ANTI-FASCIST COMMITTEE, JEWISH


ANTI-FASCIST COMMITTEE, JEWISH, a group of Jewish public figures and intellectuals in the Soviet Union organized during World War II on the initiative of the Soviet government to mobilize world Jewish support for the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the Soviet government felt the need to organize a Jewish body among the many organizations set up to arouse world opinion to aid embattled Russia. On Aug. 24, 1941, a meeting of "representatives of the Jewish people" was held in Moscow and it was addressed by Solomon *Mikhoels, Ilya *Ehrenburg, David *Bergelson, and others, who called on "our Jewish brethren throughout the world" to come to the aid of the Soviet Union. This appeal made a great impression on Jews in countries free of the Nazi yoke. In the U.S. the Jewish Council for Russian War Relief was established, headed by Albert *Einstein; in Palestine, a reply to the call from Moscow was broadcast in Hebrew on Sept. 28, 1941, on behalf of the yishuv. A public committee to aid the Soviet Union's fight against fascism, which was later known as "League V," was also established.

At the same time, two representatives of the *Bund in Poland, Henryk *Erlich and Victor *Alter, who had been released from Soviet imprisonment in September 1941, suggested to the Soviet government that it establish an anti-fascist committee. When the two were executed in December 1941, it appeared that the proposal had been rejected; however, the serious situation on the war fronts led the Soviet government to recognize the need for propaganda directed toward Jews throughout the world. It was decided to establish a Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee within the Sovinformbureau, which served Soviet war propaganda. On April 7, 1942, the Committee published its first appeal to "Jews throughout the world," signed by 47 people, including writers, poets, actors, doctors, and Jewish soldiers who had distinguished themselves in battle against the Germans (General Jacob *Kreiser, the submarine commander Israel Fisanovich, and others). The Committee was headed by Solomon Mikhoels, and its secretary was the journalist Shakhne Epstein. On May 24, the second meeting of the "representatives of the Jewish people" was held and broadcast an appeal to Jews throughout the world to collect contributions for the acquisition of 1,000 tanks and 500 airplanes for the Red Army. *Eynikeyt, the Yiddish journal of the Committee, was first published on July 6, 1942, at Kuibyshev and appeared three times a month. The Committee organized radio broadcasts four times a week in Yiddish for the Jews in the U.S. and Great Britain and collected information on Nazi atrocities in Nazi-occupied Soviet areas that was published in Eynikeyt and sent outside the Soviet Union for publication in Jewish newspapers. The Committee also collected a total of 3,300,000 rubles in their fundraising campaign among Jews in the Soviet Union for the purpose of setting up a tank unit to be called "Soviet Birobidzhan." In February 1943, the Committee met in plenary session, at which Mikhoels delivered a shocking report of the fate of Jews in areas liberated by the Red Army. He also gave details on the Jewish role in the struggle against the Nazis. Ehrenburg denounced the wave of antisemitism then spreading through the country, whose slogan was that "one does not see Jews at the front," and urged that all circles of the Soviet public be supplied with information on the participation of Jews in the battles against the Germans. In the second half of 1943, Mikhoels and the poet Itzik *Fefer were sent by the Committee on a propaganda tour to the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain and were enthusiastically received by almost all sections of the Jewish public. This visit was regarded as the first step in renewing the contact between Soviet Jews and world Jewry that had been severed since October 1917.

The third meeting of "representatives of the Jewish people" in the Soviet Union took place in April 1944, including for the first time a representative of religious Jewry, Rabbi Solomon *Schliefer of Moscow. When Germany was defeated in May 1945, the Anti-Fascist Committee published a declaration emphasizing that during the war "a basis for increasing unity was created" between Jews of various countries and the Jews of the Soviet Union.

When the war ended, the activities of the Anti-Fascist Committee centered mainly around the periodical Eynikeyt, which appeared three times a week after February 1945. The Committee planned to publish two books, The Black Book on Nazi atrocities in occupied territories and The Red Book on Jews as armed fighters against the Nazis; their publication was banned, however. In late 1946, Itzik Fefer declared in Eynikeyt that "we have never affirmed all-Jewish (klal Yisroel) unity, but only anti-Fascist unity." Ehrenburg resigned from the Committee in time, while its chairman Mikhoels was murdered by the secret police in January 1948. In late November 1948, the Anti-Fascist Committee was liquidated together with all the remaining Jewish institutions, and most Jewish writers and public figures were arrested.

From the first, the Anti-Fascist Committee had been established as a Soviet propaganda tool operating under the guidance and supervision of the government. But after the war, when Jewish refugees began returning from the eastern regions of the U.S.S.R. to their former residences in the Ukraine and Belorussia and faced difficulties in regaining possession of their homes and getting their jobs back, they turned to the Committee for help. The Committee, and especially Mikhoels, frequently interceded with the authorities on their behalf. It seems that the Committee also sent a memorandum to Stalin demanding that the renewed symptoms of antisemitism be stamped out and that an area be set aside for the settlement of Jewish refugees in the Crimea. These activities, in which the Committee overstepped the limits of its official assignment, were the official cause of its dissolution and the execution of its chairman on January 12, 1948, in a staged car accident in Minsk. The Committee was dissolved on November 20, 1948 and the Jewish publishing house Der Emes was closed. In 1952, at a secret trial, its leading members were accused of being Western (American) spies and, as Jewish nationalists and Zionists, traitors, and of conspiring to separate the Crimea from the Soviet Union and to convert it into a Jewish bourgeois republic that would serve as a military base for the enemies of the U.S.S.R. (the "Crimea Affair"). All the accused – S. Lozovskii, J. Juzefovich, Prof. B. Shimeliovich, I. Fefer, L. Kvitko, P. Markish, D. Bergelson, D. Hofstein, B. Zuskin, L. Talmi, I. Vatenberg, E. Teumin, and Ch. Vatenberg-Ostrovska – were executed on Aug. 12, 1952. Prof. Lina Stern was sentenced to 3½ years of prison and then deportation to Kazakhstan. In related measures, another 110 Jews were tried, 10 were executed, and the others were sentenced to various prison terms.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

S. Redlich, Propaganda and Nationalism in Wartime Russia: The Jewish Antifascist Committee in the USSR, 1941–1948 (1982); S. Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union (1951), 201–16; B.Z. Goldberg, Jewish Problem in the Soviet Union (1961), index; Litvak, in: Gesher, 12, nos. 2–3, (1966), 218–32; Brider Yidn fun der Ganster Velt (Moscow, 1941); Antifashistisher Miting fun di Forshteyer funem Yidishn Folk, Tsveyter Miting (Moscow, 1942); Dos Yidishe Folk in Kamf kegn Fashizm (Moscow, 1945); Redlich, in: JSOS, 31 (1969), 25–36. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Kostyrchenko, V plenu krasnovo faraona (1994).

[Yehuda Slutsky /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.