Page 13 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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Y I D D I S H BOOKS IN THE SOV I ET
U N I O N AFTER S TAL I N
B
y
L
e o n
S
h a p ir o
F
o r
Russian Jewry, the end of the Second World War signified
the beginning of a period of new and gruesome experiences.
Already in the mid-30’s (1936-1938) Stalin had reversed the
traditional Bolshevik policy with respect to the Jewish minority.
While the world was hypnotized by the purge trials of the old
Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quietly began the systematic liqu ida­
tion of all Jewish creative endeavors in the Soviet Union. Th is
policy was not fundamentally changed during the war, notw ith­
standing the creation in 1942 of the Moscow Jewish Anti-Fascist
Committee, which was essentially a propaganda arm needed in
the all-out Russian war effort. T h e Jewish Anti-Fascist Com­
mittee was disbanded soon after the war (1948), and Stalin no t
only continued, bu t even enlarged, the anti-Jewish policy in iti­
ated a decade earlier.
There is no need to go in to the details of anti-Jewish persecu­
tion in the Soviet Union in the late 40’s and early 50’s. For our
purpose it is sufficient to note tha t according to Jewish Com­
munist sources in the satellite countries, over a period of some
eight years beginning in 1948 Yiddish as one of the official
languages of the mu ltinational Soviet Union had disappeared.
Yiddish literature was hardly mentioned, and hundreds of Jewish
writers and intellectuals vanished
.1
At the same time it was
reported tha t Jewish writers, intellectuals, teachers, and others
had fallen victim to the “cult of personality.” Among those
executed were Semion Dimanstein, Esther Frumkin, Rachmiel
Weinstein, Merezhin, Moshe Litvakov, Mikhail Levitan, Yankl
Levin, Hersch Brill, Yzzy Charik, Moshe Kulback, David Bergel-
son, Der Nistar, Peretz Markish, Leib Kvitko, David Hoffstein,
Itzik Feffer, Isaac Nusimov, and many others. L ittle was known
of the circumstances surrounding the execution of Jewish
writers. There were reports tha t some twenty had been shot
on the night of August 12, 1952, at the height of the “an ti­
cosmopolitanism” campaign.
xFolksztyme,
Warsaw, May 26, 1956.
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