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Soviet Press Mentions Once Unmentionable Anti-Semitism

October 3, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Kremlin long claimed anti-Semitism was a purely capitalist scourge that couldn’t exist under socialism.

But the state-run press has thrown into doubt that official tenet and even suggested there may not have been much difference between Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler on the question of anti-Semitism.

Soviet doctrine for decades has maintained that the overthrow of capitalism in the 1917 Russian Revolution did away with the economic exploitation that fosters anti-Semitism.

One of the publications in the forefront of the ″glasnost″ campaign, the weekly Ogonyok, recently published an expose on a grave near Minsk that contained the remains of thousands of people shot as ″enemies of the people″ in the late 1930s under Stalin.

Ales Adamovich, who wrote the article, said he had clashed with another author who tried to justify the actions of Stalin’s secret police.

‴They believed,′ my opponent stressed, referring to the guards and the watchmen whose tower loomed over the head of all 170 million people (then the Soviet population),″ Adamovich wrote. ″Well, those who committed unthinkable atrocities in occupied Byelorussia, Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic states - could they not also refer to their ‘symbols of faith?’ They could, and that’s how they justified themselves at the Nuremberg trial.″

Another magazine, the monthly literary journal Oktyabr, in its latest edition, printed a passage from Vitaly Grossman’s novel ″Life and Fate″ about the rise of ″State anti-Semitism.″

Oktyabr has been serializing Grossman’s masterwork, a World War II-era historical novel long banned in the Soviet Union, that sketches parallels between wartime Russia and Nazi Germany and the ideological tyrannies of Stalinism and Nazism.

But reader Viktor Koretsky complained in a letter that a ″very important″ segment had been skipped over in the serialization. The journal’s editors acknowledged that part of the novel had been ″omitted,″ but did not explain why. They then printed the missing 2 1/2 -page fragment, including these passages:

″In the course of two millennia, have there ever been occasions when the forces of freedom and humanitarianism made use of anti-Semitism as a tool in their struggles? Possibly, but I do not know of them,″ wrote Grossman, who died in 1964.

In contrast, he said, ″in totalitarian countries, where society as such no longer exists, there can arise state anti-Semitism.

″The first stage of state anti-Semitism is discrimination: the state limits the areas in which Jews can live,″ Grossman wrote. ″The second stage is wholesale destruction. At a time when the forces of reaction enter a fatal struggle against the forces of freedom, then anti-Semitism becomes an ideology of Party and State - as happened with Fascism.″

Oktyabr’s editors noted the segment follows chapters dealing with Adolf Eichmann, the Gestapo official who oversaw the annihilation of millions of Jews, and said Grossman was describing ″the racist policy and ideology of fascism - state anti-Semitism.″

But the passage would appear to embrace anti-Semitism in official Soviet life as well, and in one place, it mentions ″cosmopolitanism,″ a charge used under Stalin to persecute Jewish authors, artists and other figures after World War II.

″No other writer has so convincingly established the identity of Nazism and Soviet Communism,″ said Grossman’s English-language translator Robert Chandler, in a forward to the British edition of the novel. ″The parallels between the two systems are drawn repeatedly...″

Soviet officialdom had little illusion about the explosiveness of the message contained in ″Life and Fate.″ In 1960, Grossman completed the 800- page novel and submitted it to an official literary journal, Znamya. It was returned with a rejection slip calling the work ″anti-Soviet.″

KGB officers were sent to Grossman’s home with orders to confiscate not only the manuscript, but even sheets of used carbon paper and typewriter ribbons. When Grossman appealed to the ruling Politburo for the return of his manuscript, Kremlin ideologue Mikhail A. Suslov reportedly told him there would be no question of ″Life and Fate″ being published for another 200 years.

The book has finally seen print in the Soviet Union because of Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s drive for glasnost, or greater openness, that has brought about a more candid examination of the country’s past.

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