Margrit Pittman Presente!
Margrit Adler Pittman, an activist journalist with a lifelong commitment to the fight for peace, democracy and social and economic justice, died February 4 in New York City at the age of 93.
As a young girl, Pittman had first-hand experience with fascism. Born in 1919 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, she never finished formal schooling, as the Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler decreed first that Jews could not attend public schools and then that no Jews could enter college. At that time, in the 1930s, German Jews were ostracized, harassed, publicly humiliated, their shops and synagogues torched and their property expropriated by “Aryans”, and they were, by the tens of thousands, put to death in the Nazi concentration camps. One of Pittman’s aunts and her cousins were deported from France and all disappeared into one of the camps. From that time forward, Pittman was an unrelenting foe of racism, reaction and anti-Semitism.
While still in Germany, Pittman experienced the solidarity of a teacher and of (non-Jewish) German friends who stood by her without regard for their personal safety. Before leaving Germany at the age of 18 in 1938, she was briefly a member of the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund, an underground antifascist organization operating throughout Germany and high on the Gestapo’s hit-list.
Once in the U.S., during the war years, she worked with other antifascists from Germany to build the German-American Emergency Conference to Defeat Hitler. She was managing editor, and editor of the youth page, of the antifascist newspaper The German-American, the largest-circulation antifascist paper for the German–American community in the U.S. Bundles of The German American were distributed to German POW until Washington outlawed it in the camps.
Margrit was a leader among German-Jewish émigrés in the U.S. and in the general fight for democracy during the 1950s McCarthy period and beyond. Many of her émigré comrades returned to Germany after the war to help rebuild the new, antifascist Germany. Margrit stayed in the U.S.
She was denied U.S. citizenship until 1944, when her application was accepted. She joined the Communist Party USA and later married John Pittman, a journalist and African American party leader on the West Coast who died in 1993. They travelled together to Moscow in 1959, serving for three years as correspondents for the Worker, covering the USSR. While there, John and Margrit Pittman authored the book, Peaceful Coexistence: Its Theory & Practice in the Soviet Union, published by International Publishers in 1964.
Margrit Pittman wrote and edited for the antifascist The German-American in the late 30’s and early 40s. Over the years, she was a writer for the Daily Worker, the People’s World, the Daily World –later the People’s Daily World - and was a frequent contributor to the German weekly magazine Die Weltbuehne. She served at times as the editor of the World magazine and as the editorial page editor of the Daily World. In the seventies, Pittman was the Daily World correspondent in the two Germanys and Czechoslovakia. It was during that time that she wrote her book, Encounters in Democracy: a U.S.Journalist's View of the GDR, which came out in 1981. For Pittman, the German Democratic Republic epitomized the repudiation by the German people of the Nazi past.
Pittman, the consummate organizer, was an activist and leader in Women’s Strike for Peace while in San Francisco, the U.S. Committee for Friendship with the German Democratic Republic, the Communist Party USA and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. She was active in parent-teacher associations, neighborhood and tenant associations, the movement for health care for all, Chelsea Standup Against the War in New York and many other mobilizations protesting the war in Iraq. She was also active in senior advocacy organizations.
Margrit Pittman is survived by two children: Carol Pittman and John Peter Pittman, and four grandchildren: Benjamin Rafael Pittman-Polletta, Margrit Rose Pittman-Polletta, Isaiah Badger Pittman, and Jackson Simcha Pittman.
A memorial meeting in New York City is planned for later this Spring.
For those wishing to make donations in memoriam to Margrit Pittman, the family suggests the following institutions:
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen