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Revelations from the Russian Archives


THE JEWISH ANTIFASCIST COMMITTEE


The Jewish Antifascist Committee (JAC) was formed in Kuibyshev in April 1942. Two Polish Jewish socialists, Henryk Erlich and Viktor Alter (both of whom were later secretly executed), may have proposed the idea to Lavrenti Beria, the head of the NKVD. The organization was meant to serve the interests of Soviet foreign policy and the Soviet military through media propaganda -- as well as through personal contacts with Jews abroad, especially in Britain and the United States, designed to influence public opinion and enlist foreign support for the Soviet war effort.

The chairman of the JAC was Solomon Mikhoels, a famous actor and director of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater. Shakne Epshtein, a Yiddish journalist, was the secretary and editor of the JAC's newspaper, Einikait (Unity). Other prominent JAC members were the poet Itsik Feffer, a former member of the Bund (a Jewish socialist movement that existed from 1897 to 1921 and supported the Mensheviks), the writer Il'ia Ehrenburg, General Aaron Katz of the Stalin Military Academy, and Boris Shimelovich, the chief surgeon of the Red Army, as well as some non-Jews from the arts, sciences, and the military.

A year after its establishment, the JAC was moved to Moscow and became one of the most important centers of Jewish culture and Yiddish literature until the German invasion. The JAC broadcast pro-Soviet propaganda to foreign audiences several times a week, telling them of the absence of anti-Semitism and of the great anti-Nazi efforts being made by the Soviet military.

In 1948, Mikhoels was assassinated by secret agents of Stalin, and, as part of a newly launched official anti-Semitic campaign, the JAC was disbanded in November and most of its members arrested.


Memorandum concerning the Jewish Antifascist Committee

Translation of the memorandum


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