How a Russian War on Communism Became a Russian War on Jews

April 25, 2024 | Isaac Sligh
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Beginning in 1918 and ending around 1923, the Russian Civil War was a bloody and complex conflict that did much to shape the subsequent fate of Europe. It pitted the Soviets (the “Reds”) against an assortment of anti-Communist forces (the “Whites”). At one point, the White Army issued every soldier a rifle and the anti-Semitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Isaac Sligh reviews a new book on this war by Anna Reid:

In A Nasty Little War, Reid unfolds a scathing indictment of White incompetence and malfeasance: five-hour teas taken with the enemy at the gates; shipments of foreign aid whisked away to the black market; skepticism and ingratitude towards Allied help. Worst of all was a virulent anti-Semitism—Jews were indistinguishable from Bolsheviks in White propaganda—that fueled pogroms of terrifying thoroughness. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews were massacred in Ukraine during the Civil War; Reid fingers Ukrainian warlords as the worst perpetrators, but the White Army and its Cossack vanguards as the most systematic.

In light of what Reid agrees was a “rehearsal for the Holocaust,” it is tough to stomach the tut-tutting of British officials, who summed up certain generals as “scallywags” or covered up White atrocities altogether—a proposal from none other than Chaim Weizmann to lead a monitoring mission to Ukraine was rejected.

Reid also argues convincingly that defeated White émigrés helped stoke the fires of anti-Semitism in Weimar Germany. (With such a litany, one should still bear in mind that the Bolsheviks were simultaneously waging what Lenin proudly called “Mass Terror,” including pogroms, much of it beyond the purview of Reid’s book.)

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