Politics: The Hispanic Institute in Spanish Civil War and WWII > Aid For Spanish Refugees and Exiled Professors
The public posture of neutrality maintained during the Spanish Civil War did not prevent the Institute's professors from coming to the aid of the large number of Spanish refugees and intellectuals who had to go into exile.
The Unitarian Service Committee was formed in May 1940 as a standing committee of the American Unitarian Association for the purpose of rendering humanitarian service to refugees in danger from Nazi persecution. In the picture, Herta “Jo” Tempi, head of the USC Paris office, holds a photograph showing Republican Spanish refugees in France. The shortage of clothing (“clothing famine”) forced them to wear concentration camp uniforms even a year after the end of World War II.
In 1937 the Hispanic Institute in conjunction with a group of authorities from Columbia University organized an Emergency Aid Committee for Spanish Professors. As indicated in the minutes, the committee came to the aid of exiled Spanish professors who were in serious financial trouble through the offering of paid lectures that would take place at the Hispanic Institute. The minutes also give an account of the committee's determination to keep its work free from all publicity and political leanings.
Tomás Navarro Tomás was a leading researcher at the Center for Historical Studies in Madrid, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, recognized as one of the most important scholars in the field of Spanish phonetics. Before going into exile in the United States, Navarro Tomás served as Director of the National Library of Spain. In 1939, after the efforts of Federico de Onís, Navarro Tomás joined Columbia University, where he worked until his retirement in 1957.
In the letter of recommendation that he addresses to the Provost in 1939, De Onís suggests hiring Navarro Tomás in terms of humanitarian aid: “Now that the civil war in Spain is practically over, one of the immediate tragic results will be that the Spanish intellectuals, most of whom were living in Madrid and Barcelona and are, as a rule, liberal-minded, though non-political, will have to flee Spain and live in exile, especially those who remained in Spain through the hardships of the war."