Uncovering The Plot
In the early 1950s, Bolesław Bierut, Jakub Berman and other hard-line Stalinists in Poland planned to get rid of the communist leader Władysław Gomułka, who was still member of the Communist Party's leadership, the Central Committee. In Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia insubordinate communists were swiftly purged, yet in Poland Gomułka's degradation took years and was never complete. The hard line communists found it difficult to find or falsify charges against him. Gomułka had admiration of Stalin and unprecedented support of the working class, almost unparalleled in any other Soviet-controlled country. After being discredited by fellow Party members and deprived of political power he was secretly arrested in Krynica Health Spa in 1951 by Józef Światło (Izaak Fleischfarb) from the MBP, who had been following him on Bierut's order. For the next 3 years, Gomułka was interned in the special villa belonging to the 10th department of the MBP, outside Warsaw. The legend says that when the vice-minister of Public Security Roman Romkowski (Nathan Grünspan) and the chief of the 10th Department, Colonel Fejgin, came to interrogate him, he attacked them verbally accusing Bierut of collaboration with the Nazi-Germans during the war.385 Yet neither Bierut nor his comrades could afford putting on trial and killing their fellow communist. Gomułka remained intact.
Concurrently, in Moscow, Stalin's health was in decline. After returning from Potsdam he was brought under the power of doctors, a profession he despised as he had used medical murder himself and forced doctors in the thirties to confess to killing Kuibyshev and Gorky. To Beria's and Malenkov's displeasure, Stalin talked about their enemy, Andrei Zhdanov, as his likely successor. Zhdanov soon become “second man in the Party” and managed to persuade Stalin to promote Alexei Kuznetsov, hero of Leningrad who helped to organize city's defense during the Siege, who eventually took Malenkov's Secretaryship. Zhdanov understood that Stalin did not wish Beria to control Ministry of State Security (MGB) so he suggested Kuznetsov to replace him as curator of the Organs. The ruling inner circle of Five (Stalin, Molotov, Mikoyan, Malenkov and Beria), now expanded to embrace Zhdanov, Voznesensky, Bulganin and Kuznetsov.386 Stalin grew senile and more paranoid, especially about the Jews. He told Roosevelt in Yalta that the Jews were 'middlemen, profiteers and parasites”. After 1945, he saw every Jew as an agent of Zionism. After his daughter Swetlana's affair with a Jew (Kapler) and then marriage to another Jew (Morozov), he began to feel the Jews were “warming their way into his family.”387 He knew that the Soviet Jewry was instrumental in appealing for American help. During the war Stalin set up Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC) controlled by Beria, but officially led by the famous Yiddish actor, Solomon Mikhoels and supervised by Solomon Lozovsky. Mikhoels was touring America in April 1943 to raise support for Russia. In 1944, Mikhoels delivered a letter to Molotov, copying in Stalin, suggesting a formation of the Jewish republic in Crimea. Khrushchev had once explained to the Poles that Crimea and Baku were relevant as here, through their connections, “the Jews had created a network to carry out American plans.”388 When Mikhoels' letter came to the attention of Stalin, he began to realise that he too was only an instrument in the plans of the Zionists. Stalin immediately ordered Minister of State Security, Viktor Abakumov, to murder Mikhoels and made Swetlana to divorce her Jewish husband. 'That first husband of yours was thrown your way by the Zionists', he told Svetlana once. She replied: 'Papa', the younger ones couldn't care less about all this Zionism'. 'No! You don't understand', was the sharp answer. 'The entire older generation is contaminated with Zionism and now they're teaching the young people, too.'389 After a visit of Envoy Extraordinary of the new State of Israel, Golda Myerson, in Moscow, on November 20, 1950, the Politburo dismantled the Jewish Committee and unleashed an anti-semitic terror. Consequently, 110 people, most of them Jews, were incarcerated and tortured at Lubianka prison. Molotov's Jewish wife, Polina, was arrested. Stalin sacked Molotov and Mikoyan as Foreign and Foreign Trade Ministers.
Beria and Malenkov were watching carefully over Stalin's moves, removing competition. Zhdanov had soon died from the hear attack, whilst Voznesensky and Kuznetsov were arrested. Soon afterwards Stalin summoned Khrushchev from Kiev, to balance their power, feeling that his days were also numbered. 'I couldn't help but feel anxious', he admitted.390 In 1951, Ministry of State Security (MGB) investigator Mikhail Ryumin reported to his superior, Abakumov, that Professor Yakov Etinger, who was arrested as a "bourgeois nationalist" with connections to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, had committed malpractice in treating leaders like Zhdanov and Shcherbakov, allegedly with the intention of killing them. After this confession, Yakov Etinger was brutally interrogated and died in prison on March 2 ,1951, whilst Mikhail Ryumin was dismissed from his position in the MGB. With the assistance of Malenkov, Ryumin wrote a letter to Stalin, accusing Abakumov of killing Etinger in order to hide a conspiracy to kill off the Soviet leadership. On July 4, 1951, the Politburo set up a commission headed by Malenkov and including Beria to investigate the so called “Doctor's Plot”. Based on the commission's report, the Politburo passed a resolution on the "bad situation in the MGB". Abakumov was arrested and replaced with Semyon Ignatiev. Stalin ordered arrests of Jewish doctors and ordered further interrogations. It was not long before Igniatev and his MGB torturers finally whispered to Stalin what he had suspected for long: that Beria was secretly Jewish, meaning that he worked for the Jews. Stalin's suspicions of Beria were fanned by the ambitious Mgeladze, his boss in Abkhazia, who informed him how corruptly the Mingrelians, a distinctive ethnic group to which Beria belonged, run Georgia.391 Stalin knew he needed to get rid of Beria but did not know how.
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385 Bethell, Gomułka, p. 184 »
386 Ibid, p. 554 »
387 Montefiore, Stalin...,p. 522 »
388 Ibid., p. 574 »
389 Alliluyeva, Letters to a Friend, p. 206 »
390 Montefiore, Stalin, p. 614 »
391 Ibid., p. 624 »