Ana Pauker / Edition 1

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Overview


In her own day, Ana Pauker was named "The Most Powerful Woman in the World" by Time magazine. Today, when she is remembered at all, she is thought of as the puppet of Soviet communism in Romania, blindly enforcing the most brutal and repressive Stalinist regime. Robert Levy's new biography changes the picture dramatically, revealing a woman of remarkable strength, dominated by conflict and contradiction far more than by dogmatism. Telling the story of Pauker's youth in an increasingly anti-Semitic environment, her commitment to a revolutionary career, and her rise in the Romanian Communist movement, Levy makes no attempt to whitewash Pauker's life and actions, but rather explores every contour of the complicated persona he found expressed in masses of newly accessible archival documents.
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Editorial Reviews

Norman Naimark
Robert Levy's book on Ana Pauker is an exciting example of the depth of research that can be carried out in the postcommunist world. Levy uses a wide variety of documents . . . to draw one of the most detailed political biographies we have of any communist leader in the postwar period.
Slavic Review
Choice
Drawing extensively on never before available archival materials, Levy provides a detailed and nuanced portrait of this Romanian communist leader who played a major, international role during the early days of the Cold War.
Forward
A meticulously documented political biography of a powerful Jewish communist leader in Romania.
Nation
Ana Pauker is a rip-roaring story . . . a whiz of a read. . . . I am personally grateful to Robert Levy for writing a thoughtful, meticulous biography . . . that fills the gaps in a mystery that haunted my early radical journey. More important, he reassesses her role in Eastern block history and provides answers to many questions about Romania's special conditions in the immediate aftermath of World War II that I had never thought to frame. Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist explores the impossible contradictions inherent in being an urbane atheistic assimilationist, and a woman, in a fiercely nationalistic, predominantly peasant, deeply paranoid satellite state. Without gliding over Pauker's serious delusions, desperate compromises and calculating moves, Levy pulls off a surprising feat by offering a credible defense for many of her actions.
Jerusalem Post
Levy's warm absorbing and well-documented political biography brings the life of this important figure to well-deserved attention. This is an extraordinarily detailed portrait of an ambitious woman.
Jerusalem Report
A careful reexamination of the largely overlooked Ana Pauker. [Levy's] use of documents and witnesses is solid . . . and he is smart enough to paint her as an authoritarian politician torn by contradictions, rather than completely rehabilitating her.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Virtually unknown internationally today, Pauker appeared on a 1948 Time cover, described inside as "the most powerful woman alive." In Romania, she's remembered as a dogmatic, fanatically subservient Stalinist, emblematic of the terror and repression of the 1947-1952 period in which she served as foreign minister and more briefly as de facto behind-the-scenes leader. Levy easily refutes this image, since Pauker was purged on Stalin's urging precisely for being too soft. What's more difficult is to discover who she really was. Levy concisely describes the recurrent, historically precarious position of European Jews as social pioneers eventually viciously displaced as "parasites" a pattern repeated with revolutionaries like Pauker. Though ultimately unsuccessful in avoiding this fate, she displayed high levels of historical self-awareness, acting in often surprising ways. The central chapters explore her roles in agriculture, party purges and Jewish emigration, which provoked the major accusations against her. As agriculture secretary she opposed forced collectivization and supported higher prices for agricultural products; as a party leader, she opposed the purge of popular leader Lucretiu Patrascanu and the foreign, disproportionately Jewish veterans of the Spanish Civil War and the French Resistance, while her complex relations to her Jewish heritage, identity and compatriots were typically demonized by the anti-Semitism that doomed her. Though Pauker the person remains enigmatic, the political figure's complexities and contradictions, as portrayed by Levy, belie the caricature her homeland clings to, and challenge simplistic notions of the Cold War's darkest hours. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520223950
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 438
  • Lexile: 1860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert Levy completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1998.
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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

Early Years


Details of Ana Pauker's childhood are sketchy. She wrote no memoirs and was apparently reticent to speak at length about her past, even to her own family. Fortunately, several documents from her Comintern file in Moscow fill some of the many gaps in her biography. She was born Ana Rabinsohn on December 13, 1893, to Orthodox Jewish parents in the predominantly Jewish village of Codaesti, Vaslui County, in Moldavia, where her grandparents resided, but she lived her entire childhood in Bucharest.

    Ana's parents had migrated to the Romanian capital in the late nineteenth century, as did large numbers of Jews who initially resided in the provinces. The Jewish population of Bucharest grew from 6,000 in 1859 to 43,274 in 1899, making it the largest Jewish community in the country. Each of two separate Jewish entities lived in different neighborhoods—the larger being the Ashkenazi, with twenty-eight synagogues, and the smaller but better organized and more firmly established being the Sephardic, with only two synagogues. By the end of the century, the Jewish community as a whole could also claim a vast array of institutions, organizations, and charities and was markedly less Orthodox than those in outlying areas. In addition, Bucharest's Jews were decidedly divided by class, with a small, affluent bourgeoisie surrounded by an impoverished mass. The Rabinsohn family clearly fell in the latter category: as Pauker later related, she lived "under very difficult conditions" throughout her childhood.

    Ana's father, Hersh Kaufman Rabinsohn, hadperformed various religious functions as a young man, including that of Hebrew teacher and cantor; later he made his living in Bucharest as a ritual butcher (shoychet), while serving as a functionary at one of the city's synagogues. The late Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen portrayed him as "an ultra-religious Jew, with many Jewish books, severe and principled concerning the respect of religious norms," who openly opposed the Bucharest rabbinate on the grounds that it did not sufficiently support Jewish religious life. Pauker herself reportedly described him as an unrealistic and "exalted romantic" who on temporal matters forever relied on her mother, Sarah Rabinsohn, an unassuming, enterprising woman, the soul and pillar of the family, and clearly the more practical, business-oriented of the two. The parents generated a meager income, not nearly enough to support their four surviving children (two having died in infancy) or to raise themselves out of extreme poverty. But this hardly seems a family that valued material comfort over religious piety.

    Younger sister Bella Rabinsohn's written statement from Pauker's Comintern file reveals that Ana was particularly close to and greatly influenced by her paternal grandfather, "a very interesting rabbi, with culture, intelligence and humanity," and undoubtedly the patriarch of the family. He had personally named Ana at her birth, Bella recalled, "not after someone who had died, as is customary with the Jews, but after Anna [Chanah in Hebrew], the mother of the prophet Samuel, a symbol of the purity of the soul and of modesty, as well as after Anna, the woman from the epoch of the Maccabees, who, with a heroism worthy of history," watched before her own death her seven sons savagely murdered for refusing to disavow their God. The grandfather imparted to his young granddaughter his wish that she live a life "worthy of their name." Totally devoted to her erudite and charismatic grandfather, Ana, "not being more than 7 years old," convinced her parents to let her travel the 150-plus miles alone to Codaesti to be with him.

    From the beginning her exceptional intelligence stood out, and by the age of seven she already had learned from him what her sister whimsically described as "the most difficult parts of Jewish studies." While reportedly clashing with her father over her unyielding demand to attend a boys-only heder (Hebrew school) in Bucharest, she found an enthusiastic ally in her otherwise tradition-conscious grandfather. Impressed with young Ana's "logic, spirit of observation and Scharfsinnul" (sharp mind), the elderly rabbi broke with religious norms of educating only male children and insisted that his granddaughter be sent to school. She attended the Jewish community's Fraternitatea Zion primary school, one of the two Ashkenazi primary schools in Bucharest. Established in 1890, and with a student body of 400, the school was located on the grounds of the Templu Choral synagogue, the most important synagogue in the capital. In 1905 Ana completed the four-year primary course at the top of her class, but despite insisting to her parents that she continue her education, she had to work as a seamstress when they could not pay for further schooling.

    Thanks to the intervention of the renowned Rabbi Dr. A. M. Beck, who had taken the precocious young student under his wing, the Rasela si Filip Focsaneanu professional school soon allowed Ana to continue her studies at deferred cost. This was the only Ashkenazi professional school in Bucharest, with a limited student body of 150. When she completed the program, a combination of trade (tailoring) and scholarly studies, in 1909, Ana was again urged to continue her education, but once more could not afford it. She returned to working as a seamstress in a sweatshop while privately studying with Dr. Beck to take the entrance examinations of a Hebrew-language institute. After she passed the examinations on Hebrew and the Jewish religion, the Fraternitatea Zion school hired her to teach the first grade. She began teaching there in 1910, or possibly 1911.

    Though Ana Rabinsohn completed only eight years of formal schooling, she was nevertheless considerably ahead of the vast majority of Jewish women in Eastern Europe at that time. On the whole, in East European Jewish society formal education was the exclusive domain of Jewish males and consisted solely of religious study. This does not mean, however, that Jews necessarily adhered to these prescriptions or that Jewish women were not informally educated; on the contrary, literacy among nineteenth-century Jewish women in Eastern Europe was quite high. Some girls' hederim (plural for heder) did in fact exist, usually in a separate room of the same building as the boys', and some localities allowed girls to attend the boys' hederim. Moreover, the Bais Ya'akov movement, which provided schooling for Jewish girls, also had begun. But the girls as a rule had a different curriculum than did the boys: they were taught in Yiddish (as well as Russian in the Russian Empire), and regularly used Yiddish translations of biblical stories (the Tse'na Ureena) and other Yiddish texts written primarily for and read by women; the boys, on the other hand, always learned in Hebrew. Moreover, female hederim were rather rare, and female attendance in male hederim fairly insignificant. Instead, most literate Jewish women apparently learned how to read and write on their own or with the help of friends or relatives. A few of the wealthy had private tutors in their homes. By the 1860s a substantial number of Jewish girls had begun going to modern public and private schools in the various big cities of the region, but there, too, the high cost of tuition restricted attendance to the small affluent minority. In all cases, the education of Jewish girls was as a rule strictly utilitarian, a practical tool for the secular business world. This was true even of the wealthy girls with private tutors and of those attending hederim, where sewing was standard on the girls' curriculum. While boys' education on principle focused on the sacred texts and the spiritual realm, girls were schooled on the mundane issues of work and livelihood.

    At first glance it would seem that, despite significant variations, Ana Rabinsohn's experience roughly conformed with this scenario. That her grandfather ignored traditional precepts and tutored Ana as a young child and that she may have gone to a boys' heder briefly was unexceptional. Nor was the curriculum at either the primary or professional schools she attended in any way unique, for her instruction in both practical skills and scholarly subjects fit the current pattern of Jewish female schooling. Indeed, even her special tutorials with Dr. Beck basically fit the general rule, as she was in effect undergoing occupational training to teach at the Fraternitatea Zion school. But on closer examination Rabinsohn's education transcended certain restrictions on a girl's schooling, and she went a step further than practically all her peers. Her grandfather was no ordinary grandfather, but a rabbi, and he did not limit himself to teaching Ana to read and write, as was customary, but taught her an array of intricate Judaic subjects together with her male cousins. Even her mere attendance at a private primary school was unique, as poor families generally could not afford the fees. Her special deferred tuition at the professional school clearly underscores her exemplary, special status among her fellow students. Further, it was still unusual (though it was increasingly becoming less so at that time) that she not only was allowed to learn and matriculate in the Hebrew language but also was tutored in Hebrew only after being encouraged to pursue a higher education. True, the study of the sacred texts was still denied her, but otherwise Ana Rabinsohn's gender apparently did not inhibit her formal education, which was, to say the least, exceptional indeed.

    What finally prevented Rabinsohn from continuing her studies was her poverty and, most particularly, the state's oppression of Romanian Jewry. In 1893, the year of Ana's birth, the Romanian government barred Jewish children from attending public elementary schools free of charge. It also ruled that "strangers" (Jews) could enter state professional schools only when places were available and on payment of exorbitant fees. Moreover, strangers were permanently ineligible for state scholarships, their numbers could never exceed one-fifth of a school's student body, and they were precluded from attending all agricultural schools. Five years later, the government further excluded Jews from all secondary schools and universities. Thus, if Rabinsohn were ever able to continue her education, she would have to have done so in another country.

    This was a period of escalating state anti-Semitism in Romania, where Jews were officially stateless aliens. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which led to the creation of an independent Romanian state, the Romanian government rejected Western pressure to naturalize its Jews, adamantly insisting "that there were not, and that there have never been, any Romanian Jews; there were merely Jews, who had been born in the Principality, but who had never been assimilated, either in speech or in custom, by the Romanian nation." Eventually, however, it compromised, agreeing to naturalize Jews on a case-by-case basis. But, of the entire Romanian Jewish community, which numbered 240,000 in 1912, only about 1,000 "exceptions" had obtained Romanian citizenship by the beginning of the First World War. As the Union of Native Jews declared to the Romanian parliament in 1910:


We have long been the target of a fierce campaign of hatred and defamation, and subjected to legislation that, after declaring us foreigners, has been gradually impoverishing us. But never before has this offensive been conducted with such callousness as of late. For tens of years, law after law has cut down the occupations we are allowed to engage in....
All these measures have obviously been dictated by certain policies aimed at destroying us ..., and with the ultimate goal of depriving us of any possibility of making a living, and therefore, living in this country....
A deadly war is being waged against us.... They sow hatred against us ... in towns, boroughs and villages.... They openly incite violence against us. This is a campaign that uses any weapon and means....
With no reason whatsoever and led only by unsound hatred ..., people are accusing us of being deadly enemies of whatever is not Jewish, of practicing a morality opposed to universal human principles, of dreaming to dominate the entire world, and, particularly, of seeking the destruction of this country.


    By the time this manifesto formally protested the policies of each successive government since 1864, Romania had become a symbol for uncompromising anti-Semitism. Ironically, though, that nation had not been known historically either for violence against Jews or for intolerance of its ethnic minorities. Under various princes of the Wallachian and Moldavian Principalities, the Jews enjoyed many liberties up through the end of the eighteenth century and were, for the most part, living peacefully at the beginning of the nineteenth. But in the early 1700s a long-festering religious Judeophobia led to outbreaks of church-inspired accusations of ritual murder. The accusations reached epidemic levels by the end of the century and culminated in a bloody pogrom in Bucharest that killed 128 Jews in 1801. This heritage assured a preponderance of anti-Jewish sentiment by the time modern anti-Semitism erupted as a major force of Romanian nationalism and as a corollary to nineteenth-century socioeconomic circumstances.

    Romanian nationalism was intrinsically connected to one central fact: the lands comprising modern Romania had suffered under foreign domination for centuries and were subjected to successive waves of foreign rule. Even the most prominent families who made up the landed gentry in the country (the boyars) were in large part of Greek (Phanariot) extraction, having taken the place of the original Romanian nobility. Consequently, fear and loathing of foreigners—be they the Turks, who invaded and occupied the country; the Hungarians, who were seen as oppressors of Romanians in Transylvania; the Russians, the conquerors and occupiers of Romanian lands; or the Greeks (especially in the eighteenth century) and the Jews, who were both "imbued with all the moral defects of the internal foreigner"—were conspicuous in Romanian nationalism from the beginning. This was, moreover, characteristic of nationalism in Eastern Europe generally, where constant oppression created in its various peoples a pronounced suspicion (if not hatred) of anyone even nominally different, as well as an impassioned bitterness toward foreigners. But Romania clearly took it to an extreme. "Hostility to foreigners," Romanian essayist and philosopher Emil Cioran noted, "is so characteristic of Romanian national feeling that the two will always be inseparable. The first national reaction of the Romanian is not pride in the destiny of Romania, or a sentiment of glory, which is a hallmark of French patriotism, but revolt against foreigners, often aired as a swear word, and sometimes crystallized in a durable hatred.... We have lived under foreigners for 1,000 years; not to hate them and not to eliminate them would demonstrate an absence of national instinct." Or as historian and economist B. P. Hasdeu put it in 1871, "Foreigners at the head of the state, foreigners in the ministries, foreigners in parliament, foreigners in the magistracy, foreigners at the bar, foreigners in medicine, foreigners in finances, foreigners in trade, foreigners in publicism, foreigners in public works, foreigners up, foreigners down and yet—Romanism is on the move."

    Modern Romanian nationalism, then, was a conscious rebellion against both external enemies and "foreign" elements residing in the country—elements that played a crucial socioeconomic role in the nineteenth century. The country's traditionally agrarian economy had long consisted almost exclusively of poor peasants living under the harsh rule of the boyars, with no significant middle class or urban life. But the 1829 Treaty of Adrianopole changed this abruptly, ending Turkey's monopoly over commerce in the Danubian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia) and opening them to international trade in 1830. Romania's medieval socioeconomic order made trade with Western Europe even more difficult and had to be reformed as quickly as possible. The large landowners, moreover, found themselves in dire need of capital as Western imported goods became more readily available in Romania. They thus began to lease their land and contract out their monopoly rights on holding shops and stores and on selling meat and alcohol to a growing number of merchants and traders setting up marketplaces (târguri) on parts of the big estates. Romanians traditionally rejected trading. The peasants showed little inclination for it until the beginning of the twentieth century, and the boyars shunned it as demeaning, preferring absentee landowning or the civil service. An imported merchant class filled the role, settling in Romania under the protection of foreign emissaries. The few existing traditional artisan and trade guilds soon collapsed under the competition from these foreign traders, and the latter quickly emerged as the first true middle class in Romania's history, sandwiched between the boyars and the peasant masses.

    The foreign traders in Romania were overwhelmingly Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Serbs during the first half of the nineteenth century. They gradually assimilated into Romanian society (particularly the Greeks and Armenians) and entered politics and the liberal professions. Increasingly taking their place in trade were three groups of Jews: the pamânteni, or "native Jews," a well-established community who had lived in the principalities for centuries; the hrisovelti, or "charter Jews," a number of Jewish merchants from the Russian Empire who between 1780 and 1850 were naturalized by special charters after certain boyars solicited their immigration to help establish small towns; and two waves of illegal Jewish immigrants, the first fleeing Russia during its occupation of Romania from 1829 to 1856, often to avoid the infamous Cantonists Decree (a Russian law that forcibly drafted Jews into the Russian army for twenty-five years), and the second, mostly from Galicia and Russia, arriving in ever greater numbers from the mid-nineteenth century on. Barred from owning land (since 1830) and from entering nearly all professions (until 1919), the Jews were forced to engage in trading, moneylending, and particularly artisan work. In so doing they played a conspicuous and significant role in urbanizing and developing Moldavian markets. Jews made up as much as 50 percent of the population of small Moldavian bourgs (villages) and 3 5 percent of the Moldavian towns throughout the nineteenth century (reaching no less than 57.7 percent of the population in the Moldavian capital of Iasi by the end of the century). They often were the only people with trade contacts abroad. Moreover, newly constituted Jewish entrepreneurs owned most of Bukovinian industry, particularly lumber. At the same time, a small class of urban Jews, especially in Wallachia, underwent embourgeoisement and acculturation by excelling in commerce, industry, journalism, and medicine. As in Poland, however, Jews generally comprised the urban bourgeoisie in Romania's most impoverished regions (northern Moldavia, Bukovina, Bessarabia, parts of northern Transylvania). Yet also as in Poland, their overwhelming majority nonetheless remained steeped in poverty. Their poverty, however, had little impact on Romanian nationalist ideology, which exhibited an anti-Semitism with classic characteristics of a crisis of modernization. All the social tensions of modernization and newly emerging capitalism, deemed consequences of an "evil urbanization" and an erosion of a "spiritually pure" rural life, were blamed squarely on the Jewish minority.

    Center stage in Romania's nationalist indictment of Jews was the "Peasant Question." The British consul general observed in the early 1800s, "[t]here does not perhaps exist a people laboring under a greater degree of oppression from the effect of despotic power and more heavily burdened with impositions and taxes than the peasants of Moldavia and Wallachia." Little was done to alleviate the peasants' plight at any time in the nineteenth century. A partial land reform in 1864 did practically nothing to relieve their wretched poverty and dependence on the big landowners. The small plots many peasants received could hardly support a family, so the peasants had to labor on large estates simply to make ends meet. By 1907, fully 60 percent of Romania's peasants held such inadequate holdings or no land at all (including those whose plots produced a bare subsistence brings the number to 85 percent), while the latifundia of the boyars comprised no less than half of all arable and grazing land in the country.

    In many areas, particularly Moldavia, Romania's tormented and subjugated peasantry increasingly found themselves in direct contact more with Jewish middlemen than with the thriving boyar landlords. Jews were most likely the rural traders and merchants who provided household goods that the peasants could not obtain elsewhere and in turn bought their surplus produce for desperately needed hard currency; they were most likely the artisans upon whom the peasants relied in the newly emerging towns and urban communities, introducing a whole variety of trades to the agrarian landscape; they were most likely the tavern keepers, the distillers, and the mill and lumber operators; and they were most likely the moneylenders to whom the debt-ridden peasants must turn (the state would not lend them money) to pay off their meager and insufficient land holdings. The Jews thus introduced monetary exchange into rural Romania's traditional subsistence farming system, thereby contributing to its transformation into a modern, capitalistic economy. At the same time, they became, at least since the last third of the nineteenth century, the perfect scapegoat for Romanian nationalists, who disingenuously held all Jews uniformly responsible for the peasantry's tragic plight.

    "The Jewish population," a recent study noted, "became a problem the moment the upper class of Romanian society was fully aware of its inability to solve the serious social problems brought on by the political evolution of Romania in those years." Though the socioeconomic system was rapidly changing in a frenzied attempt to adapt to Western standards after the country was opened to international trade, many problems remained: the absolute power of the ruling circles, the corruption and graft in the government, the poverty of the peasants, and the wide-ranging discontent. Promises were routinely made to the peasants regarding impending land reform, such as an 1859 assurance of Ion Bratianu to a delegation of tenant farmers that they would definitely receive land once the principalities were unified. But the boyars, who never developed the slightest sense of noblesse oblige, refused to countenance such an improvement in the peasants' conditions, as it would have threatened their protracted class privileges. They unceremoniously overthrew Prince Alexandru Ion Cuza in 1866 after he dared to abolish serfdom officially and implemented a limited land reform despite their objections. Then they passed several regulations against the peasants in Parliament to undercut the prince's reforms—reforms they depicted as part of a "Jewish policy" harmful to the interests of the Romanian nation.

    As a result, spontaneous, violent peasant rebellions continuously erupted for the next forty-three years: between 1864 (the year of Cuza's ineffectual land reform) and 1907 thousands of local and regional uprisings shook the country, all calamitous precursors to Romania's Great Peasant Revolt of 1907. Authorities responded with a twofold policy, forcefully crushing the jacqueries, often with great bloodshed, all the while striving to deflect peasant anger to a predictable, convenient target. The Jews were not only to serve as the boyars' middlemen, but also to take the blame for the neofeudal order the boyars fought to preserve. At the same time nationalist intellectuals, who worried that the struggle for social reform would unduly weaken the precarious Romanian state, refused to jeopardize national cohesion by genuinely backing peasant rights. Both groups commenced, therefore, to blame the Jews for Romania's agrarian problem. The Jews, they repeatedly declared, were the "bloodsuckers of the villages," the "sore of the peasantry," the "poisoners" of the peasants, "evil parasites" and "lepers" who "earn without working," the "village leeches" who live off the sweat of peasant labor.

    As an immediate, preliminary step to stop the rebellions, the authorities canceled all debts to Jewish moneylenders in areas affected by peasant unrest and then expelled the Jews wholesale from the villages in question. The expulsions began in 1867, immediately after Interior Minister Ion Bratianu prohibited Jews from settling in the villages and rural regions and ordered "vagabond" Jews—he called them "helpless and filthy Jews" who could not find jobs—expelled forthwith. The latter was essentially a reinstatement of Paragraph 94 of the 1834 Organic Laws instituted by the Russian occupying authorities, expelling vagabond Jews or Jews with "no useful trade." The expulsions always occurred where peasants were rebelling, even in urban towns in the vicinity of the revolts (such as Ploesti in 1870) that were arbitrarily reinvented as rural villages to drive out the Jews. They were part of an ongoing process affecting a large number of mostly Moldavian Jews. The Romanian press never reported the process and successive Romanian regimes persistently disputed it, but it continued unabated until the First World War. The expulsions led to countless horrific injustices, including a particularly odious 1867 incident in Galati, where Jewish vagabonds drowned while being forcibly deported across the Danube River. In some areas Jews eventually were allowed to return to their homes, "until," one historian suggested, "the next diversion was needed. The continual expulsions from the villages," he added, "led to the impoverishment of the Jewish masses, and to a degradation and deterioration of their character. The insecurity at times caused certain Jews to be more grabbing and more predatory, seeking illicit profits, and thus providing new pretexts for xenophobia. This vicious circle continued until World War One."

    The situation deteriorated further when the Great Peasant Revolt in 1907 brought the issue of Jewish arendasi (tenant contractors) to the fore. The arendasi became a Romanian institution when absentee landowning in the country escalated from the mid-nineteenth century on, as the boyars, who preferred to live in Bucharest and other European capitals, increasingly leased their estates to tenant contractors. "By 1900," Henry L. Roberts reported, "56 per cent of the area of properties over 50 hectares and more than 72 per cent of the vast estates over 5,000 hectares were being leased, for the most part not to individual peasants but to large tenants." As for the Jews' specific role in this phenomenon, widely regarded as considerable and largely detrimental, scholarly research has determined that the vast majority (72.6%) of the country's arendasi were in fact ethnic-Romanians. Indeed, Romanians comprised the majority of arendasi even in Jewish-dominated Moldavia, though Jewish contractors were conspicuously prominent there. (One Austrian-Jewish family, the Fischer brothers, controlled 75 percent of Suceava, Dorohoi, and Botosani Counties.) Research has also found that the Jewish arendasi initially benefited the estates they administered. They were, in effect, agricultural entrepreneurs who invested either liquid capital or agricultural equipment, improved farming methods, hired workers, and overhauled the estates' mills and distilleries to maximize profits in domestic and foreign markets. In short, they tried to transform often moribund, revenue-depleting estates into viable, modern enterprises.

    After 1875, however, the Romanian economy suffered a severe downturn due to dropping agricultural prices throughout Europe and the United States' gradual dominance of the European wheat market. Romania's decreasing market share froze modernization on its estates, as both landowners and tenant contractors sought to make up for lost income by further exploiting peasant workers rather than expanding mechanization. Gross speculation proliferated as profit margins tumbled: the boyars hiked the leases of all tenant contractors, who in turn squeezed their peasant laborers or their renters, further worsening the peasants' predicament and adding to peasant unrest. Perhaps inevitably, the peasant was often more inclined to blame the middleman with whom he dealt than to blame the absentee landlord, probably even more so if that middleman were a Jew, whom he generally viewed as an alien intruder. Too, Christian arendasi could own their own land and thus were often local farmers seeking to enhance their holdings through tenant contracting; the Jews, on the other hand, were prohibited from owning land and could only lease it for five years.

    One can only speculate whether these restrictions—as did the expulsions—led some Jewish arendasi to turn quick, short-term profits and thus become more exploitative of a land and peasantry with whom they had less connection than did their Christian counterparts. Likewise, one can only speculate to what extent the increasing incitement by government propagandists as well as village priests and teachers generated peasant hostility against the Jews. But one point is beyond conjecture: despite beginning in Moldavia on lands leased by a Jewish tenant contractor (Mochi Fischer), the Great Peasant Revolt ultimately was only indirectly connected to the Jews. It was instead a general social rebellion against neoserfdom and escalating poverty that quickly engulfed the entire country. The Romanian authorities, who massacred thousands of peasants in their panic-stricken efforts to end the unrest, clearly understood this. King Carol in fact rejected the notion that the Revolt was fundamentally anti-Semitic, on the grounds that "for every two Jews assaulted there are 100 dead Christians" as a consequence of the unrest. Nevertheless, the Revolt was predictably "interpreted by those responsible for [the country's] socioeconomic abuses as a victory for the cause of nationalism, as a patriotic manifestation by a Romanian peasantry against oppression by foreigners—the Jews." Forever citing the Revolt's point of origin, the term Fischerland (for the Fischer brothers) was repeatedly employed to illustrate the extent of "Jewish exploitation." Hastily enacted legislation again ordering the expulsion of all foreigners from Romania's villages was immediately carried out with unprecedented zeal. All Jews (some 2,800 people), for instance, were expelled from the villages in Iasi and Dorohoi Counties; they were, moreover, given forty-eight hours to evacuate their homes in Bacau County; and their banishment from Vaslui County, where Pauker's grandparents resided, was particularly ruthless.

(Continues...)

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Early Years
2. In the Movement
3. In Power
4. The Agriculture Secretary
5. Party Purges
6. Jewish Emigration
7. "The Empress's Brother"
8. The Purge
Epilogue
Appendix: Biographical Notes
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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