Jews in Russia - Thirty-Year Total

Thirty-Year Total

During their whole sojourn of two thousand years in dispersion, the Jews have always provoked a well-known repulsion in all the nations in which they lived, considering themselves to be "the state without territory, but with its own laws". This repulsion frequently manifested itself in direct limitations and hampered opportunities the Jews had for advancement in most of the diverse spheres of the life of the state or people among whom they lived.

To overcome these limitations and difficulties, the Jews had to spend a lot of strength and energy, much more than would the native population of a country. The Jews however did not have fewer aspirations to occupy the well-known positions in a country, but much more than the native population, because from infancy they had been brought up with the consciousness that Jews are "God's Chosen People".

There were times when the Jews were forced by circumstances to restrain and not to reveal these aspirations. Enormous reserves of potential energy would be accumulated, but because of the prevailing situation of Judaeophobia they could not find an outlet for its use. Judaeophobia was characteristic to most countries in which the Jewish groups lived.

But whenever Judaeophobic feelings were relaxed in a country and a favorable regard for Jews began to appear, those aspirations for power which were previously restrained and concealed would wildly manifest themselves and the Jews quickly occupied leading positions in a country.

According to Professor Solomon Lourie, the author of the book "Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World", "then the Jews had so much of that free energy left which they previously spent on a struggle with special anti-Semitic obstacles that frequently the inertia gained from their previous efforts in the continuing struggle caused them to go beyond the point that they themselves, perhaps, anticipated. So when, for a short period of time in Egypt, a party that renounced its traditional politics of Judaeophobia came to power, the most prominent positions were occupied by Jews. (Here he has in mind the Ptolemaic Dynasty in the First Century A.D. For a detailed account, see Part II of this work.)

Something like this happened in Russia in the year 1917, when previously existing limitations for Jews were abolished. The Jews immediately rushed to occupy those positions in the country's life which were previously inaccessible to them. Only this time they succeeded much more than they did in Egypt under Ptolemy IV. Hardly a year had passed before they had practically turned themselves into the ruling class, occupying an overwhelming majority of the key positions in all the branches of the country's life and the state apparatus.

They preserved this privileged position of theirs right up to the beginning of the Second World War.

We will try now to sum up what heights the Russian Jewry, on the whole, reached in this period, lasting thirty years from 1917-1947, and what damage it suffered as an isolated ethnic group (for this they were) during their whole sojourn on Russian territory, right up to 1917.

Their achievements were enormous, far beyond that which the Jews had ever before achieved.

As indicated above, they became the ruling, privileged class, with all the ensuing consequences. It can be said without exaggeration that their influence on the entire life of the country and its population and on the internal and external politics of the state was decisive.

In previous times, in other countries and among other nations the attainment of power was an opportunity for the Jews to accumulate material wealth, which they handed down to their descendants or relatives. The inheritors, thus, were provided with secure positions in a social and political system of the future.

Such opportunity did not exist in the Socialist Soviet Union, where private property was abolished. Under the new system the basic prerequisite for success in life was education. It was education plus relative and tribal connections with the ruling class that ensured corresponding positions and a life-long career for the descendants of this class.

Understanding this, the Russian Jewry poured in a great stream into the highest learning institutions and filled them in a proportion that in no way corresponded with the proportion that the Jews constituted of the total population. During their first thirty years in power as a ruling class, the Jews were able to give the highest education to so many of their fellow tribesmen that even now the percentage of Jews who are citizens of USSR with a higher education outnumbers the non-Jewish percentage many times.

The achievements in this sphere were enormous and impossible to ignore. The ruling class, however, ignored the opinions and feelings of the native population.

The achievements mentioned entailed many consequences, however, which caused great harm to Jewry and its daily life and unity, and it is doubtful whether they can be remedied.

This damage, first of all, manifested itself in the deviation of all the Jewry of the USSR, and its young people in particular, from the Hebrew religion, religion which was and still is inseparably linked with the Jewish origin and peculiarities of their daily life. The religion, which served throughout centuries as a reliable faithful safeguard against the dissolution of Jews in the surrounding environment, was being deserted. It is this dissolution that the Jews of the world fear the most, and against which they carry on a fierce struggle.

Life turned out to be stronger than the decaying scholastic-mystic lines. As a result all the attempts of the Jewish political parties, such as the "Bund", the "Pale-Zion" and the "Zionist-Socialists", to combine the faithfulness of the Hebrew religion with the faithfulness of atheistic Marxism-communism, came to nothing.

The attempts by the "Evsecs" to establish the Jewish national region, learning institutions, as well as the Jewish "personal-national" autonomy with the cultural establishments, turned out to be a very expensive venture for the whole population of the USSR. The venture, which was explained above, suffered complete failure. Furthermore, the cause of this failure was by no means a counteraction by the native population, but by the Jews themselves.

The numerous Jews at the beginning of the revolution who combined faithfulness to the Talmud with the faithfulness to the communist dogmas (for instance, Isaac Babel) quickly began to vanish. The "Evsecs" and their followers were leaving the scene without being able to create replacements for themselves from among their own young generation.

The assimilationist attitudes of the Jewry inseparably linked with the deviation from the Talmud and the secluded daily life began to grow and to get stronger. Mixed marriages, substitution of the spoken "Yiddish" language by Russian in daily life, indeed a reluctance to even study "Yiddish" in which, according to the last census (1959) only twenty per cent of the Jews, citizens of USSR, could read or write, all these are signs without a doubt of the assimilation process, which was quite voluntary.

The process, however, did not work too quickly, owing to the presence of the irrational repulsion, preserved even now in Jews, of those whom their ancestors called "goyim". It is this repulsion that hinders mixed marriages and full assimilation into a culture with a surrounded environment. Subconsciously, the Jews themselves, not realizing this, continue to divide all people into "ours" and "not ours". The continuation of this division goes on at a much slower pace, than the deviation from the religion and language. When this situation will be overcome is impossible to predict.

The damage to Russian Jewry, as a result of its turning into the ruling class, was not limited to the sphere of the religious and cultural life of Jews in USSR. The attitude of the whole population of the USSR towards Jewry as a whole had sharply changed. It had changed not only among the broad national masses but also among the Russian intelligentsia, which traditionally was inclined to be friendly towards the Jews. During the introduction of measures by the new power, the excessive, very striking Jewish activity engendered a sharply negative attitude among the population. The measures and those who affected them radically changed the attitude of the population towards the Jews, even those individuals who were always Judaeophiles. This came to light as early as the first years of Soviet power. It is about this that E. Kuskova wrote in her article entitled "Who are they?” published in the Jewish émigré newspaper. This article is given in Part II of this work. Later on, the causes which engendered negative feeling towards the Jews grew. The causes were: the enormous percentage of Jews in the organs of Cheka, their atheistic activities, the humiliation of the national feelings of people and of the monuments of its culture, the eradication of the very word "Russian" and all the activities of the power directed towards the destruction of much of what for the people was sacred.

At the same time, the very striking relative Jewish material well-being contrasted against the background of general famine and the shortage of all necessities, from which the whole population of the country suffered, could not, of course, contribute to favorable feelings toward the Jews. Thus the consolidated anti-Jewish feelings had brought forth their fruits: feelings which revealed themselves only in the face of fear of severe punishment.

These anti-Jewish feelings had nothing in common with that feeling which is called "anti-Semitism". Its causes were not at all in the religio-racial sphere, but were solely and exclusively in the material sphere, resulting from the discontent of the hungry and the poor, in observing the life of the well-nourished and the rich, who moreover were strangers. These strangers disregarded and scorned the national past and the national culture of the people among whom they lived and whom they ruled.

The people were aware and noticed all these occurrences. The ruling class alone did not notice these occurrences and treated them as "counter-revolutionary" activities and "remnants of the past".

However, Russian Jewry as a whole suffered such moral damage as a result that restoration would be virtually impossible. Jewry, if not forever, then for a long time, lost hope in the possibility of good relations with that people, in whose land they lived and are still living.

The ruling class caused further damage to themselves and to the Russian people. This damage resulted from their very existence and from their unpunished destructive work wrought on the historical past of the great nation. By doing this the new ruling class gave Hitler and his followers an enticing example of how an insignificant alien minority can control and rule a huge country, disregarding everyone and everything.

This argument was often used by the German National Socialists in their propaganda. "Replace three million Jews, who are rulers of Russia, by three million Germans, and everything will be in order". Such thoughts were not once expressed by German propagandists in their psychological preparation to master Russia. These thoughts, 0f course, were addressed to Germans.

The propaganda that poured from Germany into the USSR tirelessly repeated again and again that the "Jews rule Russia", and gave a great many names and facts. It is impossible not to acknowledge that this propaganda found attentive listeners in the USSR and had a definite influence on the attitudes of the national masses.

The ruling class of the USSR, however, in its propaganda, operated more with proletarian, international slogans, which quite sufficiently set people's teeth on edge during the last quarter century and did not have much effect on the masses. This is exactly what came to light during the first months of the war.

The "war for the proletariat" and the "Third International" did not inspire anyone, and bragging of the ruling class about the "complete military readiness" of the USSR was not convincing.

Moreover, what should not be lost sight of is that fresh memories were still alive and harbored within the people about those periods, when the whole population was starving and experiencing acute need in everything, while at the same time the Jews were receiving help from their fellow tribesmen abroad, and were in an immeasurably better situation than all the non-Jews. If the people did not protest and did not commit mutiny, it does not mean that they did nor see, or did not understand, or did not take notice of what was happening.

Millions of those who were "repressed" and dispossessed as kulaks were still alive while members of their families, relatives, and even friends, were interned in camps, which, as was well known to all, were managed almost exclusively by the Jews.

True, these "unreliable" elements, from a political point of view, were not in the regular units of the Red Army, but in case of war and general mobilization it was impossible to prevent their penetration into the ranks of the army. This without any doubt could well have affected the spirit and moral of the army in the case of a big war.

It must be assumed that, taking this into account, the USSR tried in every possible way to avoid a clash with Germany or even to postpone it as long as possible.

The agreement with Germany in the summer of 1939 was accepted by all the ruling class of USSR without protest and objection, even though this agreement was with the most wicked enemy of Jewry, with German anti-Semites, although the ruling class of USSR was entirely under the influence of Jews who comprised its most sizeable and influential part. This agreement was also approved by the Comintern, also consisting mainly of Jews.

Huge trains, loaded with raw materials needed to conduct the war, started to roll from USSR into Germany. The ruling class was buying time with this from the aggressive German Nazism, if not finally, at least for the time being. This calculation, it must be acknowledged, was right, if the Germans had stuck in the West. But an unforeseen and unprovided for event occurred. The bloodless German victory over all its enemies in Europe freed the powerful German war machine, and it rushed on Russia and the Second World War began.

Still, before it began, for almost two years the Germans were in command in Poland. There, the Germans showed with the utmost clarity what sort of treatment the Jewish citizens of the USSR could expect in case of war with Germany and occupation by its army, even temporarily, of the Soviet territory where the Jews lived.

The Government of USSR and its whole ruling class knew this very well, and nevertheless, when the war started, it turned out that no necessary measures were taken in time to save the Jews. At that time, if they so desired, the Jews could have taken the necessary measures in advance. It is, therefore, not the fault of the Russian people that a certain number of Jews, citizens of the USSR, were destroyed by the Germans. The blame for this lies on that ruling class that is the Jews, who did not take the necessary measures in time.

It is difficult to understand the indifference that Soviet diplomats showed toward Jewish destiny in Poland during the conclusion of the agreement with the Germans in August 1939, when the destiny of the Polish Jews was actually predetermined. Yet, had the Soviet diplomats shown during the talks even the slightest desire to accept, as immigrants into USSR, all the Jews from that part of Poland occupied by the Germans, the Germans would not have protested against it, but would have welcomed it in every possible way. It is also logical, because the three million Polish Jews were neither needed nor useful to the Germans, but were considered only unnecessary ballast.

During the talks, before signing the agreement, repatriation of the Ukrainians and the Byelorussians was discussed. The question was solved by mutual agreement, allowing those who would wish to repatriate themselves on the Soviet side to cross the USSR-German demarcation line. The Germans were not against this repatriation, if they so desired, of insignificant Ukrainian and Byelorussian groups from the territories falling under their administration.

After the question dealing with Ukrainians and Byelorussians was settled, Ribbentrop proposed to Molotov: "Would you like to take three million Jews?" In reply there was dead silence from the Soviet delegation. The question about the Jews was "isolated" for discussion afterwards, but was never discussed. Neither the Germans, who stood by their proposal, nor the Soviet Government raised this question again.

After the capitulation of Germany, when numerous diplomatic documents became publicly known, it was impossible to find a trace or indication anywhere that this question was discussed at all or that the Germans had proposed to the USSR to accept all the Jews from Poland.

The fact that such an important question was not entered anywhere into protocols is unlikely. It would be nearer to the truth to assume that this German proposal, and the USSR's reaction to it, was omitted when details of the agreement between Hitler and Stalin were announced. Perhaps this was done in order not to give a basis to the accusations that the USSR, albeit indirectly, contributed to the destruction of the Polish Jews.

To clear up this question will be a matter for future historians and investigators of this epoch. It is impossible for us, as contemporaries, to do this. A great deal is still inaccessible for study and impossible to publish. Nevertheless, to remain true to historical facts that took place, we not only can but must indicate what subjects should be studied in the future.

We must ensure that not only the still inaccessible documents should be left for future research, and facts pointed out, but also opinions expressed, suppositions and hypotheses stated, which although were not printed anywhere, nevertheless existed, were discussed and talked about. Because these can easily fall out from a field of observation of future historians.

During the war I had an opportunity to hear about Ribbentrop's proposal from different well-informed Germans, close to the ruling circles of that time, and also from prominent members of the Soviet Communist Party. The latter were in Moscow at the time of the German-Soviet talks, and according to them, they heard about this from people occupying high posts in the Ministry.

For example, Zhelenkov, who was chairman of the Moscow Soviet (Mayor of Moscow) in 1939 and, later, in 1944, chief editor of the newspaper "Volia Noroda" (organ of the Vlasov Movement), told about Ribbentrop's proposal, and about how Stalin reacted to it. When Molotov reported the proposal to Stalin, Stalin said: "we must think it over", but he did not give any immediate answer. Only on the next day, upon summoning Molotov, he told him briefly: "the proposal of Ribbentrop is not suitable... It is not worth it... Don't say a word about it…” and the question of three million Polish Jews during the talks was not raised again.

With the Stalin's brief phrase: "it is not worth it" the destiny of Polish Jews was decided.

Stalin, without a doubt, was well-informed about the anti-Jewish feelings of the broad national masses of USSR. He took into account that an appearance of three million Jews, accustomed to the Polish conditions of life, quite different from those of the USSR, inevitably would lead to many conflicts, which would not bring any benefits either to the country or to the regime. On the other hand, leaving them in the grace or disgrace of the Germans (at that time the shooting and burning had not yet taken place) more than probably would provoke intensification of anti-German sentiments in the USA, which in fact did happen. This was due to the fact that there was hardly any Jew in Poland that did not have relatives in USA. It is impossible to deny that Stalin was capable of grasping the situation. Indeed, for him personally, and for the whole Government of USSR "it was not worth it" to show humanity and to save the Polish Jews. Regardless of this fact, already indicated above, at that time the Jews in the USSR occupied leading positions in all the spheres of life, and especially in diplomatic circles. But in this case they were compelled to subordinate their pro-Jewish sympathies to the pitiless dogma of the Communist International and silently follow Stalin's instructions in this matter without question.

Being unwilling to turn the USSR into a refuge for Jews fleeing from Hitler Stalin did not limit his refusal to Ribbentrop’s proposal about the three million Jews. They were not "admitted into the USSR" even when they attempted one by one or by small groups to cross the border of the USSR after the liquidation of Poland and establishment of the demarcation line between the USSR and Germany.

In his book "Jews in the Soviet Union" (New York, 1966), Solomon Schwartz describes in detail numerous incidents when the Soviet frontier authorities not only did not allow the Jews to pass into Soviet territory but also forcefully returned them to the Germans. At that time there was a flood of Jews who tried to get into the Soviet Union without visas or similar documents.

No one disputes the fact that this was actually so. Everyone knows that these events took place in October of 1939, immediately after the Polish capitulation and the establishment of the frontier line between the USSR and Germany, as a result of the "friendship" agreement signed a couple of weeks before. It is natural and normal that the countries, having agreed to friendly relations, must observe the existing worldwide rules about the entrance into a country by subjects of another country, even if they are from a friendly country. It is to these rules that Soviet authorities adhered, preventing the penetration into its territory of anyone without corresponding permission. Therefore, no exceptions were made for the Jews.

This circumstance, that there were no exceptions made for the Jews, makes Mr. Schwartz indignant. Mr. Schwartz, who as a lawyer by education, should have known that no country in the world makes exceptions for anyone, including the Jews. He also should know the other circumstance that, according to the law, a permit to cross the border is necessary' whoever it may be, even a Jew, and the severest punishment, immeasurably more severe than in non-socialist countries, existed for the violation of this law.

Enumeration of all the cases of non-admission without a permit into the USSR only testifies to the vigilance of the Red Army, which was entrusted by the government to guard the borders. Mr. Schwartz ought to know this and, with his indignation, should not demonstrate his utter lack of comprehension of elementary norms of law.

There is no doubt that had there been corresponding instructions from the government, all the Jews would have been admitted without hindrance to the territory of the USSR, without any kind of visa or permit. Moreover, in the past there were cases when the Russian Government used to admit thousands of people whose lives were threatened in the country of which they were subjects without any visas. These cases are well-known to all Armenians and Balkan Christians, who, escaping from the Turkish slaughter, were admitted to Russia in unlimited numbers. But in October of 1939 nobody slaughtered and shot the Jews, simply because they were Jews. This began much later, in 1941.

Why the ruling class of the USSR did not obtain instructions about the passing of the Jews into the USSR is a special question. The Jews of the USSR undoubtedly wished to help their own fellow tribesmen. What held them back from pressing for an easy admission of the Jews into USSR?

We find the answer to this question in one of the articles in the "Socialist Herald" which gave the account of Krushchov's purported statement made at the beginning of 1944, in Kiev, after its liberation by the Soviet Army: "They (the Jews) were unwilling to help, because the population would identify Soviet power with the Jews". One Jewess, Ruzha Godes, who succeeded in camouflaging herself under the Russian nationality and survived the occupation in Kiev, complained to Krushchov that she was refused employment in a government department just because she was Jewess. To this Krushchov said the following: "I understand that you, as a Jewess, look at this question from a subjective point of view, but we are objective. Jews in the past have committed many sins against the Ukrainian people. The people hate them for this. In our Ukraine we do not need the Jews. And, I think that for the Ukrainian Jews who survived Hitler's attempts to destroy them, it would be better if they did not try to return here. It would be better for them to go to the Birobidzhan. You see, here we are in the Ukraine. Do you understand? This is the Ukraine. And we are not interested that the Ukrainian people would interpret the return of Soviet power as the return of the Jews". He stated this with the utmost clarity and precision. (See the article in Part II of L this work.)

And without any doubt, what Krushchov said in 1944, Stalin knew perfectly well in 1939, when he turned down the German suggestion that the USSR take all the Polish Jews. Although he was a dictator, he could not ignore the feeling of the population, and if to the three million Soviet Jews were added three million Polish Jews, this could provoke consequences undesirable not only to Stalin himself but also to the Jewish ruling class as well. This probably was the cause of the indifferent attitude to the fate of the Polish Jews.

A few years before 1939, this possibility was foreseen by the writers Aronson and Portugaise, as is mentioned in the previous account. They, as we recall, regarded it possible and probable that, for those in whose hands was the power of the USSR, it would be advantageous not only to disavow themselves from any kind of defense of the Jews but also even to become their persecutors. This will be carried out, they prophesized.

As the subsequent events have shown, the pessimistic predictions of Aronson and Portugaise partly, but to a significant degree, came true.

True, no "persecution" against the Jews had ever occurred in the USSR, but the feeling of the population was taken into account and to avoid the possibility of the occurrence of great disturbances and dissatisfaction, that were especially dangerous in view of possible war, the Jews were thus "quietly" removed from the most obvious and responsible positions and replaced with representatives of the other nationalities of the country.

This was done without loud trials or the noise of newspapers, but it was firmly and steadfastly achieved nonetheless.

The population, of course, noticed this. And it is impossible not to acknowledge that these measures of the ruling power did not provoke dissatisfaction.

So it went during the war, especially when the dissatisfaction of the population with the Jewish privileged position in the USSR became so clear.