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-