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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]

[2.10. No documents about the last stays of the Agro-Joint members 1938-1945]

The final chapter of the Russian story is hidden in a dense mist of confusion and uncertainty. No documents relating to the fate of the Russian members of the Agro-Joint board have survived. Not a single central figure in Agro-Joint work seems to have reappeared after the war and Stalin's death. We know that Lubarsky, Grower, and Zaichik were arrested, were shipped to camps or prisons, and disappeared without a trace. Their fate was shared by hundreds of agronomists and Agro-Joint officials. As to the reasons, we can but guess.

Millions of Russians suffered for crimes they did not commit; one of the recurrent accusations was that of contacts with capitalist countries. Members of the Agro-Joint had quite eagerly and openly participated in the activities of a foreign capitalist organization in Russia, and apparently they paid the price.

In a personal letter to Rosenberg and Baerwald dated December 11, 1937, Rosen provided an insight of sorts into this process. Three members of the Agro-Joint bureau in Moscow - among them Dr. Grower - had just been arrested. Rosen connected their arrest with the earlier arrest of his brother-in-law, the former health minister (commissar) Kaminsky ("not a Jew but a very decent man"), who had been responsible for bringing the German doctors into Russia. "A plot is being developed to accuse Kaminsky, in cooperation with the Agro-Joint or perhaps with myself (p.98)

personally as his foreign relative, of bringing German spies into Russia under the cover of helping the doctors." 14 of the doctors had been arrested, though some of these were simply deported from the country. "It would not be impossible", said Rosen, "for Kaminsky to 'confess' and for some of the doctors who have been arrested also to 'confess'; and the results may be rather unpleasant." The arrest of Agro-Joint officials followed these developments.

From Paris Rosen wrote to the Soviet security organs (he knew very well who to write to) and assumed responsibility for anything that had been done by the Agro-Joint. He asked for a visa into Russia and stated "that as far as I am personally concerned, I am ready to waive diplomatic protection as a foreigner. This I consider my duty to do in relation with my friends and colleagues, with whom we have been working together for years. I would feel like a dog should I let them go down under Stalin's tyranny and myself escape because I happen to be an American citizen."

He himself was allowed to enter Russia once more, to wind up the affairs of the Agro-Joint. But apparently he could do nothing to help his friends and relatives who were caught up in the Stalinist purges.