Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

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The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC, Russian: Еврейский антифашистский комитет Yevreysky antifashistsky komitet, ЕАК) was formed on Joseph Stalin's order[1] in Kuibyshev in April 1942 with the official support of the Soviet authorities. It was designed to influence international public opinion and organize political and material support for the Soviet fight against Nazi Germany, particularly from the West. In 1952, as part of the persecution of Jews in the latter part of Stalin's rule (for example, the "Doctors' plot"), most prominent members of the JAC were arrested on trumped-up spying charges, tortured, and executed by firing squad after a secret mock trial. They were officially rehabilitated in 1988.

Activities[edit]

Solomon Mikhoels, the popular actor and director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater, was appointed the JAC chairman. The JAC's newspaper in Yiddish language was called Einigkeit (אייניקייט "Unity", Cyrillic: Эйникейт).

The JAC broadcast pro-Soviet propaganda to foreign audiences, assuring them of the absence of anti-Semitism in the USSR. In 1943, Mikhoels and Itzik Feffer, the first official representatives of the Soviet Jewry allowed to visit the West, embarked on a seven-month tour to the USA, Mexico, Canada and Britain to drum up their support. In the US, they were welcomed by a National Reception Committee chaired by Albert Einstein and by B.Z. Goldberg, Sholem Aleichem's son-in-law, and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The largest pro-Soviet rally ever in the United States was held on July 8 at the Polo Grounds, where 50,000 people listened to Mikhoels, Fefer, Fiorello La Guardia, Sholem Asch, and Chairman of World Jewish Congress Rabbi Stephen Wise. Among others, they met Chaim Weizmann, Charlie Chaplin, Marc Chagall, Paul Robeson and Lion Feuchtwanger.

In addition to the funds for the Russian war effort – US$16 million raised in the US, $15 million in England, $1 million in Mexico, $750,000 in the British Mandate of Palestine – other help was also contributed: machinery, medical equipment, medicine, ambulances, clothes. On July 16, 1943, Pravda reported: "Mikhoels and Feffer received a message from Chicago that a special conference of the Joint initiated a campaign to finance a thousand ambulances for the needs of the Red Army." The visit also evoked the American public to the necessity of entering the European war.

Persecution[edit]

A memorial to the JAC in Moscow. The inscription (in Russian) reads: "From 1942 to 1948 the location of the offices of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. On 12 August 1952 Committee members were executed, victims of Stalinist terror."
1946. The official response to an inquiry by JAC about the participation of the Jewish soldiers in the war (1.8% of the total number). Some accuse Jews of the lack of patriotism and of hiding from the military service.

Towards the end and immediately after the war, the JAC became involved in documenting the Holocaust. This ran contrary to the official Soviet policy to present it as atrocities against all Soviet citizens, not acknowledging the specific genocide of the Jews.

Some of the committee members were vocal supporters of the State of Israel, established in 1948, something that Stalin supported very briefly. Their international contacts especially to the USA at the outset of the Cold War, would eventually make them vulnerable to charges that they had become politically incorrect.

The contacts with American Jewish organizations resulted in the plan to publish the Black Book simultaneously in the US and the Soviet Union, documenting the Holocaust and participation of Jews in the resistance movement. The Black Book was indeed published in New York City in 1946, but no Russian edition appeared. The typeface galleys were broken up in 1948, when the political situation of Soviet Jewry deteriorated.

In January 1948, Mikhoels was killed in Minsk by the Soviet secret police agents who staged the murder as a car accident.[2] The members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were arrested. They were charged with disloyalty, bourgeois nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and planning to set up a Jewish republic in Crimea to serve US interests.

In January 1949, the Soviet mass media launched massive propaganda campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans", unmistakably aimed at Jews. Markish observed at the time: "Hitler wanted to destroy us physically, Stalin wants to do it spiritually." On 12 August 1952, at least thirteen prominent Yiddish writers were executed in the event known as the "Night of the Executed Poets" ("Ночь казненных поэтов").

List of notable JAC members[edit]

The size of JAC fluctuated with time. According to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (200 Years Together), it grew to have about 70 members.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Simon. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. 2003. page 560.
  2. ^ Robert Conquest Reflections on a Ravaged Century (2000) ISBN 0-393-04818-7

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]