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"To the Jews of the World"

Mikhoels, Solomon and Shakno Epshtein JAFC appeal 1942
Courtesy of the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow
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tags: activism community Red Army

type: Newspaper Article

The 1941 German attack on the Soviet Union and the rapid advance of German forces were profound shocks to Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Although there had been signs that German forces were preparing to invade, the attack violated the German-Soviet Pact concluded in 1939. 

Many people living in Soviet territories that fell to the German attack were ready to collaborate with the invading German forces. Soviet authorities had only occupied and annexed Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and eastern Poland since the outbreak of World War II, and many Soviet citizens living in these territories strongly felt that Soviet rule of their homelands was illegitimate.

To help generate popular support for the Soviet regime, Soviet leadership tried to appeal both to its own population and to the international community to support its war against Nazi Germany. On the international stage, the Soviet authorities and diplomats sought closer relations with the United States and the United Kingdom.1 On the domestic front, the regime sought to control and harness Russian nationalism as a mobilizing factor in the struggle. 

Soviet leadership also decided to found a Soviet Jewish organization to rally international Jewish support for the Soviet war effort. In December 1941, Stalin settled on the famous Jewish actor Solomon Mikhoels to head what would become the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC). Jewish culture had flourished in the Soviet Union until Stalin's rise to power. Many of the Jewish cultural figures who remained in the Soviet Union after the political purges of the late 1930s joined the JAFC, and it appeared that the Soviet government would support Jewish culture once again.2

JAFC became the central—and the only—sanctioned Jewish organization in the Soviet Union. The organization's domestic mission was to rally Soviet Jews to support the Soviet war effort—including prewar Soviet citizens as well as the many thousands of refugees and evacuees who had ended up deep in the Soviet hinterland since 1939. The principal aim of JAFC’s work abroad was to win the support of international Jewish organizations, primarily those in the US and the UK. The first event JAFC organized was a rally in May 1942, which launched an international fundraising campaign to finance the Soviet army. In June, the first issue of JAFC’s Yiddish-language journal, Eynikayt, was published.

The featured article was published in Eynikayt in December 1942—just four days after Allied governments had publicly announced that Nazi Germany was engaged in the planned annihilation of European Jews. Titled "To the Jews of the World," it recognized the role played by the Red Army and emphasized the importance of Jewish contributions to the struggle against Nazi Germany.

For more about World War II, see Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For the history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, see Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln and Jerusalem: University of Nebraska Press and Yad Vashem, 2009).

For more on the history of JAFC, 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 Study of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in der USSR (Luxembourg: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995).

On December 17, 1942, the anti-Nazi coalition of Allied governments and the French National Committee issued a public proclamation, broadcast on the BBC, that Germany was systematically exterminating the Jews in Europe and that "those responsible for these crimes would not escape retribution." Quoted in Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945, vol. 2: The Years of Extermination (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 462.

A kolkhoz was a type of a Soviet collective farm. 

Solomon Mikhoels was a famous and well-regarded Soviet Yiddish cultural worker. He was murdered in 1948, during Stalin's purge of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. See Lustiger, Stalin and the Jews.

Epshtein was a well-known Russian Jewish journalist who wrote in Yiddish. He was the editor of Eynikayt. He died in 1945.

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TO THE JEWS OF THE WORLD

A joint declaration of the governments of the USSR, Great Britain, the United States, and other allied countries,1 as well as a communication from the Information Office of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs (Narkomindel) of the USSR, in defense of the Jewish people from Hitler’s butchers, make it even more incumbent upon every Jew to perform his national duty to the heroic Red Army, to whose lot has fallen the main burden in the struggle against Hitler's murderous hordes.

These most distinguished historical documents have profoundly moved the broad Jewish masses of the Soviet Union. In all sectors of the struggle against the fascist monsters, the Soviet Jews, like all other peoples of our country, have doubled, tripled, their heroism. At Stalingrad and on the Central Front, the Red Army delivers blow after blow to the accursed enemy. In these fierce fights, the sons and daughters of the Jewish people also give new examples of bravery and fearlessness. On the labor front, in factories and plants, in kolkhoz fields,2 and in social development, there are no sacrifices that the peoples of the Soviet country would not make.

The Jewish Antifascist Committee in the USSR appeals to the Jews of the United States, Great Britain, Palestine, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Mexico, Cuba, and other countries to launch an even more intense campaign of all types of assistance to the heroic Red Army.

Brothers and sisters! In the name of saving the life, honor, and liberty of our people, in the name of preserving its age-old culture, in the name of our great past and bright future, all of you, every last one, must not spare your efforts, your means, when your brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union are not sparing their own lives for the happiness of all mankind, and for the happiness of the Jewish people.

Jews of the world! Let us not dishonor ourselves before all the freedom-loving nations, before our new Maccabees, before history.

THE JEWISH ANTIFASCIST COMMITTEE IN THE USSR

PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE
People's Artist of the USSR S. Mikhoels3

SECRETARY
Shakno Epshtein4

December 21, 1942

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow
RG Number 22.028M
Date Created
December 21, 1942
Author / Creator
Solomon Mikhoels
Shakno Epshtein
Publisher
Eynikayt
Language(s)
Russian
Location
Moscow, Soviet Union (historical)
Moscow, Russia
Document Type Newspaper Article
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