n Purely Commentary
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — Friday, July 29,
Describing --My Three Years in Moscow," in which he told of
his experiences in the Soviet Union, Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith
gave an account of the anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic campaign in
the USSR. Written 1949, the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia
stated in his book:
"The record of the Soviet government in suppressing the
historic anti-Semitism of the Russian people was a very good one
for nearly 30 years, and we in the Embassy
were reluctant for a long time to accept
the manifestations in the Moscow press
and elsewhere during the last year as
evidence of a clearly anti-Jewish line."
Then he related: "The campaign be-
gan on ideological lines with a slashing
attack on Jan. 28, 1949, in Pravda on :.
`cosmopolitanism,' which was associated
with international Jewry, with Zionism,
with pan-Americanism and with Catholi-
cism, all of whose followers were said to
be 'cosmopolites actively serving the in-
terests of imperialist reaction.' "
"About this time," Gen. Smith wrote,
"one of the most distinguished Soviet news
writers, Ilya Ehrenburg (himself a Jew),
published an article that laid down the principle that the solution
of the Jewish question lay in the achievement of socialism in the
countries where Jews resided, rather than in the establishment
of a Jewish state in Israel.
"The current offensive, which transcends similar campaigns
that have taken place in the Soviet Union, has deep roots in
Russian chauvinism, with its traditional anti-Semitism as well as
anti-foreignism. But it involves much wider considerations. The
establishment of the State of Israel has revived the attraction of
Zionism for Jews in the Soviet Union, and the Kremlin undoubt-
edly considers it necessary to warn them periodically that only
-nbounded devotion to the Soviet state can bring them acceptance I
At this point. the U.S. Ambassador described the experiences
of Golda Meir, who then still used the name Golda Myerson. He
revealed the following episode:
"During an official reception shortly before I left Moscow,
I was talking. 0, the Israeli Minister, Mrs. Golda Myerson, when
she mentioned the bitterness of some of Ehrenburg's articles
and remarked that she would like to meet him, as she believed
sh0 could convince him that he was mistaken in his hostility
to Israel. I had seen Mr. Ehrenburg only a few minutes before,
so I asked one of my diplomatic officers to find him and bring
him to meet the Minister.
"In a few minutes Ehrenburg came tin, and after some
"11 through an interpreter, Mrs. Myerson asked him
it he spoke English._
"Ehrenburg looked at ke.r- fcciA- momeift—and- fh-e-n- YEilied
in Russian; do not speak English, and I have no regard for a
Russian-born Jew who DOES speak English.'
"The Minister, who was born in Russia, but who had lived
much of her life in the United States, was, of course, deeply
hurt and offended, but Ehrenburg's rude and brutal behavior
taught her a lesson she never would have believed or accepted
from another source.
"Soviet law specifically prohibits any racial discrimination
or anti-Semitism. A few Jews, such as Kaganovitch and Ehren-
burg, hold high nositions in the Soviet Union, and are always
pointed to by the Kremlin to refute any implication of anti-
Semitism. But during the past decade, it seems, Jews have
systematically been removed from influential positions in the
Soviet government and the diplomatic and armed services.
Reliable reports attribute these removals to Soviet suspicion
of Jews as persons who have a tradition of international culture
and ties abroad and who cannot be relied upon to conform to
the increasingly tight ideological straitjacket demanded by the
party under post-war conditions. From the Foreign Office alone,
while I was in Moscow, Litvinoff, Lozovsky, Maisky and less
important but almost equally able Jewish officials were relieved
or relegated to retirement or to positions of less importance."
This lengthy quotation from Gen. Smith's book and the flash-
back to a Russian writer's coarse treatment of the Israeli Ambas-
sador is necessary for an understanding of Ehrenburg's novel,
"The Stormy Life of Lasik Roitschwantz," published by the Poly-
glot Press (224 W. 20th, N. Y. 11), and distributed by Lyle
Stuart (225 Lafayette, N.Y. 12).
This novel was written by Ehrenburg in April-October 1927,
in Paris, where he lived as a refugee. It was never published in
Russia, and the publishers state, in fact, that it "has been sup-
pressed by Soviet censorship." The Russian title of the book is
"Burnaya Zhizn Lazika Roitschwantza." This is its first transla-
tion into English, and the translators are Leonid Borochowicz
and Gertrude Flor.
Born in Moscow, in 1891, Ehrenburg was exiled to Siberia
by the Tsarist regime during his youth. He fled to Europe and re-
turned to Russia after World War I. He then gained recognition
as an author with the appearance of his "Poems About Fore-
shadowings". His publishers say that he was discontented with
the new workers' and peasants' regime and left Russia in 1921 to
wander in Europe before settling in Paris.
He is the author of "Julio Jurenito", "The Love of Jeanne
Ney", "The Fall of Paris" and "The Thaw". He wrote the latter
during the early years of Khrushchev's rule and it "is to this day
suppressed by Soviet censorship."
Regarding his novel now under consideration, the pub-
lishers say: "One is tempted to speculate whether Ehrenburg,
one-time distinguished foreign editor of Izvestia, will appreciate
the acclaim his book promises to receive in the United States."
Now it remains to be seen whether the book will be acclaimed
as anticipated by Publisher Lyle Stuart.
An understanding of the author is necessary in order to
Record and his Novel,
Censored in Russia.
comprehend the fantastic Lasik story. The mere fact that this
Russian Jewish author, who has treated Jews and Israelis with
disrespect, who has shown contempt for Jewry, has resorted to
filthy implications in the very title of the book, is an indication
of the character of the person.
Lasik explains to a commissar, at the very beginning of the
story, that he is an original communist because of the "roit"—
"red"—in his name. As for the last syllable—he insists that it
"means nothing. It is just an empty sound."
Yet, later, in the course of his adventures, while in Paris,
having left Hornet and the other Russian cities where he had his
adventures, Lasik has cards printed to read: "Lazar Chvance, free-
Since this novel may, indeed, attract considerable attention—
as it already has in advance announcements in book sections of
many leading newspapers—it is necessary to indicate some of the
major factors in this so-called "comic fantasy." Lasik has many
adventures and misadventures. He gets in and out of 19 prisons
before finally coming to Palestine. He is in Germany, in France.
in Italy, in England.
While he supposedly is haunted by bureaucrats and persecu-
tors and is the victims of racketeers, he is himself painted as a
weakling, who resorts to or is an accomplice to chicanery, who
does not steer clear of trickery and thievery.
But the chief factor in the story is the Jewish characteristic
apparently selected for exposure by Ehrenburg, who describes
this ne'er-do-well as argumentative, as constantly telling Jewish
stories, as debating, as resortingto pilpul. And while the com-
munists are also exposed—as a hierarchy and as bureaucratic—it
is the Jew Lasik who emerges as a contemptible character.
And here we see the author himself in a demoniacal role.
There is no doubt that he knows all the answers to all the Jewish
questions It becomes increasingly clear that he is well informed
about Jewish life, that he had an exceptionally good Jewish back-
ground, that he studied the Talmud, knows the Bible and apparent-
ly also knows all of the anti-Semites' arguments.
Ehrenburg knows Jewish folklore. His shiemihl character
Lasik constantly tells tales, quotes legends and proverbs.
There is a knowledge also of the Talmud. The legalistic debates
about two who found a tallis and an an egg laid on the Sab-
bath; a tale about a Roman emperor who sent Jews to their
doom no matter how they answered his questions; stories about
the Sabbath and kashrut—scores of narratives point to a
thorough acquaintance with Jewish history and traditions.
Lasik's experiences in England and then in Palestine reveal
also Ehrenburg's knowledge of Zionist conditions. What he
relates, however, is in mockery.
Lasik is always in trouble. Wherever he goes, he lands in
Palestine, where his story ends, is not an exception. And wvhile
Lasik is mocked, the communists also,9re .subiectt&to exposure
Thus. as a comedy the new Ehrenburg book serves an enter-
tainment purpose. As a revelation of a ghetto character, it has
merit and power. From the point of view of self-ridicule and
banality, it is repulsive.
If it is true that the book remains banned in Russia, how can
Ehrenburg possibly retain his position of influence under com-
munism? In the revealing book, "To Moscow—and Beyond," by
Harrison E. Salisbury, published by Harper, which we reviewed
on March 18, we pointed out that Salisbury called Ilya Ehrenburg
"a man of courage." He related that when a proposal was made to
expel all Jewish members from the Soviet Writers Union, Ehren-
burg protested that there was something wrong with the preferred
list because his name was omitted. "Perhaps," Salisbury states,
"because of quixotic action. the Jewish writers were not expelled
as a body, although many, individually, fell victim to the cam-
paign. Elsewhere Jews found few protectors."
Ehrenburg was described by Salisbury as "an evil-tongued
man, a verbal sadist," who enjoyed Stalin's confidence, which
may have saved his life "during Stalin's anti-Semitic orgy of
1948-53. It may have been Ehrenburg's audacity, for he was a
man who invited Jove to strike. It may have been his outspoken
anti-Jewish remarks. With the exception of the late Rabbi
Shliffer, Ehrenburg was the only member of the Jewish Anti-
Fascist Committee who was not arrested in that period. He is
alniost the only survivor of that committee. Why did he sur-
vive? Did he attempt to halt the outrages through his influence
with Stalin? I do not know. My impression is that he did not,
and I have often wondered how he can live with himself today."
On more than one score it can be asked - how can Ehrenburg
and his ilk live with their consciences and themselves? Perhaps
that is possible only under communism; or, perhaps it is com-
munism that forces it upon them.
William B. Miller, of the staff of Polyglot Press, explains,
in an announcement of the book's appearance:
" `Lasik' was omitted from the official version of Ehren-
burg's 'Collected Works,' edited by Nicolai Bukharin in 1928,
and it has remained unknown in Russia despite Ehrenburg's
later distinguished position as foreign editor of `Izvestia.' It is
ironic that Ehrenburg, who was Boris Pasternak's greatest parti-
san in the Soviet Union and who succeeded in gaining wide
circulation within the Communist world for Pasternak's un-
published poems, could not do the same for his own work."
Thus, the mystery widens. But Ehrenburg's Jewish attitude
is far from mysterious. While he tells a good story in "Lasik,"
his approach to the Jewish issues is negative. While he knows
conditions within Jewry and has studied our history, his
character of "Lasik" is an ugly one. From the very beginning,
during La•ik's far-from-pleasant experiences in Russia, until his
end at Rachel's grave in the Holy Land, he is the master of
trickery. HOW can we possibly accept the Ehrenburg novel, the
Soviet-rejected story, in good grace?
But even with its ugly title, the Ehrenburg name may push
it to the top of the best seller list. That has nothing to do with
niceties by Jews towards and about Jews. Nicety and courtesy
and dignity and self-respect in treating Jewish themes evidently
will remain strange to Ehrenburg and his comrades in the USSR.
DR. SAUL LIEBERMAN
Dr. Lieberman and
Bar-Han Speak at
Dinner on Aug. 7
Announcement was made this
week by Detroit Friends of Bar-
Ilan University in Israel that
Dr. Saul Lieberman, professor
of Talmud at the Jewish Theo-
logical Seminary of America,
and Dr. Tuvia Bar-Ilan, acting
director general of Bar-Ilan
University, will be guests at a
dinner meeting at the summer
home of Phillip Stollman and
Mr. and Mrs. Max Stollman, at
2675 Lake Angelus Rd., Pontiac,
Sunday evening, Aug. 7.
Dr. Lieberman studied at the
Slobodka Yeshiva and the Uni-
versity of Kiev before entering
the Hebrew University in Je-
rusalem where he received his
M. A. in 1932. He lectured on
the Talmud at the Hebrew Uni-
versity until 1935, when he was
appointed Dean of the Harry
Fischel institute for Talmudic
Studies in Jerusalem. In 1940
he joined the faculty of the
Jewish Theological Seminary,
which awarded him an honorary
Doctorate in 1941.
Dr. Bar-Ilan is the son of the
noted Zionist leader and one-
time president of the World
Mizrachi Organization, the late
Rabbi Meir (Berlin) Bar-Ilan,
in whose name Bar-Ilan Uni-
versity was established.
Born in Germany, in 1912,
Dr. Bar-Ilan has been in Israel
since 1923. He holds a B.Ch.E.
degree from the Brooklyn Poly-
technic Institute. He received
his Ph.D. degree from the He-
brew University in 1940.
He was a research worker on
the staff of the Sieff Research
Institute in Rehovot and co-
authored articles with Profs.
Chaim Weizmann, E. D. Berg-
man and L. Haskelberg.
Upon his arrival in New York
from Israel, Dr. Bar-Ilan said
that the academic year 1959-60,
just completed, saw Bar-Ilan's
registration soar to 435 students
and a faculty of 90. The budget
was 1,000,000 Israeli pounds
Dr. Bar-Ilan said the 1960-61
budget of 1,250,000 pounds will
be met through an intensifica-
tion of development fund activ-
ities in the United States, Can-
ada and England. He reported
that approximately 40 students
from the United States will be
in attendance when the fall
term opens in October.
30th Birthday in Brazil
RIO DE JANEIRO, (JTA) —
The "Yiddishe Presse," Brazil's
oldest Jewish newspaper, pub-
lished a special edition marking
its 30th anniversary. David Mar-
kus has been editor of the pa-
per for the past 10 years. The
publishers include Dr. S. Male-
mud and Israel Sobel, promi-
nent communal leaders.
The Brazilian Literary Acad-
emy awarded its annual prize
for the best travel book to Pro-
fessor Dante Costa for his work
"Israel: A Country Full of
Life." Professor Costa wrote
the book after a visit to Israel