Jews in the NKVD of Stalin's Soviet Union
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In celebration of the Golden Calf called political correctness, a "No-No word of the year" is chosen in Germany at the beginning of each new year (Unwort des Jahres). In 2003, the word chosen was "Tätervolk," which means "perpetrator people" or "perpetrator nation". This term is usually used to refer to the German people as the perpetrators of 'the Holocaust'. Using this word in this context does not normally lead to reactions in Germany, since many Germans feel morally superior when they collectively accuse their own people. However, when this word was used in the context of Jews as the main perpetrators of Bolshevist crimes in the early Soviet Union, all hell broke loose.
This happened in October of 2003, when German Member of Parliament Martin Hohmann, during a speech entitled "Justice for Germany" (Gerechtigkeit für Deutschland), pondered the question, whether it was justified that Germany is still today treated like a criminal among nations for what happened two generations earlier. He stated that this special treatment is based upon a concept of hereditary guilt, which is in opposition to all Christian and modern Western values. He rejected the notion that Germans are a "perpetrator people" just as he rejected the notion that Jews should be held collectively responsible for what some ancestors of Jews did during the Soviet revolution. Neither the Germans nor the Jews, he summarized, are Tätervölker.
That comparison was enough for him to get publicly ostracized, thrown out of Parliament and out of his political party (the Christian Socialist CDU), and vilified by the media. However, a criminal prosecution against him for "inciting to hatred" had to be stopped after it turned out that he really didn't say anything wrong. As a result of this, Hohmann's infamous use of the word "Tätervolk" led to this word being the No-No-word of 2003 chosen by an obscure, non-democratic prize committee.
This event may be taken as an opportunity to investigate the issue of disproportionately high Jewish involvement in the Soviet terror apparatus a little more thoroughly.
In 2001, Nikita Petrov published an article that sheds some light into this topic. Petrov investigated the "Tendencies of Change in the Consistency of the Cadre of the Organs of the Soviet State Security during the Stalin Era." Although the time period covered by Petrov, as far as it is of interest here, covers only the years from 1934 to 1941, the data obtainable from documents stored in Soviet archives still allows us to come to some definite conclusions.
|Nationality||10 Jul 34||1 Oct 36||1 Mar 37||1 Jul 37||1 Jan 38||1 Sep 38||1 Jul 39||1 Jan 40||26 Feb 41|
|Russians||30 (31.25%)||33 (30.00%)||35 (31.53%)||38 (33.63%)||58 (45.31%)||85 (56.67%)||102 (56.67%)||111(64.53%)||118 (64.84%)|
|Jews||37 (38.54%)||43 (39.09%)||42 (37.84%)||36 (31.86%)||35 (27.34%)||32 (21.33%)||6 (3.92%)||6 (3.49%)||10 (5.49%)|
|Ukrainians||5 (5.21%)||6 (5.45%)||6 (5.41%)||5 (4.42%)||4 (3.13%)||10 (6.67%)||19 (12.42%)||29 (16.86%)||28 (15.38%)|
|Poles||4 (4.17%)||5 (4.55%)||5 (4.50%)||4 (3.54%)||1 (0.78%)||1 (0.67%)||-||-||-|
|Latvians||7 (7.29%)||9 (8.18%)||8 (7.21%)||7 (6.19%)||5 (3.91%)||-||-||-||1 (0.55%)|
|Germans||2 (2.08%)||2 (1.82%)||2 (1.80%)||2 (1.77%)||2 (1.56%)||1 (0.67%)||-||-||-|
|Georgians||3 (3.13%)||4 (3.64%)||5 (4.50%)||4 (3.54%)||4 (3.13%)||5 (3.33%)||12 (7.84%)||12 (6.98%)||12 (6.59%)|
|Armenians||1 (1.04%)||1 (0.91%)||1 (0.90%)||1 (0.88%)||1 (0.78%)||1 (0.67%)||2 (1.31%)||2 (1.16%)||2 (1.10%)|
|Aserbaijanians||1 (1.04%)||1 (0.91%)||1 (0.90%)||1 (0.88%)||-||-||-||-||-|
|Belorussians||3 (3.13%)||2 (1.82%)||3 (2.70%)||3 (2.65%)||2 (1.56%)||3 (2.00%)||1 (0.65%)||3 (1.74%)||4 (2.20%)|
|Others||1 (1.04%)||1 (0.91%)||-||1 (0.88%)||1 (0.78%)||3 (2.00%)||1 (0.65%)||1 (0.58%)||3 (1.65%)|
|No data||2 (2.08%)||2 (1.82%)||3 (2.70%)||11 (9.73%)||15 (11.72%)||9 (6.00%)||10 (6.54%)||8 (4.65%)||4 (2.20%)|
Table 1, as taken from Petrov's paper, lists the number of leading staff members of the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD, predecessor of the later KGB) according to their nationality. Until the outbreak of the Great Purges in 1937/38, Jews apparently had a huge proportion in the leading positions of the Soviet terror machinery. Petrov explains in this regard:
"Of course, the presence of so many Latvians, Poles, and especially Jews in the leadership of the NKVD is explained by the nature of restrictions prior to 1917, to which they were subjected. With its romanticism of blurring national borders, the bolshevist regime opened all venues to numerous representatives of these nationalities. They justly viewed the new state order as 'theirs,' as one to which they belonged unconditionally. Many representatives of the nationalities mentioned became active in political and social live and successfully pursued their careers after October 1917. The leading cadre of the NKVD reflects this tendency in concentrated form."
Although Jews were not a larger majority in the Soviet Union than, for example, Germans, Poles, or the Baltic people, their dominance in the Leadership of the NKVD is tremendous: They represented the biggest single group, even before the Russians, who numbered more than 30-times as many people as the Jews. It can be assumed that the over-representation of Jews in leading positions of the USSR in general and the NKVD or its predecessors in particular may have been even greater in the years prior to Stalin's rule; at least it can be assumed that the initial enthusiasm of members of ethnic or religious minorities for the new Soviet regime, as it was described by Petrov, decreased with the years between 1918 and 1934, that is, during 17 years of uninterrupted terror. Such a reduction of the Jewish portion will have resulted only for statistical reasons, simply because of the sheer numbers of Russians, it was more likely that a Russian would occupy an available position rather than a Jew.
|Nationality||1 Mar 37||1 Jan 41||30 Nov 50|
|Karelian and Finish||0.1%|
One should keep in mind, however, that this applies only to leading positions of the NKVD. Petrov relates in this regard:
"Jews were not as strongly represented when considering all staff members of the state security. On March 1, 1937, 7% of all employees of the state security system were Jews, and on January 1, 1941, this percentage shrank to 4%. During the years before the war, the principle used to select the cadre members for the nomenklatura lead to a massive change of the ethnic make-up of the NKVD apparatus. At that time, no specific politics to remove especially Jews from the state security existed as yet. That changed between 1950-1953, when the persecution of the MGB system was directed exclusively against Jews. Already in 1950, Jews made up only 1.5% of the entire strength of the operating cadre."
To illustrate this, Table 2 shows the various nationality percentages of all employees of the state security system. Although even here Jews were still overrepresented in early 1937, it is not nearly as drastic as in the leading positions.
Thus, if at the times of the Red Terror members of an ethnic group representing 80% of the population (Russians) were responsible for 30% of the terror, and in turn members of a group representing 1.8% of the population (Jews) were responsibly for almost 40% of the Terror, then the following relation results:
0.4/0.018 ÷ 0.3/0.8 = 22.2 ÷ 0.375 = 59.26
This means that statistically, the Jews of the Soviet Union bear 59 times more responsibility for the Red Terror per capita than the Russian population. Even that does not justify demands for collective guilt, collective responsibility, collective shame, or accusations of being a "perpetrator people" as are often and unjustly imposed on the German people. But it makes understandable, why a German Member of Parliament might touch upon this issue in his speech.
Whoever claims that Martin Hohmann made false statements when he explained that Jews bore a disproportionately huge responsibility for the Red Terror can only claim ignorance of the facts as an excuse.
|||Hohmann referred to the book by Rogalla von Bieberstein as reviewed in this issue of TR. For a complete reproduction of his speech and a discussion of the subsequent "scandal", see Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 7(3&4) (2003), pp. 417-421; online: www.vho.org/VffG/2003/3/Hohmann417-421.html|
|||Süddeutsche Zeitung, 20 Jan. 2004.|
|||Nikita Petrov, "Veränderungstendenzen im Kaderbestand der Organe der sowjetischen Staatssicherheit in der Stalin-Zeit", Forum für osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte, 5(2) (2001), www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ZIMOS/forum/docs/petrow.htm|
|||Petrov gives as sources: "This table was compiled using archival material: GARF, holding 9401, IL. 8, file 43, sheets 33-34; ibid., file 64, sheet 24; CA FSB, holding 4-os., IL. 8, file 11, sheets 310-341."|
|||Ibid., footnote 16.|
Additional information about this document
|Title:||Jews in the NKVD of Stalin's Soviet Union|
|Sources:||The Revisionist 2(3) (2004), pp. 325-327|
|First posted on CODOH:||July 18, 2012, 7 p.m.|