Th­e­long­march

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - HISTORY COLIN SHINDLER

DUR­ING 2015, sev­eral books were pub­lished about the var­i­ous di­as­pora cam­paigns for Soviet Jewry, which cul­mi­nated in the em­i­gra­tion of a mil­lion peo­ple from the for­mer USSR to Is­rael dur­ing the 1990s. The French aca­demic Pauline Peretz has doc­u­mented the Amer­i­can cam­paign while the jour­nal­ist Sam Lip­ski and Pro­fes­sor Suzanne Rut­land have pro­duced a fine ac­count of the Aus­tralian strug­gle.

All th­ese cam­paigns, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish one, owe their ge­n­e­sis to an Is­raeli ini­tia­tive dur­ing the dark­est days of Josef Stalin’s rule — a dark epoch that tes­ti­fied to his de­sire to per­se­cute, ju­di­cially mur­der and even­tu­ally de­port large num­bers of Soviet Jews to re­mote, un­in­hab­it­able ar­eas of the USSR.

In Au­gust 1952, the cream of Yid­dish writ­ers — Peretz Mark­ish, Dovid Bergel­son, Dovid Hof­shteyn — were ex­e­cuted along with old­guard Bol­she­viks such as Solomon Lozovsky.

Out of the 15 de­fen­dants, only Pro­fes­sor Lina Shtern was spared. The judge who had been minded to aban­don the pro­ceed­ings be­cause of in­ad­e­quate ev­i­dence was in­formed by Ge­orgy Malenkov, Stalin’s heir ap­par­ent, that “the sen­tence has been ap­proved by the peo­ple… carry out the Polit­bu­reau’s rul­ing!”

In Novem­ber 1952, the ashes of 11 of the de­fen­dants of the Slan­sky trial were scat­tered upon the icy streets of Prague. A ma­jor­ity were lead­ing Jewish Com­mu­nists — ve­he­mently anti-Zion­ist in their views — who had been ac­cused of be­ing es­pi­onage agents for Is­rael. The party pa­per, Rude Pravo, pro­claimed be­fore their ex­e­cu­tion that “those 14 crea­tures on trial are not hu­man beings”.

On De­cem­ber 1 1952, Stalin told the mem­bers of the party cen­tral com­mit­tee that the Jews were “a spy­ing na­tion”, and that ever since 1945 he had been driven to open Soviet eyes to the new enemy of the pro­le­tariat — the Jews and the United States.

All this was to pre­pare the ground for the Doc­tors’ Plot in which the Krem­lin physi­cians — mainly Jewish — would be ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to poi­son the lead­er­ship of the USSR. The blueprint was to try them and find them guilty. An an­gry, pa­tri­otic gath­er­ing, it was later ru­moured, would push aside the guards, ‘‘un­der­stand­ably’’ take mat­ters into their hands — and string up the doc­tors on the near­est lamp­posts. Only Stalin’s un­ex­pected demise saved them.

It was in this me­nac­ing at­mos­phere that the in­ter­na­tional cam-

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