“Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, Stalin led them out of the Politburo,” whispered veterans of the Bolshevik Revolution, as winter 1927 approached the Moscow River’s banks.
The revolution that erupted 100 years ago this week was turning on its heroes, as Joseph Stalin was purging the late Vladimir Lenin’s protégés, confidants and aides. The expulsion those days of Leon Trotsky from the Communist Party was but the beginning of an anti-Jewish assault that would continue intermittently until Stalin’s death.
The revolution’s Jewish leaders would vanish much sooner than the communism for which they fought, but many Russians – to this day – still see the revolution as a Jewish plot.
Lenin’s deputies Lev Kamenev (originally Rozenfeld) and Grigory Zinoviev (born Hirsch Apfelbaum) and his treasurer Grigori Sokolnikov (Girsh Yankelevich Brilliant) were all Jews, as were Karl Radek (Sobelsohn), co-writer of the Soviet Constitution, Maxim Litvinov (Meir Henoch Wallach-Finkelstein), foreign minister of the USSR until his removal so Stalin could pact with Hitler.
This is, of course, besides Trotsky himself, builder of the Red Army and the only Soviet who served as both foreign and defense minister.
Most proverbially, a Jew – Yakov Sverdlov – oversaw the nighttime execution of Czar Nikolai, Empress Alexandra, and their five children.
Jewish revolutionaries were prominent beyond Russia as well.
In Germany, philosopher-economist Rosa Luxemburg led an abortive revolution in 1919 before being caught, clubbed, shot dead and dumped in a canal. In Hungary, Bela Kun – originally Kohn – led a short-lived communist coup several months after Luxemburg’s murder.
In Romania, Ana Pauker – originally Hebrew teacher Hannah Rabinsohn, and later the world’s first woman foreign minister – effectively ran the country for Stalin, before falling from grace and spending her last years under house arrest. In Czechoslovakia, Rudolf Slansky was the second-most powerful figure before his public trial and execution alongside 11 other senior Jewish communists. In Poland, two of the three Stalinists who led its transition to communism – Hilary Minc, who collectivized its economy, and Jakub Berman, who headed its secret police – were Jews.
The revolution, in short, was so crowded with Jews that one had to wonder whether “the Jews” were inherently revolutionary.
A century on, it is clear they were not.