Basis of Russian Anti-Semitism: The History and Forces Behind Stalinist Bigotry (1952)

Submitted by dalcassian on 12 December, 2015 - 11:33 Author: Abe STEIN

[Between 1949 and the death of Josef Stalin in 1953, the Stalinist press all over the world kept up a tremendous barrage of ant-Semitic "anti-Zionist" propaganda. By the time Stalin died, a show trial of 5 Jewish doctors accused of poisoning leaders of the USSR, was being prepared. Mass deportation of jews, or worse, would have followed the trial. Stalin died in March 1953 and his successors called off the trial and released the accused doctors. In 1956 Stalin's successor, Nikita Kruschev, put out an account of Stalin's ingrained anti-Semitism. Today it is mainly people calling themselves "Trotskyists" who repeat the anti-Semitic "anti-Zionism" created then by Stalin and his political police.]

What if tomorrow the
Stalinist regime were to turn off the
spate of anti-Semitic propaganda and
call a halt to the shootings, arrests and
deportations of Jews? Would this
make the position of two million Jews
in Russia—and the half million in the
satellite countries—more tenable? The
answer is—no. The regime may, for
reasons of foreign policy, temporarily
refrain from open Jew-baiting in the
near future; but it cannot and does
not wish to reverse those processes
which it has set in motion and which
are irresisiably driving the Jews out of
Russian society. That is, not unless
the regime decides on suicide. The
poison being pumped into the life-
stream of Soviet society can easily
enough be traced back to its chief
sources—the Stalinist bureaucracy and
the totalitarian society it has created
in its own image.
The anti-Semitism of the Stalinist
hierarchy is a product of the exclusive-
The anti-Semitism of the Stalinist
hierarchy is a product of the exclusive-
ness and chauvinism of a suspicious
exploiting class which seeks to squeeze
out of its ranks what it considers an
alien and unreliable force. It is not
only that the Russian Jews had and
still have their links with Western
culture by reason of their past and
historic circumstance (Zionism, world
Jewry and now Israel). There is an-
other fact. In its struggle for power
the Stalinist faction identified the
Jewish intelligentsia inside the party
with the "internationalist opposition."
Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kainenev and Ra-
dek are names that have not been ex-
punged from the pages of post-revo-
lutionary Russian history. Their role
has merely been falsified. They were
traitors . . .spies ... and Jews. We shall
see that this fact played no small part
in creating the specific form of anti-
Semitism which now exists in Stalinist
It would be surprising if the preju-
dices of the ruling group had not
seeped down into the labor ranks of
society. But there is another and more
compelling reason for anti-Semitism
among the masses. In the stifling at-
mosphere of totalitarian dictatorship,
the conflict between oppressed and op-
pressors of necessity expresses itself in
a variety of indirect, distorted and
even "socially perverted" forms. The
privileges and arrogance of elite evoke
the hostility and hatred of the lower
layers. And one of the indirect ways
in which this hostility and hatred ex-
presses itself is by—anti-Semitism. Cor-
rectly or not, and for certain historical
reasons as we shall see, the Jews have
been identified by the masses as an
especially privileged social group in
Stalinist society and, thereby, with the
However, the existence of anti-Semi-
tism on all levels of Russian society—
ironically enough one of the few senti-
ments shared in any degree by the
masses and the ruling clique—does not
explain the open persecution of the
Jews for which the State must take
full responsibility. It only provides the
background and explains the predis-
positions pushing the regime in this
direction. To discover why at this
given stage the regime has turned to
such a policy, we must also examine
the post-war developments inside the
Soviet Union which can be divided
into two stages: the phase in which the
regime struggles to restore and rein-
force the war-weakened dictatorship;
and, imperceptibly flowing from this,
the contemporary phase of the "war
danger" growing out of the expansion
and consolidation of the new empire.
It is in this context that anti-Semitism
has undergone the change-from a
miasma poisoning the whole of society
into a policy of state.
The Roots of Anti-Semitism
The October Revolution destroyed
all the legal and social restrictions
which had confined the Jews of Russia
within the Pale. It thereby destroyed
the social foundation of the Jewish
ghetto and set in motion the process
of assimilating the Jews into Russian
society. The nationalization of indus-
try and later its feverish expansion in
the Stalinist epoch dissolved the eco-
nomic basis on which the Jewish com-
munity had chiefly rested, i.e., the Jew-
ish merchants, shop-keepers and arti-
sans were doomed to disappear. In
their place were to arise the Jewish
state or party functionaries, the pro-
fessionals and the Jewish workers. The
results of this transformation were
quite striking. According to the Eng-
lish economist, Hubbard, in 1941 Jews
filled approximately the majority of
rank and file executive positions in
Moscow. Another writer estimates that
on the eve of the Second World War
over two-thirds of employed Jews fell
into the categories of die "intelligent-
sia"—that category which encompasses
all the non-manual layers of Soviet
society. The remainder were to be
found in industry as workers and to
a much smaller degree in agriculture.
But the gains made by the Jews as
a result of this liberating process were
not all one-sided. Because of the whole
history of Czarist persecution, the Jew
suffered from what is known in socio-
logical jargon as "high social visibil-
ity." His entrance into the factory and
above all into the economic-adminis-
trative and political machine made
him conspicuous by virtue of his whole
crippling past.
As a result of the social and eco-
nomic strains which prevailed in the
middle-twenties, anti-Semitic feelings
were slowly manifested, compounded
in part of the traditional hostility of
the peasant and the backward worker
closely linked with him (the Jew as
town Ncpman, tradesman); also, the
resentment of various layers of the
urban population who were subjected
to "competition" from a new source—
the recently liberated Jews—assumed
anti-Semitic overtones.
In the period between 1925 and
1930 this wave of anti-Semitism began
to take on violent proportions. Pe-
culiar to it was the fact that anti-
Semitic sentiments and physical out-
breaks were not confined to the coun-
tryside and small towns. They were
just as numerous, if not more so, in
the large urban centers. Anti-Semitic
incidents took place in the factories
of Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov, Kiev;
in the offices and universities, as well
as on the streets and in public places.
Ultimately, the regime had to take
measures of a sort against these anti-
Semitic manifestations. Propaganda
and educational campaigns were
launched by the party, the Komsomol
(party youth organization) and the
trade unions. One of the products of
this campaign was a book written by
a leading party member, Yuri Larin,
and published in 1929. This book,
Jews and anti-Semitism in the USSR,
is of interest to us because it docu-
ments the nature and extent of anti-
Jewish feeling among workers and in
the ranks of the party and the youth.
One section of the book dealing with
a seminar Larin conducted under
party auspices in one of Moscow's in-
dustrial boroughs is extremely impor-
tant and far more revealing that any-
detailed recital of anti-Semitic excesses
would be. Larin's audience consisted
of patty members, Komsomols, ad-
vanced workers and party sympathiz-
ers. Out of 66 questions that this audi-
ence asked Larin the following were
chosen as the most typical and we
quote them:
Why is it that the Jews don't want to
do heavy work?
How is it that the Jews always man-
age to get good positions?
Why are there so many Jews in the
universities? Isn't it because they forge
their papers?
Won't the Jews be traitors in a war?
Aren't they dodging military service?
Why was the opposition within the
party made up of Jews to the extent of
76 per cent?
Two layers of the urban population
were especially virulent in their as-
sault on the newly won positions of
the Jews. The first consisted of former
middle-class elements—the intelligent-
sia— who now had to find a place for
themselves in the new social order.
Their anxiety, uncertainty and fear
crystallized into resentment against
the "upstart" Jews. It is worth quot-
ing the frank words of Mikhail Kali-
nin, chairman of the Central Execu-
tive Committee of the Soviets, in an
address delivered in 1926 to an audi-
ence of Jewish agricultural settlers in
the Crimea:
Why is the Russian intelligentsia per-
haps more anti-Semitic today than it was
under Czarism? It is a natural develop-
ment. In the first days of the revolution
the mass of urban intellectuals and semi-
intellectuals threw itself into the revolu-
tion. Members of an oppressed nation, a
nation that never had any share in the
government . . . they naturally flocked to
the revolutionary work of construction,
of which administration is a part. . . .
At the very time when large sections of
the Russian intelligentsia were breaking;
away, frightened by the revolution, at
that very time the Jewish intelligentsia
were pouring into the revolutionary
stream, swelling it in a high proportion
as compared with their numbers, and
starting to work in the revolutionary
administrative organs.
The second layer of the urban popu-
lation which reacted violently against
the Jews consisted of large sections of
ambitious young workers and worker-
students who saw unexpected paths of
unli mi ted socia I advancement open
before them. They, too, feared the
competition of the Jews, and indeed
the hostility of the students not only
exposed itself in sickening acts of
physical violence; it went so far that
in certain universities the cry went up
from the student bodies (with Kom-
somol members in the lead) to restore
the hateful Czarist device-the numer-
ous rlausus—ihc quota restricting the
number of Jews who could enter the
What is of supreme importance here
is that the Stalinist faction relied heav-
ily on these social groups for support
and that from them, ultimately, the
Stalinist bureaucracy was to be shaj>cd.
The anti-Semitism present in the low-
er strata of society was fed atid kept
boiling by the open prejudices of a
part of the elite—the party members
and party youth belonging to or sup-
porting the Stalinist faction. The in-
spiration for anti-Semitism, in fact,
came from abotfe. It was the Stalin
faction which encouraged it in the
ranks of the party, patty youth and
workingclass sympathizers. What other
source was there for the epicstion
asked so often of Larin; so "precise"
in its statistical form: why is the oppo-
sition within the party made up of
Jews to the extent of 76 per cent? As a
distinct social force, Stalinism was
born with anti-Semitism in its blood.
In the course of its history it was to
establish a cruel syllogism: in 1926-27
—the Jews arc oppositionists; in 1936-
37-38—all oppositionists arc spies and
traitors (the main defendants in the
purge trials were mostly Jews); and in
1953—all Jews are oppositionists—spies
—traitors. The victory of Stalinism was
to mean the permanent infection of
Soviet society.
The War and Past-War Period
While the rise and growth of anti-
Semitism in the mid-twenties and its
temporary decline in the early thirties
(the period of forced collectivization
and feverish industrial expansion) can
be traced in official articles, statements
and books, the growth and intensifica-
tion of anti-Semitism during the war
and post-war period has been cloaked
in an official veil of silence. But we
know that it appeared not only in the
Ukraine, its traditional seat, but in
Bielorussia and the Great Russian re-
public as well. It is also noteworthy
that as a result of the war, anti-Semi-
tism spread to the interior areas of
Russia where it had never existed be-
fore. It sprang up in such remote re-
gions as Kaskhstan, Western Siberia
and Central Asia.
Although the Stalinist regime has
never lifted the veil on what hap-
pened after World War II in Europe
ended, a picture can be drawn from
the accounts of eye-witnesses, letters
and depositions of former Soviet citi-
zens, particularly army men. We know,
for example, that immediately after
liberation, Jews were received with
open animosity by the Ukrainians.
Those attempting to regain their
homes and personal possessions were
subject to physical attack. In general,
as was the case in the satellite coun-
tries as well, Jews returning home
never succeeded in regaining more
than a small portion of their personal
properly. In Kharkov, during the post-
liberation period, Jews did not dare
venture out into the streets at night.
In Kiev, during the same period, a
pogrom took place in which 16 Jews
were killed. The official answer to Jew-
ish complaints was that the popula-
tion had been infected by the Germans
and that anti-Semitism could only be
uprooted gradually. (Bulletin of the
Joint Rescue Committee of the Jewish
Agency for Palestine, 1945.)
The spread of anti-Semitism to the
interior areas of the Soviet Union was
in large part the product of the evacu-
ation of central government institu-
tions to these areas during the war.
Dr. Jerzy Gliksman, the Polish Social-
ist, who observed conditions in Cen-
tral Asia at this time has this to say:
"Another group of Russian Jews, be-
longing predominantly to the bureau-
cratic class and having financial
means, aroused the hostility of the
local population by sending prices up
on the free market, which were very
high to begin with." (Jerzy Gliksman,
Jewish Exiles in Soviet Russia, 1939-
43.) The Hitlerite propaganda—which
the regime did nothing to combat,
either during the war or post-war pe-
riod, against the "Bolshevik Jews"
found its echo even here. Though tht
Jews represented but a minute sectioi
of the privileged group, the hostility
of the provincial population agains
the bureaucratic intruders from th<
urban centers was directed agains
them as an obvious and easy target.
Anti-Semitism existed also among
the rank and file of the Russian army
Russian soldiers and officers of Jewis
origin have given abundant evideno
of the resentment at the front against
civilians in general and Jews in par
ticular. The latter were considered
"draft dodgers" and "profiteers." And
many Jewish ex-officers have reportet
they changed their names during the
war not because they feared capture
by the Germans but because of the
hostility of the rank and file of the
army. (Rachel Erlich, "Summary Re-
port on 18 Intensive Interviews With
Jewish DPs from Poland and the So-
viet Union," October 1948.) The
prejudice of the returning soldiers
must have been a potent factor in
strengthening the anti-Semitic feelings
that already existed among some lay-
ers of the population in widely scat-
tered sections of Stalinist Russia.
The same prejudices were displayed
by Russian partisans fighting behind
German lines. Much of this informa-
tion comes to us from Jewish parti-
sans who fought in separate groups
alongside the Russian partisan?. Most
authentic is the testimony gathered by
Moishe Kagonovich in his book The
Jewish Share in Soviet Russia's Par-
tisan Forces, because Kagonovich was
sympathetic to the cause of Stalinist
Russia. Kagonovich explains that
many of the Russian partisans had
been war prisoners or slave laborers
and had been infected by German
propaganda. He declares that ami
Semitic outbursts were frequent and
often violent. But the most telling pan
of bis story is the fact that it was vir
ually impossible for a Jew to join the
Soviet partisan groups. The Jew was
not only an object of hate, he was alsc
suspect. One example out of many
will suffice. Kagonovich recounts a
long talk Jewish partisans had with
Russian army paratroopers who had
been dropped by Soviet planes in the
Lipichi forest in 1943. (The fact that
these partisans came from inside Rus-
sian controlled territory contradicts
Kagonovich's assertion that the source
of anti-Semitism among the Soviet par-
tisans was German propaganda.) The
Russian army men fired the following
questions at the Jewish fighters:
How is it that Jews still keep alive in
the Lida ghetto in 1943?
Why do Jews work in shops producing
military supplies for Germans?
Doesn't this prove the Jews have col-
laborated with the Germans?
Aren't the Jews who have survived and
taken to the woods grateful to the Ger-
mans, and acting as spies for them?
The distrust of the partisans was not
confined to the ranks. In September,
1943, a special order was issued by the
Partisan Supreme Command warning
partisan detachments against Jewish
The difficulties of the Jewish parti-
sans were complicated further by the
hostility of the local peasantry, who
was being crushed between the Ger-
mans and the partisans. In the case of
the Jewish guerrilla detachments, the
peasants felt double resentment be-
cause they exacted food and clothing
not only for themselves but for the
family camps of older people and chil-
dren whom they were trying to save
from utter destruction.
The reports we have cited above
date from the war and immediate
post-war period. But any possibility
The reports we have cited above
date from the war and immediate
post-war period. But any possibility
that their testimony is either biased or
out-of-date is excluded by referring to
a series of interviews conducted by
Dr. Barghoorn of Yale University with
a group of 200 former Soviet citizens,
all of whom fled Russian-controlled
soil after 1948. In practically every in-
stance, the reports of these non-Jews,
all of them members of the middle
and upper strata of die Soviet intelli-
gentsia confirm the earlier reports and
indicate that anti-Semitism did not
diminish after the war but had grown
more intense. Time and again they
echo the charges that the feeling exists
that the Jews "got all the good jobs"
and "did not participate in the front-
line fighting."
The response of the Stalinist regime
to the post-war outbreak of anti-Semi-
tism was . . . silence and a cautious
concession to popular feelings. The
explanation for this policy lies in the
difficult situation that confronted the
Kremlin. The primary tasks were to
reconstruct and set in motion the great
bureaucratic machine that had been
disrupted and weakened by the war,
and to restore "discipline" in the fac-
tories and collective farms. Immedi-
ately before the regime lay the prob-
lems of "de-westernizing" the army
and those civilians who had come into
contact with the West; of squeezing
the "unreliables" out of the war-in-
flated party. Stalin understood only
too well the dangers inherent in en-
couraging anti-Semitism at a time
when the state apparatus was shaky.
The violence against the Jews could
easily have widened into violence
against the bureaucracy as a whole
and might have had dangerous reper-
In the Ukraine there existed a spe-
cific reason for the regime's silence. As
late as December 30, 1947, Russian
authorities admitted the existence of
armed bands of Ukrainian national-
ists. Some of these groups were rcac
nonary and anti-Semitic. In a speed
before the Ukrainian Supreme Sovici
the Politburo member Krushev frank
ly discussed the need to grant amncst
to the leaders and members of thes
avowedly anti-Semitic groups tin
even to accept them into the part}
Not until 1918 was the Stalinist go'
eminent in complete control in th
If the regime did not exploit popv
lar anti-Semitism during the immed
ate post-war period, this does ni
mean that members of the elite di
not express their hostility toward th
Jews, or that in certain instances tl:
Stalinist government did not show it's
distrust of the Jews. It is important to
lay bare the anti-Semitic disposition
of leading members of the Kremlin
hierarchy and certain actions of the
government in this period, for they
foreshadow what was to come.
An outstanding example of the anti-
Semitic bureaucrat at the highest level
is to be found in the late Alexander
Slu hcrbakov, brother-in-law of Zhda-
nov both of them alleged victims of
the Jewish doctors. A member of the
Politburo and secretary of the Moscow
provincial and city committee of the
Communist Party, Shcherbakov was
also head of political work in the
army. The name of Shcherbakov crops
up repeatedly in the reports of former
army men of Jewish origin—particu-
larly officers. According to these wit-
nesses, it was Shcherbakov who block-
ed the promotion of many Jewish war
heroes and denied them the decora-
tions they had earned in battle.
Another leading figure reported to
have expressed anti-Jewish feelings is
General Vassily I. Chuikov, now Com-
mander-in-Chief of Soviet armed
forces in Eastern Germany. According
to a report in the Christian Science
Munitor of February 14, 1952, General
Chuikov denounced the Jews as a
"disruptive force."

The former Hungarian Minister,
Nicolas Nyaradi, gives an illuminat-
ing picture of the anti-Semitism ram-
pant in the highest Kremlin circles.
Roth in his recently published book.
My Ringside Seat in Moscow and in
maga/ine articles, Nyaradi declares
that he frequently heard Jews referred
to by the contemptuous term "zhid"
(English equivalent—"kike"), although
a law against racial defamation exists.
When Kaftanov, the Soviet Minister
of Education, was about to introduce
Nyaradi to Ilya Ehrenburg, he told
him: ,'You know, he is a zhid, but in
spite of that he is a prominent com-
munist and a good Soviet patriot."
According to Nyaradi, 400,000 Jews
were deponed from lite western bor-
der territories of Russia to Siberia and
the far north in the summer of 1947.
When he asked General Merkulov,
with whom Nyaradi was negotiating
Hungarian reparations, about this, the
General replied:
Why arc you so worried about the fu-
ture of those Jews, Mr. Minister? They
are traveling in comfortable box cars,
they will be settled in a beautiful scenic
area, and all they have to do is cultivate
the land if they don't want to starve. It
will not, of course, be too comfortable
for those cosmopolitan speculators.
Anti-Semitism is not, of course, con-
fined to the top layers of the Kremlin
hierarchy- We have cited the existence
of anti-Jewish feelings in the Ukraine
-but it is a feeling that is found in
Ukrainian officialdom as well. A depo-
sition made by a Ukrainian Jew to the
Rescue Committee of the Jewish
Agency for Palestine, who left the
Ukraine in 1944, states: "The Ukrain-
ian authorities are greatly anti-Semitic
. . . when the Commercial Academy
moved from Kharkov to Kiev several
Jewish professors applied for permis-
sion to go there; but their applications

were rejected. They addressed them-
selves to the chairman of the Ukrain-
ian Soviet but received no response."
We have already cited the indifference
of the Ukrainian local bureaucrats to
the physical attacks on Jews in the
immediate post-liberation period.
While the Stalinist government did
not launch an open attack on the Jews
until the fall of 1948. we have many
specific examples of its distrust of the
lews and of concealed actions to elimi-
nate the Jews from certain spheres of
Russian official life—actions that go
back to pre-World War II days.
In 1939, ihe Soviet armies marched
into the "Western Ukraine" and
"Western White Russia" and annexed
these territories as Stalin's reward for
signing the pact with Hitler. Immedi-
ate! v the counterfeit revolution was
set in motion by Stalin's political ma-
chine. "Soviets" on a local and region-
al basis were set up, and though this
was an area heavily populated by Jews
they were not permitted to occupy
responsible political positions. A dis-
patch by the Jewish Telegraphic
Agency based on the reports of its
agents on the scene describes the situ-
Jews in East Galicia are being accept-
ed in small numbers into the militia, into
the school system and as state engineers.
Similarly, colleges which had been closed
to Jews are now open to them. But no
Jews- not even Jewish communists—
have political influence and not a single
responsible position is entrusted to a
Jew. All such positions are held by Rus-
sians sent from the interior of the Soviet
Union or by local Ukrainians.
Illustrative of the situation is the fact
that among 1,700 delegates to the Soviet
National Assembly (People's Assembly
of the Western Ukraine) held last Octo-
ber (1939) in Lvov to proclaim Galicia a
part of thd Soviet Union, hardly twenty
delegates were Jews, despite the large
ratio of Jews in the population. It is
known that when Jewish Communists
were nominated by Jewish workers, the
Soviet authorities intervened and advised
withdrawal of the Jewish candidates and
their replacement by Ukrainians. In
Lvov, whose population is :t0 per cent
Jewish, only two Jews were elected to the
local Soviet of 160 members.
We have referred above to the anti-
Semitic sentiments expressed by Gen-
eral Chuikov in 1946. But it was not
only a question of Chuikov s personal
sentiments. For what followed was a
purge of Jewish officers and rank and
file soldiers. (The purge of Jewish sol-
diers in the Russian occupation forces
in Eastern Germany was resumed and
completed between 1949-51.) Again
the same pattern emerges: In an area
where Russian power is not firmly es-
tablished and anti-Semitism is pre-
sumed to exist among the local popu-
lation—the regime makes concessions
to these prejudices and at the same
time demonstrates its lack of faith in
the political reliability of the Jews.
The gradual elimination of Jews
from certain spheres of official life is
a process that began before the war.
In his book. The Iron Curtain, Igor
Gouzenko, a former member of the
Russian diplomatic corps in Canada,
relates that in 1939 "we were privately
and individually warned that Jews in
general were in 'disfavor.' We were
told of a 'confidential' decree of the
Central Committee of the Communist
Party." This decree established a secret
quota for the admission of Jews to
educational institutions. In 1945, ac-
cording to Gouzenko, Aleksashkin,
chief of Soviet intelligence, arrived in
Ottawa and told members of the diplo-
matic staff in Canada that the Central
Committee of the party had sent "con-
fidential" instructions to directors of
all plants and factories to remove Jews
from responsible positions and under
any pretext whatsoever to place them
in less responsible work.
While it is, naturally, impossible to
verify Gouzenko s statements directly
from Russian sources, the whole trend
of events confirms his claims. In a
series of articles written for the Chris-
tian Science Monitor in January, 1950,
Edmund Stevens, the former Moscow
correspondent of that paper, reports
on the plight of Jews with professional
and administrative training. Stevens
asserts that the head of a department
in a large educational institution had
told him that he had received a direc-
tive ordering him not to hire Jewish
teachers and dismiss those already on
his staff. In another article in this
same series Stevens gives further exam-
ples of discrimination against Jews
which arc fairly well-known by now,
but which we cite to fill out the pic-
ture of this slow, hidden process that
was taking place. Stevens says, and his
statements have been corroborated by
other observers, that Jews are not ad-
mitted to the special school for the
training of personnel for the foreign
diplomatic service; the same restric-
tions apply to the Nfinistry of Foreign
Trade. An indirect verification of
Steven's claim with respect to the lat-
ter ministry may be found by studying
its monthly journal which lists the
names of officials authorized to nego-
tiate on its behalf. According to Solo-
mon Schwartz who made a careful
study of this magazine the number of
such officials came to 87 in four differ-
ent months. In this total only three
Jewish names appeared. The decline
is all the more glaring because before
the war Jews played an important role
in this ministry.
The process of pushing the Jews
out ot the state apparatus has not been
confined to those branches of the gov-
ernment dealing with the outside
world, in his thoroughly documented
wotk, Jews in the Soviet Union, Solo-
mon Schwartz notes that Jews were
conspicuously absent from the lower
echelons of the party and state appara-
tus in the post-war period not only in
the Ukraine but also in the Great Rus-
sian republic where anti-Semitism had
never been as wide-spread. The deter-
mination to push the Jews out of So-
viet life finds its political reflection in
the marked decline of Jewish repre-
sentation in the Supreme Soviet. In
1937 a total of 47 Jews were elected to
the two chambers of the Supreme So-
viet. But in 1946 there were not more
than five Jews among the 601 members
of the Soviet of the Union as against
32 Jews among 569 representatives in
1937. By 1950 there were not more
than two Jews (one of them Lazar
Kaganovitch, Stalin's brother-in-law)
among the 678 members of the Soviet
of the Union. In Stalin's Russia, where
elections are not left to chance or the
will of the voters, this decline in the
role of the Jews could have only one
The Line Changes
The attitude of the Stalinist regime
toward the Jews did not involve any
direct or open attacks until the the fall
of 1948. Instead, a slow, hidden proc-
ess unfolded designed to get rid of
Jews in the state and party apparatus
at critical points—in such "border"
zones as the newly acquired territories
in the West, the purge of Jewish army
officers in the Soviet Occupation Army
in 1946, and the exclusion of Jews
from all organs dealing with foreign
affairs—a process that began in pre-
war days.
However, in the fall of 1948, the
Stalinist regime sharply altered its of-
ficial attitude and began a merciless
and public pillorying of the Jews. It
is important to examine the events
which precipitated this sharp turn to-
ward official anti-Semitism. The arrest
of the Jewish doctors in January, 1953,
was not the beginning of this cam-
paign but merely the climax and con-
clusion of the first stage in a pogrom
that had begun more than four years
ago, and the preparation for an even
sharper and more direct attack on the
Jews as a whole.
In the autumn of 1948, Moscow was
the stage for two of the most extraor-
dinary mass demonstrations that have
ever taken place during Stalin's reign.
Thousands of Jews gathered in and
around the main Moscow synagogue
on Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New
Year, to greet Mrs. Goldie Myerson,
who had arrived in the Soviet Union
to open the Israel legation. Joseph
Newman, the Herald Tribune corres-
pondent in Moscow at the time, has
described the scenes in eloquent and
moving terms. According to Newman,
the demonstrations were repeated a
week later on Yom Kippur, the solemn
Jewish holy day of atonement. The
sentiments expressed by these thou-
sands of Jews were unmistakeable in
their content. They identified them-
selves, not with Stalin's Russia, but
with the new state of Israel. A continu-
ous How of Jews began to pass through
the temporary headquarters of the
Israeli legation requesting informa-
tion about emigration.
Stalin was quick to take action. A
group of leading Jewish writers and
political figures (who had always
served Stalin faithfully) were rounded
up as the organizers of the demonstra-
tions. The security police thereafter
raided and liquidated the only two re-
maining Yiddish language printing
plants in the Soviet Union, both lo-
cated in Moscow—the newspaper "Ein-
heil" and the publishing house
"Emess." Simultaneously, Stalin liqui-
"Emess." Simultaneously, Stalin liqui-
dated the offices of the Jewish Anti-
Fascist Committee, an organization
Stalin had set up during the war to
enlist the support of Jews in the West
for the Kremlin. The Israeli lega-
tion was declared off bounds for Soviet
citizens and the desire to emigrate to
Israel declared an act of disloyalty to
the state.*
"A red thread runs directly from these
vents to the arrest of the Jewish doctors
in January 1953. For one of the six Jew-
ish doctors arrested was the brother-in-
law of the late Solomon Mikhoels. whose
real name was Vovsi, the noted Yiddish
actor, who served as the chairman of the
JAC. According- to the newspaper reports.
Dr. Vovsi. the physician in question, has
"confessed" that he "received a directive
on the destruction of leading cadres of
the USSR... from the 'Joint' through a
doctor in Moscow. Shimeliovich, and the
well-known Jewish bourgeois-nationalist
Stalin has another reason for slander-
ing the late Mikhoels. Mikhoels was slain
under mysterious circumstances on a visit
to Minsk in 1947. The crime was attributed
to an anti-Semitic Ukrainian underground
group. By denouncing Mikhoels now as an
American spy, Stalin is obviously justify-
ing this murder and pandering directly to
these anti-Semitic forces.
It is from this period that the policy
of cultural genocide begins. Not only
were the Yiddish newspaper and book
publishing plants closed down, but all
Jewish theatres and schools that had
remained in existence were shut down;
the virulent campaign against Zionism
and "rootless cosmopolitanism" was
initiated, and the campaign to dis-
credit and drive the Jews out of Soviet
life begun. Needless to say, the on-
slaught was inaugurated by Stalin's
Jewish hireling, Ilya Ehrenburg, with
an article that appeared in Pamela on
October 21, 1948. The assault on Zion-
ism quickly spilled over into anti-
Semitism and some ot the newspaper
attacks were so vicious that the censor
refused to permit correspondents to
cable them abroad. The most violent
was a review of a book Years of Life
written several years earlier by Isaac
Bakhrakh. The reviewer, S. Ivanov,
ridiculed not only Zionism but the
Jewish religion as well. He concluded
his review by denouncing the editor
Fyodor Levin, who had just been ex-
pelled from the party, as a "cosmo
politan bastard."
The general ideological campaign
to "de-westernize" Russian intellectu-
als was redirected in part and concen-
trated on Jewish writers. These at-
traietl on Jewish writers. These at-
tacks have received widespread pub-
licity and need no detailed documen-
tation here. But two examples deserve
to be quoted because they give the
pure incredible flavor of Stalinist
ideology on the offensive. Attacking
a well-known Jewish-Ukrainian poet,
Leonid Pervomaiskii, the secretary of
the Board of the League of Soviet
Writers in the Ukraine, L. Dmiterko,
wrote: "Here Pervomaiskii has pro-
duced a perfected theory of cosmopoli-
tanism. It appears that Shevchenko [a
famous Ukrainian |>oet and leading
figure in the Ukrainian literary and
political renascence in the 19th cen-
tury—A. S.] with his intransigence to-
ward the enemies and his love for his
people was narrow minded; whereas
Ivan Franko, whose favorite supposed-
ly was Heine—that forbear of all 'cos-
mopolitans without ancestry' broad-
ened the understanding of the world
and Lesya Ukrainka lifted Ukrainian
literature up to 'the humanity of the
whole of mankind.' This is accom-
plished cosmopolitanism . . . having
sunk into the morass of bourgeois hu-
manism, Pervomaiskii expounded cor-
rupt cosmopolitan theories."
On February 14, 1919, Pravda at-
tacked a well-known Jewish dramatic
critic, A. Ourvich: "What can be A.
Gurvich's notion of the national char-
acter of the Soviet Russian man when
he writes that in the 'kindhearted hu-
mor and naively trusting optimism' of
Pogodin's plays . . . the spectator saw
himself as a mirror, for 'kindhearted-
ncss' is supposedly not alien to the
Russian. This slanders the Soviet Rus-
sian man. This is abject slander. And
precisely because kindheartedncss is
utterly alien to us, we must expose
this attempt to heap insult upon the
Soviet national rhararter."
The response of the regime was in-
deed extreme, and it may be asked why
two such harmless demonstrations
should have provoked so violent and
immediate a response. To seek an an-
swer to this gucstion, we must refer
to certain war-time actions of the Stal-
inist regime.
On August 28, 1941, a government
decree dissolved the Volga German
Autonomous Republic for alleged
diversionist activities. A large part of
this population was banished to the
Altai region of western Siberia and
other areas as a punishment for "dis-
loyalty." This was the first direct ex-
ample of genocide by the Stalinist re-
gime. (The deportation of millions of
Ukrainians during the early thirties
was carried out under the guise of a
struggle with the Kulaks.) The second
step was not too long in following.
After the Germans had retreated from
the Caucasus and Crimea, the regime
condemned the Chechens and Ingush
of the Caucasus and the Tartars of the
Crimean Autonomous Republic for
collaborating with the enemy. These
Autonomous areas were also dissolved
in 1944 and their territory incorporat-
ed in the Russian Federal Republic.
The final measure of genocide taken
by the Stalinist regime as a result of
the war was the liquidation of the
Kalmyk Autonomous Republic and
the Karachayev Autonomous Region.
The scope of the punishment meted
out to these peoples can be measured
by the total population affected. Ac-
cording to the 1939 census, the popu-
lation of the five regions came to
In the case of the Chechen-Ingush,
reports have filtered out concerning
what happened. On February 23, 1944,
during the festivities celebrating Red
Army Day, MVD troops appeared in
the villages and began the arrest of all
adult males. Those who attempted to
flee were shot. The remainder, to-
gether with their women and children
were exiled to Central Asia. At least
half of those exiled died in transit
from sickness and hunger. Today the
Chechen-Ingush no longer have a na-
tional existence. Not only were they
deported, but they are denied the right
to schools and newspapers in their na-
tive tongue.
The liquidation of the above minor-
ities was only one aspect of the total
picture The war not only destroyed
the fiction of monolithic unity, it also
breached the hitherto impenetrable
myth of the superiority of life in the
"Land of Socialism." The millions of
Russian soldiers who had marched in-
to the West had to be convinced that
what they had seen with their own eyes
was not true—the incredible difference
between their low "socialist" living
standards and the relatively comfort
able circumstances of poor workers
and peasant* in the "decadent, capi-
talist" West. The opening shot in this
campaign came on September 3, 1944,
when Pravda featured an article by
Leonid Sobolev advising Soviet sol-
diers not to be deceived by the tinsel
of the West. Two years later, in 1946,
Zhdanov opened (ire on the intellect-
ual front with a demand that the Rus-
sian intellectuals stop "kow-towing to
the West." That ideological war has
continued till this day and not one
stratum of Soviet society has escaped
the increasingly savage assault: every-
thing Russian must l>c exalted, every-
thing Western damned.
But Stalin has not relied on propa-
ganda measures alone. In the immedi-
ate post-war period, a vast operation
supervised by the NKVD was under-
taken to sift out those "ideologically
infected" Russians, and their number
was considerable, who had fallen into
the hands of the Germans as prisoners
or slave labor. In some cases they were
shot as traitors; in most, they were de-
nounced as "socially dangerous" and
sent off to the slave labor camps.
The liquidation of the national
minorities, the especially cruel treat-
ment of prisoners of war and civilian
captives, the ideological offensive
against "kow-towing" to the West in
all spheres of science and the arts, and
the reaction of the Kremlin to the
Jewish demonstrations in Moscow all
fit into the same pattern: The need to
reinforce the monolithic facade and
eliminate or terrorize all real or po-
tentially "disloyal" elements. Given
the increasing tensions on the inter-
national scene, the very real "war dan-
ger" and the anti-Semitic predisposi-
tions of the Kremlin hierarchy, the
anti-Jewish policies of the Kremlin be-
come comprehensible.
But yet another question is raised
by the open anti-Semitic course of the
Stalinist regime. Why did it launch an
open, public campaign of such vicious
proportions? Why didn't it merely ac-
celerate the hidden process that was
already in effect of purging the Jews,
and carry it out silently and without
fanfare as had been done in the case
of the five liquidated national minori-
ties and the "cleansing" of military
and civilian prisoners of war?
Much has been written about the
attack on the Jews being designed as
an appeal to the Arabs and the Ger-
mans. Undeniably such considerations
must enter into the calculations of the
Kremlin. But a close study of the pat-
tern of events and propaganda will
show that the primary audience was
and remains domestic. The anti-Semi-
tic campaign was designed chiefly for
home consumption and not for export.
On February 3, 1951, the Christian
Science Monitor carried a report that
anti-Semitic outbreaks had assumed
the proportions of minor riots in a
number of small Ukrainian towns,
and that assaults on individual Jews
had even taken place in Moscow. The
report also declared that government
officials took no effective steps to curb
these incidents. Similar reports leaked
through with the acceleration of the
anti-Semitic drive in December, 1952.
Clearly, the Stalinist regime is inflam-
ing and provoking popular anti-Semi-
tism. In a police state such incidents
cannot take place on a wide scale with-
out the tacit approval of the police.
The use of the Jew as the scapegoat
appears here in its classic form. Just
as in Czarist times, anti-Semitism be-
comes a "patriotic" manifestation.
The announcement on January 12,
1953 of the arrest of six Jewish doctor*
together with their three non-Jewish
colleagues established the new and
more deadly amalgam: The Jews were
not merely "rootless, passportless, cos-
mopolitans," they were also "Trotsky-
ite-Zionist-American agents and spies."
Around this new characterization of
the Jews as overt "enemies of the state"
a new series of legal murders, arrests
and denunciations has taken place
which must be examined in detail.
In Kiev, in the early part of Decem-
ber, just after the Slansky trial in
Prague had ended, an extraordinary
event took place. Three Jewish state
employees were tried before a military
tribunal (in peacetime) as "specula-
tors," immediately condemned to
death and shot by a firing squad. On
December 18, 1952, five Jewish Com-
munist Party members were arrested
in Odessa on charges of sabotage. The
five were denounced as "Trotskyite
agents" and "confessed" to having car-
ried out various anti-Soviet activities.
This, by the way, was the first time
that the Soviet press or radio had
openly mentioned the word "Jew,"
having previously referred to Jews as
"rootless cosmopolitans." Again, in
the middle of January, 1953, the
Ukrainian Pravda reported the dis-
missal of a number of Kiev party and
state officials and the exposure of a
series of "crimes" in Kiev, Kharkov,
Odessa and Voroshilovgrad. The
names of these "criminals" according
to the Ukrainian Pravda were "Green-
stein in Odessa, Pers in Kiev and Kap-
lan and Polyakov in Kharkov." On
January 25th, the same paper carried
a story denouncing one, "Jacob David-
ovich Mehlman" who had made a
family business out of a glass factory.
The fact that such a high number
of arrests and shootings have taken
place in the Ukraine can hardly be
considered an accident. The appeal to
popular anti-Semitism is here being
carried one step further. But the drive
on Jewish state and party function-
aries has not been restricted to the
Ukraine. In the January issue of the
party magazine Communist, the sec-
retary of the Leningrad regional or-
ganization declares that a number of
"alien and foreign" elements have
been exposed and purged from the
Leningrad organization. Who are
these "alien and foreign" elements?
They are "bourgeois-nationalist, coun-
ter-revolutionary elements, former
Nepmen having connections with the
Jewish Bund and the Trotskyites.
Similar reports have been made by the
heads of the Moscow party organiza-
tion and other large cities."
But the arrests, shootings and ex-
pulsion of the Jews from the party and
But the arrests, shootings and ex-
pulsion of the Jews from the party and
state apparatus, which started in early
December are only one side of the
coin. The other side, it is important to
note, IS the threat of a general purge
in the party and state apparatus. A
little more than a week after the arrest
of the Jewish doctors, the new secre-
tary of the Stalinist state party, Mik-
hailov, "demanded that the party mer-
cilessly drive from its ranks all "degen-
erates or doubledealers,' root out hid-
den enemies no matter what mask they
wear and incessantly strengthen the
Soviet armed forces and intelligence
organs." On January 18, 1953, the
Moscow correspondent of the New
York Times reported that the Ukrain-
ian Communist Party's Central Com-
mittee had issued an edict ordering
the end of "all political carelessness
and slackness" and the complete root-
ing out of all criminal elements. He
also reported that the Kiev newspaper,
Ukrainian Pravda, has "linked the
drive against commercial fraud with
the general campaign for state and
party discipline, and the strictest vigi-
lance that is now under way through-
out the country as a result of the an-
nouncement of the discovery of a plot
involving nine Moscow doctors ... the
Central Committee directed the atten-
tion of the trade minister, the food
•minister, the meat and milk minister,
the light industry minister, the local
industry minister and the chiefs of the
Ukrainian Cooperative Union and the
Ukrainian Industrial Council to un-
satisfactory conditions in their respec-
tive spheres."
An ingenious theory has been of-
fered to explain the linking of the
purge of Jewish officials and the threat
of a general purge. According to this
theory, a struggle for power is taking
place between Beria, the head of the
secret police and other members of
the Kremlin hierarchy. The evidence
consists in part of the attacks on the
secret police for their failure to detect
the "treasonable activities" of the doc-
tors and other enemies of the slate.
The other part of the evidence, which
has been offered by Alexander Werth,
a correspondent who spent a good
many years in Stalinist Russia, is that
Bcria is popularly believed to be half-
Jewish. From the combination of
these two factors, it is deduced that
Beria and his supporters are the real
target and the attacks on the Jews only
a camouflage. That some sort of strug-
gle must be taking place at the top is
quite believable, and perhaps Bcria is
the target of the present campaign,
but there are other and far more seri-
ous factors which have driven the re-
gime to link the attack on the Jews
with a threat of a general purge. And
it is important to note that for the
present, only a shadow purge is taking
place. The regime is satisfied to thun-
der, to threaten and to purge... only
Beneath the monolithic facade of
the totalitarian state there rage a num-
ber of subterranean conflicts—not only
between the masses and the regime—
but between the topmast stratum of
the party and state and the lower ranks
of the apparatus and the intelligentsia.
In the name of the approaching "war
danger" the Kremlin hierarchy is de-
manding complete submission to its
will and ever greater efforts. And it is
obviously meeting with resistance
from die apparatus on the provincial
and local levels as well as from the
intelligentsia. This great mass of the
bureaucracy, which immediately re-
flects the dissatisfactions of the lower
strata of society as well as expressing
it own moods, wants to enjoy life here
and now.
It has passed through the storms of
collect ivization, the "heroic" epoch of
industrialization, the horror of the
purges, the war and the tremendous
strain of post-war reconstruction. And
now again it faces the prospect of war
and all the sacrifices war entails! To
this, it responds with silent resistance.
Nothing else explains the never-end-
ing cycle of purges, denunciations and
threats which hegan right after the
war and have not diminished but in-
creased like an ever-expanding spiral.
A close look at the relationship be-
tween the central power and the pro-
vincial and local apparatus provides
us with a devastating picture. Since
the end of the war a continuous series
of purges has been decapitating the
leadership in the different national re-
publics. In the Ukraine alone, two
years after liberation, thirty-eight per
cent of the regional secretaries of the
Communist Party, sixty-four per cent
of all regional party chairmen and
two-thirds of the directors of the ma-
chine-tractor stations, were purged. In
1951, the purges reached a post-war
high with a major cleansing of the
party and state apparatus in at least
seven of the federal and autonomous
republics; the Ukraine, of course,
leading the rest. The other republics
that suffered changes in leadership
were Bielorussia, Azerbaijan, Molda-
via, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan and Kasakh-
Inside the party the Kremlin has
concentrated on liquidating the "un-
reliables." To the degree that the re-
gime has gained control of the situa-
tion it has slowed down and reversed
the policy of recruitment it followed
during the war and immediate post-
war period. In March, 1939, the total
membership of the party stood at two
and a half million. By October, 1945,
the party had mushroomed to five mil-
lion, seven hundred thousand mem-
bers. Between September, 1947, when
the membership of the party stood at
six million, three-hundred thousand,
and January, 1948, three hundred
thousand members were dropped from
the party rolls. At that time the num-
ber of party members had declined to
six million.
The severity of the process is strik-
ing. In the five years between Febru-
ary, 1941, and October, 1945, the party
enrolled almost two million members.
In the seven years between 1946 and
the end of 1952 the party grew by ap-
proximately one million members
Yet, despite all these prophylactit
measures, the regime is again com-
pelled to threaten the bureaucracy
with a purge of serious proportions
. . . perhaps on the scale of the mid-
The link between the ruthless purge
of Jewish officials, which has taken the
form of shootings, jail sentences and
expulsion from the party, and the
threat of a general purge lies in this,
that the Kremlin is holding the fate
of the Jews up as a warning of how
drastic the purge will be if and when
it comes. The "crimes" of the Jews
now encompass every form of resist-
ance to the will of the Kremlin, and
those who behave like the Jews will be
treated just as ruthlessly.
A great DEAL of attention has been
devoted by the world press to the
speculation that a struggle for power
is taking place within the Kremlin
hierarchy. But such speculations
should not divert our eyes from the
central significance of the anti-Semitic
policies of the Kremlin. They arc a
sign of a loss of dynamic, of exhaus-
tion. They signify that the regime has
lost whatever attractive powers it had
and must now rest altogether on ideo-
logical and physical terror. And this
marks a further stage in the inner de-
cay of the Stalinist ruling class.
Tor it should be understood that
the Stalinist regime never rested on
terror alone. The threat was always
supplemented by the promise. The
propaganda slogan of "building So-
cialism in one country" was full of
meaning for millions of young peo-
ple, who had visions of a world of un-
limited material and social advance-
ment for themselves. The regime drew
them up by die tens of thousands into
the upper levels of the state and party
apparatus, and not only won their en-
thusiastic support but established a
necessary link with the lower strata of
Stalinist society. No matter how dis-
totted, the propaganda was positive
and seemed to correspond in some de-
gree to reality. In the "heroic thirties"
the younger generation, as we know
from many sources, was literally ready
for any sacrifice because it believed it
was creating socialism and thereby, its
own future.
The "heroic" age of Stalinism has
vanished never to return. Kremlin so-
ciety has lost its social mobility and
the movement from below upward has
slowed tremendously. The class struc-
ture has begun to freeze and take on
hereditary, caste features. The uni-
forms assigned to the various occupa-
tions and professions is the outward
symbol of this fact.
Anti-Semitism is the supreme ex-
pression of the |>oIitical and social ex-
haustion of the regime. Today, the
bureaucratic machine, it appears, can
only be kept in motion by threats,
purges, the elimination of "potential-
ly" disloyal elements and more threats.
And in this sense, with all due propor-
tions guarded, a parallel can be drawn
between the last decades of Czarism
and the Stalinist regime in the present
On the eve of the first World War.
Czar Nicholas II indulged in cruel,
anti-Semitic excesses. In 1913, the no-
torious ritual murder trial of Mendel
Beilis was staged. And the language of
reaction at that time is astonishing in
its similarity to the language of Pravda
and Izvestia today. Here, for example,
is a typical editorial which appeared
in the official paper. The Russian Ban-
ner of the pogromist League of the
Russian People: "The government's
duty is to consider the Jews as a na-
tion just as dangerous for the life of
humanity as wolves, scorpions, snakes,
poisonous spiders and other creatures
which arc doomed to destruction be-
cause of their rapaciousness toward
human beings and whose annihilation
is commended by law." How litde
change is necessary in order to insert
this statement as a lead editorial in
Pravda or Izvestia!
During the first world war the gov-
ernment attacks on the Jews assumed
savage proportions. Someone had to be
blamed for the disasters which were
shattering the Russian armies on the
Galician front. Like Stalin, the Czar
discovered Jewish spies and poisoners
everywhere. Like Stalin, he deported
Jews from the "danger" zones in the
Ukraine. It was forbidden to speak
Jewish in public places or over tele-
phones because it resembled German.
Is the parallel sheer historical coinci-
dence or is Stalin cynically drawing on
those deep memories of the past which
are embedded in the minds of the
older generations and which have
been learned from history books by
the younger?
It has been suggested by Supreme
Court Justice William Douglas that
the open persecution of the Jews by
the Staliinst regime is a sign of confi-
dence and strength. If he means that
the regime is firmly in the saddle to-
day, he is right, of course. But if he
means the regime is acting from
strength in the sense that it has the
confidence and support of the whole
country behind it, he is as wrong as
anyone can be. Anti-Semitism always
has been and always will be the sign
and symbol of a ruling class complete-
ly at odds with the rest of the nation,
a class that is unable to draw upon
the deep reservoir of idealism and en-
thusiasm with which a people always
responds in times of crisis, a class that
can only rule by deception and terror
and by appealing to the basest in-
stincts known to mankind.

New International, New York,
Jan-Feb 1952

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