Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
A. writes from
southern England, August 7, 1998:
Regarding the Ilya Ehrenburg page perhaps you could also add one on Kaganovich's biography, The Wolf of the Kremlin, by Stuart Kahan.
I surfed this off the Web at http://www.natall.com/.
"The book is a biography of Lazar Kaganovich, one of the bloodiest of the communist butchers during the 1930s and 1940s and the number-two man in the Kremlin for many years. The book is The Wolf of the Kremlin, and it was written by Stuart Kahan, an American Jew who is Kaganovich's nephew. Kahan went to the Soviet Union in 1981 and interviewed his uncle extensively -- in Yiddish -- to write this biography, and it is a goldmine of revelations.
"To sum it up, Lazar Kaganovich was a Jew raised in the Jewish tradition, a yeshiva boy taught to guide himself on the basis of doing always what is best for the Jews, and this precept actually is cited explicitly several times in the book. He attended his first Communist Party meeting in 1911, when he was 18, to hear the Jewish communist Trotsky give a speech in a synagogue in Kiev; that's right: in a synagogue. He rose rapidly in the inner circle of the Communist Party, which contained many more Jews than Gentiles. His success was due primarily to his aggressiveness and his ruthlessness. In his communist activity he held back from nothing, no matter how brutal or bloody. He even killed his fellow Jews when they got in his way. He was a gangster among gangsters.
"In 1930 Kaganovich organized a special department of the Soviet secret police, with himself as the head. It was referred to as the department of "wet affairs," with "wet" meaning "bloody." That is, it handled clandestine mass executions, of the sort carried out later at Vinnitsa in Ukraine and at Katyn in Russia and at a thousand other places throughout the Soviet Union over the next two decades. Kaganovich became the commissar in charge of mass murder. Yet when the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, it was Kaganovich who was the savior of the Jews: he arranged for the evacuation of all Jews from the frontier areas and their resettlement far to the east, where they would be safe from the Germans. Let the Ukrainians and the Russians bear the brunt of the German invasion, but protect the Jews from hardship and danger at any cost.
[continued in next panel]
"Kaganovich boasts that he saved the Jews once again, in 1953, when Stalin was planning to rid Russia of them, by arranging for Stalin to be poisoned. He and his sister Rosa, who was a doctor, devised a scheme to switch pills in Stalin's medicine cabinet so that he would have a fatal stroke, which he did.
"When the Gentile communist Nikita Khruschev accused Kaganovich in 1957 at a Soviet Party Congress of having murdered 20 million Russians during his career, Kaganovich didn't even deny it. He only accused Khruschev of being a murderer too. "Your hands are blood-stained too," Kaganovich told him. Khruschev pointed out that the difference was that he, Khruschev, had merely followed Kaganovich's orders, while it had been Kaganovich who had formulated the policies of mass murder and had given the orders for carrying out those policies.
"It's a fascinating book, this biography of Lazar Kaganovich. Kaganovich wants to boast about the power he once held, and at the same time he wants to evade responsibility for his crimes, and one can see this ambivalent attitude throughout the book.
"The point of all this is that Kaganovich did manage to evade responsibility. He was permitted to retire and to live out his life in comfort in Moscow. He was expelled from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1957, when he lost a power struggle with Khruschev, and he was kicked out of the Communist Party itself in 1962. So Kaganovich simply retired from the business of mass murder and then lived in peace and relative luxury for nearly 30 more years, until his death in 1991 at the age of 98. Not even the publication of his nephew's autobiography of him in 1987, with all of its revelations of his crimes, brought a public demand that he be punished. Not even after the collapse of communism did anyone call him to account for his genocide against the Russian and Ukrainian people.
"Suppose that instead of being a Jew who murdered 20 million Gentiles he had been a German accused of killing just 100 Jews. "
I have edited the above quotation, for brevity, etc.