Chapter 5:
Following The Money

This chapter sketches the very puzzling story of where the money raised in these fund raising drives went in Russia at least according to the published sources. We will also cover a few important points of historical background and touch on the political situation in the Soviet Union in the early twentieth century, a period that is largely forgotten or misunderstood today.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's own yearly expenditures chart shows the amounts of money the 'Joint' says they spent from 1914 through 1934 on relief. They had two classifications of aid: emergency or general relief which included soup kitchens, clothing, emergency medical care and rehabilitative or reconstructive relief which consisted largely of setting up and operating trade schools, banks, and farms. At the end of World War One, people were generous with their contributions, but in the early 1920s collections dropped off year by year. In 1926, as featured in the last chapter, the promoters really got creative and were successful in boosting collections. The aid raised during the war and in the immediate postwar period was channeled into emergency relief, which they also called general relief. Later, most of the money was spent on reconstruction, or rehabilitative relief. By 1926, they were spending 81% of the money on reconstruction, and in 1927, 86% according to their own figures.

Less than 20 percent of the funds sent to Poland actually went into emergency relief in 1927 according to chairman David A. Brown. The remainder was devoted to "constructive undertakings" such as establishing cooperative banks in Poland, financing tradesmen and artisans, and promoting Jewish agricultural settlements.[138] Also in 1927, a Max Steuer who had gone to Europe to investigate the relief programs charged that 40% of the money raised "disappeared in the manipulations by the bankers on the subject of exchange."

Mr. Steuer quoted a Dr. Greenebaum, a member of the Polish Parliament, who said that until recently, "after the money had been transmitted, the exchanges were so manipulated on the other side that at least 40 percent of the money was consumed before a single dollar was distributed to any person for whom it was intended." Steuer made other charges but also made it clear that he was referring to Polish bankers and not American bankers.[139]

As one would expect, Steuer received a scathing in the press for questioning the actions of the 'Joint'. On Monday, September 12, 1927, The New York Times editorialized:[140]

"Mr. David A. Brown cited figures which would indicate that in Poland less than 20 percent of the funds went into emergency relief. The remainder was devoted to 'constructive' undertakings. Mr. Henry Moskowitz in a recent public statement expresses the opinion that a study of the Joint Distribution Committee's accounts would show that in Poland the bulk of the relief money went into the establishment of cooperative banks and other agencies for the purpose of financing small tradesmen and artisans. Incidentally, this may suggest what Mr. Steuer had dimly in mind - very dimly - when he made his startling charges, and particularly his reference to manipulation of the exchanges. If American dollars were converted into Polish zloty for the creation of bank capital, it is conceivable that some losses may have been incurred through the fluctuations of the Polish exchange."

The Jewish Daily News was more blunt. They editorialized that Mr. Steuer had simply removed himself from the role of a Jewish communal leader.[141]

The actions of the Committee were defended by both Louis Marshall and Felix Warburg. Warburg deplored the wide publicity and insisted that Steuer had placed an exaggerated value on hearsay testimony and was trying his case in the newspapers. Warburg further stated that no good purpose had been served by Steuer's statement and that the problem had been corrected.

Speaking at the Constructive Relief Conference in October of 1927, Felix Warburg responded that the policy of the Joint Distribution Committee has been based on a deep seated respect for the Jewry of the old world and that the European Jews, long before the war, had developed many conspicuous national and international philanthropic associations. He said that the leadership of European Jewry had never been questioned and that it was the general policy of the 'Joint' to work within existing Jewish organizational structures in Europe.[142] Warburg wasn't recorded as saying anything about the starvation statistics that had been claimed during the fund raising campaigns of the year before. But he did offer the opinion that 1919 and 1920 were the blackest years in modern Jewish history. During those two years, according to Warburg:

"Widespread massacres and pogroms resulted in the murder of several hundred thousand Jews. On the other hand, it witnessed a phenomenal revival of Jewish activity, accompanied by intense social strife, and by a renaissance of cultural and economic theories incident to the universal movements for national self-determination and the recognition of racial minority rights."

Warburg also claimed that there had been Ukrainian pogroms in the course of which nearly 200,000 Jewish men, women and children perished by fire and sword, constituting one of the blackest pages of history.[143]

The public quickly forgot about Steuer's little criticism. In 1932, Felix Warburg was selected as second only to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in an honor roll of the ten leading Jews in the United States. Others in that top ten included United States Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo and Harvard law professor Felix Frankfurter as well as New York Times publisher Adolf Ochs and Rabbi Stephen Wise.[144]

What kind of a person was Felix Warburg? He was described as fun loving, a person who knew how to relate to many different types of people. While highly respected and genuinely liked as a leader within the New York establishment, he was not an intellectual, a doer, not a thinker. Married to an heiress while maintaining numerous girl friends openly, he was the kind of person who is incapable of embarrassment, possessed of a cast iron gut, and publicly credible whether or not he was being particularly truthful. The rap on Felix was that he was the family flyweight and not bright enough for the Hamburg bank.[145]

In reading this next section, it's only fair to first point out the obvious, that to most of the general public, Felix Warburg was an extremely wealthy Republican banker. We will assume that he didn't at first want to have anything to do with Soviet Russia. To me, saying that Jews were attracted to communism is about as fair as saying that Germans were attracted to National Socialism. But it is a fact that the private charity he headed funded agricultural colonies in the Soviet Union, claiming that millions of Jews were starving in Europe, year after year.

Jewish agricultural colonies in Russia had been tried before under czarist rule. Before the Communist revolution, there were Chibbat Zion branches in operation all over Russia. This socialist agricultural movement was financially supported by Baron Edmund de Rothschild who called them "my colonies" and put in agents to supervise them. This didn't mean that Baron Rothschild approved of the Czar any more than Warburg was attracted to communism. It's possible that both Rothschild and Warburg thought that they could have a positive and moderating effect on these respective regimes by being involved in a business relationship with them. Or they could have become involved for other reasons, such as to facilitate emigration from Russia, or to set up temporary settlements of people who could later be moved to Palestine.

Of course there's the obvious humanitarian reasons. With the benefit of hindsight, any attraction to Marxist ideology seems odd and incredible. But we must briefly mention a few of the writers and thinkers whose works were influential during that period and whose ideas could have motivated leaders and opinion makers from Rothschild and Warburg on down to the lowliest commissar and GULag enforcer. They are largely forgotten now perhaps for the good reason that their ideas have not stood the test of time.

A Hebrew novelist extolled readers to cease to be Jews in a theoretical religious sense and to become Jews in their own right as a living and developing nationality. Nachman Syrkin predicted that the Jews would redeem the world which crucified them and that their role in human history was a uniquely chosen role, which in the future through the agency of Zionism would usher in the socialist millennium.[146] Syrkin said in 1918 that the Jewish people is socialist not by necessity but because the revolution was declared on Mt. Sinai.[147] A chief rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Kook, wrote that a consistent application of all the laws of the Torah in social and economic matters would not tolerate the capitalist system. Moses Mendelssohn, who was the founder of Jewish rationalism, argued:[148]

"The progress of modern civilization has come to be regarded as a sort of 'Messiah' for the final solution of the Jewish problem."

Dov Ber Borochov was a leading exponent of Marxist Zionism. He wrote The National Question and the Class Struggle in 1905, which was widely read by Jews living in Russia at the time. Writing in the scientific, jargon ridden, lumberingly constructed style of Marxist analysis[149] Borochov argued that just as the class struggle is waged for the material means of production, there is also a national struggle waged for "spiritual" (language, customs, mores) and territorial conditions of production. Borochov theorized that the normally antagonistic classes within a conquered or oppressed nationality unite in identifying with the oppressed proletariat. According to Borochov, even upper classes of an oppressed nationality think and act like oppressed proletariat because of the history of the whole nationality having been oppressed. By this twisting of Marxist gibberish, Jewish nationalism was transformed into a progressive movement of national liberation by interpolating the class struggle into Zionism.

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia explained Boroshov's theory this way:[150]

"Borochov's chief ideological contribution was his Marxist analysis of the economic structure and social situation of the Jewish people, pointing to the physical inevitability of territorial concentration in Palestine as a means of occupational redistribution and normalization."

Sokolow's History of Zionism first published in 1919, chronicles that during the Communist revolution of 1917 at Odessa, a port on the black sea, entire battalions of Zionist soldiers bore through the town behind blue and white banners proclaiming: "Liberty in Russia, land and liberty in Palestine". A hundred and fifty thousand men followed these banners to which the military Governor of Odessa insisted on showing honor publicly.[151] In the course of the Russian civil war between the reds and the whites, the Jewish population rallied massively to the Red Army, and its intelligentsia was recruited into the Soviet state apparatus.[152] Leon Trotsky, as the head of the Red Army in 1919, accepted the proposition from Paole Zion that Jewish "national battalions" be constituted to organize the defense of the Jewish population and win it over to the new Bolshevik regime.[153] In 1922, it was reported that a strong Jewish army organized for self-protection was well equipped with rifles, ammunition, and machine guns and numbered 500,000 strong. In a town called Spalla, the Jewish Volunteer Army, well armed, engaged in guerrilla warfare with a band of several hundred bandits, which ended with the Jews entering the town. Order was established immediately and several thousand former residents who escaped a series of massacres two or three years before began streaming in from all parts of Russia and Rumania. The Jewish army was founded by young Zionist groups and therefore had religious as well as racial significance.[154]

Beginning in 1924, Jewish colonies totaling 1.5 million acres were established in the Crimea, the Zaporozje, Cherson, and Odessa districts, in Caucasia and in White Russia. Also in 1924, at a luncheon at Kuhn & Loeb in New York, a program was worked out to involve the Joint Distribution Committee in some of these projects. The Joint Distribution Committee began financing Soviet Jewish agricultural settlements in Ukraine and the Crimea with a mixture of donated money, loaned money, and Soviet funding. These settlements became a bizarre hybrid of Park Avenue charity and Marxist agriculture. Some of the Jewish settlements founded by Agro-Joint were Zionist colonies settled by people who saw the Crimea as a stepping-stone on the road to Palestine. Thirteen of the colonies had Hebrew names. According to statistics published in Yehuda Bauer's book, My Brother's Keeper, which was financed with a generous grant from the Joint Distribution Committee, there were 112 Agro-Joint colonies in the Crimea in 1928.[155] The Soviet government contributed 500,000 rubles for the Agro-Joint settlements each year and placed this budget at the disposal of Agro-Joint.[156]

The new Soviet government considered the Jews to be a formerly oppressed nationality entitled to their own territorial regions. In accordance with the Soviet scheme of national autonomy, these regions were governed as autonomous Jewish districts. Schools, Colleges, law courts, police forces and the entire machinery of government were conducted in Yiddish. There were also traveling theaters, publications, movies, radio and lectures. Jewish workers were recruited for new factories all over Russia. In Asia near the Manchurian border, the New Jersey sized territory of Biro-Bidjon was, in time, also declared a territory exclusively for Jewish settlers. It was prestigious being Jewish in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and the first half of the thirties and perhaps long after that. It was a time of state protection for Russian Jews. They were assumed to be faithful allies of Soviet Power and therefore to be trusted in promoting policy. The Soviet government gave the Jewish theater a first class building in the middle of Moscow and large state subsidies for its work, and its creative figures received generous titles and medals which guaranteed them privileges and material comforts within the Soviet system.[157]

In the spring of 1927, Felix Warburg went to the Soviet Union, traveling from Vladivostok to Moscow, claiming to have toured forty of the Agro-Joint colonies in the Crimea and Ukraine. Warburg's party traveled by private railroad car and toured more remote regions in two chauffeured limousines. Felix laid a cornerstone for a Felix Warburg high school and visited a settlement named Felix Warburg No. 4 and 5.[158] Upon his return he told a fund raising rally in Chicago:[159]

"I wish you had been with us on our trip through Russia. Good friends had warned us not to make the trip, that it was dangerous, that we were going to a country where everything would be supervised and we would get predigested food in regard to the things we wanted to see. Nothing of the kind has happened. In no country we visited were we as free from formalities and granted such absolute freedom as in Russia. [...] The work in Russia has been a great success, not only from the sentimental standpoint but also from the financial standpoint. It is difficult to realize that untrained Jewish people from the cities should have been brought to these farms and in the third year should begin seriously to pay back the loans, heavy loans, but that is the truth. Everything given to them is noted down by them in a book. Whenever they look at the book they know what they owe to the mutual credit society, and they know what they owe to the Kassas and they know what they owe to the Jews of America."

Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears, was a heavy donor to the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation and a settlement was also named after him.

To the Communists it was blood and not religion that determined Jewishness. Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union was prosecuted as a crime against the Jewish nationality. It was a crime against racism. Communists supported what they called "spiritual" aspects of the people. These spiritual aspects were myths, folkways, customs and so forth and should not be confused with religion, which the communists opposed. While religious Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were persecuted as religions within the communist system, the Jewish people were favored as an historically oppressed nationality like the Georgians or the Armenians.

In 1928, the Central Committee of the Communist party in Moscow appointed a special committee to combat anti-Semitism. The special committee's program provided for a systematic campaign by trained personnel beginning within the Communist Party and also within schools including colleges. The campaign against anti-Semitism was introduced into the schoolbooks, motion pictures, the press, and literature. Public debates on anti-Semitism were held and excursions to the Jewish colonies arranged. A campaign against anti-Semitism was also conducted in the Red Army and in the trade unions. It became a crime against the state. The highest disciplinary penalties were provided in the program recommended by the committee for those found guilty of anti-Semitic practices and particularly for those opposing the Jewish colonization work.[160]

The head of the Moscow State Theater and seven other officials of the State Theater were dismissed for their anti-Semitic practices.[161] A Moscow dispatch to The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that four "Pogromists" were sentenced to death and nine to prison terms of from one to ten years.[162] During a conference on combating anti-Semitism held in the All-Russian Communist Club, a Moscow District Court Judge stated that disciplinary punishment had been inflicted upon seventy persons in Moscow during the first ten months of 1928 for anti-Semitic propaganda.[163]

The battle against anti-Semitism became an election campaign issue in White Russia.[164]

"Communists, fight ignorance, alcoholism and anti-Semitism read a poster placarded in the streets."

In a separate report, two ringleaders found guilty of attacking the Jewish Colony No. 3 were sentenced to death. Two other members of the band were sentenced to imprisonment followed by deportation. The Chief of Police and his assistant received eighteen-months jail sentences and the chairman of the regional Soviet was sentenced to one year in prison.[165]

The Communist press was reporting that the principal cause of anti-Semitism in industrial centers was the influence of the "Kulaks" (wealthier peasants) upon former peasants now working in factories. A reporter from The Jewish Telegraphic Agency investigated and reported in a dispatch from Minsk:[166]

"Jewish and non-Jewish workers interviewed by the correspondent agreed in blaming the Kulaks for using their influence over the new factory hands for the purpose of promoting anti-Semitic disturbances and thus making trouble for the Soviet government. The Kulaks are especially incensed at the government's insistence upon its plan for the eventual socialization of agriculture."

In one show trial eight workers including three Communist party members were charged with tormenting a Jewish working girl. In order to achieve the maximum publicity, it was staged in the largest available hall and advertised throughout Russia. The President of the White Russian Supreme Court presided over a bench of judges, and the chief prosecutor of the White Russian Republic personally conducted the case for the state. The President of the White Russian Academy of Sciences and the dean of the Minsk faculty of Law also appeared as "prosecutors on behalf of public opinion". Intending to serve as a warning to other offenders, the sentences at Soviet show trials tended to be draconian. According to the indictment, a Jewish girl was first habitually mocked and later roughly handled. She was told she would be put in an oven and then water was thrown over her. Then she tripped and fell on her face and finally was brutally kicked on the ankle with a wooden clog. Such rowdyism was all too frequent with White Russian workers during that period. Almost an exactly similar case occurred almost simultaneously in a nearby town at another factory with a non-Jewish girl as the victim, but no action was taken.[167]

Why did the Bolshevist party decide to hold a full-dress political anti-Semite 'show trial' at the White Russian capital Minsk? A major reason given in a New York Times report covering this trial was that the Soviet elections were about to begin and the Communists hoped to use these elections to smash the power of the Kulaks once and for all. In White Russia much land had recently been taken from the Kulaks and a small part of it was utilized to form new Jewish land colonies. As a result there had been a certain amount of terrorization of the new Jewish colonists. The Communists then hit back with this slogan:[167]

"All anti-Semitism comes from the Kulaks."

It was also decided to thrash out this case with the utmost publicity because such acts were prevalent in the area and an increase could have become politically dangerous in an atmosphere of discontent generated by a bad harvest, crushing taxation on the villages and a shortage of goods in the towns. Even the official "Jewish section" of the Communist party directorate in Moscow often soft-pedaled anti-Semitism in order not to supply enemies of the Soviet regime and the anti-Socialist Jewish press abroad with opportunities for "fantastic pogrom propaganda."[167]

The eight defendants were accused of "counter revolution" although the alleged facts hardly seemed to justify such a terrible charge. The Soviet Chief Prosecutor (Krylenko) at this trial wanted the death penalty by shooting for Class One offenders found guilty of counterrevolutionary activities and prison for an indefinite term for Class 2 offenders. He stated:[167]

"Under no circumstances will these criminals belonging in Class 2 be allowed to return home. After their release from prison they will be exiled for life to remote places out of harm's way."

The central issue at the trial was whether the defendants were guilty of an act of a counter-revolutionary nature (Class One). The judge sought to establish the connection of the defendants' acts with the influence of the Kulaks, wealthy peasants, and Nepmen. Nepmen were new economic policy men - small businessmen who had been allowed to operate under Lenin after the famine of 1921-1922, but were later taxed out of existence. The four major defendants were found guilty of anti-Semitism and rough treatment of their fellow worker and received prison terms.[168]

In a separate show trial four months later, 24 other Russian workers charged with anti-Semitism received prison sentences. The trial attracted wide attention, and hundreds of people crowded the court to hear the decision, which was issued at 5 o'clock in the morning. At the same time during a meeting held in Moscow, Anatole Lunatcharsky, Commissioner of Education, said he could understand those who opposed the Soviet Government but could not see how followers of communism could maintain the claim that "Jews govern us".[169]

The Soviet war on anti-Semitism coincided with the period after Lenin's death in 1924 when Joseph Stalin was jockeying for power. He was a man who spent a lifetime portraying himself as an internationalist and as a determined foe of anti-Semitism. Stalin's bitterest enemy, Leon Trotsky, called Stalin a clerk, an embezzler of ideas, timid and unintelligent, but never said anywhere that Stalin was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Stalin, an early editor of Pravda, had first came to public attention with the publication of his article "Marxism and the National Question" in the Communist theoretical journal Enlightenment one year before the start of World War One in 1913. This article dealt with what Marxists should do after the revolution with all of the non-Russian nationalities that had been conquered and forcibly made a part of Russia by the Czars. Stalin argued for the creation of locally autonomous regions (colonies, reservations) for the historically oppressed nationality groups where their language, folkways and traditions would be respected. In this politically charged article, Stalin wrote at length on the Jewish nationality, describing them as not a nation but something mystical, intangible and otherworldly. This article established Stalin as the Bolshevik authority on the national (actually the nationalities) question. Lenin appointed Stalin the Commissar of Nationalities Issues in the first Bolshevist government. In April of 1922, at Lenin's insistence, Stalin was elected to the newly created post of general secretary of the Communist party.[170]

Less than a year after becoming the undisputed dictator of the Soviet Union with his public statements viewed as national policy, Stalin made his most famous statement about anti-Semitism. Stalin characterized it as "the most dangerous survival of cannibalism":[171]

"National and racial chauvinism is a remnant of man hating customs characteristic of the era of cannibalism. Anti-Semitism is an extreme expression of racial chauvinism and as such is the most dangerous survival of cannibalism. It is useful to the exploiter for it serves as a lightning rod enabling capitalism to evade the blows of the toilers.

'It is a danger to the working people for it is a false path leading them into the jungles and away from the right road. Communists cannot but be irreconcilable enemies of anti-Semitism. In the Soviet Union it is rigidly prosecuted and militant anti-Semites are punishable by death under the law."

Stalin's "cannibalism" and "lightning rod" analogies were standard communist orthodoxy. Karl Kautsky, a principal theorist of the second Marxist International, wrote in 1903 that the czarist regime used the Jews "as a lightning conductor during the storms that gather over the autocracy". Lenin always condemned anti-Semitism in the clearest and most intransigent fashion. In 1918, he signed a decree calling it a "mortal danger for the entire revolution and as a menace to the workers and the peasants". Engels saw the struggle against anti-Semitism as a priority task of the international workers' movement writing in Arbeiterzeitung, the daily newspaper of the Austrian Socialists, that "we owe much to the Jews [...] Marx was of pure Jewish blood, Lassalle was Jewish, very many of our best comrades are Jewish".[172] And Karl Marx said:

"The stiffest form of opposition between Jew and Christian is religious. How is this to be resolved? By abolishing religion".

Marx also said that man emancipates himself from religion politically by relegating it from public to private law.[173]

Typically, Stalin's supporters were dedicated, not particularly intellectual party officials who had never been outside the Soviet Union. His group brought a rigid, totalitarian, small mindedness to Marxist social theory. When the theories proved to be unworkable, they became even more dogmatic, brutal, and even murderous in their insistence on carrying them out. Lazar Kaganovich was probably the biggest and certainly the most durable butcher during the Stalinist era. Sometimes using the alias Kosherovitz,[174] he was the Soviet official most responsible for the Ukrainian famine of 1932-1933. Some have even argued that Kaganovich was the real master at the Kremlin and Stalin a mere puppet.[175]

The only English language biography about this killer of over twenty million people was written by Stuart Kahan, an American writer whose aunt Rosa was Stalin's third wife and who is therefore also the nephew of Lazar Kaganovich, but more about that later. Kahan worked as a journalist for the New York Times. In the 1980s, he visited and interviewed Kaganovich who was retired and living in a Moscow apartment. A courageous book based on interviews with family members commingled with family history and lore, it is a fascinating and highly readable biography. But it spares the family and treats even Lazar Kaganovich in a relatively friendly manner, to the extent that it is ethically possible. While the only available biography about this biggest mass killer of the twentieth century is largely positive, it's amazing that this book exists at all.

Kahan wrote that during the first year of the 'Great Terror' Kaganovich supervised the killing of nearly half a million people as mass purges swept across the country like a deranged prehistoric animal.[176] While he was in power, eight towns' names were changed to Kaganovich in addition to the Moscow subway initially being named after him. He was assigned to the Cheka (later called the OGPU, then the NKVD, and still later the KGB), an investigative agency that became a political police force of organized terror. Stalin assigned Kaganovich the task of keeping his second wife under surveillance and reporting back on her activities. After she committed suicide, Kaganovich introduced Stalin to his younger sister Rosa who was a medical doctor at a clinic in Moscow and within a year Rosa Kaganovich became Stalin's third and last wife.

His perennial sidekick during that period was a young Nikita Khrushchev who as a Shabes Goy in the Ukraine lit the Sabbath lights and started the stoves for the Jewish high politicos on Saturdays.[177] Khrushchev wrote in his biography that as a Russian peasant he first met Kaganovich in 1917 and owed his early career to Kaganovich. Kaganovich was Khrushchev's boss from 1928 to about 1938 and again from 1946 to 1948.[178]

Kahan wrote that Kaganovich took great pleasure in having 16 major Cossack villages removed to Siberia because he blamed the Cossacks for persecuting Jews under the Czars.[179] He participated in demolishing the church of Christ the Savior in Moscow for a new palace of Soviets. The holy week monastery was turned into a theater for use by party members:[180]

"People were afraid to laugh. It was as if a huge blanket had been dropped over their mouths."

Kahan wrote of an interesting and possible account of Stalin's death. According to Kahan, after Stalin's first stroke Rosa (Dr. Rosa Kaganovich Stalin, Stalin's wife) prescribed for him pills called dicoumarol, an anticoagulant also used in rat poison. Large amounts are lethal, but taken in small amounts, dicoumarol retards blood clotting making another stroke less likely. After his first stroke, Stalin took dicoumarol twice a day. Later Rosa secretly quadrupled the dosage, which eventually poisoned him. The problem with the story is that Kahan implicates Molotov, Bulganin, and others in the inner circle as plotters in Stalin's demise. It is not very likely that Stalin would have no friends in his own inner circle but this theory protects Rosa and Lazar Kaganovich from total responsibility.[181] Maybe Stalin really was killed by a Jewish doctor, namely his wife. An autopsy might tell us for sure.

Hard to believe stories about killer doctors have been around for a long time in the Soviet Union. An earlier 'doctors plot' was one of the excuses for the Soviet Great Terror of the 1930s. Briefly, this earlier tale and its resultant consequences went like this: In 1934, Bukharin, Yagoda, and other rightists in contact with Trotsky were plotting to assassinate Stalin, Voroshilov, Kirov, Menzhinsky, Molotov, Kuibyshev, Kaganovich, Gorky, and Zhdanov, just about the entire Soviet leadership. They plotted to accomplish this through physicians slowly ruining the health of these leaders. As directed by the plotters, the physicians deliberately gave bad advice and mistreatment for illnesses especially to the cardiovascular system. Injections and stimulants were administered in a way calculated to surreptitiously kill the patient. In that way, Menzhinsky was murdered and his position in the leadership was assumed by Yagoda.

When Gorky, the internationally famous literary figure, contracted a serious case of influenza and died, it was soon rumored that his doctor deliberately aggravated his condition, murdering Gorky. Soon they were saying that Trotsky had ordered that "Gorky must be physically exterminated at all costs" due to Gorky's prestige and because he was very devoted personally to Stalin. These and similar fictional 'crimes' were prosecuted at three trials held at the height of the Great Terror before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR in August 1936, January 1937, and in March 1938.[182] At the 1936 trial, Zinoviev and Kamenev were brought from prison where they were serving out terms on previous convictions. The prosecutors established that an intimate relationship had developed between Leon Trotsky on the one hand and Alfred Rosenberg and Rudolf Hess of National Socialist Germany on the other hand. At the conclusion of the third trial in 1938, the murdering doctors and other plotters were convicted and shot by a firing squad.

During the great terror, from 1936 to 1938, Stalin approved a plan to summarily shoot tens of thousands of people establishing target figures for shootings by province. There was socialist competition between NKVD departments to find the most spies. N.I. Ezhov, Stalin's secret police chief at the height of the Great Terror, cynically and knowingly forced confessions from innocent people. Stalin personally signed death sentences including a record 3,167 in one day. Eventually Ezhov was arrested, convicted, and shot for the crime of "leftist overreaction" and was replaced by Beria.[183] The old line Bolsheviks were arrested and shot in a move that may have actually been popular with some of the lower classes because there was so much bitterness accumulated against the misery that the revolution had caused to the Russian people.[184]

Closing this chapter with a note concerning the Soviet 'doctors plot' of the 1950s, according to author Kahan, six of the fifteen doctors who were charged were Jewish, but the official news of the arrest only reported nine of the fifteen names, including all of the six Jewish names. It therefore looked to the world like most of those arrested were Jewish, which is typical of the misconceptions that are repeated to this day. For example, online Encarta Encyclopedia reports:

"In 1953 fifteen doctors, most of them Jewish, were arrested and charged with murdering important Soviet officials on orders from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Zionist organization."

Go figure.


[138]Editorial, New York Times, September 12, 1927.
[139]"Steuer Puts Blame on Polish Bankers", New York Times, September 7, 1927.
[140]Editorial, New York Times, September 12, 1927.
[141]"Warburg Assails Steuer's Charges", New York Times, September 9, 1927.
[142]Report on the Activities of the Joint Distribution Committee, Constructive Relief Conference, Chicago, IL, October 22-23, 1927, p. 4.
[143]Ibid., pp. 9-11.
[144]New York Times, December 31, 1932.
[145]R. Chernow, op. cit. (note 34), p. 289.
[146]David J Goldberg, To the Promised Land - A History of Zionist Thought, London/New York: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 117.
[147]Enzo Traverso, The Marxists and the Jewish Question, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1994, p. 51.
[148]Nahum Sokolow, History of Zionism 1600-1918, vol. 1, London/New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1919, p. xvii.
[149]D. Goldberg, op. cit. (note 146), p. 126.
[150]The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, seventh edition, 1992.
[151]N. Sokolow, op. cit. (note 148), vol. 2, p. 38.
[152]E. Traverso, op. cit. (note 147), p. 7.
[153]Quoted by Joseph Nedava, Trotsky and the Jews, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1972, p. 114.
[154]"South Russian Jews Raise Strong Army - Organized for Self-Protection, It is Said to Number Now 500,000 Soldiers", New York Times, December 20, 1922.
[155]Y. Bauer, op. cit. (note 56), p. 60.
[156]Ibid., p. 65.
[157]E. Traverso, op. cit. (note 147), p. 155; Arkady Vaksberg, op. cit. (note 108), pp. 52-63.
[158]R. Chernow, op. cit. (note 34), pp. 289-304.
[159]"After Three Years, The Progress of the Jewish Farm Colonies in Russia", Reports of Dr. Joseph A. Rosen, Felix M. Warburg, and James H. Becker, Delivered at the Constructive Relief Conference of the Joint Distribution Committee and the United Jewish Campaign, Chicago, October 22-23, 1927.
[160]"Communist Body Acts", New York Times, May 20, 1928.
[161]"Russian Communists War on Anti-Semitism", New York Times, May 13, 1928.
[162]"Death Decreed for Pogromists", New York Times, July 8, 1928.
[163]"Moscow Anti-Semites Disciplined", New York Times, October 14, 1928.
[164]"War on Anti-Semitism Feature in Soviet Election Campaign", New York Times, January 6, 1929.
[165]"Two to Die for Pogrom", New York Times, September 3, 1929.
[166]"Holds Kulaks Responsible - Investigators Blame Wealthier Peasants for Russian Anti-Semitism", New York Times, December 30, 1928.
[167]"Anti-Semite Show Trial Opens at Minsk," New York Times, January 20, 1929.
[168]"Anti-Semites Sentenced. Several Russians Get Prison Terms for Treating Girl Roughly", New York Times, January 22, 1929.
[169]"Soviet Still Wars on Anti-Semitism", New York Times, May 19, 1929.
[170]Albert Resis (ed.), Molotov Remembers, Conversations with Felix Chuev, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Inc., 1993, p. 87.
[171]"Stalin Hits Anti-Semitism - Says It is 'Most Dangerous Survival of Cannibalism'", New York Times, January 15, 1931. This statement was made in Moscow on the previous day to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
[172]E. Traverso, op. cit. (note 147), p. 26.
[173]Morris Stockhammer (ed.), Karl Marx Dictionary, New York: Philosophical Library, 1965, p. 121, 214. Both quotes are taken from Marx's Papers on the Jewish Question.
[174]Strobe Talbott (ed.), Khrushchev Remembers - The Last Testament, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1974, p. 150.
[175]Walter Laqueur, Stalin - The Glasnost Revelations, New York: Scribner's, 1990, p. 251.
[176]Stuart Kahan, The Wolf of the Kremlin, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987, p. 174.
[177]Ibid., p. 158.
[178]Strobe Talbott (ed.), op. cit. (note 174), p. 544f.
[179]S. Kahan, op. cit. (note 176), pp. 158-165.
[180]Ibid., p. 178.
[181]Ibid., pp. 257-265.
[182]Albert E. Kahn, Michael Sayers, The Great Conspiracy - The Secret War Against Soviet Russia, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1946, p. 262 et al.
[183]John Arch Getty, Roberta T. Manning, (eds.), Stalinist Terror. New Perspectives, Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. pp. 14, 34, 42.
[184]Walter Laqueur, op. cit. (note 175), p. 273f.

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter
Back to Table of Contents