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144 SHOFAR Stalin's War Against the Jews: The Doctor's Plot and the Soviet Solution, by Louis Rapoport. New York: The Free Press, 1990. 318 pp. $22.95. Only a few years after the Nazi holocaust of European Jewry, the Soviet government announced to the world, in January 1953, that nine Kremlin doctors, six with identifiably Jewish names, had murdered two of Stalin's closest aides after World War II. These men were now involved, it was alleged, in a secret plot devised by Western imperialists and Zionists to kill top Soviet political and military leaders. The revelation that Jewish doctors were at the center of a sinister international conspiracy to undermine Soviet security touched off a Soviet press campaign about a supposed fifth column in the USSR and stirred popular antisemitism. Many prominent Soviet Jews were arrested, deported, or dismissed from their posts; many more lived in fear and anxiety. A plan was put in motion to ship Jews in cattle cars to concentration camps east of the Urals. Louis Rapoport, news editor for thejerusalem Post, borrowing Lucy Dawidowicz 's title, suggests that, during his last days, Stalin, like Hitler, developed a maniacal plan to deport and kill Jews. The anticipated show trial and execution of the doctors, foreshadowed by similar trials in Eastern Europe, was not merely an instrument of Stalin's renewed determination to purge the Soviet state. The use ofJewish doctors, the orchestrated campaign, and the preparations for mass deportation reflected also Stalin's fIXation on the Jews, which reached immense proportions during the Cold War. Drawing on research in Israeli, American, British, and private Soviet archives as well as on interviews with relatives of central figures in the story, Rapoport tells of Stalin's Judaeophobia , Soviet Jewish policy, and the events leading to the doctors' plot. His thesis is that Stalin was a paranoid antisemite, whose anti-Jewish hatred was planted in a Georgian seminary and nourished in the history of the Bolshevik movement, particularly in his struggle with Trotsky, developed during the Great Purge of the 1930s, and became dominant in the period from 1948 to 1953. Stalin succumbed openly and uncontrollably to the passion in his last days. Inspired by domestic and foreign policy considerations, Stalin's regime did not hesitate to use nationaVethnic politicS for its ends. During World War II, Stalin created a Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee OAC) to help mobilize world Jewish opinion on behalf of the USSR. JAC leaders Solomon Mikhoels and Itzik Feffer visited the US in 1943 and made contacts with American Jewish organizations. JAC leaders published a Vol. 10, No. 3 Spring 1992 145 newspaper, documented the Jewish tragedy in Nazi Europe, even came to believe that Stalin might approve a massive postwar settlement ofJews in the Crimea. After World War II, Stalin sharply reversed policy, launched new· and intensified campaigns against cosmopolitan and nationalist influences, and sharply curtailed Jewish organizations. The JAC was disbanded in 1948 along with other institutions of Jewish history and culture; its efforts to document the Nazi holocaust were suppressed. Its leadership was liquidated during 1948 to 1952, charged with espionage and efforts to make the Crimea an outpost of Western imperialism. A particularly absorbing chapter details the murder in 1948 of Solomon Mikhoels and implicates Itzik Feffer as a security agent. Historians like Benjamin Pinkus interpret such policy changes and suppression ofJewish institutions in the context of the growing Cold War, the rise of Israel, and Stalin's pathological suspicion; Rapoport stresses Stalin's obsessive antisemitism. The doctors' plot tied Jewish doctor-poisoners with Jewish and Zionist spies, named Solomon Mikhoels as the alleged mastermind, identified American Jewish organizations with American imperialists, and was part of 'a "secret terror in the making." Equally true, Rapoport avows, it was a scheme aimed at "genocide." The arrested doctors, who were brutally tortured, confessed. The Soviet media whipped up "hysterical antiSemitism ." Prominent Jews were compelled to sign an appeal to Stalin to save the Jews by deporting them to the east. The show trial and execution were timed to coincide with Easter. Trains were readied to carry the Jews to camps in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Birobidzhan. Then Stalin suffered a stroke...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 144-146
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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