From the Bronx to Stalingrad: Harry Eisman and the Young Pioneers of America in New York City

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On November 17, 1930, shortly after being released from New York’s Hawthorne Institute sixteen-year-old Harry Eisman set sail for the Soviet Union via Germany. As a high-profile member of the Communist children’s organization the Young Pioneers of America (YPA) who was well-known for his role in school-based organizing and episodes of public disorder, Eisman’s release was particularly controversial, not least because he was only a fraction of the way through a nearly six-year custodial sentence. He stoked controversy by telling a Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter that his goal was to “overthrow the capitalist yoke” and that while he hoped to achieve this peacefully he was also open to potential violence; he then made the cryptic comment, “Well, dead men tell no tales.” Various out-of-state newspapers expressed anger that Communists were being permitted to send their “prize bad boy” for a “post-graduate course in Revolution” courtesy of Moscow. His release followed a prolonged “Free Harry” campaign orchestrated by his fellow YPA members. Their victory was celebrated by American Communists young and old, and Eisman gave speeches at events across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania in the week prior to his departure. This success was remarkable, particularly in the wider context of efforts to suppress Communism. Legal minority differentiated Eisman from many other political activists, dictated [End Page 68] authorities’ efforts to control him, and was fully embraced by the YPA’s triumphant campaign to free “America’s youngest political prisoner.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68
Number of pages84
JournalNew York History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Young Pioneers of America
  • Communism
  • Red Scare
  • Childhood
  • Activism
  • American politics
  • American history

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