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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 2. Agro-Joint [work in Russia 1919-1938]

[2.2. Agro-Joint work with Jews according to NEP: Resettlement of Jewish "lishentsy" for being farmers since 1928 - first 5 year plan and collectivization crisis 1929-1930]

[Since 1921: Russia's New Economic Policies (NEP) with hope for private Jewish traders]

The phase of palliative relief was passing; in 1921 the government had introduced the new economic policies (NEP), designed to give the country an opportunity to regain some of its strength by a partial restoration of capitalism (under careful government surveillance) before any further socialization was attempted. Trading was permitted now, and small shops could employ a limited number of workers. In agriculture the difference between the poor, the average, and the "rich" peasant - the kulak - grew. The Jewish trader and artisan could therefore hope for at least some respite and a chance, however slender, to earn his living.

[Poverty in White Russia and Ukraine - Rosen wants them bring into the towns - foundation of Agro-Joint]

Nevertheless, the situation was very difficult. Starvation or extreme poverty prevailed in many parts of White Russia and the Ukraine, where many Jews were still living in the shtetlach, the small towns of what had been the Jewish Pale of Settlement under the czarist regime. Rosen suggested that a large-scale colonization program be started to save thousands of Jews from degrading poverty by taking them out of the little towns, where most of them would have no work in any case. There had been Jewish agricultural colonies in Russia ever since the period of Alexander I, in the early nineteenth century. Prior to 1914 some 15,000 families lived in them.

After the fog of war had lifted, about 10,000 families still lived in what now came to be called the "old" colonies in White Russia and the Ukraine. Help was extended to them, and, by agreement with the Soviet government, new colonies were founded. Up to 1924 some 500 families were so settled under an experimental program. The experiment was held to be successful, and on July 17, 1924, the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation (Agro-Joint) was founded.

Rosen became its president. Financial control was vested in a number of trustees appointed by JDC, who held all the stock in the new corporation.

[1924-1928: 5,646 families settled by Agro-Joint in cooperation with COMZET and OZET]

Under Rosen's direction, 5,646 families were settled between 1924 and 1928, some in the Ukraine, some in the Crimea.

This settlement work was done in conjunction with two organizations: COMZET, the government-sponsored committee for settling Jews on land, and OZET, a quasi-voluntary organization to recruit and screen candidates for settlement.

[COMZET under Peter Smidovich]

The head of COMZET was a non-Jewish vice-premier of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, Peter Smidovich, a man who was very much interested in the success of the venture. He was influential in obtaining the government's agreement to the Jewish settlement of a large tract of land in the Crimea; as much as one million acres were set aside for use by Jewish settlers.

[Jewish section of the CP "Yevsektsia" against Jewish settlements - settlements in White Russia - possibilities in the upper Volga and in the northern Caucasus]

It seems that this agreement was not accepted with enthusiasm by some Jewish Communists, especially by those who ran the Jewish section of the Communist party, known as the Yevsektsia. One feels a constant undercurrent of opposition to the very idea of a foreign capitalist organization being allowed to engage in agricultural settlement in Russia.

It was probably owing to this attitude that the local Yevsektsia in White Russia made an attempt to have agricultural settlement directed there. At the same time, in 1924/5, other settlement possibilities were investigated in the upper Volga region and the northern Caucasus.

(End note 1: In:
-- Na agrarnom fronte, 1925, nos. 5-6;
-- Sobrania Zakonov, 1925, no. 69; 1928, no. 21)

[Jewish settlements on the Crimea partly with Hebrew names as a step for Palestine - JDC and ICA]

It is an indubitable fact that the settlements in the Crimea (p.60)

founded by the Agro-Joint included a number of Zionist colonies settled by people who saw the Crimea as a stepping-stone on the road to Palestine. There were some 13 of these with Hebrew names, some of them - like Tel Chai (there were two separate settlements by that name), Mishmar, Khaklai, Avoda, Kheruth, Maaian, Kadimah - having distinct Palestine-centered connotations.

In 1928 there were 112 Agro-Joint colonies in the Ukraine and 105 in the Crimea. In addition to these, Agro-Joint also helped other colonies with occasional loans or by other means.

ICA [Jewish Colonization Association] renewed its support of the establishment of agricultural colonies as well, also dealing with some of the older colonies, where work had been started in prewar days. By 1928 ICA had settled 1,769 new Jewish families on the soil, and by 1930/1 they had spent some $ 4 million on this venture.

[1926: Professions of the Jewish population in Russia]

The period of the NEP was not accompanied by any easing for the economic situation of the Jews, expect for a small group of traders - the so-called NEPmen. The number of Jews employed as workers in factories had not grown significantly since prewar days, when it had been a mere 46,000. According to 1926 figures, which included some 80% of the Jewish population, only 14.7% of the Jews were factory workers; 24% were employees, 23.9% were artisans, 14.2% were traders, and 16.8% were defined as having no definite occupation, being permanently unemployed or "miscellaneous";

(End note 2: AJ, Grower memorandum, 4/26/29 [26 April 1929])

5.9 % of the Jews were peasants.

[Since 1917: Definition of "Enemies of the people" (lishentsy) - traders, ill-defined occupations, Jewish artisans]

The Soviet government deprived of civil rights all those whom it defined as its class enemies. These people were called lishentsy. They were not allowed to occupy any administrative position, they were excluded from all social and medical services, and their children could not go to state schools, This category included all those who were not "productively occupied". Apart from traders and people of ill-defined occupation, Jewish artisans were also included in this category of déclassés because they employed one apprentice or more.

Since many of the employees were out of work, a large proportion of the Jewish population were in dire straits. Dr. Ezechiel (p.61)

A. Grower, a close associate of Rosen's and a member of the Agro-Joint board, estimated the number of Jewish déclassés at 830,000.

[Jewish Communists in Russia are aiming to destroy the Jewish middle class]

The attitude of the Soviet regime was not tinged by anti-Semitism at that time; but it just so happened that the Jews had been the traditional middle class in Russia, and the Russians' new policies were directed against the middle class. Jewish Communists, who tended to be more "orthodox" than their non-Jewish comrades, bore down heavily on their fellow Jews.

[1927/8: Stalin's regime needs an agreement with the Jews - agreement with JDC - dollars and machinery]

At this juncture Russia came forward with the idea of a vast expansion of the Jewish colonization scheme and offered the Jews large tracts of land, especially in the Crimea. In 1927/8 it was obviously interested in transforming the Jewish population into a productive and loyal force. It also needed grain, and the establishment and encouragement of state farms (sovkhozy), which were set up on state lands, had so far not been very successful. Moreover, Soviet Russia needed American dollars very badly, and an arrangement with JDC meant not only a contribution to the solution of the pressing Jewish problem, but also an influx of both hard currency and valuable machinery, of which the Soviets were very short.

[Rosen wants all Russian Jews to stay in Russia - all Jews should become peasants - and get their rights back]

One of the social problems that Rosen desired to help solve in an expanded program of land settlement was the question of the lishentsy. "The Jewish masses in Russia", said Rosen, "whether they wish it or not, must remain in their country." The most constructive plan for adapting large numbers of Jews to the new conditions in Russia had been found to be agricultural settlement, whereas by contrast, the position of the tradesmen and middlemen in the present economic structure of Russia was utterly hopeless.

(End note 3: AJ 39, 3/30/28 [30 March 1928], pp.1-2)

In the colonies, according to Soviet law, the lishenets would be allowed to regain his civil rights by the simple process of becoming a peasant, a productive member of the society. This was also in the best interests of the government, and again a mutual understanding could easily be reached. The achievements up to 1928 seemed to warrant this expansion of the program. (p.62)

(End note 4:
The statistics regarding Jews in Russian agriculture are contradictory. According to the 1926 census, there were about 150,000 Jewish peasants and their families. Dr. Grower's report of September 1929, however, mentions 130,557 persons (AJ 64). A report of March 1928 quotes the figure of 35,514 Jewish families, which multiplied by four to account for family members would give a figure of about 150,000. But it seems that the statistics included thousands of small Jewish holdings on the outskirts of villages in the Pale of Settlement, which should not really be included in statistics of farmers. The numbers settled by Agro-Joint also appear uncertain. In March 1928, Agro-Joint claimed to have settled 10,000 families, yet another compilation quoted a figure of 7,600 by the end of 1928. A report of September 1929 mentions 12,988 families as having been settled by Agro-Joint (AJ 39, AJ2). Here the figures seem to include those Jewish colonists not in Agro-Joint colonies who were helped by Agro-Joint at various times. The 5,646 families in the text is the lowest figure).

[1928: Jewish families resettled by the Agro-Joint]

It appears that by the end of 1928 the Agro-Joint had settled about 6,000 Jewish families in its colonies. Some 10,000 more were living in the old colonies, and an additional few 1,000 were being supported by ICA, ORT, and Ozet. Some 12 to 15,000 other holdings seem to have been of the kind that would normally be described as garden or vegetable plots. The total population of the Jewish colonies was therefore about 100,000.

[1928: "US" Jews with German with Reform synagogues descent have big plans for Soviet Jews]

Early in 1928 Rosen put the proposal to enlarge colonization activities before the JDC leadership. This came at a time when the economic prosperity in the United States, present and future, was not in doubt, at least not in business circles. The business of the United States was indeed business, and investment capital was looking for outlets. Philanthropy was flourishing too, and the rich families of German Jewish descent were following a modern version of a very ancient Jewish tradition by giving generously (from money partly deducted from their taxes)  to various good causes. They were liberals in the 1848 tradition, dues-paying members of important Reform synagogues, who hoped that nationalism was dying and would be replaced by equality of opportunity and brotherhood of man; and they felt that Jews ought to be loyal and equal citizens of their respective countries.

A Rousseauean and romantic tradition made them especially enthusiastic about agricultural schemes. This was applied to the Russian situation, and the fact that the government was Bolshevik made no difference. Provided the leadership was sincere and the Jews would really be granted equality of opportunity, the project was likely to be accepted.

[1926: Rosenberg's appeal for help for Russian Jews - otherwise Jewry in Russia would collapse - support be Warburg]

James N. Rosenberg wrote in 1926 that

considering how much money the JDC has spent in the past 10 years, and how small a proportion went to Russia, I maintain that Russia stands first. If we fail to continue this work for the Jews in Russia, it will be an incalculably tragic Jewish defeat. The Jews whom we have helped, and are helping in the other portions of Europe, have had a bad enough time, but which of them have gone through anything like the tragedy of the last century, as the Jews (p. 63)

of Russia? Kishineff, the terrible Gomel pogroms, the Beiliss case, the World War, military occupations, civil war, revolt, Petlura, Denikin, bandits, pestilence, famine. The Spanish Inquisition and the bondage in Egypt were second to these [Bondage in Egypt is not right according to new Jewish archeology]. Today these Jews feel a hope. They feel that hope through colonization, and it is their only hope. It is voiced pathetically, but with noble dignity and without any cheap asking for money anywhere. Nowhere have I been pestered or begged for money. They have simply described the situation to me. If we fail these Jews, it will be a collapse of dreadful significance."

(End note 5: AJ 2, 5/26/26 [26 May 1926])

There was no possibility of emigration, and in 1925 Rosen called it a "mockery to talk about emigration".

(End note 6: AJ 51)

Add to that the power of Rosen's personality, his intimate knowledge of Russia, his humanitarianism, his agricultural expertise, his business acumen and simple common sense - and the outcome was clear. Felix M. Warburg for one, was a faithful Rosen admirer: "Looking back upon the work during the last few years, I feel that the Russian experiment has been the one original piece of work for social improvement that has been done, but whenever I try to tell you that I admire you tremendously for what you have done, you blush and change the subject."

(End note 7: AJ 19, F.M. Warburg to J.A. Rosen, 12/17/30 [17 December 1930])

[Rosenwald and others give 10 mio. $ for the Russian Jews]

The major financial power in the circle of JDC's friends was Julius Rosenwald, the anti-Zionist Chicago millionaire who was the architect of the Sears Roebuck empire. Rosenwald, who hated ostentatiousness, was determined to use his money to good purpose, according to his lights. He agreed to provide five-eighths of any sum that might be collected for the Russian venture. The ultimate goal was $ 10 million for ten years, but the immediate aim was the collection of $ 8 million; by late 1928, some $ 7.1 million had been subscribed, Julius Rosenwald pledging $ 5 million (provided the ceiling of $ 8 million in subscriptions was reached), Warburg $ 1 million, and the Rockefeller Foundation $ 500,000 as an outright gift.

The money did not come out of JDC collections, but by private arrangement from a limited number of large subscribers who were canvassed quietly by a handful of key individuals. This procedure was used so as to avoid a head-on clash with the Zionists and their (p.64)

supporters, as well as to prevent a public discussion.

[4 Oct 1928: Rosenberg states colonizations in Russia and Palestine are equal]

In a letter dated October 4, 1928, Rosenberg claimed that there was no contradiction between supporting settlement in Palestine and in supporting it in Russia.

(End note 8: AJ 81, to Alfred W. Saperston)

"Both movements deserved support. The colonization in Russia has resulted in over 100,000 Jews going to the soil, where most of them are already self-supporting farmers." But Rosenberg added a significant comment: "Those who know the situation in Palestine realistically must all agree that it is impossible to have a rapid, large-scale colonization in Palestine." In the meantime, Rosenberg claimed, Jews in Russia must be saved from starvation and ruin.

[Summer 1928: Rosenberg's attempt for support by the ICA is in vain]

In preparing to weather the expected storm of opposition, JDC attempted to enlist the support of ICA for this new program. In the summer of 1928, Rosenberg initiated an attempt to get ICA to contribute $ 1 million to the new scheme, without, of course, attaining any control over the actual operation. It seems that ICA was negotiating in Moscow at the same time that Rosen was. But the conservative ICA directorate did not carry the matter any further, and nothing came of the attempt to gain ICA's support for the venture.

[August 1928 appr.: Foundation of the American Society for Jewish Farm Settlement in Russia (AMSOJEFS)]

The money was acquired by a new company that was formed for that purpose - the American Society for Jewish Farm Settlement in Russia (AMSOJEFS). JDC appointed a Board of Directors for that fund-raising organization, and James N. Rosenberg became chairman. On January 21, 1929, an agreement was signed with the Soviet government that provided that until 1935 AMSOJEFS was to advance $ 900,000 yearly for the agreed purpose of settling Jews on the land. This money was seen as a loan, and in return AMSOJEFS would receive USSR government bonds bearing 5 % interest. IN addition, $ 100,000 a year would be paid for so-called nonreturnable expenses (not as a loan), such as administrative outlays. For its part, the Soviet government guaranteed to put up 500,000 rubles for the Agro-Joint settlements each year and place this budget at the disposal of the Agro-Joint.

[1921: Lenin offers natural resources for help of the anti-Soviet West - the West gives only little response]

There were several unique features about this agreement. In (p.65)

1921 the Soviet government had, under Lenin, offered concessions in Soviet Russia for the exploitation and development of mines, forests, and other natural resources. But there had been little response from an anti-Soviet West.

[1928/9: Soviet Union needs international currency and accepts the JDC settlement program]

Now, with the Agro-Joint, the Soviets reverted to their earlier offer. However, not only did they pledge to return almost all of the amount loaned to them in dollars or gold and to pay interest, but they actually appropriated sums in Russian money to be administered by a foreign organization. The reasons for this attitude can only be guessed:

-- a desperate shortage of foreign currency,
-- a wish to foster good relations with rich American interests,
-- a genuine desire to promote Jewish colonization,
-- and the chance to import seeds and machinery with the money thus advanced.

Yet, it must be added, this liberal policy was possible only in 1928/9, before the full weight of the five-year plans descended on the Soviet Union.

[1927: Trotsky banned - 1929: Trotsky driven out of the SU]

The quarrel between the factions in the Communist party had reached its height in the late 1920s. The left wing, advocating a working-class dictatorship over the peasants (who had to be subjected to expropriation in order to provide the wherewithal for a rise in the proletariat's standard of living), had suffered a defeat. Trotsky was exiled to Soviet Asia in 1927 and left the Soviet Union in 1929. The worker-peasant coalition, the smychka, advocated by Lenin, remained the official policy of the party. Rosen, closely following the events in Moscow, cabled in 1928 that Stalin's influence was waning, that the collectives were a passing fad, and that the Right would increase its influence.

(End note 9: AJ 19 (confidential, hereafter CON), 1928

[1927 appr.: Plan of an agreement between JDC and the SU regime]

Under these conditions, it seemed safe to enter into an agreement with the Soviet government in the hope that no great upheavals were in prospect.

Rosen's views were also reflected in a communication by Joseph C. Hyman to Morris D. Waldman of the American Jewish Committee: "Irrespective of the attempts made elsewhere for collectivization, I am very definitely of the opinion that, so far as the Crimea goes, where the bulk of our Society work and future operations are concerned, the collectivization experiment will not work real hardships on our colonies." (p.66)

(End note 10: AJ 82, 12/11/29 [11 December 1929])

The possibility that masses of Jews would be absorbed into Soviet industry, an obvious result of Soviet industrialization if  it succeeded, was hardly considered. In fact, Dr. Grower said that most Jews would have to become artisans (kustars) because it was obvious that the majority of the Jews could not possibly become workers.

(End note 11: AJ 2, 4/26/29 [26 April 1929])

In a sense, the policy of JDC in Russia was to follow rather closely the example of JDC work in Poland under Dr. Kahn.

[8 years agreement between JDC and SU regime for Jewish settlements]

[1928: 5 years plan of Stalin regime sweeps off all plans of the JDC]

All these intentions and preparations were overthrown by two events - the launching of the first five-year plan in Russia and the economic crisis in the United States. Rosen's prediction had proved wrong. The Right - Bukharin, Tomski, Rykov - had become weaker, and Stalin's center group adopted an audacious and brilliant plan for Soviet Russia to pull herself out of her economic difficulties by her own bootstraps.

The background and aims of the five-year plan have been related too often to bear repetition. However, it should be emphasized that the original concept did not envisage a sudden transition to collectivisation, but planned for a gradual transformation, with 25 % of Soviet Russian farmers' families being brought into cooperatives by 1932/3. The farmers were to be convinced by propaganda, and at the same time there were to be enforced grain collections that would permit the country to buy abroad the machinery and expertise to enable them develop vast heavy industry projects in Gorky, Stalingrad, Kharkov, and other places. These new factories would include tractor-producing plants (Stalingrad and Kharkov) that would supply machinery to the collective and state farms and thus insure a higher salable grain yield. This in turn would increase exports and the industrialization of the country would proceed.

[Since Nov 1929: Effects of the stock exchange crash for Stalin's 5 years plan: Fall of prices for grain - more grain export for the same machinery import]

There were several preconditions for the success of this venture, one of the chief ones being relative price stability in the capitalist world. This condition could not be met: the 1929 depression began in the United States more or less at the same time (October) that the first large-scale steps to implement the five-year plan in Russia were being taken. The depression spread quickly to other countries. It caused a catastrophic fall in all prices, but industrial prices fell (p.67)

less than those of agricultural products. Russia now had to export more grain to buy the same amount of machinery.

[First 5 years plan: Kulaks are driven out]

Moreover, control by the Communist party over their enthusiastic agents sent out into the field was far from complete. They were fanatic competition with each other, and class warfare was practiced in the villages by teams of agents (mostly young party members from the towns, students, and even high school pupils). The kulaks were driven out, subjected to expropriation, exiled, arrested, beaten up.

[First 5 years plan: Agro joint colonies keep intact]

All this did not affect the new Agro-Joint colonies to any great degree, because they had accepted certain cooperative practices from the outset. There were even some communes that practiced a far greater degree of collectivity than the cooperative villages (kokhozy) set up by the party.

[First 5 years plan: Chase of kulaks in the old Jewish colonies - and the distructive effect]

But in the old Jewish colonies kulaks had to be found - even if there were none. An ICA representative gives us a description of such proceedings in a report he wrote to his organization:

This liquidation is entrusted first to a special delegation of communistic workmen sent to all the corners of Russia. This delegation, composed of three persons, arrives at the colony, assembles the poor elements, keeps them shut in all night, and, at 5 o'clock in the morning ordinarily, sends them into the houses of colonists designated in advance. Veritable platoons of execution are thus formed, going to the houses of the "kulaki" carrying communist flags and singing the Internationale. Arriving on the spot, always at 5 o'clock in the morning, they proceed to the complete expropriation of all that belongs to the designated victim, carry off all the furniture, tear from those asleep, old people as well as children, the very sheets of their beds to the very last pillow, leaving the old people and the children on the bare floor and leaving for the needs of the family hardly enough flour - should there be any - only for three days. Mostly, the "kulaki" are expelled from their houses and obliged to leave the district within three days. The "kulak" is robbed of all his goods and, in three-quarters of the cases, is far from being an exploiter, is far from having employed hired help, being in all a more industrious and laborious colonist than the others. He may also be designated as a "kulak" for having at a time long past been engaged in some commerce or other in addition to agriculture. (p.68)

(End note 12: AJ 160, Mirkin memorandum, 2/12/30 [12 February 1930])

[1929-1930: Collectives are torpedoed by the rich who are destroying their livestock and eating them]

The result was disastrous. Between October 1929 and March 1930 some 14,000,000 peasant holdings were united in collectives, mostly against the peasants' will. Of these peasants, only the poorer elements were interested in the kolkhozy. Many of the others, forced to enter the collectives, killed off their draft animals and other livestock because from now on the state would be looking after them in any case. A very high proportion of the livestock was literally eaten up.

[2 March 1930: Stalins decision that collectives are voluntary - 10 mio. peasant families leave the collectives - hatred against the state's programs]

Stalin intervened in this situation, and, in an article in Pravda on March 2, 1930, laid down a new line, or rather a retreat from the original concept: collectives were to be voluntary and people could leave them freely. the result was that about 10,000,000 peasant families left the kokhozy between March and May. The enmity toward the collectives and toward the government was such that the peasants, the Ukrainian peasants especially, deeply resented any person who, for whatever reason, stayed on in their collectives.

[1929: 79 new settlements by AMSOJEFS]

The period of collectivization coincided with the beginning of the expansion of Jewish agricultural settlement by the AMSOJEFS and the Agro-Joint. In 1929 79 new groups were settled in the Crimea and three more in the Ukraine. The total number of families settled was 2,276.

(End note 13: AJ 11. Yet a report by Rosen on 2/13/30 claims that over 3,000 families had been settled in 1929 (AJ 2). The lower figure has been accepted as nearer to the truth).

Rosen watched the scene anxiously; his personal sympathies were Menshevik, and he had a great deal of criticism of the regime. Naturally, he tended to exaggerate the influence of the Right, with whom he found common language, and this tended to warp his judgment. He had not believed that Stalin would win, and this had also been the belief of many of Roen's Menshevik friends, who had cooperated with the Bolsheviks in the hope that the latter would modify their policies as time went on.

[1929: Russia has standard of 1914 - the contribution of the Menshevik]

By now Russia had risen from the depths of economic disaster and recovered its position prior to World War I. The Menshevik and other socialist opponents of the Communist party who had remained in Russia and had cooperated with the regime had played a significant role in this achievement.

[First 5 years plan: Nobody knows who Russia comes out]

Now, however, the five-year plan, decried as unrealistic and adventurous, had actually been inaugurated, and Rosen (p.69)

was extremely apprehensive about the outcome, both for Russia and for Russian Jewry.

[24 Jan 1930: Rosen's report about Russia: Liquidation of the NEP and harsh Communist policy - new enemy of the people (lishentsy) definitions]

On January 24, 1930, Rosen cabled that general conditions in Russia had become very difficult. The Stalin group was in complete control and had adopted a decidedly left-wing policy, whose main features were the complete liquidation of the NEP - amounting to a complete eradication of all private business by means of excessive taxation, confiscation of property, arrests, and exile. The plan would put a strain on investments in government industries, with results that were still to be proven; there would be an ostensibly voluntary, but in reality forcible, collectivization of millions of poor and middle-class peasants, combined with ruthless extermination of the "richer" kulaks.

This, said Rosen, would affect Jews comparatively little, as there were practically no kulaks among the settlers and very few among the old colonists. Under the new policy a great number of people had been deprived of voting rights and were now classed as lishentsy; as such, they received no bread cards and were being expelled from the cooperatives. While the government had at least a 50 % chance of succeeding in the collectivization drive, there was real danger of serious peasant disturbances and perhaps even civil war. Rosen reported discussing these matters with "our colleagues and Jewish leaders" (sic!) in Russia. His conclusion was that the Agro-Joint's work must continue, because its very presence in Russia was extremely important.

[5 June 1930: Rosen's interventions: Voting rights and no legal restrictions for former petty traders - Jewish peasants in cooperatives, but no work in government factories - emigration for Jewish lishentsy]

Rosen had achieved practical results with his interventions with government and party officials. One was the restoration of the voting rights of former petty traders and artisans who had employed one workman. This would affect at least 50 % of the Jewish lishentsy, automatically eliminating all legal restrictions for them. Other Jewish groups of lishentsy would be accepted for land settlement practically without restriction and would be admitted into cooperatives with various degrees of limitation; however, neither they nor their children would be accepted in government factories. Moreover, emigration would be made easier for lishentsy who could secure visas and prepaid tickets from abroad.

(End note 14: AJ 4).

Here, Rosen scored a major victory over his leftist opponents (p.70)

among the Jewish Communists. On June 5, 1930, the government did actually publish a decree that in effect restored to about half of the Jewish lishentsy their basic civil rights. The presence of the Agro-Joint seemed justified even if only on the general grounds of acting as a defensive shield for the Jewish masses.

[24 Nov 1929: Smolar reports about four arrested Jews on Crimea]

The situation looked very grim nevertheless. Boris Smolar, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) journalist who happened to be in Russia at that time, cabled on November 24, 1929, that "notwithstanding their loyalty", four of the Jewish colonists in the Crimea

were nevertheless arrested and sentenced to three years' jail each [and] their property confiscated, leaving only the property mortgaged by the Agro-Joint which according to law cannot be confiscated. ...The local population assured me (that) even government officials are aware that (the) arrested submitted all (the surplus grain) they could. However, arrest was made with (the) purpose of showing neighboring non-Jewish peasants that also Jews are arrested.

[13 Feb 1930: Rosen assures Jewish loyalty to the Communist regime - German colonists are disfranchised]

There was no thought of opposing the government's policy. Rosen pointed out that

with reference to the collectivization policy, we will be obliged to fall in line. It would be impossible and inadvisable to carry on Jewish colonization work under a different system from the general government policy.

The fate of the German colonists who were turned back from the borders after unsuccessful attempts to get out of the country and who were permitted to continue their farming methods without collectivization can teach us a good lesson. Their position now is much worse than before. They are being ostracized, are considered enemies of the government and of the country, and do not receive any assistance from the government or any credits from the government agricultural banks, etc.

(End note 15: AJ 2, 2/13/30 [13 February 1930], p.3)

[Agro-Joint: Resistance against further engagement in Stalin's Communist Russia - not in Kherson district]

On the contrary - extremist elements, who wanted to end all foreign participation in the colonization work, managed to more or less force the Agro-Joint out of the Kherson district in the Ukraine, where a number of its colonies were situated.

[24 Nov 1929: Kherson district: Smolar reports that state agronomists are eliminating the Agro-Joint - the Agro-Joint only can bring the Jewish lishentsy to the collective]

Smolar reported that "in the Kherson region, which is now 100 (p.71)

percent collectivized, the Agro-Joint now limits itself to finishing its buildings ... while agricultural supervision there is done by (a) state agronomist who eliminates (the) Agro-Joint. This resulted in Agro-Joint closing its central office in Kherson."

Smolar's contention was that "it remained to the Agro-Joint to either reorganize its methods to follow the collectivization line being dominated by the state or limit itself exclusively to bringing new déclassés from (the) shtetlach on the soil, settling them on collective principles, and leaving them to the government, since the collectives are supposed to be provided for by the government."

(End note 16: AJ 2, 11/24/29 [24 November 1929])

[And the shtetlach are destroyed].

[12 Nov 1931: Rosen's report that collectivization has driven out many Jews from Jewish colonies]

Despite the fact that practically no expulsion of kulaks had taken place in Agro-Joint colonies, the effects of forceful grain collection and collectivization were similar to those in other villages. Rosen's statement on November 12, 1931, admitted that the collectivization "had driven out a good many people from the colonies",

(End note 17: AJ 2, 11/12/31 [12 November 1931] (press conference)

although this had been denied by him (and as a result by JDC in New York) at the time the collectivization actually took place.

[Since 2 March 1930: Jewish colonies are stable]

Some basic differences, however, appeared immediately after Stalin's famous article (March 2, 1930). Basically, as we have seen, the Jewish colonies had been in the habit of practicing cooperative principles. They had done this before the collectivization drive, though the original aim undoubtedly was the establishment of small private farms. After the collectivization drive many of the Jewish collectives remained in existence, and the Jewish farmers hesitated to leave them.

We have no record of the decisions and arguments that must have taken place on this question in the colonies, but most probably the arguments were of a pragmatic nature. The colonies had at least as great a chance as kolkhozy as they had had when they were private villages.

[Since 2 March 1930: Stalin's regulations for some private possession for the peasants]

The new post-March regulations permitted the individual peasant

-- to retain not only his house, but
-- a cow,
-- a small garden and
-- vegetable plot, and
-- a few livestock as well.

[Since 2 March 1930: Stalin's measures for collectives with big machinery]

The full utilization of Agro-Joint tractors and other modern machinery was conditional upon the existence of a large farming area and a rational division of work. On top of that, the government, despite its temporary tactical withdrawal, wanted (p.72)

the collectives to succeed; it gave fiscal concessions and provided cheap seed and other advantages.

[Since 2 March 1930: Jewish farmers remain more or less collectivized]

Generally, the Jewish farmer was not as intimately bound up with his property as his non-Jewish neighbor was. In short, the Jewish colonies by and large remained collectivized.

Rosen cabled on May 27, 1930, that the general situation was much improved, compared to the January-March period. While a deficiency of commodities, especially of foodstuffs, was felt keenly, three factors helped improve the situation: the partial abandonment of left-wing policies, the generally good crop outlook for 1930, and a marked progress in industrial development, resulting in the almost complete disappearance of unemployment for even slightly skilled labor.

Rosen claimed to have definite information that the left wing of the party was preparing a new attack at the coming Communist party conference. This might cause new troubles, but the chances were that the right wing would triumph. Therefore, he felt, Agro-Joint could safely go ahead with its projects. Moreover, Rosen was trying to get Smidovich to oust and to punish the government officials who had shown excessive zeal during the collectivization drive and had caused havoc, especially in the Kherson area.

[18 August 1938: Report from Chicago Daily Tribune about destruction of Jewish colonies in SU is wrong]

The Chicago Daily Tribune, which on August 18, 1938, had declared that the colonies had been "destroyed by the Soviet government, which had decreed that all individual Jewish farmers must be united in communal agricultural establishments", was therefore quite off the mark.

[13 Feb 1930: Rosen is skeptical to the kolkhozy and is predicting government change or civil war]

Rosen himself tended to be skeptical regarding the chances of the kolkhozy while the fierce drive for collectivization was carried on in Russia. It also seems that he was not quite aware of the tremendous force of the government and the bureaucracy that supported the drive. His view, expressed on February 13, 1930, was that "if it does succeed, everything will be fine. On the other hand, if it doesn't, and there are more chances that it won't, there will be two results. They will have to retreat, and the right wing will come into power and change the policy; or it might result in a civil war." (p.73)

(End note 18: AJ 64)

[Since 2 March 1930: Rosen becomes optimistic for kolkhozy - work with Lubarsky for decollectivization]

His view changed after the March article by Stalin, which put an end to the forcible collectivization. This apparently caused him to agree to Lubarsky's going out to the Ukraine to help decollectivize the colonies.

[12 April 1930: Attack from anti-Communist Merezhin against Rosen - and some Jewish farmers don't want to leave the kolkhozy]

There he met not only with determined Communist opposition - on April 12, 1930, Merezhin, vice-president of COMZET, attacked him personally in an article in the Jewish Communist paper Emes - but also, as we have seen, with a reluctance on the part of some of the Jewish farmers to leave the kolkhozy.

[April 1930: Exodus from the kolkhozy]
Others of course, joined in the general exodus from the collectives.

[9 April 1930: Smolar reports that Jewish colonists take cows and horses away from the collectives]

Smolar reported on April 9, 1930, that in the Krivoi Rog region Jewish colonists forcibly took away from the collectives not only their cows but also horses, which was illegal.

(End note 19: AJ 5)

[31 May 1930: Cable of Smolar about fire in Jewish colony Ingulets because of kolkhoz quarrel]

His cable of May 31, 1930, on the other hand, related the sad story of the Jewish colony of Ingulets near Krivoi Rog, where Ukrainian peasants burned down the Jewish colony because the Jews had not abandoned their kolkhoz.

(End note 20: Ibid. [AJ 5])

[Rosen with feelings between efficiency and the bad methods of collectivization]

Rosen himself appears to have been torn between two opposing emotions. One was that "the idea of collectivization in the production of grain is a perfectly sound one,"

(End note 21: AJ 64, 2/13/30 [13 February 1930])

and the other was abhorrence at the method by which this aim had been achieved. Rosen was, after all, a socialist. His sympathy with many aspects of the Soviet regime was real, and the cooperative or collective principles in agriculture were very dear to his heart. In this he was by no means unique.

[Mirkin supports collectivization totally - only an advantage]

Mirkin of ICA, in the report already quoted, went so far as to say: "I must say that all our agronomists and our officials ... are unanimous in recognizing that collectivization has had only favorable results for our activity and for the colonists themselves."

(End note 22: AJ 160, Mirkin memorandum, 2/12/30 [12 February 1930])

[Since May 1930 appr.: Ukraine: Ukrainian farmers are driven back to the collectives by economic pressure]

The Ukrainian peasants took their time in rejoining the collectives they had precipitately left after March 1930. But slowly they were forced back by economic pressures:

-- they were taxed much harder as individual peasants than as collective farmers,
-- they had few draft animals and livestock left,
-- and they simply could not maintain themselves outside the collectives.

[Since May 1930 appr.: Ukraine: Jewish farmers can exist]

The Jewish colonies prospered by comparison.

-- Their livestock had been damaged to a (p.74)

much lesser degree,
-- their method of working of land did not materially change,
-- and they - especially the Agro-Joint colonies - came out of the collectivization drive relatively well.

[Jan 1930: Fund raising of AMSOJEFS - skeptical "US" voices because of collectivization - appeal to invest in Palestine by Zionist newspaper "Reflex"]

Against this background, AMSOJEFS started to apply the money subscribed to it by some of the richer Jewish elements in the United States. Here again the work started with some misgiving. The collectivization drive cast a shadow over the scene. Attacks by Zionists and from rightist elements abounded. "The colonization plan has not only not solved the economic problem of Russian Jewry", wrote the right-wing Zionist [newspaper] Reflex in January 1930, "but has not had the slightest effect on its economic situation. ... The Jewish villager is not better off economically than the city dweller. They are both starving, they are both in despair, economically, physically, and socially, and they are both a prey to the Bolshevik hounds."

Had the JDC's "fifteen or twenty million dollars been invested in Jewish colonization in Palestine, the Jewish position there would have been impregnable, and the Arab, instead of attacking the Jew, would have eaten out of his hand and would have considered him a savior. Woe to a people whose policies are controlled by men whose only wisdom is a big money bag."

[Russia: Jewish Agro-Joint settlements installed - Germans and Tartars on Crimea have to give way to Jews]

Investment for the establishment of colonies was not interrupted. According to one set of JDC figures,

-- in 1929, 2,276 families were settled;
-- in 1930, 2,250;
-- by the end of 1930, it was said that some 12,100 families had been settled by the Agro-Joint on its colonies in the Ukraine and in the Crimea.

It was claimed that 289 colonies had been founded. A Jewish autonomous region was established near Krivoi Rog around the center of Kalinindorf.

German and Tartar settlers in the Crimea had been moved "voluntarily" to allow for close Jewish settlement, and

[Rosen foresees there is no stability in Russia's society and all work can be destroyed soon]

the situation should have satisfied the Agro-Joint. It did, too - at least in New York. But Rosen was too much of a realist not to grasp the meaning of the swift changes in Russian society that were bound to affect his entire effort.

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