Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union after WWII

Free Soviet Jewry

By Marko Lubardic

Introduction –

Initially after WWII and Hitler’s Final Solution, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin supported the creation of a Jewish State, known as Israel. After it became evident that Israel was pro-Western, Stalin grew under the suspicion that Soviet Jews were secretly working against the USSR. The importance of this event cannot be under-stressed, as it led to the complete dehumanization of the Soviet Jewry and propagated anti-Semitic feelings within Soviet society. This topic deserves a research guide, since much of the information about Soviet anti-Semitism is either a product of propaganda from the USSR, or written in original Hebrew.

This topic examines the social, economic, and political issues that the Soviet Jewry faced after World War II by revealing their treatment at the hands of the Soviets. In terms of historiography, this was a major issue for postwar USSR, and many historical writings were created in critique of Soviet policies. The key sources to understanding Soviet anti-Semitism after WWII are the primary sources that reveal the truth behind Soviet policies and the works that document the Soviets’ meticulous data collection abilities. If combined, these sources will provide ample evidence exhibiting the USSR’s anti-Semitism. One major issue with the sources may be comprehension, since original Russian/Jewish terminology is regularly used, but consultation of the archives provided will resolve most comprehension issues. 

General Overview

Shaffer, Harry G. The Soviet Treatment of Jews. New York, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974

  • This work exposes the reader to a brief history of Soviet Jewry and proceeds to provide evidence and opposing views on numerous issues within the Soviet Union pertaining to the Jewry. The overview is written by Shaffer with additional texts provided after the overview by prominent historians, such as William Korey and Stephen J. Roth. These additional texts focus on specific issues within the Soviet Union in regards to the Soviet Jewry, provided by experts on the issues.

Rubin, Ronald I. The Unredeemed – Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Chicago, Illinois: Quadrangle Books, 1968.

  • This source discusses the social standing of the Soviet Jewry, as well as their economic and political position within Soviet society. The work provides sources on issues such as Popular Antisemitism within the USSR, and does a great job illustrating the social tension within the Soviet Union.

Sociopolitical Standing

Frankel, Jonathan “The Soviet Regime and Anti-Zionism – An Analysis”, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1984.

  • Jonathan Frankel has compiled a source of historical knowledge in the form of a research paper, discussing the Anti-Semitism embedded within the Soviet Union. Published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the work  provides valuable data to reinforce it’s historical aspect, and is written during the period in question. Specific topics covered include an examination of the establishment of a Yiddish Journal, the Sovetish Heymland, and a brief history on the Doctors’ Plot.

Altshuler, Mordechai. Soviet Jewry Since the Second World War – Population and Social Structure.Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1987.

  • This work focuses heavily on the issue of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, with tremendous amounts of data to reveal Anti-Semitic roots within Soviet society. Altshuler goes to great depths in the discussion of how strict emigration regulations were the result of Anti-Semitism. With well over 100 pages of data, Altshuler provides ample evidence to support his claims.

Explanation of Key Events –

Freedman, Robert O. Soviet Jewry in the Decisive Decade, 1971-80. Durham, North Carolina: Duke Press Policy Studies, 1984.

  • This source provides a detailed explanation of Anti-Semitic policies under different Soviet Regimes. Included is a description of the Brezhnev-Era Anti-Semitism, with discussion of the problems that the Soviet Jewry encountered with emigration. Further readings included are from authors such as William Korey and Fabian Kolker, discussing the specific pieces of Soviet legislation that were Anti-Semitic.

Korey, William. The Soviet Cage. New York, New York: The Viking Press, 1973.

  • This work engages the reader into a more analytical look at Soviet Anti-Semitism, discussing events such as the Leningrad Trials, the Riga Trials, and the USSR’s Forcible Assimilation policy. William Korey provides intense discussion of these events and draws numerous conclusions, with data to support.

Primary Sources

Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union – its roots and consequences. Vol. 1-3. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1979.

  • A manuscript published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this book provides a unique source document of Jewish discussion on the treatment of Soviet Jews. In 1971, there was a meeting on Soviet Anti-Semitism with prominent Jewish leaders discussing the USSR’s anti-Semitic policies. This source contains the exact progression of events during that meeting, providing a valuable first-hand account of the feelings of the Jewry on the USSR’s Anti-Semitic policies.

Morozov, Boris. Documents on Soviet Jewish Emigration, London: Frank Cass Publishers, 1999.

  • Containing transcripts from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee, this work is a compilation of all Soviet governmental discussion on Soviet Jewry emigration. With 75 primary source documents translated, this compilation provides a unique look on the USSR’s anti-Semitic policies from the perspective of a Soviet party member.

Related Research Guides & Other Electronic Sources

American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. “Soviet Jewry Movement.” Jewish Virtual Library.

  • This website provides a good starting location for conducting further research. This particular article discusses the Soviet Jewry Movement within various countries, and provides an explanation on the movement within the USA.

Libraries & Archives

Beckerman, Gal. “Soviet Jewry.” Jewish News Archive.

  • This archive primarily gives a detailed summary of the basic history of the Soviet Jewry, and provides great links to help with further research. The links at the bottom are sorted by decade, and are great primary source documents. The links are news articles from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, portraying a unique look on Soviet Jewry from the time period. Beckerman includes primary sources throughout her detailed summary as evidence.

“About the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement.” American Jewish Historical Society.

  • This website gives a great location to begin research, with links to various, reputable sources. Within the website is a list of various locations to gather information on the Soviet Jewry, and contains unique galleries of posters and pictures. Although the archive primarily focuses on the American Soviet Jewry Movement, it contains a great historical timeline in regards to the Soviet Jewry, as well as further primary sources in the form of media.