Purim in 1953 fell on March 1. On that day, Haman-Stalin had a stroke. Soon came the tyrant’s death. A heavenly stroke brought down the villain on the eve of the terrible stroke Stalin was about to inflict upon the Jewish people.
Purim 2017 coincides with the centenary of the revolution in Russia, which was overthrown later by the Bolshevik coup. Freedom and democracy ended, but for the first two decades the cruel Soviet dictatorship struggled against antisemitism, even after Stalin came to power.
In 1937-38 Stalin’s “Great Terror” destroyed most leaders and many other active figures of the country, including many Jews; thus, the elite of the country became almost empty of Jews.
In the late 1930s, Stalin entered into an alliance with Hitler, opening the door to World War II, to the growing antisemitism in the USSR and to the Holocaust.
Stalin withdrew from the course of “proletarian internationalism.”
The “Internationale” was replaced by a militaristic Soviet anthem, praising Stalin and the “Great Russia.” Internationalism was replaced by Russian chauvinism.
All world achievements started to be attributed to the “Great Russian people.”
During WWII Stalin allowed JAC (Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee) to create a “Black Book” about the Holocaust; it was ready in 1944 but permission to print it was never given. After the war Stalin began his onslaught on the Jews, for whom he invented his own euphemism: “rootless cosmopolitans.”
Starting 1946, JAC was accused of sympathy for the “Zionist idea.” Later several top-level employees of JAC were fired. Stalin was already planning a great anti-Jewish show trial, but it would have interfered with his plans to make Israel a part of his empire. Therefore, Stalin preferred to secretly liquidate Solomon Mikhoels, the JAC head, on January 13, 1948. He was solemnly buried; the State Jewish Theater was given his name.
When Stalin realized (autumn 1948) that Israel would not be a Soviet colony, he decided to start a broad anti-Jewish campaign. Later the JAC was dissolved, its leaders and members were arrested. All Jewish cultural institutions and publications were liquidated, some Jewish writers and cultural workers arrested. Many Jews were expelled from the party and from all kinds of positions.
There was a mass firing of Jews.
In some places, “Jewish wrecking groups” were “discovered,” their alleged members were arrested; some were shot. The principle of collective responsibility of the Jews was proclaimed.
The atmosphere in the country was monstrous.
On August 12, 1952, all arrested members of JAC were executed, except for Lina Stern. This was Stalin’s “gift” for my 13th birthday.
Another terrible anti-Jewish case, the so-called Doctors’ Plot, began with arrests in January 1950. The antisemitic campaign in the press aroused hatred for all Jews.
Many Jews were arrested on false denunciations. All over the country, anti-Jewish meetings were held.
Earlier, in 1947, when I was eight years old, in a pioneer camp, two Jewish kids (I and my friend) were ceaselessly persecuted by Russian kids; we were defenseless. In 1949, my parents were fired, together with many Jews. We half-starved until the death of Stalin. My father sometimes was employed, later fired again. In the communal apartment where we lived, our neighbors often shouted antisemitic slogans. We were separated from the pogromists by a thin wall.
In 1952-53, in the kitchen of our communal apartment (as in other apartments everywhere), neighbors fiercely argued which of them would take our room after “the Jews will be evicted to Siberia.”
No indignation, no compassion.
A school teacher once expelled me from the class, using abusive, rude antisemitic words. This had become allowed and even encouraged.
A court acquitted our hooligan antisemite neighbor.
The judge was hostile to us.
There are indirect data that in March 1953 Stalin intended to conduct a trial of the doctors (“murderers in white coats”), which was to be completed with their public execution. Jewish pogroms would be organized and then the Jews would be deported to remote areas.
Stalin’s plans seem to go outside any imaginable boundary. However, anyone who lived in those times (and I am among them) was a witness: the Soviet people both did not doubt that the Jews would soon be “justly” expelled “far away,” and wished the Jews to be severely punished.
The mood of the people was the fruit of skillful multi-faceted propaganda (both open and indirect), which was tantamount to systematic preparation for the murderous deportation (the seeds of this propaganda were sown to the soil fertilized with centuries-old Russian antisemitism). The public hanging of Jewish doctors would be quite in the “national spirit.”
There would be no obstacles inside the country. The free world would be indignant and angry. But after all, it “swallowed” Stalin’s terrible crimes of 1930s; in 1953 the USSR was a nuclear power.
The noose was already wrapped around the neck of the Soviet Jews, so Purim 1953 almost literally replaced the death of Mordechai (Jews) with the death of Haman (Stalin).
Stalin was not only Haman, but also a king and a god; he was worshiped – with love and fear – by many millions in and outside the USSR. Fear embroiled Stalin’s henchmen too. Each was afraid that any move might cost him dearly. When Stalin lay unconscious, they probably hoped to get rid of the dictator. They remained inactive and medical assistance arrived too late.
The massacre of the USSR Jews was thwarted.
The world was freed from the offspring of hell, who managed to turn a sixth part of the Earth into hell.The author is a physicist at the Hebrew University. From 1971-73 he was a (Moscow): Zionist Movement activist, phone reporter and underground Hebrew teacher.
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