STALIN AND THE JEWS: THE RED BOOK: The Tragedy of the Soviet Jews
By Arno Lustiger
Foreword by Yefim Etkind.
Translated from the German.
Enigma Books, $29, 446 pages, illus.
REVIEWED BY ARNOLD BEICHMAN
Joseph Stalin had a favorite saying by which he lived and multitudes died. It went like this: “est chelovek, est problema, net cheloveka — net problemy.” Or, “a person, a problem; no person — no problem.” Millions of people in the Soviet Union became un-persons during his quarter-century rule. While the Georgian-born Stalin didn’t particularly favor one nationality over another during his reign of terror, he was a “breaker of nations,” as in Robert Conquest’s book title — and he had a particular hatred for Soviet Jews. Stalin’s own daughter, Svetlana, attested to that psychosis:
“His anti-Semitism surely originated from the long years of struggle with Trotsky and his supporters,. What was originally political hate gradually became a feeling of racial hatred against all Jews, without exception.”
The Lustiger book is one of several recently published about Stalin’s war against the Soviet Jews, but this is one which has Soviet documents I have not seen before. I only wish that the publisher and his readers had paid more attention to the translation, which is poor, and to the text itself which has some real howlers. (There never was a New York senator named Abraham Kaplan, the Crimea is nowhere near the Baltic Sea, Svetlana was forced by her father to marry not Andre Zhdanov, Stalin’s hatchet-man, but his son, Iurii. And there are sentences which are incoherent, such as: “A few days after the revolt [in Spain], Franco agreed with the Politburo….”).
Were it not for such editorial ineptitude (the misspelling of proper names alone would be troubling enough), one would not hesitate to to accept such interesting revelations as that Grigori Khaifets “was the first [Soviet] agent to report to Moscow about frantic American efforts regarding the atom bomb in an encoded telegram in 1941.”
Born in Poland, the 79-year-old Lustiger is a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He now lives in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. A distant relative of Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, the author has devoted his research and writing efforts to the story of the Russian Jews, from the days of the tsars to the Stalin era, particularly the last three months before Stalin’s death March 5, 1953, to the post-Stalin years of Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Gorbachev through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Bolshevik revolution began, as Mr. Lustiger tells it, with a campaign against anti-Semitism and promotion of the Yiddish language and literature. At one point, there were 400 Yiddish periodicals. By 1938, there were none. The Communists liquidated Jewish institutions, publishing houses, cultural associations and arrested their employees.
It was providential that the 73-year-old Stalin suffered a stroke on Feb. 28, 1953 on the same day as the Jewish holiday of Purim. It was also on the same day that deportations to Siberia of more than one million Jews from Moscow alone and millions more from other parts of the Soviet Union were to begin. There is some evidence that Stalin was also preparing new Moscow trials of those who had, during his genocidal reign, been his closest colleagues, like Vyacheslav Molotov whom Stalin forced to separate from his Jewish wife. (Molotov’s wife was suspect because she had been heard speaking Yiddish with the then-Israeli ambassador, Golda Meir.) Part of Stalin’s anti-Semitism was to conjure up the so-called Doctor’s Plot, in which the Kremlin doctors, most of them Jews, “confessed” under torture that they had deliberately misdiagnosed health problems of Soviet leaders. These accusations produced, says Mr. Lustiger, a “mass hysteria,” so that Russians refused to accept medications by Jewish physicians. All these doctors were freed a few days after Stalin’s death.View Entire Story
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