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How Stalin “Saved” the Polish Jews ...

(February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 2 No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

One of the most frequent defenses which American Stalinists offered for the Hitler-Stalin pact was that when Stalin marched into Poland he thereby saved thousands of Jews from falling into the hands of Hitler. The argument, for all its speciousness, succeeded in attracting, if not enthusiasm for the pact, then a certain tolerance among Americans, especially American Jews. That Stalin, by signing the pact, helped Hitler march into Poland in the first place either did not occur to them or seemed irrelevant to the actual problem of what to do once Hitler did attack Poland. That is the way semi-Stalinists thought and it was on this line of thinking that the CP and its Jewish section harped with especial vehemence.

Now, however, that many of the secret documents with regards to the Hitler-Stalin pact have been revealed a new light is thrown on this matter. We read in a memorandum by the State Secretary of the German Foreign Office, one Weizsaecker, issued on December 5, 1939, that:

“Colonel General Keitel telephoned me today on the following matter: Lately there have been repeated wrangles on the boundary between Russia and the Government General (of the Nazi occupation in Poland – Ed.) into which the army, too, was drawn. The expulsion of Jews into Russian territory, in particular, did not proceed as smoothly as had apparently been expected.

“In practice, the procedure was, for example, that at a quiet place tn the woods, a thousand Jews were expelled across the Russian border; 15 kilometers away, they came back, with the Russian commander trying to force the German one to readmit the group. As It was a case involving foreign policy ...” (The report continues by discussing inner Nazi relationships with regard to how to handle this problem.)

These are sentences that should be read very carefully, not once but twice and three times.

For they give the lie completely and irremediably to the Stalinist claim that the Russian invasion of Poland was motivated by a desire to help the Polish Jews. Here we discover that when the Nazis themselves tried to push Jews into the Russian zone, the Russians – rather than welcoming the Jews, rather than taking them into their area and saving them from Nazi death camps – proceeded to drive them right back to the Nazis!

Notice, further, that the document quoted above speaks of this not as an isolated event but mentions it as an example of a procedure, a pattern. In other words, the incident must have been repeated many times, otherwise why should the Nazi General Keitel have complained?

What will the American Stalinists say to that? What will their Jewish paper, the Freiheit, say? Will they still continue to speak of the Hitler-Stalin division of Poland as a means of “saving” the Polish Jews? Or will they try to brazen out the scandal by silence?

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