A Yiddish Journalist’s Rare and Honest Account of Stalin’s Brutalization of Ukraine

By 1932, Abraham Cahan, the editor of the Forverts—America’s most significant Jewish newspaper—remained a committed socialist, but was also a fierce opponent of Soviet Communism, having realized early on that not only Stalin, but also Lenin and Trotsky, were unscrupulous tyrants. Seeking accurate information about the situation there, he sent the Ukrainian-born Jewish journalist Mendel Osherowitch to the USSR. Osherowitch’s dispatches were collected into a book, which was published the next year and, at long last, has been translated into English. Mark Glanville writes in his review:

Osherowitch’s honest account in direct, no-nonsense Yiddish (he spoke fluent Russian and Ukrainian, as well), superbly translated by Sharon Power, complements the harrowing contemporary testimony of the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, whose reports of starvation and cannibalism in Ukraine were cynically dismissed. At the time, the New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty concluded that “conditions are bad, but there is no famine” after what he deemed “exhaustive inquiries.” . . . Duranty’s credulous reporting satisfied not only the Russian authorities but a Roosevelt-led American administration keen to maintain friendly relations with Stalin in the face of developing threats from Germany and Japan. It also won Duranty a Pulitzer Prize. Osherowitch’s account remained unread by anyone outside the Yiddish-speaking community until now.

Osherowitch’s book not only bore rare eyewitness testimony to one of the worst atrocities in a barbarous century; it did so from the vantage point of a brother of two of the perpetrators. While [one brother], Buzi, worked for the secret police, Osherowitch’s brother Daniel was a pistol-toting bully whose task was to force peasants to hand over their precious grain at gunpoint. Osherowitch described him as “strong as iron, hardened, armed” before making a devastating observation: “Only barely, at the corner of his mouth, did you notice a smile, betraying a small trace of the good nature our family was known for.”

When he returned to his hometown of Trostianets, he found Jewish life changed beyond recognition. The klayzl (study hall) was now a cinema, the beit midrash a school for modern languages, the kloyz (which Powers renders as a “small synagogue, prayer and study house”) a bottle-cover factory. Only on the High Holy Days did the old shul fill, but many of the pious avoided it, afraid their presence there would compromise children who were party members. Yet for Jews, Osherowitch was frequently informed, Bolshevism had been entirely beneficial.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Joseph Stalin, Judaism, Soviet Jewry, USSR

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security