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David Zaslavsky, "A New Page in World History"

New page in world history, Eynekeyt newspaper article 1945
Eynikayt no. 40 (152), Moscow, May 10, 1945
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tags: liberation Soviet Union

type: Newspaper Article

The swift and messy collapse of Soviet rule in the western regions of the Soviet Union, and the rapid German advance eastward in the summer of 1941, prompted Stalin to contemplate radical changes that would prop up his regime's legitimacy for the purpose of stopping the German onslaught and eventually defeat Hitler. Among other measures—perhaps the most radical one was harnessing Russian nationalism, hitherto habitually suppressed, in order to boost the popularity of the regime—Stalin toyed with the idea of establishing a formal Soviet Jewish organization, which would rally the world's Jewish communities behind the cause of supporting the Soviet Union in its mortal struggle against Nazi Germany. Given the abolition of Jewish organizations since the Revolution in 1917, an entire generation of Soviet Jews had come of age lacking formal engagement with Judaism or any other aspect of Jewishness.

In December 1941, after some initial problems and Stalin's change of heart about the leadership of the organization (which cost the two original picks, Henryk Ehrlich and Victor Alter, their lives) the Soviet leader appointed the famous Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels to head what became the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC). The list of JAFC members was a veritable who's-who of the Soviet Jewish intellectual scene. Apart from prominent Yiddish writers—such as David Bergelson, Perets Markish, and Itsik Fefer—JAFC also included writers in Russian, most notably the journalists Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasilii Grossman. Many other prominent figures joined its ranks, with Mikhoels as chair, and Shakno Epshtein as executive secretary. Soon after establishment, JAFC started propaganda work on behalf of the Soviet war effort. The first event it organized was a rally in May 1942, which proposed an international fund-raising campaign to finance the Soviet army. In June, the first issue of JAFC's Yiddish-language journal, Eynikayt [Unity], was published.1

The primary purpose of the paper during the war was to rally international Jewish support for the Soviet war effort. It toed the Soviet line, and published articles about the emancipation of the Jews from their subordinate position in the Russian empire, Jewish heroism on the front, and, as the Red Army gradually liberated the western areas of the Soviet Union, the Nazi atrocities and crimes against the Jews. While its rhetoric diverged little from the official Soviet line, the paper also found creative ways to write about Jewish topics using the official Soviet vocabulary (albeit in Yiddish), while appealing to specifically Jewish sensibilities. On May 10, 1945, shortly after the final victory over Hitler's Nazi Reich, Eynikayt published an article unmistakably Soviet in its tone. It celebrated the Soviet victory, and staked the Soviet claim on Eastern Europe. But it also recounted the Jewish suffering during the just-finished war.

For the tragic history of JAFC and its members, see Arno Lustiger, Stalin and the Jews. The Red Book: The Tragedy of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the Soviet Jews (New York: Enigma, 2003); and Shimon Redlich, War, Holocaust and Stalinism: A Documented History of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the USSR (New York: Routledge, 2013).

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D. Zaslavski

A new page in world history

The war in Europe is over. The greatest victory was scored over the forces of evil, reaction, death. The nations who were saved from death and slavery rejoice. Yet the boundless joy and resounding laughter are mixed with tears of sorrow for the tremendous losses and victims. The Jewish people have the biggest reason to rejoice; they also have the biggest reason to mourn: indeed, our people suffered the greatest losses in the war. But our people were also saved from the greatest misfortune hanging over them: the danger that the Jewish people would perish completely, one and all. But the one to die was Hitler, and the Jews live and will live.

We are not calculating now the numbers of victims. This is a matter for researchers, who will probably also never be able to determine exact numbers. Hitler wanted to separate the Jews from other peoples, as a different race. But he threw the Jewish dead in the same ditches as the dead of other nations, and these very ditches became the graves of brothers—memorials for the victims of the wild, bestial malice of fascism. Hitler wanted to incite all of humankind against the Jews, but he achieved the contrary: in the lines of the Allies, the Jews joined and united with the other peoples, and Jewish blood mixed together and became inseparable from the general stream of blood of all the nations, the blood shed for freedom of all humanity.

The victory over Hitler's Germany has colossal consequences for the Jews. It changes the course of Jewish history in Europe as such. The central nest of world reactionary forces has been destroyed. The nest of the wildest, the most bestial antisemitism has been blown apart. Over the course of the last decades, all movements of persecution against Jews have had their origin in Berlin. The countries that fell under the influence of Fascism began one after the other to introduce restrictions for Jews, deleting Jews from the slate of citizens, keeping them in the category of pariahs. It was not only in Germany that the medieval ghetto rose up, resuscitated from the dead. It was not only the Jews of Germany who faced the threat of downfall. Antisemitism began to spread even before the war—and the brown plague over all of western and southern Europe. From there it migrated over to Poland, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria. In many countries the Jews, who until then had more or less enjoyed equal rights, were moved into ghettos. These were systematic measures in preparation for the extermination of the Jewish people, organized according to German plans. And if the war had lasted a little longer, if Hitler and his band had not suffered such a dismal defeat, those remnants of Jews in many states would certainly have been exterminated: states where they have now been saved by the Red Army and by the armies of the Allies.

Hitler's Germany and all of its satellites are now destroyed. In the former fascist and pro-fascist states there can no longer be any state antisemitism. The grounds for antisemitism have been wrested from underneath society as a whole, although certain remnants, an inheritance of sorts from that antisemitism, still remain and will last for a certain period of time. The carcass that carries the name antisemitism will continue to spoil the air of European society for a while. Yet a carcass is indeed no more than a carcass.

Hitlerism was dealt its defeat above all by the Red Army. This fact has worldwide historical significance and special significance for Jewish history. The highest honor in the victory over the enemy must be awarded to the Red Army and the Soviet people. The red flag of victory that waves proudly now over Berlin was planted by the heroic Red Army. This very Red Army occupied a large part of Germany, and especially such important areas like Eastern Prussia, Brandenburg, Pomerania, Silesia… Each of these parts of Germany were regions where the German reactionary forces had their strongest nests economically and politically; regions that were points of support for the power of the large property owners, for the German feudalist government; regions where the state possessions of the highest Prussian military hub were concentrated. The Red Army cleansed the whole of Eastern Europe from fascism. This means that firm foundations were laid for a democratic order in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland. Wherever the Red Army passes through, it brings with it the great, human call for friendship of the peoples, for peaceful and brotherly cooperation between the peoples; and a soon end to conflicts between peoples, to baiting of others. The victory of the Red Army tremendously expanded the space for democracy in Europe. And wherever democracy triumphs, Jews have enough fresh air to breathe.

The influence of the Soviet people on humankind has extended over all borders, all partitions and barriers—and this very influence is based on the politics of the Bolshevik Party, on the Leninist-Stalinist program of national equality, on friendship of the peoples. Racial hatred flees before Soviet ideology, like the shadows of the night flee before the rays of the rising sun. Of course this does not all take place over the course of one day. In world history, the transition from night to day has proceeded along an entirely different scale. But the timeline is not important; only the laws of history are important. And these laws have their own logical course. After the victory over Hitler's Germany, the world will never return to that moment when the peaceful, everyday life of Europe was interrupted and the thunder of cannons resounded in the air. No, this victory leads the peoples of Europe further down the path that opened up after the First World War, when the old empires were broken down, and in the place of an empire like Tsarist Russia, which was a prison of the peoples, the magnificent and powerful Soviet Union rose up before the eyes of mankind.

The Second World War was to a significant degree, to a decisive degree, a conflict between the Soviet socialist state of a new type and fascist Germany, which in its entire governmental, societal, moral-political order resuscitated the dark Middle Ages. The new, rising world triumphed; the Soviet Union triumphed, too. The Soviet people saved European civilization, gave it a progressive push. The Soviet people fulfilled its heroic mission during the war, and it will fulfill the same mission after the war, too, in the struggle for a firm, lasting, and democratic peace.

Jews around the world are bound by a sacred duty: to support the Soviet people in its battle for a true, authentic peace. They are obliged to do this not only out of gratitude to the state that saved the Jews in Europe from complete destruction. No, this is a matter of their own flesh and blood, of life and death for all Jews—because only the complete victory of the Soviet people within the context of cooperation between peoples is a guarantee of the restoration, the further development and revival of the life of Jewish people around the world.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Eynikayt no. 40 (152), Moscow, May 10, 1945
Date Created
May 10, 1945
Page(s) 1
Author / Creator
Zaslavsky, David
Publisher
Eynikayt
Language(s)
Yiddish
Location
Moscow, Soviet Union (historical)
Moscow, Russia
Document Type Newspaper Article
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