Schesch, Adam Bertram (1942-2023), Madison
Adam Schesch died on August 17, 2023, at age 80, surrounded by his family. He was born September 14, 1942, in New York City to Carl Jacob Schesch and Elizabeth Lillian Yassin, the children of German, Russian and Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. He graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. and UW-Madison with a master’s degree) Organizing Tactics of the Vietnamese Communist Party Before WW II) and doctorate in Comparative History (Popular Mobilization During Revolutionary and Resistance Wars: Vietnam, China, Yugoslavia, Ireland and Algeria).
After arriving in Madison in 1964, Adam plunged into the anti-war movement beginning with the February 1965 State Capitol protest against President Lyndon Johnson’s bombing of North Vietnam. He helped organize the National Committee to End the War in Vietnam and authored the widely published An Outline History of Vietnam (1968). He finished 3rd in the Spring 1969 Madison mayoral primary, representing the Wisconsin Alliance.
In December 1970, he moved to Chile to conduct research and actively worked with the Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario (MAPU) in support of Chilean President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity coalition. He shared with MAPU his extensive research into U.S. counter-insurgency methods and warned of the growing danger of a coup against the elected government.
On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military overthrew Allende in a violent coup d’etat with covert support from the U.S. government of President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. Adam and his then wife, Patricia Garrett, were arrested and imprisoned in the National Stadium of Chile in Santiago. They witnessed daily executions of Chilean workers. Adam stood firm despite 3 rounds of interrogation and broken ribs. He was finally released and repatriated following many calls from Madisonians to the U.S. State department and the intervention of influential politicians, including Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Bob Kastenmeier.
In 2002, he returned to Chile to testify before Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, offering his estimate that 400-500 executions were carried out in the National Stadium from September 15-19, 1973, based on the number and size of prisoner groups he witnessed being marched to the playing field. He described the sound of machine guns, intentionally disguised by large exhaust fans in the bowels of the stadium. Judge Guzmán supervised a detailed physical re-enactment that confirmed Adam’s description of the unique acoustics of the mass executions.
In 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the military coup, Adam was honored by the “Chile Agradece” organization of former militants for his service in 1970-73 and subsequent solidarity work from 1974-86.
After his return from Chile Adam worked for 25 years as a research analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services. He was a union member and longtime delegate to the South-Central Federation of Labor. In retirement, Adam remained active in social justice organizing and occasionally took time to renew his accomplished skill in classical piano. He remained an active and steadfast opponent of U.S. imperialism until his final days, having presciently cautioned against the likelihood of a “soft coup” in the event that President Trump lost the 2020 election.
Adam is survived by Tracy Suprise, his loving spouse and compañera of 30 years, son Aaron Garrett-Schesch, grandchildren Skylar Karls (Sara), Elizabeth Ehrler (Seth) and great-grandson, Han Ehrler. He is also survived by his brother Daniel of St. Louis, sister Devorah (David Shaked) and 7 nieces and nephews of Israel.
His surviving family also includes goddaughter Maisha Ostergren (Jason), “grandchildren” Evelyn and Quincy, and many cousins, including very dear Eleanor Dosick of Massachusetts.
Contributions in Adam’s memory may be made to the Resist Foundation (www.resist.org), Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) or Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org). A Celebration of Life will be held at a future date.