Stalin, Joseph Vissarionovich


Stalin, Joseph Vissarionovich
(1879–1953)
   After consolidating his dictatorship over the Soviet Union in 1929, Stalin introduced the first of his Five-Year Plans to turn the country from an agrarian into an industrialized state. Toward this objective, he introduced a policy of forced collectivization to finance his policy of industrialization, and nowhere was this transition more brutal than in Ukraine. Although Stalin would later be a party to the Moscow Declaration in November 1943, which condemned Nazi atrocities, he was no stranger to mass murder.
   It was also in 1929 that Stalin directed the OGPU to eliminate perceived enemies to his increasingly paranoid and arbitrary political leadership. In 1936, Stalin unleashed the “Great Purge,” whereby suspect Soviet citizens were arrested and executed by the NKVD, which had replaced OGPU. Many of those imprisoned were Jews, including many prominent “Old Bolsheviks,” such as Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, as well as an earlier exile of Stalin’s main political rival, Leon Trotsky. As a group, they were accused of conspiracy and treason and, with the exception of Trotsky whom Stalin had murdered in Mexico in 1940, were executed after public show trials. Subsequently Stalin purged the top leadership of the Red Army. The result of the purges and mass killings led to the emergence of a new generation, largely of peasant origin, who became the new political leadership of the Soviet Union. They brought with them not only total loyalty to Stalin but also their anti-Semitism.
   Most historians agree that Stalin was anti-Semitic, but this facet of his personality was not openly evident until after World War II, although he did enter into a treaty with Nazi Germany in August 1939. Following Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin rallied the Russian people to fight the war in defense of the homeland. But the Nazi attack also marked the decision to implement the Final Solution. As it became apparent that the Germans were specifically targeting Jewish men, women, and children for extermination, Stalin announced in April 1942 the formation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the only such organization he allowed to speak on behalf of a national group. The committee’s stated purpose was to disseminate antifascist propaganda among world Jewry, but its primary objective was to raise funds for the Red Army from the Jews of the United States and Great Britain in support of the war against Nazi Germany Throughout the war Stalin not only acknowledged the Nazi bloodletting of the Jews but specifically alerted the West to the Nazi massacre at Babi Yar, where the Einsatzgruppen murdered 33,000 people. Stalin’s policy toward the Jews changed during the Cold War. Stalin, speaking of the “Great Patriotic war,” refused to distinguish between Jew and non-Jew in the conflict against Nazi Germany, which was fought predominately on Soviet soil and resulted in the loss of approximately 26.6 million lives. He ignored the revelations of the Holocaust and refused to acknowledge Jews as having a separate fate at the hands of the Nazi invaders from that of the rest of the Soviet population. Between 1948 and 1953, Stalin waged an anti-Semitic campaign against the Jews, which included the disbanding of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the murder of its chairman, Solomon (Shlomo) Mikhoels, killed on Stalin’s orders in February 1948.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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