Occurring frequently in Nazi propaganda, the term Judeo-Bolshevism suggested a complete identity between Communism and the alleged Jewish world conspiracy that was a staple of anti-Semitic fantasy. In A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, Paul Hanebrink provides a history of this idea, whose roots lie deep in the 19th century, and which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews even before the founding of the Nazi party. The myth, however, grew out of two undeniable realities: the overrepresentation of Jews in the ranks of the Soviet Communist party and other revolutionary movements, and the horrors of Soviet Communism. In his review, Gary Saul Morson takes Hanebrink to task for glossing over these realities:
[S]o far as I know, none of the Jewish Communists was acting as a Jew. One reason this fact is so important is that the idea of Judeo-Bolshevism rested upon the lie propounded in the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion—the most widely circulated anti-Semitic tract in history—that world leaders are actually fronts for the hidden elders and knowingly act to ensure their domination of the world. Since Bolsheviks themselves proclaimed their aim was world revolution, all that was needed was to describe the Bolsheviks as working for the elders.
That is entirely false, and not only because there were no such elders. Bolshevik Jews—not just Leon Trotsky and the Comintern leader Grigory Zinoviev—did not consider themselves to be acting as Jews or for the Jews. The Hungarian Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi, one of the “little Stalins” ruling Eastern Europe after World War II, was, although Jewish, given to anti-Semitic remarks. . . . The Judeo-Bolshevik myth notwithstanding, it was precisely by repudiating their Jewishness that these Jews became Communists. . . .
Central to Hanebrink’s argument, [however], is his rejection of . . . any characterization of Soviet and Nazi horrors as comparable. . . .
And yet, notes Morson, some Jews themselves were among the first to acknowledge the similarities between the two evil regimes:
The Soviet Jewish novelist and journalist Vasily Grossman is usually considered the first person to describe the Holocaust, which he witnessed taking place in Nazi-occupied Soviet territory. With no illusions about Nazism, he, too, equated the two regimes in his famous novels Forever Flowing and Life and Fate. What particularly appalled him was the Soviet collectivization of agriculture, which took the lives of at least 10 million people, half of whom died in a deliberate campaign of forced starvation. . . . The first paragraph of The Harvest of Sorrow, Robert Conquest’s 400-page classic account of this “war in the countryside,” explains: “We may perhaps put this in perspective . . . by saying that in the actions here recorded, about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book.”