Book- Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism

Full Review here:

My excerpts below:

Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism was first published in France in 1983. A revised edition appeared in 2009 and an English translation in 2016. Intended for a mainly Jewish readership, the book is essentially an apologia for Jewish communist militants in Eastern Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century. Brossat, a Jewish lecturer in philosophy at the University of Paris, and Klingberg, an Israeli sociologist, interviewed dozens of former revolutionaries living in Israel in the early 1980s. In their testimony they recalled “the great scenes” of their lives such as “the Russian Civil War, the building of the USSR, resistance in the camps, the war in Spain, the armed struggle against Nazism, and the formation of socialist states in Eastern Europe.”[i] While each followed different paths, “the constancy of these militants’ commitment was remarkable, as was the firmness of the ideas and aspirations that underlay it.” Between the two world wars, communist militancy was “the center of gravity of their lives.”[ii]

. . . .

A product of their ethnocentric infatuation with the “romance” of Jewish involvement in radical political movements, Revolutionary Yiddishland is Brossat and Klingberg’s hagiographic attempt to resurrect a history that is today “more than lost, being actually denied, even unpronounceable.”

The unstated reason for this omission lies in the determination of Jews to absolve their co-ethnics of any responsibility for the crimes of communism, and to ensure the advent of German National Socialism is always framed in a way that conduces to a simplified narrative of saintly Jewish victimhood and German (and by extension White European) malevolence.

. . . .

a growing number of Jewish historians concede the point, but insist this leading role was morally justified because it was essentially “defensive” in nature.

Thus, while freely admitting Jews had “an outsized role in the revolution,” Boruch Gorin, chairman of Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, insists that “there were very good reasons for this,” with “anti-Semitism” being foremost among them.

. . . .

In Revolutionary Yiddishland, Brossat and Klingberg posit the “Jewish Bolshevism as morally justified ethnic self-defense” thesis, insisting that “anti-Semitism” was “an insidious poison hovering in the air of the time” that comprised “the sinister background music to the action of the Yiddishland revolutionaries.”[vii] The real causes of anti-Jewish sentiment among the native peasantry are, once again, comprehensively ignored. Rather than seeing Jewish communist militants as willing agents of ethnically-motivated oppression and mass murder, the authors depict them as noble victims who tragically “linked their fate to the grand narrative of working-class emancipation, fraternity between peoples, socialist egalitarianism” rather than to “a Jewish state solidly established on its ethnic foundations, territorial conquests and realpolitik alliances.”[viii] In other words, they mistakenly held communism rather than Zionism to be best for the Jews.

. . . .

Brossat and Klingberg assure us that the militancy of their informants “was always messianic, optimistic, oriented to the Good — a fundamental and irreducible difference from that of the fascists with which some people have been tempted to compare it, on the pretext that one ‘militant ideal’ is equivalent to any other.”

. . . .

That their motivations were far from pure, and that ethnic animosity and desire for revenge were key factors driving the large-scale Jewish support of, and participation in, communist movements was obvious to the Jewish historian Norman Cantor who made the following observation:

The Bolshevik Revolution and some of its aftermath represented, from one perspective, Jewish revenge. During the heyday of the Cold War, American Jewish publicists spent a lot of time denying that — as 1930s anti-Semites claimed — Jews played a disproportionately important role in Soviet and world Communism. The truth is until the early 1950s Jews did play such a role, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. In time Jews will learn to take pride in the record of the Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. It was a species of striking back.[xi]

. . . .

While Trotsky, the architect of the Bolshevik insurrection and creator of the Red Army, claimed his Jewish origins and Jewish interests did not guide his attraction to Bolshevism, his biographer Joshua Rubenstein disagrees, noting that he “was a Jew in spite of himself,” who “gravitated to Jews wherever he lived,” and “never abided physical attacks on Jews, and often intervened to denounce such violence and organize a defense.”[xiv] As leader of the Red Army during the Civil War, Trotsky “had to deal with the anti-Semitic attitudes among the population,” and “successfully recruited Jews for the Red Army because they were eager to avenge pogrom attacks.”[xv] At the same time, he “voiced his concern over the high number of Jews in the Cheka, knowing that their presence could only provoke hatred towards Jews as a group.” Trotsky was feted by Jews worldwide as “an avenger of Jewish humiliations under Tsarism, bringing fire and slaughter to their worst enemies.”

. . . .

Ethnic revenge was also a motivation for Lazar Kaganovich, the Jewish member of the Politburo who presided over the forced famine that took the lives of millions of Ukrainian peasants and the mass deportation of “anti-Semitic” Cossacks to Siberia in the 1930s. Kaganovich had “battled the chauvinistic and anti-Semitic Black Hundreds, especially strong in Kyiv, both before and after the 1911 Beilis affair, the Russian version of the Dreyfus affair.”[xvii] The assassination of the Russian Prime Minister Stolypin in the same year resulted in the Black Hundreds attempting “to whip up a pogrom.” In response, the “Bolsheviks took measures to protect themselves and to rebuff this threat,” and “Kaganovich only joined the party after these momentous events.” He studied Lenin’s works at this time, and the Bolshevik leader’s article “Stolypin and Revolution” which depicted Stolypin as “an organizer of Black Hundred gangs and anti-Semitic pogroms” made a “big impression” on him.[xviii]

Kaganovich later became known as the “butcher of the Ukrainians.” As Soviet leader in the Ukraine he received reports documenting “widespread dissatisfaction among workers fuelled by high unemployment, with widespread anti-Semitism, with workers and peasants denouncing the ‘dominance of red nobility of Yids.’” Kaganovich played a “highly visible” role in suppressing this “nationalist deviation” in 1925–28, and later oversaw the forced collectivization of 1932–33, conceived as part of an “assault on the Ukrainian nationalist intelligentsia.” The country was sealed off and all food supplies and livestock were confiscated with Kaganovich leading “expeditions into the countryside with brigades of OGPU troopers” who used “the gun, the lynch mob and the Gulag system to break the villages.”[xix] The secret police, led by Genrikh Yagoda (also Jewish) exterminated all “anti-party elements.” Furious that insufficient Ukrainians were being shot, Kaganovich set a quota of 10,000 executions a week. Eighty percent of Ukrainian intellectuals were shot. During the winter of 1932–33, 25,000 Ukrainians per day were being shot or left to die of starvation.

. . . .

The progression of young Jews from religious fanaticism to political fanaticism was often a psychologically seamless process, with the Messianic creed of Marxism being grafted, without much difficulty, onto traditional Jewish paradigms. All the various branches of Jewish radicalism, the Bund (a Jewish socialist party), Poale Zion (a socialist Zionist party), and communism “sprang from the same root: the great utopia of a new world, the New Covenant that was prefigured by the writings of the socialist thinkers of the second half of the nineteenth century.”

. . . .

Interviewee Max Technitchek recalled how his traditionalist father, through exposure to radical literature, became convinced “that socialism was a good thing, that a day would come when everybody would be happy. Of course the good Lord still had a hand in it — the Messiah, socialism, the vision of future happiness for the Jews and all humanity — all this tended to melt together in his convictions.”[viii] Here we see the conception of Judaism as a self-perceived universalist, morally superior movement — the “light unto the nations” theme that has recurrently emerged as an important aspect of Jewish self-identity since antiquity and especially since the Enlightenment.

. . . .

Brossat and Klingberg note how “the Bolsheviks equated anti-Semitism with counterrevolution” and applied the rigors of martial law to “pogromists.” This attracted huge numbers of Jews into the ranks of the new Bolshevik regime, who “provided very many cadres to both the provincial administrations of the new regime and the army.” The prevalence of Jews in the new administration was such that the “Soviet government [effectively] made anti-Semitism a proxy for anti-Bolshevism.”

. . . .

Solomon Fishkowski, a Poale Zion militant in Kolno, Poland, enthusiastically welcomed the revolution. After being briefly imprisoned for distributing propaganda leaflets in 1918, he enlisted in the Polish army. When the Polish-Soviet war broke out he deserted and joined the Red Army “to rally to this revolution that had proclaimed the end to all discrimination against Jews.”[xvi] Haim Babic, a faithful activist of the Bund in Poland, claimed that Polish Jews like him “demanded immediate and radical solutions, which pressed us to turn towards the east, the USSR.”[xvii] Babic became convinced that “Polish Jews would never escape from their misery without a worldwide overthrow.”[xviii]

When, after the chaos of World War I, revolutions erupted all over Europe, Jews were everywhere at the helm. The old order in Hungary was overthrown by the Hungarian Soviet Republic of Bela Kun (Cohen) who seized power in March 1919 and lasted for only 133 days before succumbing to invading Romanian troops. Of the government’s forty-nine commissars, thirty-one were Jews.[xix] After seizing power they acted in enthusiastic accord with their radical political principles:

Statues of Hungarian kings and national heroes were torn down, the national anthem was banned, and the display of the national colors was made a punishable offense. … Radical agitators were dispatched to the countryside, where they ridiculed the institution of the family and threatened to turn churches into movie theatres. … Antipathy soon enough focused on the Jews. Young revolutionaries of Jewish origin had been sent to the countryside to administer the newly collectivized agricultural estates; their radicalism was exceeded only by their incompetence, reinforcing peasant anti-Semitism. The Jesuits, for their part, interpreted the revolution as Jewish and anti-Christian in essence. … Rumors abounded that the revolutionaries were everywhere desecrating the Host. In Budapest as in the countryside, opposition to the regime, defense of the church, and anti-Semitism went hand in hand.[xx]

. . . .

It is a testament to Judaism’s tenacity as a group evolutionary strategy that Jewish ethnic continuity was unaffected by the official assimilationist ideology of the new regime. The rejection of religious traditionalism was instead “accompanied by a ‘self-affirmation,’ a ‘rejection of assimilation’ by the new public that recognized itself in this original cultural production.”[xxiv] Accordingly, the “massive revolutionary commitment” of Jewish youth in the early twentieth century “cannot be equated with a flight from the Jewish world, an unqualified rejection of this world.” Their commitment was “not a sign of forgetting or denying their identity; they participated in it as Jews” and Marxism-Leninism only “consolidated them in their Jewish identity.”

Pre-revolutionary Jewish schools were almost entirely traditional heder that taught the Bible and Talmud: the post-revolutionary schools were secular institutions impregnated with communist ideology. Despite this, instruction was in Yiddish and the new schools continued to segregate Jewish children from the surrounding goyische society. Here was clear evidence that the Jewish advocacy of radical, universalist ideologies like communism was compatible with Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. Kevin MacDonald notes in Culture of Critique how the Bolsheviks “aggressively attempted to destroy all vestiges of Christianity as a socially unifying force within the Soviet Union while at the same time it established a secular Jewish subculture so that Judaism would not lose its group continuity or its unifying mechanisms such as the Yiddish language.”

. . . .

Soviet propaganda demonized Ukrainian nationalist leaders like Petliura as an “anti-Semite” and “linked Ukrainian nationalism to looting, killing and above all pogroms.” Petliura was murdered in Paris in 1926 by a Russian Jew, Sholom Schwatzbard, who, “inspired by Soviet propaganda” claimed to be “taking revenge for the pogroms.”[xxix] Schwatzbard was hailed as a hero by Jews around the world.

The sudden appearance of large numbers of Jews in leadership positions throughout the ranks of the new Soviet regime, a “revolution in the revolution,” had an electrifying effect on Jewish youth throughout Eastern Europe. Esther Rosenthal-Schneidermann, a Jewish communist from Poland who arrived in Moscow in 1926 to take part in the first congress of activists specializing in the field of education, recalled her emotional reaction to discovering this new reality:

Up till then, I had never seen a Jew in the role of high official, not to say an official speaking our everyday mamelosh [mother tongue], Yiddish. And here on the podium in the congress hall of the People’s Commissariat for Education there were top officials speaking Yiddish, in the name of the colossal Soviet power, of Jewish education that the party placed on a footing of equality with the cultural assets of other peoples.[xxx]

Rubenstein notes how “In a country where Jews had been persecuted and marginalized for so long, it must have been unnerving for millions of people to see Jews among those in charge of the country.”[xxxi] After the revolution, Jews quickly moved into “important and especially sensitive positions in the bureaucracy and administration of the new regime,” and, as a result, the first encounter with the new regime for many Russians “was likely to be with a commissar, tax officer, or secret police official of Jewish origin.” Muller notes that:

with so many Bolsheviks of Jewish origin in positions of leadership, it was easy to consider Bolshevism a “Jewish” phenomenon. And if Winston Churchill, who was personally remote from anti-Semitism, could regard Bolshevism as a disease of the Jewish body politic, those who had long conceived of Jews as the enemies of Christian civilization quickly concluded that Bolshevism was little more than a transmutation of the essence of the Jewish soul.[xxxii]

Or, as Kevin MacDonald has conceptualized it, a post-enlightenment manifestation of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. Following the dramatic reversal of fortune for Russian Jewry under the Bolsheviks, many Jews who had left tsarist Russia to migrate to North America or Western Europe returned to witness the “unbelievable.” It was “a topsy-turvy world” said one such onlooker, A.S. Sachs, where “the despised had come to sit on the throne and those who had been the least were now the mightiest.” He noted with jubilation that “The Jewish Bolsheviks demonstrate before the entire world that the Jewish people are not yet degenerate, and that this ancient people is still alive and full of vigor. If a people can produce men who can undermine the foundations of the world and strike terror into the hearts of countries and governments, then it is a good omen for itself, a clear sign of its youthfulness, its vitality and stamina.”

. . . .

Brossat and Klingberg note how the situation of Jews in the early decades of the Soviet Union is often framed in terms of their victimhood at the hands of Stalinist “totalitarianism” — emphasizing the social and political repression that struck individual Jewish intellectuals, artists and activists. With the purges of the mid-1930s and Stalin’s rejection of “cosmopolitan internationalism” in favor of socialism in one country, the political landscape did change significantly for Jews. Their confidence “in the dialectic of history” was shaken by Stalin’s “restoration of the Great Russian chauvinism.” Stalin was, according to the authors, “a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite” who

had never completely settled accounts with the national obscurantism that had poisoned the social atmosphere under the old regime [i.e. tsarist anti-Semitism] — in contrast to Lenin, who had a horror of racism and denounced national prejudices throughout his life. In 1907, Stalin was highly amused by the joke of a certain comrade Alexinski who, noting that Jews were particularly numerous among the Mensheviks, suggested that it would perhaps be time to “conduct a pogrom in the party.” When the factional struggle broke out in the mid-1920s, opposing Stalin and Bukharin to the left led by Trotsky and Radek, soon joined by Zinoviev and Kamenev, the latter were amazed to discover that Stalin and his clique had no hesitation, in the heat of the battle, in coming out with sly allusions to their enemies’ “exotic” origins and drawing on chauvinist prejudices that remained anchored in the consciousness of Soviet workers.

. . . .

[the authors] note how attempts to frame Jews as wholesale victims of Stalin’s anti-Semitism also ignores the fact that most Jews in the 1930s remained loyal to the Soviet Union and “the idealism and messianism of their actions [was] still just as great.”[xxxv] Furthermore, Jews remained an elite group in the USSR during this period, and most of the women around Stalin and many of his closest collaborators, from Yagoda to Mekhlis, were Jewish.

For the authors of Revolutionary Yiddishland, it is “impossible to understand the scope of subsequent disappointments without stressing how strongly the majority of the Jewish population rallied to the Soviet regime in the course of the Civil War, and the attraction that the ‘utopia’ of the new state power continued to exert on several generations of Jewish socialist militants of Eastern Europe.”[xxxvi] Jews like Bronia Zelmanovicz continued to avidly propagandize for communism in Poland in 1937 (the highpoint of Stalin’s purges in the USSR). Talking to fellow Jews she “explained to them that there was no more anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.” She rapidly came to the attention of the Polish police and was ultimately imprisoned. She noted how “I found myself together with thirteen other young women — militants or communist sympathizers — twelve of whom were Jewish.”

Brossat and Klingberg use the term “revolutionary heroism,” to describe the “militant courage” of these Jewish communists in Poland. The Polish Communist Party was perceived by most Poles as the party of the foreigner, of Poland’s hereditary enemy, “the ‘fifth column’ that had supported the Red Army’s advance on Warsaw in 1920.”[xxxviii] This was when the concept of “Judaeo-Bolshevism” (zydeokommuna) was coined by the nationalist right. Jewish membership of the Polish Communist Party fluctuated between 22 and 35 percent of the total. Jews were even more heavily represented in the party leadership: in 1935 they constituted 54 percent of the field leadership and 75 percent of the technika (responsible for propaganda).[xxxix] According to militant Yaakov Greenstein, “The worse misery, anti-Semitism and political repression grew in the 1930s, the more convinced I was that socialism was the only possible solution for us. The communist movement was a fountain at that time for the Jewish youth in Poland.”[xl]

The unswerving commitment of Galician Jew, Shlomo Szlein, to Stalin was grounded in his identification of Soviet communism with philo-Semitism:

We were on the border of the USSR, and the way in which the national question had been solved in Soviet Russia or Byelorussia, especially the Jewish question, struck us as extraordinarily positive. Younger Jews, in the late 1920s, had joined the communist movement in eastern Galicia on a massive scale. The movement’s power of attraction was that it seemed to promise to resolve both the social question and national question in a short space of time. There was such a high proportion of Jewish youth in the communist movement here that you could almost say it was a Jewish national movement. In any case, the question of stifling or denial of Jewish national identity absolutely didn’t arise. The majority of Jewish young people joined it with a Jewish national consciousness.[xli]

Accusations of “anti-Semitism” directed at Stalin by Trotskyists were indignantly dismissed by leading American Jews in the 1930s. The journalist B.Z. Goldberg responded with anger, claiming “In order to beat Stalin, Trotsky considers it right to make Soviet Russia anti-Semitic. … For us this is a very serious matter. … We are accustomed to look to the Soviet Union as our sole consolation as far as anti-Semitism is concerned.” Even Rabbi Stephen Wise, the most famous rabbi of his generation, regarded Trotsky’s claim of anti-Semitism against Stalin as a “cowardly device.”[xlii] During the 1920s and throughout the 1930s, the Soviet Union accepted aid for Soviet Jews from foreign Jewish organizations, especially the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee which was funded by wealthy American Jews like Warburg, Schiff, Kuhn, Loeb, Lehman, and Marshall.[xliii] During the 1930s, when millions of Soviet citizens were being murdered by the Soviet government, the Communist Party USA took great pains to appeal to specific Jewish interests, and glorified the development of Jewish life in the Soviet Union which was seen as “living proof that under socialism the Jewish question could be solved. Communism was perceived as good for Jews.”

. . . .

Radical Jewish militants were deeply traumatized by the pact between Hitler and Stalin just prior to the start of the World War II. The dilemma facing Jewish communists, the contradiction between their “visceral anti-fascism” and what was now presented to them as an imperative of realpolitik for the USSR, repeatedly cropped up in testimony of those interviewed for Revolutionary Yiddishland. One of these, Louis Gronowski, recalled:

I remember my disarray, the inner conflict. This pact was repugnant to me, it went against my sentiments, against everything I had maintained until then in my statements and writings. For all those years, we had presented Hitlerite Germany as the enemy of humanity and progress, and above all, the enemy of the Jewish people and the Soviet Union. And now the Soviet Union signed a pact with its sworn enemy, permitting the invasion of Poland and even taking part in its partition. It was the collapse of the whole argument forged over these long years. But I was a responsible Communist cadre, and my duty was to overcome my disgust.[i]

For many radical Jews, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 provided a sense of “relief that was paradoxical but none the less immense. They had finally found their political compass again, recovered their footing; in short, they would be able to launch all their forces into the struggle against the Nazis without fear of sinning against the ‘line.’”

. . . .

Stalin controlled the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee at a distance. The JAC was headed by leaders of the Soviet Jewish intelligentsia like Solomon Mikhoels and Ilya Ehrenburg whose principal task was to “develop support for the USSR at war among Jewish communities abroad, and especially in America.”[v] Interviewee Isaac Safrin recalled hearing “on the radio that a Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee had just been set up. Ilya Ehrenburg made a great speech, very emotional, and we began to cry. The woman [he was staying with] didn’t understand what had affected us, and we had to explain to her that it was because he was Jewish.”

. . . .

Stalin dissolved the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in 1948 and a few months later, prominent Jewish writers, artists and scientists were arrested, and Jewish newspapers, libraries and theatres were closed.

. . . .

The authors note how:

Even in the Soviet dictionary, the word “cosmopolitan” was given a new meaning; instead of “an individual who considers the whole world as his homeland” (the 1931 definition), this was now “an individual who is deprived of patriotic sentiment, detached from the interests of his homeland, a stranger to his own people with a disdainful attitude towards its culture” (the 1949 definition). The official press poured scorn on “vagabonds without passports,” people “without family or roots,” always in anti-Semitic tones.

. . . .

For the Jewish radicals who remained in Europe after 1945, the predominant feeling was, with the defeat of fascism, history was now “on the march” and the triumph of the Red Army meant that “the great socialist dream seemed finally within reach.” The order of the day was “the building of a new society in those countries of Eastern and Central Europe liberated from fascism by the Red Army.” Brossat and Klingberg note how “these militants rapidly found themselves drawn into the apparatus of the new states being constructed.”[x]

Jewish communist cadres were “systematically entrusted with even the most senior positions in the army, the police, the diplomatic corps, economic management etc.” Jews were deliberately placed in key positions because Soviet authorities feared a resurgence of nationalism in the countries they now occupied. Jews could be trusted to carry out their plans and were seen as least likely to form an alliance with the local populace against the hegemony of the Soviets, as Tito had done in Yugoslavia.

. . . .

According to Adam Paszt, the Soviet authorities “knew that the population was anti-Semitic, so they tried to conceal the fact that there were Jews in leading positions.” Jews were thus “encouraged to change their names.”[xii] The authors note how:

Few of our informants could resist the siren call. Though well established in France, where he lived with his family, Isaac Kotlarz agreed nonetheless to return to Poland; he was a disciplined militant, and the party appealed to his devotion. Adam Paszt, for his part, had already lived for some years in the USSR, and although the scales had fallen from his eyes, he still had hopes. “I told myself that the USSR was a backward country, that in Poland, a more developed country, the way to socialism would be different.” Those who had been shattered by the defeat in Spain and the discovery of Soviet reality were freshly mobilized by the new situation; this upsurge of utopia, this summons from history. [xiii]

Bronia Zelmanowicz recalled that “When I returned to Poland I joined the party. Almost all the Jews did so. Some profited from the opportunity to rise higher than their abilities or their education should have let them. This was called ‘rising with the party card.’ It did a great deal to tarnish the image of Jews among the Polish population. The same phenomenon was seen in the USSR.”[xiv] The new regimes in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary “needed these experienced Jewish militants, who thus turned from revolutionaries into officials, privileged people in countries that had a hard time rising from their ruins.” The loyalty of these Jewish militants to the new regime was “based not only on conviction, but also on the material advantages that it gave.”

. . . .

Hungary offered an extreme example of the Jewish domination of the new regime brought to power by the Red Army. The key post of general secretary was occupied by a Jew, Mátyás Rákosi, who billed himself as “Stalin’s best pupil.”[xvi] The next five major positions were filled by Jews and a third of higher police officials were Jewish, and many departments of the security apparatus were headed by Jews. Many had spent years, even decades, in the Soviet Union, while others “had returned from concentration camps or who survived the war in Budapest” and who, as well as regarding the Soviets as their liberators, nursed “a burning desire for vengeance” against the Hungarians who had collaborated with the Nazis. Muller notes how “By moving into the army, the police, and the security apparatus, these young Jewish survivors put themselves in a position to settle accounts with the men of the Arrow Cross.”

. . . .

The conspicuous role played by Jews in the brutal Sovietization of Hungary led to anti-Jewish riots in 1946. The oppressive nature of the new regime can be gauged by the fact that between 1952 and 1955 “the police opened files on over a million Hungarians, 45 percent of whom were penalized,” and “Jews were very salient in the apparatus of repression.”[xix]

Ultimately it was the very Stalinism these Jews so zealously implemented throughout the countries of the Warsaw Pact that served to “crush them, or at least some of them, a few years later, so that today they have the sense of a great swindle.”[xx] Stalin’s abandonment of revolutionary internationalism alienated many Jewish operatives throughout Eastern Europe. The authors note how, in the context of this new stance where internationalism tended to be “reduced to the obligatory reverence towards the guardian power, Stalin’s USSR, Jewish militants very often felt out of place.”

. . . .

Another reasons for the Jewish abandonment of the communist utopia was “the direct discovery at their own expense, not only that socialism did not put an end forever to anti-Semitism” but at times willingly used it, as in Poland in 1968, as a political tool. There an “unbridled campaign against ‘Zionists’ on Polish radio and television poisoned public life, with Jewish cadres being silently dismissed.” In 1968 restrictions on emigration were abolished and thousands of Jews left Poland. In Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania, the trials and liquidations of the 1950s “also had an anti-Jewish connotation, sharper or less so as the case might be.”[xxii] Pierre Sherf related his experience in Romania:

I returned to Romania with my wife in December 1945. We were at the same time naïve and fanatical. We had a deep sense of coming home, finally leaving behind our condition of wandering Jew. I was appointed to a high position in the foreign ministry, but after the foundation of the state of Israel one of my brothers became a minister in the Israeli government, and I was suddenly removed and transferred to another ministry. When Ana Pauker was dismissed in 1952, I felt the net tighten around me. My superior in the hierarchy was arrested and a case against me was opened. As in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the USSR, veterans of Spain were fingered as “spies.” …

I never hid the fact I was Jewish, and the Party needed us, as it needed cadres belonging to other national minorities living in Romania. But it was afraid the population would resent the large number of Jews in the party leadership. Like many others, I had therefore to “Romanize” my name. I now called myself Petre Sutchu instead of Pierre Sherf. During the trials of the 1950s, the specter of “Jewish nationalism” was brandished, as in other countries. The suspicion was scarcely belied by future events. Later a member of the political bureau was eliminated because his daughter had asked to immigrate to Israel. In Spain, in the Brigades, there was an artillery unit named after Ana Pauker, but when she was dismissed, it was given a different name in the official history museums.[xxiii]

. . . .

After 1948 many of the Yiddishland diaspora migrated to Israel, some reluctantly, some less so. Brossat and Klingberg note that their decision to interview only former Yiddishland revolutionaries living in Israel was arbitrary, and how the same task could have been undertaken in Paris or New York. The particular situation of their informants did, however, highlight one essential factor: “the gaping, radical break between the world that they lost and the arrogant new Sparta within whose walls they have chosen to live.”[xxvii] These onetime militants for socialist internationalism, who had “waged a bitter struggle against every kind of nationalism” now pledged their allegiance to “the state of Israel, expression of triumphant Zionism”.

. . . .


Revolutionary Yiddishland is another example of that incredibly prolific literary genre: Jewish apologetic historiography. Despite this, the book is worthy of attention because, intended for a Jewish readership, its discussion of the roots and motivations of Jewish radicalism and militancy is unusually candid. It illuminates aspects of Jewish radicalism that are usually concealed from non-Jews, such as how the pursuit of Jewish ethnic interests was the primary motivating factor for Jewish participation in and support of communism in the first half of the twentieth century.

. . . .

Another Jewish reviewer extolled Revolutionary Yiddishland as “a marvelous bitter-sweet book” with the sweetness coming from “understanding the depth and vibrancy of the revolutionary socialist movement, from listening to the voice of the interviewees, and from the matter of factness of their everyday heroism and commitment.” The pro-Palestinian website Mondoweiss described the book as “a memorial to a missing world,” and claimed that “as an aesthetic composition, it is beautiful.” The Jewish Chronicle also praised the book but thought it was insufficiently apologetic and resented its “occasional anti-Zionist animus” (i.e., its very tepid criticisms of Israel) which “mars an otherwise absorbing account.”

3 thoughts on “Book- Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism

  1. Beauregard

    Soros Calls on EU to Regulate Social Media to control people

    “… Open-borders activist George Soros has demanded the European Union (EU) regulate social media because voters’ minds are being controlled and “manipulated”.

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