Aaron Lopoff’s Grave Located

November 19, 2022

Aaron Lopoff. The 15th International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection; ALBA PHOTO 11-0149. Tamiment Library, NYU.

When the government of Catalonia decided to name its program aimed at locating and recovering the remains of International Brigade volunteers who died there after Alvah Bessie, it did so because when Bessie returned to Spain in the 1960s, he had tried to find the grave of his friend and comrade Aaron Lopoff. He wasn’t able to, and the exact location of Lopoff’s burial place remained an unsolved mystery for decades. Recently, however, Ray Hoff, spurred on by research from Alan Warren, found a document in the Comintern Archives from the Military Hospital authorities in Girona stating that Lopoff died in the town of Santa Coloma de Farners.

Santa Coloma de Farners is a little town near Girona, in Catalonia. Its name during the Spanish Civil War was “Farners de la Selva.” A building that used to serve as a spa, called “Termes Orion,” served as an IB hospital known as the Clínica Militar number 5 from April 1938 until January 1939. Since it was a hospital for wounded who were recovering or in the process of being evacuated (it was close to the French border), the number of soldiers who died there is small in compared to base and campaign hospitals.

Santa Coloma Cemetery

Based on the documentation from Ray Hoff, the Catalan General Directorate for Democratic Memory contacted the civil registry in Santa Coloma de Farners, which was able to locate Lopoff’s death certificate. The certificate gives Lopoff’s place and time of death as 4AM on September 1, 1938, in Termes Orion, and states that he was buried in the town cemetery. The document further identifies him as a lieutenant of the International Brigade, not married, who died without leaving a will.

Alan Warren writes from Catalonia:

Arthur Landis writes in The Abraham Lincoln Brigade that Aaron died at Sabinosa hospital near Tarragona (page 554), and both Alicia Garcia Lopez and I visited Tarragona cemetery a few months ago, around the time of the official presentation of the Alvah Bessie program in Mataró, to check the records and discuss the possible burial place of brigaders who died there. We now know where it is, but sadly the burials were removed in the 1960s or 1970s to allow new burials. One can still.see the original recesses of the burials, and we know the names of at least three brigaders who were buried there.

Attending your online discussion last September 18th with Jordi Martí-Rueda and Eulàlia Mesalles Godoy of the General Directorate for Democratic Memory inspired me to study further the online hospital records of Santa Coloma de Farners and to my pleasant surprise, to discover the misspelling of Lopoff as “Leopold”. I mentioned this in the “International Brigades Remembered” Facebook page and passed it on to the Friends and Family of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” I also discussed this with Jordi Martí-Rueda, asking him to discuss with the town and the historian who gave the name of “A. Leopold” in the list of the six dead buried there. Jordi confirmed the correct name and was able to provide a death certificate.