Bernard Bellush, 1917–2011, Historian of Labor and the New Deal, Committed Teacher, Political Activist

Historians in the News

Bernard Bellush, Professor Emeritus of History at the City College of New York (CCNY), died of natural causes at age 94 on December 30, 2011 in White Plains, New York.

Born in the Bronx, New York, on November 15, 1917, Bellush attended New York City public schools, graduated from CCNY in 1941, and then entered the history graduate program at Columbia University. He was raised in a politically active leftist household and was active himself politically during his years at CCNY, and indeed throughout his life. Part of the famous Shepherd Hall "Alcove Number One" group of student radicals at CCNY during the 1930s (as discussed in the book and movie Arguing with the World), he identified with Norman Thomas's Socialist Party and wrote his MA thesis on Eugene V. Debs.

Despite a pacifist upbringing, Bellush did not apply for conscientious objector status during World War II; instead he was inducted into the U.S. Army on November 14, 1942—the same day he handed in his MA thesis on Debs and one day before his 25th birthday. He rose to the rank of sergeant and took part in the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy—a harrowing experience that left him with a lifelong fear of cliffs. He remained proud of his service throughout the rest of his life, served on the national board of the American Veterans Committee, and often marched in uniform during the July 4th parades in the small towns of Vermont where he often spent the summer....

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