny) have been working their way through this document for me over the last few months  – combining the translation of strange German documents (apparently some of the German is an unusual dialect) with various jobs and a new baby! It was a far greater task than I had first anticipated (far longer, and more intricate), and so much information has come out of it, that I have decided to break it up a bit and just post the report page by page. So here is page one, translation first (with the original – and some of my thoughts – below). Here goes:

Around 18 days ago Girling turned up in our delegation to take part in the Interbrigaden. He said that, since 10.10.37, he has been volunteering at the children’s evacuation center in Puigcerda. On his past he gave the following information:

Born in England. Studied at different universities. Then since May 1935 worked in Croydon in England in the Government Office: Civil Service Inland Revenue Department as a scribe. Girling states that this was a position subordinate to the finance ministry. He was here until December 1936. In January 1935 he wanted to enter the K.P.E. [British Communist Party – “Kommunistischen Partei Englisch“?], but left after 11 months, since he was in danger of losing his position in the civil service. After his dismissal from the service, he apparently worked as an unskilled worker in various companies.

Girling is in possession of an English passport no. 4634, issued on 15.7.35, valid for 5 years. In this passport he has various visas and visa stamps of entry and exit to France, from the time he worked in the Civil Service. He states that he went on holiday trips to the French coast. In July 1937 he went to France and joined the International Voluntary Service. Girling states that this is a service attached to the International Red Cross. He was allegedly used for building roads in Kanton Wallis [the Swiss Canton of Vallais] near Loetschental. He was there until the end of September 1937, then went to Bern, where he spent two weeks at the house of Therese Lautenburg, Bern, Falken Höhenweg 8. He states that this is a friend from the International Voluntary Service. In October 1937, he took a bus to Spain to pick up evacuated women. That is why Girling has a visa issued by the Spanish Consul in Bern. He arrived in Barcelona on the 10.10.37. He signed up at the Servicio Internacional de los Amigos Cuaqueros [“International Service of the Quaker Friends”], where he was sent to Puigcerda on October 13, 1937 to work in the children’s evacuation center. He is in possession of a confirmation on the 12.10.37 issued by this service, signed by Alfred Jakob. In Puigcerda he was mainly used for agricultural work by the Comite Ayuda Infantil [“Children’s Aid Committee”] until early January 1938. He then went to Barcelona.

In Puigcerda he met an Austrian physician, Dr. Wallis, who was married to the daughter of a Russian who is living in Barcelona, called Kleinmann. Kleinmann is the owner of a small celluloid factory and lives in Calle Provenza 82. Through the intermediary of Dr. Wallis, Girling met this little man and settled in Barcelona with him. For his time in Puigcerda he refers to the following 2 persons:

1. Friedel Funk (Swiss), head of the Comite in Puigcerda

2. Nic Carter (American), secretary of the Comite.

He first met both people in Puigcerda. Of Funk, we have nothing to complain about, but we are currently trying to inquire about him. Of Nic Carter, we were told that he was the son of an American millionaire. We have also been warned that he is an unknown quantity, with no exact details.


There is so much to say about all of this – I think I will need to return to this again, but these are my initial thoughts (mainly on the people mentioned).

A lot of this ties up with Frank’s own account of coming to Spain: walking across France, joining up with the International Voluntary Service in Switzerland – but there are some details which are either examples of Frank lying/exaggerating, for whatever reason, or of something getting a bit lost in Kurt’s account of things (e.g. mention of Frank’s time at university – he hadn’t yet been).

There is still so much extra information though – I had never heard the names Therese Lautenburg or Alfred Jakob before. Therese Lautenberg was a Swiss Quaker (this places her at a 1934 Quaker meeting in Berne) and Alfred Jacob (not Jakob) was an American-born British Quaker. I wonder he was one of the early links between Frank and Elizabeth? Although not a Quaker herself (her father had been a Presbyterian theologian), Elizabeth had strong ties to the Quaker community in Birmingham, where she was from: her father, Robert Aytoun, had taught at Woodbrooke, the Quaker College in Birmingham, and the Cadburys were family friends (Edward Cadbury had become her guardian after her father’s death). Jacob was central figure to the Quakers’ role in the Spanish Civil War – he and his wife, Norma, and their children had been there since 1936 – and, as a pacifist, he was chiefly involved in providing to aid refugees.

Much as I’d love to, I can’t find out much about Dr. Wallis, or Kleinmann, the Russian émigré with the celluloid factory in Barcelona – though I think, from some brief googling that Wallis’s forename was “Kurt” (and his wife, née Kleinmann, was Henriette). Could this be a Soviet Roger Ackroyd? Is this “Kurt” also the author of this document….? It’s unlikely, but just possible (the author of the document refers to Frank living in the same house as him, and elsewhere tells us that Frank is lodging in Barcelona with Kleinmann). Hm – some more digging required perhaps. Kurt Wallis is mentioned in a roll call of Jewish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War; it looks like he and his wife emigrated to Mexico in 1942, and then to Israel in 1950.

It is also interesting to dwell briefly on the second of the two men who are named as able to vouch for Frank in Puigcerda. I can’t find anything about the fabulously-named Friedel Funk (and googling his name alongside Puigcerda just brings up a list of Catalonian jazz bands) but I had actually already heard of Nic Carter – “the son of an American millionaire” about whom Kurt is also sceptical – as I had seen him referred to elsewhere in relation to Puigcerda. Also known as Barton Carter, his time in Spain is the subject of a book by his niece, Nancy Barton Clough (although Nancy and I have already been in touch about Puigcerda, and she didn’t find any mention of my grandparents in her research). There is an interesting summary of his life here. He had come to Spain in 1936, having just had his heart broken – and was, again, cheifly involved in providing relief for refugees; he was caputured in 1938 and never seen again.

The next two pages take us into Third Man territory – to be continued…


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if you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions - or (even better!) further information - about any of the topics covered on Red Thirties, then please either leave a comment or e-mail me at: Thanks for reading, Anna

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