This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”
The Effects of The War Upon the Jews of the Soviet Union
As the Nazis entered the USSR in their war of aggression, they organised killing squads against the Jews of the former Pale of Settlement, within the USSR:
“The former ‘Pale of Settlement’ – fell under German occupation. In the territories annexed by the Soviet Union after September 1939 – the Baltic, eastern Poland, Bessarabia and the Bukovina – live 1,910,000 Jews; in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, the Crimea and other areas of the RSFSR overrun by the German forces are 2,160,000 Jews. Of these, 1.5 million manage to flee before the German troops arrive. More than 2.5 million are trapped, 90 percent of which live concentrated in less than 50 towns. In the months before the attack, the Nazi leadership has designed a method for these particular circumstances: the mobile killing units.. “Einsatzgruppen,”..of SS men, German police and local helpers… Outside cities with large Jewish populations, mass killings of unprecedented scope and speed take place – in Babi Yar outside Kiev, in Ponar outside Vilna, in the VII.Fort outside Kaunas. In the first five months of operation, the “Einsatzgruppen” shoot 100,000 Jews per month… about 2 million Jews are still alive after the first sweep in November 1941.. Jews are forced into “ghettos” and the population Aselected” for immediate killing, deportation or for forced labor. From 1942 onward, these ghettos are Aliquidated” and the remaining population shot. By the end of 1943, another 900,000 Jews are killed.”
WWW Site: “Beyond the Pale”; Op Cit; at:
During the war anti-Semitic chauvinism continued to be expressed against the Jews despite high involvement of the Soviet Jews in the resistance:
“The Jews of the Soviet Union took an active part in the fight against Nazi Germany. About half a million served in the Red Army, and many volunteered for service at the front. Jewish soldiers ran an extra risk: when taken prisoner, they were bound to be shot immediately. An estimated 200,000 Soviet Jews died on the battlefield. During the war, the old anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as cowardly soldiers was resurrected. Rumours circulated that Jews are “draft dodgers..” http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/53.html
The Soviet state took action to organise the Jewish partisans and fighters, and to publicise their actions in the West. This took the concrete from within the Soviet Union of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC). Its’ organisation was approved of, and supported by both Stalin and Beria.
“The Soviet authorities in April 1942 allow the establishment of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Its aim is to organize political and material support for the Soviet struggle against Nazi Germany from the Jewish communities in the West.”
(See Web site at “Beyond the Pale”; Op Cit p.61: http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/61.html).
“One should bear in mind that attempts to organise an international Jewish committee in the Soviet Union during the first months of the War were sponsored by Beria, head of the Soviet Security Police. Individuals connected with the security apparatus also preformed a significant role within the Soviet Antifascist Committee which emerged in Spring 1942.”
Redlich Shimon:”Propaganda and Nationalism in Wartime Russia-The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR, 1941-1948″; 1982; USA; p.11.
There is some dispute as to the origin of the idea of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
Two members of the “Bund,” from Poland, were imprisoned by the Soviets after the annexation of Eastern Poland under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in 1939. These two men were Henrych Erlich and Wiktor Alter.
They proposed to set up an international Jewish Committee in the USSR. Upon the arrest of the two, international pressure mounted to release them. This included Polish socialists such as Wanda Wasilwska and the American Federation of Labor, and the British government. As a letter written from the Foreign Office explained, this would strengthen the hand of the “moderate Poles” led by General Sikorski:
“A letter from the British Foreign Office to the British Embassy in Moscow listed Erlich and Alter among eight outstanding Polish specialists whose release was sought by the British ‘to strengthen General Sikorski’s hand with his people,’ ie to bolster the moderate Poles.”
Redlich Shimon: “Propaganda and Nationalism in Wartime Russia-The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR, 1941-1948″; 1982; USA; p.14.
But when Beria became involved in their case, the previously announced death sentences were lifted and they were released. They were then allowed to assist in the formation of the Committee. As Redlich points out, the Soviet Government was actively thinking about such steps, and a parallel Slav Committee, had already been created “within a few weeks after Hitler’s attack”. (Redlich Ibid; p. 11.)
Claims that Alter and Erlych were primarily responsible for a similar idea in respect of the Jews, are impossible to verify. It is however, certainly the case that both were then later executed.
Who would gain from their executions?
Although both of them were Bundists, and thus anti-Bolshevik, both were working towards the ridding of Poland from Nazi rule and the establishment of a democratic and social-democratic state in Poland. Their contacts with the Polish ambassador in Moscow, Professor Stanlsilaw Kot had assured their allegiance to:
“The New Plan.. Which will shape the fate of the future Europe in the spirit of political freedom social justice and national equality… Kot subsequently reported to his superiors in London that the “Bund delegates told me that the Soviet Government (NKVD) asked their assistance in spreading propaganda especially in America. They promised their help on condition that they would conduct the propaganda themselves, not as figure heads, and that it would be under the control of the (Polish) ambassador.”
Redlich Ibid; p. 24,
Despite evidence that is acknowledged, that they had established links with visiting social democrats such as Water Citrine of the British Trades Union Congress and members of the Soviet – British Trade Union Committee, it appears that Alter and Erlych were genuinely interested in the liberation of Poland.
They therefore objectively assisted the Soviet struggle.
It is clear then, that their murder did not objectively help the USSR.
Yet they were suddenly re-arrested on December 4th 1941.
Even Shimon Redlich, the anti-Marxist-Leninist historian of the JAFC, finds the arrests inexplicable, from the point of view of both Stalin and the desperate struggle of the USSR state against Hitlerism.
In the absence of further data, Alliance is forced to interpret this as another attempted sabotage (See above for other documented war time sabotage).
However the decision had been taken, somehow the fact of their executions; had subsequently to be explained to the world. Vyshinsky accused them of: “working on behalf of Germany.” Redlich Ibid; p. 30. This seemed to many to be a rather un-convincing allegation. There was considerable negative international response to their re-arrest. Workers circles in the USA especially, were split by the news of these two executions. However, the executions were indeed confirmed by Litvinov in early 1943, who stated that both of them had argued for a Peace with Germany. (Redlich Ibid; p. 33).
Further documentary data on this matter is still awaited.
However by the time the arrests of the Bund-ists, had occurred, a Jewish Anti-fascist Committee had been established.
Information provided in an internal party document, “Pursuant to the inquiry of Comrade Shumeiko” upon the JAFC, confirms that the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee in the USSR (JAFC) was formed soon after a rally organised in Moscow of the representatives of Athe Jewish people” Vaksberg A, Ibid, p. 107. It occurred after the:
“First antifascist radio broadcast political rally of representatives of the Jewish people, which was held in Moscow in August 1941. The Committee consists of 70 members … and its executive committee has 19 members.”
From Library of Congress site WWW: “The Jewish Antifascist Committee Jewish in the USSR”; Find at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/jewi.html
In a memo of 21 June 1946: “To Comrade M.A.Suslov”; the members were itemised. The leading elements were in the main, long standing party members:
“1. Secretary of the Committee, whose duties (following the death of Comrade Shakhno Epshtein) are carried out by the writer I. Fefer, member of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) [VKP(b)] since 1919.
2. Deputy Secretary of the Committee, Comrade S.M. Shpige’glias, VKP(b) member since 1919 and formerly a party worker.”
Memorandum of JAFC ; 21 June 1946; To “Comrade M. A. SUSLOV, Director Section For Foreign Policy of the Central Committee Of the Communist Party”; At Library of Congress site on web: http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/m2antfac.html
But, as a leading representative of the politburo, Solomon Lozovsky was the political representative. He was then Deputy Commissar of Political Affairs, and deputy chief of Sovinformburo. It was he who officially announced the formation of the committee, talking to foreign correspondents in Kuibyshev in April 1942:
“All the anti-fascist committees arose in connection with Hitler’s treacherous attack on the USSR.. The Jews have created an anti-fascist committee to help the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the USA.”
Redlich Op Cit; p. 40.
The JAFC published a paper- “Eynikayt“, from the summer of 1942, until late 1948. The key members of the JAFC included, Solomon Mikhoels (the Jewish actor, and Director of the Moscow Jewish State Art Theatre), Shakhne Epstein, the executive secretary, and Itzik Feffer was a poet as well as a Red Army Colonel; Ilya Ehrenburg the noted writer; David Bergelson the writer; Perets Markish the Soviet-Yiddish poet.
Of all these, undoubtedly the most popular figure in the JAFC was Solomon Mikhoels, famous for his stage roles and this Theatre. It is said that Stalin had nick-named him as “The Wise Solomon”, (Teller, Judd L: “The Kremlin, The Jews & The Middle East”; New York; 1957; p.41.”) though this is specifically repudiated by other sources. Rapport; Ibid).
After the victory of Stalingrad, in 1943, a tension erupted over a dual potential role for the JAFC:
Firstly, to defend Jewish refugees and provide assistance and rehabilitation to Jewish expatriates; and
Secondly to “activate” foreign Jewry for the defence of the USSR. (Redlich Ibid; p. 43-44).
The latter view predominated, and Mikhoels and Feffer were sent on a speaking tour of the West. They succeeded in convincing Jewish people in the West to support and donate to the Russian anti-war efforts:
“The Jewish Anti-fascist Committee in the USSR has sent during its entire existence one delegation, composed of Comrades Mikhoels and Fefer, to the United States, England, Canada, and Mexico. This delegations’s trip report has been published in the book: “The Jewish People against Fascism.”
Memorandum to Comrade Suslov; Ibid; AT:
The leading lights of the Western Jewish intelligentsia met them such as those of the American Committee of Jewish Writers & Scientists, with Albert Einstein, Sholom Asch, Lion Feuchtwangler, Howard Fast, Lilian Hellmann and others. The trip succeeded in raising funds for at Aleast one thousand aeroplanes and five hundred tanks and uniforms and food etc. Vaksberg Ibid; p.118
There is little doubt that Mikhoels and Feffer made a significant impact upon world Jewry, and garnered respect and enthusiasm for the USSR.
“In 1943 Solomon Mikhoels and the writer Itzik Feffer embark on a seven-month official tour to the USA, Mexico, Canada and Great Britain. They are received everywhere with great enthusiasm: for a long time, no official contact with one of the largest Jewish communities of the world had been possible. Especially in the United States, where many Jews have not forgotten their ties with Russia, the tour is a great success, and many millions of dollars are raised for the Russian war effort. The JAFC becomes the focal point of a national awakening for Soviet Jewry at a time when its very survival is in danger. Many Jews turn to the JAFC with requests for help, among them survivors from the Nazi camps who find their houses occupied upon their return.” WWW Site Beyond the pale:
One important achievement of the JAFC was that several prominent Jews from all over the world came to the USSR as guests of the committee:
“Over two years, representatives of a series of foreign Jewish antifascist organizations have visited the Committee: Deputy Chairman of the Jewish Antifascist Committee of Bulgaria, Mr. Zhak Vradzhali; one of the leaders of the Union of Jews of Czechoslovakia, Mr. Rozenberg; representatives of Jewish organizations of France, Poland, et al. Recently Mr. Ben Zion Goldberg (Waife), the son-in-law of Sholem Aleichem, visited the Soviet Union. He is a prominent public figure in the United States, a member of the executive committee of the Soviet-American Friendship Society (headed by Lamont), chairman of the Committee of Jewish Scientists, Writers, and Artists of the United States (Albert Einstein is president of the Committee), vice-president of Ambidjan, the All-American Society for Aid to Birobidzhan (president of Ambidzhan– Steffenson). Mr. Goldberg is also a major American journalist.. Mr. Goldberg was received in Moscow by M. I. Kalinin and S. A. Lozovskii.. Met Soviet writers .. representatives of the Soviet Jewish community (at the Jewish Antifascist Committee in the USSR headquarters), with leaders of the State Jewish Theatre, with the chief rabbi of the Moscow Jewish congregation, Shliffer, and with leaders of the Red Cross, among others… During his stay in the Soviet Union, Mr. Goldberg dispatched via the Soviet Information Bureau 33 articles to the American, Canadian, English, Palestinian, Polish, and Yiddish press. The articles were extremely friendly toward the Soviet Union. Before his departure, Mr. Goldberg began to write a book in English entitled England, the Opponent of Peace, and a book in Yiddish entitled Jewish Culture in the Soviet Union.”
Memorandum to Comrade Suslov; Ibid; AT:
Further requests were being received by the USSR from prominent Jews in “several countries”:
“Such requests were received from: N. Goldman, the chairman of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress; Dr. Stephen Wise, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; Louis Levine, chairman of the Jewish Union for Soviet Aid under Russian War Relief; Mr. Raiskii, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Presse Nouvelle in Paris; et al.”
Memorandum to Comrade Suslov; Ibid; AT:
At this stage, the Jewish AFC proposed a detailed plan to make the Crimea the site of a Homeland for oppressed Jewish people from all over the world, including all the refugees from the war.
This was proposed by the JAFC in a letter to Stalin dated February 15, 1944.
It seems that only part of this letter has been made public to date. That fragment reads:
“The creation of a Jewish Soviet Republic will once and forever, in a Bolshevik manner, within the spirit of Leninist -Stalinists national policy, settle the problem of the state legal position of the Jewish people and further development of their multi century culture. This is a problem that no one has been capable of settling in the course of many centuries. It can be solved only in our great socialist country.”
Cited From Literatunaya Gazeta July 7th; 1933.; By Sudoplatov Ibid; p. 286.
As mentioned above, Stalin had approved the formation of the committee. Even the virulently anti-Stalin figure Vaksberg notes that Stalin had written to the JAFC the following note:
“Please convey to the working Jews of the Soviet Union who collected an additional 33,294,823 rubles for the construction of air force squadron Stalin’s Friendship of the Peoples and tank column Soviet Birobidzhan my fraternal greetings and the gratitude of the Red Army J.Stalin”.
Vaksberg A; AStalin Against the Jews”; New York; 1994; p. 116.
Why therefore, as various Zionists state, should Stalin have turned against the JAFC? They allege “anti-Semitism.”
Was Stalin himself known to hold anti-Semitic views?
The major allegations made on a personal level about this charge are frankly ludicrous. Thus for instance, reliance upon Khrushchev and moreover upon an unclear source reveals this:
“The first symptoms of Stalin’s anti-Semitic policy are rooted in his personality and may be traced to the pre-revolutionary period. Many people who knew him well, such as Khrushchev, suggested that his Judaeophobia was pathological. Stalin’s struggle against Trotsky and his numerous Jewish supporters fuelled the anti-Semitic trends in the Kremlin dictator’s policy. ‘Anti-Semitism and anti-Trotskyism reared their heads simultaneously’, Trotsky wrote.”
Iakov Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot: Stalin’s Solution to the Jewish Question”; in Editor: Yaacov Ro’i:”Jews & Jewish Life in Russia & the Soviet Union”; Ibid; p.103.
It is remarkable that Trotsky then, himself a Jew never commented that this was the reason for his “persecutions” in a more visible and public forum. Nor indeed do Trotsky’s followers including Isaac Deutscher his primary biographer use this charge. What else does Professor I. Etinger have for us?
“Stalin’s secretary, Boris Bazhanov, recollects that Stalin made crude anti-Semitic outbursts even when Lenin was still alive. In 1907 Stalin wrote a letter in which he referred to the Mensheviks as a ‘Jewish faction’ and to the Bolsheviks as a ‘truly Russian’ one.’ It would do no harm to us Bolsheviks if we staged a pogrom inside the party’, he suggested.”
Etinger, “The Doctors’ Plot,” Ibid; p. 104; citing V.Solov’ev, E. Klepikov, op cit p.216.
Other comments from Vaksberg, indicate the same source for other various anecdotes. But interestingly, the most virulent anti-Stalin Vaksberg records other facts that show Stalin was not anti-Semitic. So Vaksberg, although interspersed with sly digs and innuendoes throughout, must note that Stalin was vociferous against anti-semitism:
“The composer Dmitri Rogal-Levitsky… was in 1944 commissioned to orchestrate the new state anthem.. His notebooks .. Record the conversation (of a banquet)…
“Stalin asked how many conductors there were at the Bolshoi Theatre. They told him seven of whom three were Jews…
‘Do you have Nikolai Golovanov there?’ Stalin asked…
‘We were planning to entrust two or three productions to him’ began Tsazoksky… ‘And?’ Interrupted Stalin.
‘Good thing!’ Stalin said, striking a match.
‘I don’t like him… He’s an anti-Semite. Yes a real anti-Semite. A crude anti-Semite. He should not be allowed into the Bolshoi Theatre.. It’s like letting a goat into the cabbage patch,’ he said laughing.
Then the conversation turned. But a while later without any obvious connection, Stalin returned to the first theme:
‘But that Golovanov is an anti-Semite.’
‘I’ve not dealt with him in that sense.’
‘Don’t worry you will, if you let him into the Bolshoi Theatre… Golovanov is a real anti-Semite, a dangerous, principled anti-Semite.. You cannot let Golovanov into the Bolshoi Theatre. That anti-Semite will turn everything upside down.'”
Vaksberg A; “Stalin Against the Jews”; New York; 1994; p. 29-30.
Yet ultimately, Vasberg dismisses this all, as an elaborate facade behind which Stalin’s own “anti-Semitism” could be hidden. Vaksberg refers to Stalin’s daughter having “destroyed” Svetlana Alliluyeva’s first marriage because it had been to a Jew – Grigory Morozov (Moroz). Such personal testimony is liable to selective “filtering.” But even Svetlana’s own words are somewhat self-contradictory. She states that Stalin did not stand in her way regarding her marriage, but he refused to allow her husband to visit him. Perhaps the real reason that Stalin disliked him, was not that he was a Jew, but lies in what he told her:
“He’s too calculating, that young man of yours.. Just think it’s terrible at the front. People are getting shot. And look at him. He’s sitting it out at home.”
Alliluyeva, Svetlana, “Twenty Letters to a Friend”; New York; 1967; p.187.
It is true that Svetlana says later on, that Stalin told her that the “Zionists had thrown the first husband” into her way. (Alliluyeva, Svetlana, “Twenty Letters to a Friend”; Ibid; p.196). However the marriage appears to have failed of its’ own accord, Svetlana is quite clear on this.
The net definite “evidence” to prove the racism of Stalin must be in doubt by an open mind.
The real “proof” for the accusers, who convict Stalin of “anti-Semitism”- appears to lie in the matter of the so called “Zionists’ Plot” and the “Doctor’s Plot.”
Was Beria Personally an anti-Semite?
The same general problem is faced by Zionists, who although they accuse Beria of being an anti-Semite, confront and cannot explain data that in reality shows the opposite:
“There is also the mystery of Beria’s comportment towards Jews in Georgia. The New York Times correspondent Salisbury discovered in Tiflis Georgia in 1951, a Jewish ethnological Museum which featured painting depicting Jewish religious rites reconstructions of early Georgian synagogues, and a record of Jewish Soviet heroes in World War II. That the museum should have survived the liquidation of Jewish culture everywhere else in the USSR was curious; the information that Beria had inspired it was even more curious”. He had also sponsored in the 1920’s an occupational rehabilitation programme for Georgian Jewry. This programme included Jewish trade schools and farms.”
Teller Ibid; p. 91-92.
“There is also reason to believe that (Beria) was helpful to Jews in Georgia. The American journalist Harrison Salisbury who visited Georgia after the war, discovered that Beria as Georgian party leader, had instigated the establishment of a program for rehabilitating Georgian Jews. The program included a Jewish charitable society and a Jewish ethnological museum in Tbilisi. It might be added that Beria’s sisters’ husband was a Jew and that Beria had several Jews in his retinue: Mil’stein, Raikhmna, Mamulov, Sumbatov-Topuridze and N.I.Eitington to name a few. Although many Jews lost their jobs in the late 1940’s as a result of the anti-Semitic campaign, these men survived.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.147
Furthermore, it must be noted firstly that it was Beria, who after Stalin’s death – first repudiated the “Doctor’s Plot”, as being a sham:
“Beria’s position as chief of the security services and the police place him in an invidious position as the likeliest candidate for indictment and castigation for all persecutions that has taken place .. Stalin’s successors have fingered him as the author of the so-called Doctor’s Plot… Yet after Stalin’s death it was Beria who exposed the indictment which in itself, disputes his executioners’ contention that he was its author. The Minister of State Security the real boss of the secret police at the time that this evidence was manufactured, was Semyon D.Ignatiev, Beria’s political enemy. Although publicly pilloried for his central role in concocting the indictment, Ignatiev was restored to favour at the Kremlin immediately after Beri had been purged. The post-Beria Kremlin significantly had maintained that there was not anti-Semitic intent behind the doctor’s indictment.. Which in turn invites speculation that the charge might not have been dismissed had not Beria exposed them in his life time.”
Teller Ibid; p. 90-91.
“Not only did Beria denounce the Doctor’s Plot was a hoax after Stalin’s death, he also took it upon himself to attempt a revival of Jewish culture immediately after Stalin died.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.148.
Following this Pravda ran an editorial that stated:
“Every Soviet worker kolkhoz members and intellectual is under the protection of Soviet law. The citizens of the great Soviet state may be certain that all the rights guaranteed them by the Soviet Constitution are sacred and will be guarded by the Soviet Government…. Careful investigation had ascertained the fact that members of Riumin’s clique (responsible for the doctors libel -ed) had slandered the People’s Artist Mikhoels who was an upright communal worker.”
Teller Ibid; p. 125-126.
Data does not support that the Marxist-Leninists Stalin and Beria were personally anti-Semitic. What of the revisionist politicans?
Khrushchev’s Attitude to the Jews
Khrushchev by several accounts, was well known to be an anti-Semite. Amy Knight puts it as follows:
“Khrushchev… first secretary in the Ukraine, favoured the dissolution of the Union of Jewish Writers Kiev, and the closure of Jewish literary journal.”
Knight M; Ibid; p.148.
That Stalin ensured that Khrushchev was in effect repudiated upon the issue of anti-Semitic pogromists was clear, when Malenkov was sent to the Ukraine to correct the “blindness” of Khrushchev to anti-Semitic abuses:
“Khrushchev’s case is different. Even before his name was generally known outside the USSR, he had acquired notoriety in the Jewish press… for an episode in Kiev when the war ended. He was then boss of the Ukraine. Jewish wartime refugees, braving the local populations; anti-Jewish animus and the Kremlin’s bruited displeasure, trickled back to their devastated homes in the Ukraine. One day in a scuffle over an anti-Semitic remark, two Red Army officers one Jewish and the other Ukrainian, fired their guns at each other. The Ukrainian died, and the result was a pogrom in Kiev. The Ukrainian was buried with military honours and Khrushchev marched in the funeral procession. The pogromists went unpunished until Malenkov arrived to restore order.”
Teller Ibid; p. 92.
This view is substantiated more recently by Knight’s biography of Beria:
“In May 1944 Mikhoels wrote a letter to Molotov complaining about discrimination against Jews in liberated Ukraine. On receiving a copy of the letter, Beria issued instructions to Ukrainian Party Chief Khrushchev to “take the necessary measures to improve the living and working conditions of Jews in the newly liberated areas.”
Knight M; Ibid; p.147
Mikhoels would pay a price for his request for intervention, addressed to the Marxist-Leninist Molotov. But who was it that wrote his bill?
The Murder of Solomon Mikhoels
As discussed above, Stalin had supported the JAFC and sent it congratulatory telegrams.
It seems though, that the general attitude inside the USSR to the JAFC changed after the war.
One of the signs of this change was that the previous plan to publish a book – the so called “Black Book” – cataloguing the Nazi genocide of the Jews, and the Jewish partisan struggles, was only brought to fruition in the USA but not in Russia:
“The contacts with American-Jewish organizations result in the plan to publish a Black Book simultaneously in the USA and the Soviet Union, documenting the anti-Jewish crimes of the Nazis and the Jewish part in the fighting and resistance. In 1944, the writer Ilya Ehrenburg sends a collection of letters, diaries, photos and witness accounts to the USA to be used in the book. The Black Book is published in New York in 1946. But no Russian edition appears. The typefaces are finally broken up in the printing press in 1948, a year in which the situation of Soviet Jews has once more deteriorated sharply.”
See WWW site: “Beyond the Pale”; page 61 at:
But the death of Mikhoels – allegedly in a murder committed at the direct order of Stalin, is the event that is usually cited as the beginning of the alleged anti-Semitic campaigns of the Soviet USSR.
It is alleged by many, including Sudoplatov, that Stalin feared the potential power that Mikhoels would have, and had him assassinated in January 1948:
“Mikhoels .. had been at the heart of the discussions to establish a Jewish Crimean republic. Stalin feared that Mikhoels would unleash forces that could not be controlled and would lead to unpredictable political consequences. Stalin feared a truly independent Jewish homeland. Mikhoels had the stature of a leader with world recognition, and Stalin could not risk his developing his own power base. Mikhoels was murdered in January 1948, under the direct order of Stalin.”
Pavel & A Sudoplatov; with JL &LP Schecter:”Special Tasks”; Boston; 1995; p. 296.
But as noted in the foreword, Sudoplatov’s memoirs have been seriously discredited.
It is true that other sources also refer to the death of Mikhoels and all assume that Stalin “ordered the murder of Mikhoels.”
In fact, the mysterious death of Solomon Mikhoels in Minsk on January 13, 1948, served to rob the USSR of a valuable and respected figure. For all these other sources, this contradiction, is not apparently a difficult issue – since they all pre-judge Stalin as variously, mad, irrational, capricious.. etc.
However this line of reasoning is countered by the facts previously adduced.
(See Previous issues of Alliance on Personality Cult :(1) The Cult of
Personality (Talk at The Stalin Society (UK) May 1991) AT: http://ml-review.ca/aml/STALIN-TXT/WBBPERSONALITY1991.html2) Stalin – Myths and Reality: Talk intended for the Third ISML Conference Paris October 1999: http://ml-review.ca/aml/STALIN-TXT/WBBSTALINMYTHSPARIS1999.html
The most detailed source, of the actual last days of Mikhoels life, is found in Arkady Vaksberg. (ibid pp159-170). As Amy Knight points out, the assumption is usually made that Beria performed the killing:
“Many had assumed that Beria as responsible for the murder, since he oversaw the police apparatus.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.147.
However it seems that Beria related the facts of the case, in a letter to Malenkov, after the death of Stalin.
According to this letter, Beria questioned Abakumov in prison, where Abakumov had remained following Stalin’s death. Beria learnt that the key players were Ogol’tsev and Tsanava. Knight insists that Stalin “ordered” the killing:
“Stalin had ordered Abakumov to have Mikhoels killed, a task carried out by Deputy Minister of State Security S.I.Ogol’tsev and Belorussian MGB chief Tsanava. Mikhoels and his companion were lured into a car and taken to Tsanava’s dacha outside Minsk, where they were murdered. Their bodies were then dumped on the side of the road. When Beria learned of Tsanava’s complicity, he ordered his arrest along with that of Ogol’tsev.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.147.
In fact Knight reminds us that Beria had:
“Supported the idea in 1942 of creating the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee in order to harness the war efforts of Soviet Jews at home and abroad and had maintained direct contacts with JAFC leaders after that. Indeed he seems to be have been sympathetic to their cause.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.147.
But, she fails to remind us that Stalin had also supported Mikhoels and the JAFC.
So was ultimately responsible for the murder of Mikhoels?
It seems that the revisionist S.D.Ignat’ev (or Ignatiev) was heavily involved:
“It may not be a coincidence that in addition to First Secretary Gusarov… who was in the Belorussian CC Secretariat at the time of the Mikhoels murder: S.D.Ignatiev, who was to replace Abakumov as USSR MBG chief in mid-1951. Ignatiev later helped to fabricate the case against the doctors.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.148.
Who was pushing for action on the “anti-Zionist plot?”
Vaksberg claims that Abakumov was supported by Malenkov and Mikhail Suslov. We would argue that of these, Suslov was an out and out revisionist and at best, Malenkov was a vacillator.
On October 12, 1946 Abakumov (after having taken over from Vsevolod Merkulov, the Ministry of State Security) wrote a memorandum entitled: “On Nationalistic Manifestations of Some Workers of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee”, accusing them of:
“Forgetting the class approach which has been replaced by an approach on national lines,” and of “establishing foreign contacts on the same national principles”. Also in foreign editions about the life of the Soviet Jews, it “exaggerated their contribution to the achievements of the Soviet Union in science, technology, and culture.” And finally a special section of the memo.. Noted that the committee “has taken on the function of the chief representative of the affairs of the Jewish population and intermediary between that populations and the Party-Soviet organs. The summary conclusion to the memo was that the Afurther activity of this committee is politically harmful and intolerable”.. The Minister was supported by one of the new members of the hierarchy.. Mikhail Suslov. In his appeal to Stalin on November 26th 1946, he also called for liquidation of the committee.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.195
It was finally on March 1948 that Abakumov forwarded a report to the Central Committee arguing that JAFC leaders and Mikhoels had:
“conducted anti-Soviet nationalist activities.”
Knight A; Ibid; p.148.
This report went to the Central Committee and was copied to Stalin, Molotov, Zhdanov, and Kuznetsov.
By 20 November 1948, the Politburo adopted the resolution approving a decision of the Council Of Ministers to disband the JAFC.
This resolution was adopted after the sudden death of Zhdanov in August 1948, and thereafter the correct anti-cosmopolitanism campaign, was crudely transformed into the incorrect anti-Semitic campaign.
(For Bland’s article on the anti-cosmopolitanism article see: http://ml-review.ca/aml/CommunistLeague/COSMOPOLITANISM-COMPASS131-1998.HTM
Abakumov continued to send memos to Stalin over this issue, calling the JAFC a “hot-bed of Zionism” in a memo of the March 1, 1948. (Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.196. )
It was after September 3rd, 1948 that action was finally taken against the JAFC. On that date, it is alleged by Vaksberg and other bourgeois commentators that the “mass rallies” greeting Golda Myerson (later to be known as Golda Meir) in her post as the first Israeli ambassador, “frightened” Stalin.
Yet as Vaksberg himself states, in the spring of 1945 Stalin had allowed open and massive Jewish rallies to commemorate the Jewish dead of the war:
“On the recommendation of the World Council of Rabbis meeting in Jerusalem, Stalin permitted Moscow Jews to organise a memorial service for the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis…. Major governmental figures marshals, and generals and celebrated artists attended – over 20,000 people.. Raising over half a million rubles for the postwar restoration of the country. The solemn Kadish was repeated in 1946. In 1947 it was banned.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.185.
By March 26th 1948, Abakumov had sent a memo to Stalin, Molotov and CC Secretaries Zhdanov and Kuznetsov entitled “On the Espionage and Nationalistic Activity of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee”, stating that Mikhoels was:
“Known long before the war as an active nationalist, he was a kind of banner for nationalistic Jewish circles.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.197-198.
On November 20th 1948, item no.81 on the agenda of the Politburo of the CC stated:
“On the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee: Confirm the following resolution of the Bureau of the Council of Ministers of the SSR: “The Bureau of the Council of ministers of the USSR instructs the MGB USSR to disband the JAFC immediately, because as the facts show, this Committee is the center of anti-Soviet propaganda and regularly provides anti-Soviet information to organs of foreign intelligence. In conjunction with this, the publishing organs of the Committee are to be shut down and the Committee’s files confiscated. For the time being no one is to be arrested.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.198-199.
Thus far at any rate, the “facts” are not quite so obvious as made out by the Zionists who attack Stalin as anti-Semitic. There is a clear implication from Vaksberg, that a compromise decision had been made, with the final statement just cited, regarding an explicit counter-manding of further arrests.
Nonetheless, David Goldstein had already been arrested in September, and on December 24th Fefer was arrested. Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.200-201. Lozovsky was arrested on January 16th. Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.202.
A little complicating, but true, is that Salmon Lozovsky was also a hidden revisionist (partially discussed previously by Alliance – See Alliance issue Number 15); who had subverted correct trade union tactics in the Comintern and the trade union international Profintern (led by Lozovsky).
However, Alliance argues, until further evidence can be adduced, that the net effect of these arrests, was once more to alienate the Marxist-Leninist wing of the Bolsheviks Party from a section of the working class.
Moreover it served to strengthen the hand of international support for Israel, and to serve as an instrument of propaganda against the USSR.
It was the Writers Union under Alexander Fadeyev who pushed for a resolution that called for closing associations of Jewish writers and closing Yiddish almanacs. That the hand of the revisionists was heavy in making these decisions is made clear by Shimon Redlich in his history of the JAFC. He points out that another key revisionist involved was Boris Ponomorarev:
“Sources suggest that Boris N. Ponomorarev was personally active in the liquidation of the Committee. Ponomorarev, an ex-functionary of the Comintern, and Deputy Director of the prestigious Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute after the War, was appointed Deputy Director of the Sovinformuro in late 1948 or early 19489. When Lozovskii was arrested in late 1948 to early 1949, Ponomorarev became Head of the Bureau for a short while.”
Redlich Shimon: “Propaganda and Nationalism in Wartime Russia-The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR, 1941-1948″; 1982; USA; p.167-8.
As Redlich points out, various hypotheses linking the affair with an alleged Malenkov-Zhdanov hostility; or to an attempt to discredit Beria; simply do not make any sense.
He is left only to explain it as Stalin’s fear of the international contacts that Soviet Jewry had built with overseas Jews. He himself acknowledges Stalin’s previous support of these contacts:
“Although encouraged and supported by Stalin at the time, these contacts were regarded in retrospect as dangerous and treacherous.”
Redlich S; Ibid; p.169.
Another potential “reason” leading Stalin to take this step, is cited by Redlich as the following:
“It is well known to Soviet official circles and to Stalin himself that the Committee had attempted to perform functions and took upon itself responsibilities far beyond the initial purpose of its establishment. Mikhoels and other top personalities of the JAFC approached various Soviet authorities both on matters concerning individual Jews and on Jewish cultural and national issues…. The JAFC was apparently regarded by Stalin as a structure which organised and expressed Jewish national interests and since he viewed such interests as a security risk to the regime, and to himself it seemed to him a matter of prime importance to wipe out this potentially dangerous organisation.”
Redlich S; Ibid; p.169-70.
Alliance finds that the evidence to date, suggests that Mikhoels was murdered, and was not the victim of an accident.
This is dealt with directly below, in a citation from Beria.
As to who was responsible, there continues to be disagreement.
Only one piece of evidence links Stalin to this directly.
That is evidence provided by the cross examination of Abakumov while he was imprisoned.
This was referred to above, from the biography of Beria by Knight (see page above). The full cited is the following, and is drawn from a document upon Abakumov, available in Russian only. Significant sections are cited from the English text of a piece by Iakov Ettinger, based on reports in Russian cited by Stoliarov:
“Col.-Gen. V. S. Abakumov, Minister of State Security from 1945-1…Russian researcher Kirill Stoliarov summed up the results of his painstaking and profound study of the materials in the case of State Security Minister Abakumov in his book “Golgofa” (Calvary).”
Iakov Etinger:”The Doctors’ Plot: Stalin’s Solution to the Jewish Question”; in Editor: Yaacov Ro’i: “Jews & Jewish Life in Russia & the Soviet Union”; citing Storilaov; Ibid.
After Stalin’s death, Beria investigated the Mikhoels events further. It emerged again from Abakumov’s testimony, still being in jail, that Abakumov had asserted not only that Mikhoels had been killed, but that Stalin had ordered him to perform this murder:
“Meanwhile Beria made another move. On 2 April 1953 he sent a letter to the party Presidium addressed to Malenkov stating:
“An examination of the materials in the Mikhoels case has revealed that in February 1948, in Minsk, former USSR MGB Deputy Minister Ogol’tsov and former Belorussian MGB Minister Tsanava carried out an illegal operation to liquidate Mikhoels on orders from USSR MGB Minister Abakumov.. In this connection Abakumov has been interrogated at the MVD and explanations have been received from Ogol’tsov and Tsanava. Abakumov gave the following evidence…
“As far as I can remember, in 1948, the head of the Soviet government I. V. Stalin gave me an urgent assignment – to promptly organize the liquidation of Mikhoels by MGB personnel and charge specially selected people with the task. Then it came to our knowledge that Mikhoels and his friend, whose name I do not remember, had gone to Minsk. When this was reported to Stalin he immediately ordered us to carry out the liquidation in Minsk…After Mikhoels was liquidated Stalin highly praised the operation and ordered that the people who had performed it be decorated, which was carried out.”
Etinger I: Ibid; p. 120-121; Citing :’Argumenty i Fakty 2′; 1992.
Beria’s letter then outlines that the murder of Mikhoels was disguised by crudely staging a motor vehicle accident:
“The letter goes on to describe in detail how Mikhoels was “liquidated”. There were several options for eliminating Mikhoels: a) a car accident, b) running him over with a lorry in a deserted street. Since neither gave a 100 per cent guarantee the following course was decided upon: to invite Mikhoels, through one of our agents, to visit an acquaintance of his late at night, provide a car from the hotel he was staying in, allegedly to drive him there, take him to Tsanava’s dacha and liquidate him. Then the body was to be put in an out-of-the-way deserted street and run over by a lorry. And that is how it was done. To keep the matter secret, agent Golubov, who accompanied Mikhoels on this fatal visit, was also done away with (they were run over by a lorry near the dacha). At the end of the letter Beria declared:
The MVD deems it necessary:
a) to arrest and initiate proceedings against former USSR Deputy MGB Minister S. I. Ogol’’tsov and former State Security Minister of Belorussia L. F. Tsanava,
b) to repeal the Supreme Soviet decree conferring honours on the participants in the murder of Mikhoels and Golubov.”
Etinger I: Ibid; p. 120-121; Citing: ‘Argumenty i Fakty 2′; 1992.
In Conclusion: Alliance argues the following:
1. If it is agreed that Beria was a Marxist-Leninist, his letter indicates the primary responsibility for the attacks on the JAFC are laid on the door of low level operatives S. I. Ogol’tsov and L. F. Tsanava.
2. Backing up these individuals but at a higher level were the revisionists Malenkov and Suslov and Ponomoranev. Of these the first, was possibly a “vacillator” but the other two were definitely revisionists.
3. There remains the matter of Stalin. We argue that Stalin had nothing to gain by the murder of Mikhoels, that his “ego” definitely did not require this as bourgeois sources claim; and that it was not in his interests. However Abakumov’s testimony “fingers” Stalin. What then? Barring a “mistake” upon Stalin’s part, we suggest the following two possibilities:
i) Abakumov’s testimony cannot be simply discounted. We argue, that his testimony on the so called “Doctor’s Plots” shows him to be a basically honest individual (see below);
We further argue that if this is the case, then on the earlier issue of the JAFC, he was mis-led on the matter of Stalin’s orders;
Beria’s ‘testimony’ was ‘extracted’ by Khrushchev who of course went on to kill Beria.
ii) Another possibility exists: That Beria for some reason lied about Abakumov’s testimony. If so two possible reasons for this can be adduced:
Either Beria was NOT a Marxist-Leninist;
OR Beria decided that as a Marxist-Leninist – what was critical was that as far as possible the security apparatus be purged of revisionists in order to fight on for Marxism-Leninism. He may have reasoned that Stalin was dead and Abakumov was virtually dead anyway.
We believe the data thus far shows that Beria was a consistent Marxist-Leninist.
We believe therefore that the most likely conclusion is that Abakhumov was tricked by the revisionists into effecting Mikhoels murder.
It is very remarkable that the newer generation of revisionist leaders of the USSR – those who actually dissolved the state- held a Politburo Commission and declared the direct responsibility to lie with Malenkov.
It is pretty inconceivable that these individuals who hated Stalin, would not publicise evidence linking Stalin with this issue if it in truth existed:
“A Politburo Commission created by Mikhail Gorbachev and chaired by Alexander Yakovlev came to the conclusion on late 1988 that the “direct responsibility for the illegal repression of people arrested in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee case was borne by G.M.Malenkov, who was directly involved in the investigation and trial.” Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.202-3.
The Case of Polinya
The wife of Molotov – Polina Zhemchuzhina – was Jewish. She had held high ranking posts for the Bolsheviks such as People’s Commissar of the Fish Industry, head of the State Perfume Trust, as well as being on the Bolshevik Central Committee. It is alleged that she incurred Stalin’s’ wrath as she had been the last person to see Nadezdha Allilueva alive before she committed suicide. This according to Vaksberg was the reason for her removal from the Central Committee for “failure in work.” Previously she had received a reprimand for neglect and, for allowing in 1939, some German spies to penetrate her area. According to Golda Meir’s testimony, Polinya “wished the Zionists in Palestine well” saying:
“If things go well for you, then things will be good for the Jews the whole world over.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.188.
This conversation was monitored and the Central Committee was informed. According to Vaksberg, Stalin reportedly told Molotov:
“It is time for you to divorce your wife.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.189.
It is important to recognise that as so often, the primary source for this conversational tit-bit of information is the revisionist Khrushchev.
In late 1948 the Molotovs were divorced, and in February 1949 Zhemchuzhina was arrested.
Prior to this, some bizzare personal charges including one of an extraordinary adultery involving a juniro employee, and espionage were laid at a meeting of the Politburo.
However even Vaksberg, is in agreement that various documents were indeed missing, from the Ministry of Light Industry textile branch, then being run by Zhemchuzhina.
Nonetheless the various charges against Zhemchuzhina also included:
“Being present at the memorial service at the synagogue on March 14th, 1945; enjoying the nationalistic play Freileks produced by the Jewish bourgeois nationalists Mikhoels at the Jewish Theatre; and of attending the funeral of Mikhoels.”
Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.192.
It is likely that some of these latter minor charges are true. Whether that made her an enemy of the state is debateable in the view of Alliance currently. But it is notable that Zhemchuzhina never repudiated Stalin, even after years in prison (Vaksberg; Op Cit; p.192).
It seems most likely that both she and Molotov were aware that there were inner-party battles going on that explained the turn of events.
In fact although Stalin is blamed for these events, it is most unclear why Molotov should have been targeted. For not only did his wife suffer imprisonment, but observers agree that he himself was demoted in rank although he remained within the Politburo. (Knight M; Ibid; p.147).
Alliance argues then, that the general aim of the revisionists to take over leading positions of state power was assisted by the direct and in-direct attack upon Molotov – as far as we know a reliable Marxist-Leninist, while Stalin was alive.