When Stalin’s Secret Police Persecuted the Chabad Movement as Spies

Sept. 2 2022

Until the Lubavitcher rebbe, Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, was forced out of the USSR in 1927, his was the largest ḥasidic court to remain in the country. And even after his departure with many of his followers, Chabad-Lubavitch continued to maintain a significant network in the Soviet Union—much of it operating underground to avoid tangling with the authorities—which remained in place until the collapse of Communism. Many Chabad Ḥasidim nonetheless attempted to flee in the years just after World War II, raising the hackles of the political police. Dovid Margolin writes:

On June 6, 1950, Mikhail Popereka, a deputy minister of the Ukrainian branch of the MGB, [or] Soviet secret police—the precursor to the KGB—drafted an eleven-page memo on the status of the ongoing investigation into the case of the “Ḥasidim” and sent it to Viktor Abakumov, the minister of state security of the Soviet Union, [i.e., the head of the MGB]. Marked with a hand-written “Top Secret,” the report synopsized information gathered by the MGB over the course of its investigation into “the Schneersohn anti-Soviet organization” via foreign agents, informants, and interrogations.

An anti-Soviet center headed by the “tsaddik Schneerson”—standard shorthand for . . . Joseph Isaac Schneersohn in Soviet documents—had been set up in New York by American intelligence under the guise of a yeshiva, a European branch established in France, and all of it connected to an extensive anti-Soviet network within the Soviet Union. This, at least, is how the Soviet Union’s intelligence apparatus saw it, all the way to the top.

It was Abakumov who in October of 1946 first alerted Stalin to the threat posed to Communism by “Jewish bourgeois nationalism” and launched into the post-war anti-Semitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans,” i.e. the Jews. This dark period would see the liquidation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee—the Jewish organization Stalin had established during the war to rally support to the Soviet cause and raise much-needed funds, whose members were arrested and shot after the war—and the lead-up to the Doctors’ Plot, in which Jewish doctors were announced to have been part of a vast conspiracy to poison Soviet leadership, the development of which was only halted with Stalin’s sudden death in 1953.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Chabad.org

More about: Anti-Semitism, Chabad, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Jewry, Soviet Union

 

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror