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Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971

Jews in "Soviet Union" 03: Second World War

Polish partition 1939 - NS invasion and Holocaust by mass shootings since 1941 - Red Army - refugees and deportees in central Russia - Jewish anti-Fascist Committee

from: Russia; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 14

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<During World War II (1939-1945).

Partition of Poland in September 1939 and sovietization

SOVIET ANNEXATION OF TERRITORIES: 1939-40 [Hitler-Stalin pact and new partition of Poland]

[[Since April 1939 the Polish government was not able to decide on which side it wanted to stay, to fight with Hitler against Communism, or to fight with Stalin against Nazism. In August 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact was negotiated and on 1 September 1939 Hitler let invade his troops. Poland's regime which made a big military propaganda against Nazi Germany with a projected "March to Berlin" hoped for an attack of the western allies on the western front but there never came any so Poland was defeated within some few weeks. Then 100,000s of Jewish refugees fled from the Nazi rule to the eastern part of Poland. Stalin let his invade his troops on 17 September 1939 only and was seen as "liberator" and protector from Hitler's terror and sovietized his zone. Some German generals saw the pact as a treason because Stalin's front line moved more than 200 km westward]].

The most significant event of this period, in Jewish terms, was the addition of over two million Jews, residents of the territories that had been annexed by or incorporated into the Soviet Union. Their distribution was as follows:

Table 8. Distribution of Jewish Population in the Soviet annexed Territories
Date of Annexation
Number of Jews
Location of Large Communities
Eastern Galicia and Western Belorussia
xxSept. 1939
Bialystock, Pinsk, Grodno, Rovno, Lvov
Refugees from western Poland
xxSept. 1939
Lithuania and the Vilna area
xxJune 1940
250,000xx Vilna, Kovno
Bessarabia, northern Bukovina
xxJuly 1940
300,000xx Kishinev, Chernovtsy



from: Russia; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 14, col. 473

As a result of the annexations, the Jewish population of the Soviet Union totaled approximately 5,250,000.

There were areas in the new territories which had a dense Jewish population - especially the cities - and Jews accounted for 5-10% of the total population. Most of these Jews spoke Yiddish and they were imbued with a high degree of national Jewish consciousness.

The [[racist]] Zionist movement was strong and well entrenched, and a large part of the youth actively prepared itself to settle in Palestine; the socialist Bund also wielded considerable influence. The Jews had their own educational systems with many thousands of students which taught Hebrew and Yiddish, traditional and secular schools, and also the great yeshivot [[religious Torah school]]. A multilingual Jewish press and literature existed whose ranks of Jewish writers and men-of-letters were augmented by refugees from Warsaw and the towns in western Poland.

["Soviet" rule in eastern Poland: assimilation - and discrimination of the capitalist Jews by tax system - destruction of religion institutions - sovietization of the school system]

Deeply shocked by the swift capitulation of Poland and the fall of its Jews into Nazi hands, most Jews of the newly annexed territories welcomed the new Soviet regime, regarding it above all as providing assurance of their physical survival. They accepted the new economic and social order in spite of the great hardship that it caused them - confiscation of factories and businesses and the imposition of heavy taxes on shopkeepers and artisans. Jews were now able to enter government service, and found it possible to function in the Soviet economic system in cooperative and state-run workshops and commercial enterprises.

The Jewish communities themselves were disbanded and the status of religion and religious institutions - synagogues, yeshivot [[religious Torah schools]], and religious schools - underwent a sharp decline. The Hebrew-language schools had to adopt Yiddish as the medium of instruction and introduce the Soviet curriculum, with teachers from the old part of the U.S.S.R. put on their staff. Jewish youth organizations were either disbanded or went underground and many of the young people joined the Communist youth movement (Komsomol).

[Emigration movement via Vilna - Yiddish life - destruction of Yiddish life by the end of 1940 - replacement by Russian - protesters are executed]

The young Zionists and yeshivah students, for the most part, moved to Vilna, which was a Polish city and then became the capital of Lithuania, but was not occupied by the Soviets until June 1940, and from there many succeeded in reaching either Palestine or the United States. There was also a minor revival of Yiddish cultural life. The old Soviet Yiddish writers, who had (col. 473)

almost given up all hope of saving Yiddish culture from obliteration, now saw a new sphere of activities opening up. They established contact with writers in such Jewish centers as Vilna, Kaunas, Riga, Lvov [[L'viv, Lemberg]], Bialystok, and Chernovtsy, founded newspapers and theaters, and began to publish their books. A chair for Yiddish language and literature, headed by Noah *Pzylucki, was created at Vilna University.

This development soon met with the disapproval of the Soviet authorities, and by the end of 1940 there was no doubt that Jewish institutions in the new territories were also being systematically liquidated. This was especially true of Jewish schools, where teachers and parents were "persuaded" to replace Yiddish by Russian. A few attempts at protesting this policy were firmly suppressed, as, for example, the arrest and later execution of the Soviet Yiddish writer Selik *Axelrod in Minsk. (col. 474)

The 22 months preceding the invasion witnessed a steady decline of the remnants of national Jewish life: Jewish institutions and newspapers which had survived the purge of the late 1930s functioned in an atmosphere of fear and oppression, and Jewish educational institutions closed down, often at their own initiative. Among the younger generation the process of assimilation was accelerated. (col. 472)

[Deportations: Jewish refugees - capitalists and political enemies - families]

Many of the refugees from western Poland were arrested in the early months of the Soviet occupation and deported to camps in the Soviet interior.

[[This happened because the "Soviet" authorities wanted the refugees to accept the "Soviet" passport and gave the refugees the possibility to inscribe oneself for returning to western Poland if they did not want the "Soviet" passport. All who had inscribed were deported to central Russia because of "disloyalty". See: *Holocaust, Rescue from]].

In the spring of 1941 mass arrests took place among Jews and non-Jews alike, primarily former businessmen, industrialists, and religious functionaries, as well as socialists, Zionists and Bundists. They were sent into exile or labor camps in northern Russia, where many of them died [[within the Gulag system]]; for others, deportation turned out to be the means of survival, while the families they had left behind soon became the victims of the Nazi slaughter.

[Equality of the provinces aimed]

It was clear that Soviet policy was designed to equate the social and cultural standard of the new areas, as quickly as possible, with that of the rest of the country. Any remaining contact between Soviet Jewry and the Jewish world beyond the borders was broken off. The Soviet press reported very little of the atrocities committed by its Nazi treaty partner, and made no mention at all of the persecution of the Jews. As a result, the Jews of the Soviet Union knew practically nothing of the fate of their brethren in the countries occupied by the Germans, and when the Soviet Union was invaded, they were mostly unprepared for what was to happen.

[[Since spring 1941 there was a big retreat movement of industries, and the Red Army retreated about 3 days before the German invasion and their collaborators. By this organized flight many Jews could get to central Russia, but many of them also were drafted to the Red Army and died in the fight. Arbitrary flight was hindered because Jews in an arbitrary - not organized flight - were qualified as "not useful" for the war. The northern and the middle front moved since 22 June, the souther front since 3 July 1941. So, in the south was 11 days more time for the organized flight. Nazi and Russian bombings destroyed towns and most of the Jewish houses]].

NS Invasion 1941 and mass shootings

GERMAN INVASION [and their collaborators]: 1941 [and the Big Flight from Barbarossa]

On June 22, 1941, the German army [[at the northern and middle front]] invaded Soviet territory. (col. 472)

In the first few weeks following June 22, 1941, the German invaders occupied most of the areas annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940, including all of Belorussia and the greater part of the western Ukraine (as east Galicia had become). Vilna was taken on June 25, Minsk on June 28, Riga on July 1, Vitebsk and Zhitomir on July 9, and Kishinev on July 16. From most of the towns the Jews attempted [[arbitrarily]] to flee to the Soviet interior, but were prevented from doing so either by the advancing German troops or by Soviet security forces who did not permit the crossing of the pre-1939 borders of the U.S.S.R.

The Jews in the areas that were occupied by the Germans at a later date, such as Kiev (September 19) and Odessa (October 16), did in large measure succeed in escaping in time, either individually or within the organized evacuation of government employees, of functionaries of institutions, and of workers in factories. In the more remote areas to be occupied by the Germans, the majority of the Jewish inhabitants also managed to get away in time [[this is the Big Flight from Barbarossa]].

[Figures of spring 1941, evacuations and flight]

The total Jewish population in the areas occupied by the Germans had been four million (spring 1941 [[without the Big Flight of Barbarossa]]). Of these, about three million wee murdered. The rest were saved in a variety of ways including prior deportation and evacuation together with non-Jews; drafting into the Red Army; and flight to the forests and joining the partisan units.

[[Other survival methods were to be saved by a "Christian" family, to change names, to change religion, or to change both, to be "useful" for the Nazi regime a.o. Altogether were ]].

[Holocaust on the staying Jewry]

Almost none of the Jews who remained in the cities and towns of the German-occupied territory survived the war. By the time of the German invasion [[and their collaborators]] of the U.S.S.R., the Nazi plan for the "*Final Solution" had been worked out. Here the Nazis felt none of the restraint which they had imposed upon themselves in Western Europe, since they were unconcerned by local reaction. The annihilation of the Jews proceeded at (col. 474)

a rapid pace. The ghettos that were established proved to be only temporary collection points for the utilization of Jewish labor prior to destruction. [[Jewish organizations could deliver a lot of the food for the ghettos so mass death was delayed, and many times the Jews had to eat waste, e.g. soup of potato peels etc. or were dying in the streets]].


The task of the systematic murder of the Jews was put in the hands of four specially created units called Einsatzgruppen, made up of 3,000 killers recruted from the *S.S., the S.D., and the Gestapo [[the members came from all Nazi occupied European countries, and some also from "neutral" countries]]. These units were assigned the job of following the German troops as they advanced into the Soviet Union, and ridding the occupied areas of all undesirable elements - political commissars, active Communists, and, above all, the Jews.

Their task was explained to them in special training courses: to destroy the "Ostjuden" (Jews of Eastern Europe) who represented the "biological base" of the Jewish people all over the world and constituted the breeding ground of world Communism. Each unit was allotted a certain area of activity, and on completion of its task in one area it was transferred to another. The units were commanded by high-ranking officers of the Gestapo, many of them well-educated men who had chosen the assignment because of its absence of personal danger and its high reward - a better salary, plus the valuables taken from the victims.

[[The local population which had not gone with the Red Army partly awaited the Nazi forces and helped them to mark Jewish houses. Denouncing Jews was rewarded by the Nazi system. Jewish houses and flats of killed Jews were given to the "Christian" population and Jewish property of killed Jews was sold on flea markets, under local police supervision]].

Among these officers there were some of the "finest" products of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, they could not have carried out their task without assistance from various sources, foremost among them the German army [[Wehrmacht]], which supplied the Einsatzgruppen with personnel, transport, and weapons. An An order issued by Field Marshal Reichenau on Oct. 10, 1941, on the "Conduct of the Armed Forces in the Eastern Theater of Operations", explicitly called upon German troops to assist in the murder of Jews. Hitler described it as an "excellent" (ausgezeichnet) order and instructed all army commanders on the Soviet front to follow Reichenau's example.

Local anti-Semitic elements, too, participated in the slaughter of Jews, first by means of pogroms initiated of their own accord, especially in the Baltic states and later as members of special police units made up of Ukrainians, Belorussians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Tatars, [[and anti-Semitic Poles]], who had a special interest in gaining the cooperation of the local populations, so that they became accomplices in the crimes being committed.

[[The Nazi system divided the nations in different races and set up a table of races. So of the east European "races" the Balts were worth the most and the Ukrainians the second, and other members of other nations like Belorussians and Russians had to fulfill their tasks "better"...]].

One means by which they achieved this end was the distribution of Jewish houses and portions of Jewish property among gentile neighbors. The attitude of the local population to the Jews differed from one place to another.

Baltic states and Crimea: In the Baltic states and the Crimea, home of the Tatars, there were local elements who participated in the annihilation of Jews as effectively as the Nazis.

Ukraine: In the Ukraine the number of Nazi collaborators, led by Ukrainian nationalists, was particularly large.

On the other hand, the Belorussian and Russian population in the Nazi-occupied areas hated the Germans and were on the whole opposed to the mass murder of Jews. [[This is not right because there were many Nazi Belorussians and czarist Russians who hoped for another reign of the czar]].

[[Poland: Polish local people were stuck in their anti-Semitic tradition because of the lasting economic crisis by the interrupted trade lines by the new frontiers and nationalisms since 1919. Only the Jews were blamed. By this pogroms even occurred by themselves without Nazi order]].

[Networks to save the Jews]

In very few instances attempts were made to save Jews. One such effort was the work of the Metropolitan Sheptitski, head of the Unite Church in the western Ukraine, who, with the help of monks belonging to his church, organized a network for saving Jews by hiding them in monasteries. A similar network of Polish and Lithuanian intellectuals and clerics operated in Vilna. However, prevailing conditions severely limited the scope of these efforts.

[Massacre actions: waves of massacres - intimidate actions - revenge actions]

The method by which the annihilation of the Jews was carried out by the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] differed from one place to another. In many instances the murders took place in the very beginning of the occupation [[in two or three waves of massacres until mid of 1942]]. This was true of many cities and towns in the Baltic states, where local nationalists accused the Jews of having welcomed and supported the Soviet annexation. Often the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] used the murder of Jews to set an example for the local population (col. 475)

and to intimidate them, or in revenge for operations carried out by the partisans. In Kiev 33,779 Jewish men, women and children were murdered within two days (Sept. 29-30, 1941) in the *Babi Yar Valley, near the local Jewish cemetery, in response to the blowing up of German headquarters in the city [[see: *Kiev ]]. In Odessa German and Rumanian forces reacted similarly to the destruction of Rumanian headquarters in the city, and 26,000 Jews were put to death during Oct. 23-26, 1941, many by hanging or burning [[see: *Odessa ]]. The killing in Odessa continued until the middle of the winter. In the Ukraine and Belorussia the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] celebrated the anniversary of the Russian Revolution on Nov. 7, 1941, by mass killings of Jews. In the Soviet Union the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] tried out new ways of murdering Jews. One such method was the use of closed vans, in which Jews were ostensibly being transported from one place to another, while in fact poison gas was forced into the vans, causing the immediate death of all the passengers. [[When it was Diesel gas this made unconscious and people were buried alive]].

The most common method was to drive the Jews to the outskirts of the city and fire on them by rifles or machine guns in front of previously prepared ditches, pushing the victims into the ditches and covering the ditches with earth. sometimes some of the victims were not dead, and were thus buried alive. In many instances they had to remove their clothes before going to their deaths.

Nazi leaders, among them A. *Eichmann, were frequent witnesses of these spectacles. Where the slaughter was not completed in the early days of the occupation, the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] established ghettos for the survivors, situated, as a rule, in the slum quarters of the town, where the Jews were concentrated in the worst conditions possible. [[Mostly also Jews from the countryside were brought to the ghetto in the town so the ghetto was totally overcrowded or refilled. After the last massacre stayed some 100 "useful" Jews kept into a central house mostly]].

A *Judenrat and a ghetto police force [[of Jews]] were appointed by the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] to run the ghetto [[the number of ghetto police forces according to the size of the ghetto]]. Some of those appointed showed courage and fortitude in carrying out the task that a bitter fate had decreed for them. In the majority of cases, however, working under the Nazis resulted in moral degeneration.

[Badge - "useless" Jews eliminated - forced labor - last central ghetto for "useful" Jews]

The Jews were forced to wear the yellow *badge [[from region to region in different forms as a star or a mark]] and were not permitted to leave the confines of the ghetto, unless they were working for the Nazis outside. From time to time the Nazis staged Aktionen designed to weed out the "useless" elements - invalids, old people, and children. Those whose turn for death had not yet come were forced to work in German army workshops, roadbuilding, and fortifications.

Surviving Jews in places that were declared *judenrein were transferred to central ghettos, which also contained large numbers of Jews from West Europe. The largest of these ghettos existed in Vilna, Bialystok, Kaunas, Riga, and Minsk (only the last belonging to the pre-1939 Soviet territory), and they remained in existence for almost the entire period of German occupation.

[Bessarabian and Bukovina Jews in Transnistria]

Most of the Jews from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina were deported to *Transnistria, the area beyond the Dniester river that had been occupied by the Rumanian army, where they suffered from starvation and disease and were put on forced labor. (col. 476)

[[The Jews there were deported or had to do long marches with heavy death tolls. The camps were run by Rumanians]].

Jewish resistance

<Jewish resistance to the Nazi regime was manifested in two ways: the revolt in the ghettos, and participation in the partisan movement (see *Partisans).

There There was a decided difference between the behavior of the Jews in the pre-1939 territory of the Soviet Union and the Jews in the recently incorporated areas. the former had (col. 476)

been deprived by the Soviet regime of any form of Jewish organization and lacked any semblance of coherence as a national group. In their case the process of annihilation was swift and thorough and, with few exceptions (Minsk, Kopys), these ghettos existed only for a few months or even weeks.

[Jewish ghettos with Jewish support and Jewish cultural and resistance activities - revolts before the liquidation of the ghettos]

In the newly annexed areas, such as the Baltic states, former eastern Poland, north Bukovina, etc., the tradition of Jewish organization and self-contained Jewish life was still strong, and it took the Nazis much longer to wipe out the ghettos. The Jews maintained clandestine institutions for mutual help, and rendered assistance not only to the local Jewish population but also to the deportees who had been brought in from other places. In these ghettos there were underground libraries, choirs, orchestras, and theater companies, as well as schools and synagogues.

An underground press informed the ghetto population of developments on the front and events concerning Jews, and served to keep up morale. These activities were organized largely by the youth and by the few surviving intellectuals. A leading role was played by Zionist youth groups, who hoped for a future life in Erez Israel, and by the Communists, who hoped for the victory of the Soviet army.

In many of the ghettos fighting organizations were created which collected arms in preparation for a ghetto revolt or for escape to join the partisans. The underground fighting groups in the large ghettos managed to maintain communications with each other and send messengers to the ghetto resistance movement headquarters in Warsaw. A major dilemma confronting the fighting ghetto youth was the choice between remaining in the ghetto to carry on the hopeless struggle there, in the hope of "surviving them" (iberlebn zay); an open revolt would lead to drastic punishment and the immediate murder of large numbers of ghetto inmates. However, the resistance movements arrived at the conclusion that the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] aimed at the total extermination of all Jews. In their leaflets (in Vilna, Bialystok, and elsewhere) the resistance called on the Jews not to go "like sheep to the slaughter" but to defend themselves and take up weapons. The only recourse for the underground resistance movement was to stage a revolt of the ghetto as a whole just as it was about to be liquidated. An earlier flight to the woods meant abandoning the ghetto, and the family of the escapee, to their bitter fate.

[[Resistance groups also organized the flight from the ghetto to Jewish partisan forests, to "Christian" houses for hiding, but also refused the help because they needed agents in the ghetto. In some cases the inmates of a ghetto also did not want any flight because there was a feeling of safety in the group or did not want to leave the elder family members]].

Usually, however, the problem was resolved by the conditions created by the Nazis [[and their collaborators]]. In the summer of 1942 the Germans began the systematic liquidation of the ghettos in the provincial towns. In some of them revolts broke out, the ghetto inmates resisting their deportation, setting the ghetto houses on fire and making mass attempts to escape to the forests. Nesvezh, Mir, Lachwa, Kletsk, and Kremenets were some of the places where ghetto revolts occurred. In August 1943, when the Nazis [[and their collaborators]] embarked upon the final liquidation of the Bialystok ghetto, a revolt broke out there. There were no revolts in Vilna and Kaunas, but the Jewish underground encouraged the young people to flee to the forests and join the partisans. In Minsk the ghetto underground maintained close contact with the partisan units in the vicinity.

PARTICIPATION IN THE PARTISAN MOVEMENT. [National anti-Semitic partisans]

Jewish participation in the partisan movement, which encompassed large areas under German occupation, especially in Belorussia [[Belarus]] and Lithuania, was relatively small. The partisan movement was based in the forests and the villages in the forest area, consisting primarily of local people, such as peasants and shepherds. There was widespread anti-Semitism among the partisans, with many instances of partisans (col. 477)

attacking Jews, robbing them of their goods, and even murdering them [[e.g. the Polish national partisans]]. The non-Jewish partisan, as a rule, was an able-bodied person who had chosen to fight the Germans. Most of the Jews, however, who had fled to the forests, had no other choice, and brought with them a large number of old people, women, and children who were incapable of joining the fighting and whose security and sustenance were a heavy burden which the non-Jewish partisans were unwilling to bear. In general, Jews were received coolly by the partisans and frequently had to prove their ability and readiness to fight, as well as obtain their own weapons, before they were permitted to join the partisan ranks.

[Change of names and member of non-Jewish partisan units - partisan rule against Jews - better rule after 1942 by supreme headquarters in Moscow]

Many Jews, especially in the Soviet interior, assumed non-Jewish names and posed as gentiles [[non-Jews]] in order to join the partisans. The presence of anti-Semitic elements both in the partisan command and in the rank and file manifested itself in frequent executions of Jewish partisans for minor misdemeanors [[delicti]], for which their non-Jewish comrades were given a light punishment only. A change for the better occurred in the fall of 1942, when partisan supreme headquarters were created in Moscow and political instructors sent to the partisan units to form them into a regular organized movement.

[Jewish partisan units and family camps - "Soviet" command after 1942 by supreme headquarters in Moscow]

Groups of Jews, members of resistance movements or others who fled to the woods, tried to establish Jewish partisan units. Often they did not find any other partisans in the area when they arrived. Some of them formed "family camps" which housed complete families, as well as fighting units whose task it was to defend the camps against both the Germans and the non-Jewish partisan unites. Examples of such family camps were the one headed by Tuvyah Belski [[also: Bielski]], in the vicinity of *Novogrudok [[also: Novogrodek]], where over 1,000 persons found refuge, most of whom were able to survive the war; a camp in the forests near Minsk, created by Shimon Zorin, which shelted families and also served as a base for several units; and various camps in the forests of western Belorussia [[Belarus]], Lithuania, and Volhynia, among them the fighting unit headed by Yehezkiel *Atlas in the Slonim area, the "Jewish Unit" headed by M. Gildelmann in the Volhynian forests, and the 51st Company of the Shchors Battalion in Polesie.

When the Soviet Command took over the partisan movement, it pressed for the disbandment of the Jewish units and the distribution of its members among the various other national partisan units. This policy was based on the territorial principle which called for the partisan units to symbolize the organic connection between the population of the district in which the partisan units were active and the Soviet Union. Jewish commanders were replaced and non-Jewish partisans were incorporated into the Jewish units, so that the units soon lost their Jewish character. Thus, there were units termed Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Lithuanian, even in cases when a substantial part of the unit strength was made up of Russians or, sometimes, of Jews (e.g., in Lithuania).

Estimates of the number of Jews who were active in the partisan movement range  from 10,000 to 20,000. About one-third fell in the fighting with the Germans [[and their collaborators]]. When the areas in which they were active were liberated [[occupied]] by the Soviet army, most of the Jewish partisans were drafted and joined the Soviet forces in their drive to Berlin [[and many of them died only then]]. Eventually, a substantial number of these erstwhile partisans made their way to Palestine after the war [[this was the flight from "Soviet" occupation, organized by Jewish organizations, to the western zones, to DP camps, or to Black Sea ports and emigration to Palestine or overseas]].> (col. 478)

Jews in the Soviet Army

[Numbers of Jews and numbers of killed Jews in the Red Army]

<Jewish soldiers played a leading role in the fighting units in those areas of the Soviet Union which were not occupied by the Germans. There was no question of where their loyalty lay: they were fighting for their lives, and for Jews, unlike Russians such as Vlasov and Ukrainians such as Bandera, treason was out of the question. It was known that Jewish soldiers in the Soviet (col. 478)

army who were taken prisoner were executed at once by the Germans. About 500,000 Jews served in the Soviet army during the war, and approximately 200,000 fell in battle.

[[This figure seems to be low. Benjamin Pinkus indicates:

"I would estimate that the losses suffered by the Jewish population totaled between 12,5 % and 15 % of all Soviet war deaths (2,5-3 million out of the twenty million lost)." (Benjamin Pinkus: Book: The Soviet government and the Jews 1948-1967. A documented study, ISBN 0-521-24713-6, p.23)

There were 160,772 awards for Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, (see: Arno Lustiger: Rotbuch. Stalin und die Juden; Aufbau-Verlag, [[Redbook. Stalin and the Jews. Edition Aufbau]], Berlin, p. 13). According to that - and according to the fact that there were many Jews which hided their identity there - there must have been many more Jews in the Red Army that 500,000 and the death rate must have been much higher than 200,000]].

[Jews in high positions of the Red Army]

In the Brest-Litovsk fortress, one of the organizers of the heroic resistance was a Jewish officer, Chaim Fomin. A similar role was played by another Jew, Arseni Arkin, who was the commissar of the Hango garrison, the advance position in the Gulf of Finland. The first Soviet squadron to bomb Berlin (August 1941) was commanded by Michael Plotkin, a Jew. In the battle for Moscow at the end of 1941, a Jewish brigadier (later general), Jacob Kreiser, took a leading role. Many Jews were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union during that battle. Many Jews took part in the battle for Stalingrad, among them Kreiser; Lieutenant-General Israel Baskin, an artillery commander; and the commander of the 62nd Armoured Corps M. Weinrub. At the fall of Stalingrad, Field Marshal von Paulus surrendered his pistol to a Jewish brigadier, Leonid Vinokur.

A large proportion of Jews were also among the troops that spearheaded the Soviet drive into Germany. Among the 900 soldiers who were decorated Heroes of the Soviet Union for their part in the crossing of the Dnieper, 27 were Jews. Similarly, in the battle for Berlin may Jews took part in the fighting, among them Major-General Hirsh Plaskov, artillery commander, and Lieutenant-General Shimon Krivoshein, commander of the armored corps. Jews were heavily represented in the artillery units, armored corps, army engineers, and the air force. Their numbers were also particularly great in the medical corps, among them the surgeon-general of the Soviet army, Major-General M. Vofsi, later to be among the accused in the anti-Semitic "*Doctors' Plot" eight years after the war (see also below).

Among many Jews serving in the navy were Rear-Admiral Paul Trainin, who commanded the Kerch naval base, and submarine captains Israel Fisanovich and Shimon Bograd. A Jewish major-general of the cavalry, Dovator, was among those who fell in the defense of Moscow.

[Awards for Jews in the Red Army]

A total of 60,000 Jewish soldiers in the Soviet forces were decorated during the war, with the Jews thus taking fifth place among Soviet nationalities. The highest award, Hero of the Soviet Union, was granted to 145 Jews, among them David Dragunski who became twice a Hero of the Soviet Union.

[Jewish women in the Red Army]

Jewish women distinguished themselves [[made a good job]] as nurses, medical orderlies, radio operators, and even as snipers and pilots. Among the latter were Polina Gelman and Raisa Aronova, who became Heroes of the Soviet Union.

[Jewish writers in the Red Army]

A considerable number of Jewish writers took part in the fighting, and among those who fell in battle were S.N. *Godiner, A. *Gurshtein, and Meir Wiener.

[Jewish POW hided their identity - and Jews in the Red Army also hided their identity - lower figures and Russian propaganda]

Jews who were taken prisoner could save their lives only if they succeeded in hiding their Jewish identity. A Soviet prisoner-of-war underground movement in Germany, organized in 1943, was discovered by the Nazis and its members were executed. At the head of the movement was an officer named George Pasenko, whose real name, it later transpired, had been Joseph Feldman. The tendency among Jewish soldiers to hide their true identity also existed in the Soviet army itself, because of anti-Semitic elements. This situation facilitated the work of the anti-Semitic propagandists, especially in the rear, who argued that the Jews were not taking part in the war effort, and in the postwar years anti-Semitic groups continued to belittle the Jewish role in the defeat of Germany.

[Lithuanian division and Latvian units]

In the story of Jewish participation in the Soviet war effort, the Lithuanian division and Latvian units represent a special chapter. The Soviet government had a special interest in creating national Lithuanian and Latvian units in order to demonstrate that these countries had become an integral part of the U.S.S.R. The Lithuanian division was created in the northern Volga region in (col. 479)

December 1941, but because the number of Lithuanians available was too small to fill its ranks, Russian-born Lithuanians and Lithuanian-born Russians were also drafted into the unit. But in its initial stage Jews comprised a majority in the division. Jews also accounted for a large part of the Latvian national units. When the Lithuanian division finally reached Lithuanian soil, the proportion of Jews had been reduced to one-fifth. Four of the Jewish soldiers serving in this division weer awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war a considerable number of former members of the Lithuanian division managed to reach Palestine [[for another - this time eternal - battle...]]. (col. 480)

[Special cases]

In June 1942 the Jewish commander of the Soviet air force, Lieutenant General Yaacov Shmushkevich, twice a Hero of the Soviet Union, was arrested and eventually executed, but this must be regarded as part of Stalin's general purges rather than an attack upon the Jews.> (col. 472)

Jews in Russia during WW II behind the front

POSITION OF JEWS BEHIND THE FRONT. [The refugees and deportees - labor battalions, army, anti-Semitism against the refugees and deportees]

Jews [[in "Soviet Union"]] living behind the front underwent great suffering during the war. In addition to sharing the general fate of the population, many of them suffered special hardship, for the number of refugees among them was disproportionately large, and they lived under sever conditions in the towns and kolkhozes beyond the Volga and in Soviet Central Asia.

[[So also arbitrary flight must have been possible for Jews because the Jews in the organized flight were in the Red Army or were working within the war industry. Also deportees were living in hard circumstances with mass death during the Siberian winter]].

A few refugees were allowed to join the Polish army under General Anders and were thus able to leave the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities were suspicious of the Jewish refugees, especially the former Polish citizens among them. Even those who had formally become Soviet citizens, were, at the beginning, drafted into labor battalions only. A tragic example of this attitude was the execution by the Soviets of two former Polish Bund leaders [[deportees]], H. *Erlich and V. *Alter, in December 1941.

Latent anti-Semitism among the Soviet masses manifested itself overtly throughout the war. Its principal victims were the Jewish refugees, whom the local population regarded as competitors for the scarce food and shelter available. (col. 480)

DESTRUCTION OF YIDDISH CULTURE. [Yiddish books issued - Anti-Fascist Committee and newspaper "Eynikayt"]

Soviet Yiddish culture, itself a pale reflection of genuine Jewish culture which had suffered serious setbacks in the prewar purges, was totally jeopardized [[in danger]] when the war broke out. The Yiddish press and Yiddish literature, based primarily in the Ukraine, Belorussia [[Belarus]], and Lithuania, ceased to exist. The annihilation of the Jewish population was accompanied by the destruction of the remaining Jewish schools, libraries, and other cultural institutions. While in 1940 some 360 Yiddish books were published in the Soviet Union, by 1942 the number had dwindled to one. There was some improvement in 1943, after the Emes publishing house had moved to Kuibyshev, issuing 43 Yiddish books that year.

The creation of the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee also had a favorable effect upon the modest revival of Yiddish publications. In June 1942 the committee embarked upon the publication of its own organ, *Eynikayt, which attracted a group of Soviet Yiddish writers, led by David *Bergelson and Itzik *Feffer. Although the main purpose of the committee was to solicit [[ask for]] political and financial support among world Jewry for the Soviet war against the Germans [[and their collaborators]], it also became, unofficially, a representative body of Soviet Jewry until its dissolution [[of the committee]] in 1948.> (col. 480)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia,
                            vol. 14, col. 471-472
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia: Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14, col. 471-472
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia:
                            Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14,
                            col. 473-474
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia: Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14, col. 473-474
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia:
                            Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14,
                            col. 475-476
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia: Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14, col. 475-476
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia:
                            Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14,
                            col. 477-478
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia: Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14, col. 477-478
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia:
                            Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14,
                            col. 479-480
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Russia: Jews in "Soviet Union", vol. 14, col. 479-480

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