Different strokes for different folks...so stroke this
Elie Wiesel on Lazar Kaganovich
Published: 1995-12-27

Here is how Stuart Kahan describes his uncle, Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich, in his memoir The Wolf of The Kremlin [William Morrow: New York, 1987, pp. 14f.]:

"...Stalin's closest confidant, the chairman of the Soviet Presidium, the man who set up the amalgamation of the state security forces that later became the infamous KGB, the man who personally supervised the purges that ran rampant through Russia in the thirties and forties, the man who instituted more restrictions and quotas on the Jews than anyone else, the man who urged and orchestrated the deaths of 20 million people...the ultimate Jew-hater himself, and the only Jew in the hierarchy."

However, when the name Lazar Kaganovitch crops up in a passage in Elie Wiesel's memoir Legends of Our Time [Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1968, p. 156], it is given a totally different spin. Here is what happened.

Wiesel was in Moscow sometime in the mid-1960s, where he met a crowd of his co-religionist Jews. He recalls a street celebration during which a young man in the crowd began to call out the names of celebrated Soviet Jews. With each name, the "crowd roared back its approval." Then:

"Unthinking, he chose the name of one long forgotten: 'Long live Lazar Kaganovitch!' Someone near me asked jokingly whether Kaganovitch was still alive. Yes, he is still alive, but only the Jews remember him. I wonder if it ever crossed his mind that a day would come when he name would be trumpeted aloud outside the Jewish synagogue, while he himself was banished from the Kremlin walls."

After which, Wiesel makes no more references to Kaganovitch, sentimental or otherwise. Certainly, he expresses no outrage of any kind that the name Kaganovitch was cheered or been the object of easygoing banter.

It's interesting that a recurring motif of Wiesel's memoir had been the need to remember the innocent victims and guilty perpetrators of the Holocaust. Of course, Wiesel is grotesquely mistaken when he says "only the Jews remember" Lazar Kaganovitch. The name has the same resonance for Ukrainian ears as the name Himmler has for Jewish ears.


CODOH comments: There's a name for people who do position spins at opposite ends of the spectrum.


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Author(s): Orest Slepokura
Title: Different strokes for different folks...so stroke this, Elie Wiesel on Lazar Kaganovich
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Published: 1995-12-27
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 25, 1995, 6 p.m.
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