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Massive Overrepresentation of Jews in the Leadership of the Soviet Communist Secret Police—the NKVD

jan peczkis|Tuesday, July 28, 2015

WHO HEADED THE NKVD is the title of this Russian-language book. I read Russian, and have perused this scholarly work. It is authored by Nikita Vasilevich Petrov and Konstantin V. Skorkin.



The book begins with information on the kinds of NKVD leadership positions, and who specifically held them through the 1930’s. The heart of this book (pp. 80-464) is biographical information on several hundred NKVD leaders. This includes photos of them, dates of birth and death, their nationalities, the offices they held, etc.

The remainder of this work discusses the numbers, and layout, of the leading NKVD personnel. The most fascinating part is Table 4. (p. 495). It apportions NKVD leaders by nationality—in terms of relative numbers as well as percentages. In 1934-1937, there were more Jews as heads of the NKVD than any other nationality—including Russians! In terms of percentage, Jews constituted 37-39% of all NKVD leaders. (To keep this in perspective, Jews were only about 2% of the population of the USSR).

Some commentators have tried to make something of the fact Poles and Latvians were also overrepresented in the leadership of the NKVD. This was only slightly true, and nowhere comparable to the overrepresentation of the Jews—not even close. In 1934-1937, Latvians were 7-8%, and Poles were 4-5%, of leadership positions in the NKVD, as compared with the 37%-39% Jews.

The authors tabulate 11 nationalities in the leadership of the NKVD, in their Table 4. (p. 495). During 1934-1937, Jews, Russians, and Ukrainians (in that order of abundance) collectively accounted for 72%-83% of the leadership of the NKVD. Obviously, the number and percentage of Jews far exceeded the COMBINED total of all NKVD leaders that were not eastern Slavic (Russian or Ukrainian).

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Here is a scholarly article that analyzes this seminal KTO RUKOVODIL NKVD work:

Zeltser, A. 2004. Jews in the Upper Ranks of the NKVD, 1934-1943. JEWS IN RUSSIA AND EASTERN EUROPE 1(52)64-89.

The figures cited in this work, and largely based on the KTO RUKOVODIL NKVD book, are minimum estimates of the numbers of Jews, because an unknown number of them were crypto-Jews who had declared themselves of another background (Russian, etc.). Zeltser notes that (quote) The top secret service personnel of Jewish origin often changed their first names and last names, as well as patronymics. This tendency was also widespread among Party and government officials. However, there were many Chekists who retained these clear signs of Jewish origin. (unquote). (p. 75).

THE DATA

Based on the tabulated data, here are the statistics (p. 71) for the 95 top NKVD leaders on July 7, 1934, in terms of (number, percent of the 95): Jews (37, 38.9%), Russians (30, 31.6%), foreign groups [Latvians, Poles, Germans] (15, 15.8%), Ukrainians (5, 5.3%), other Soviet minorities [e. g., Georgians] (8, 8.4%).

Some commentators have tried to make something of the fact that, besides the Jews, the Latvians and Poles were also overrepresented in the leadership of the Soviet security forces. While this was true soon after the Russian Revolution (1917), it was a distant memory by 1934, while Jewish overrepresentation had been a constant.

Although the absolute and especially the relative number of Jews in the leadership of the NKVD declined by the late 1930’s, some of the leadership categories retained a massive Jewish overrepresentation. For instance, the Top Leadership and Secretariat, and the GUGB (Main State Security Administration), had approximately 40% Jewish leadership in the top NKVD posts, in 1934-1941.

JEWS DOMINATED THE HIGHEST POSITIONS RELATED TO THE SOVIET POLICE

In general, and consistent with the premise of the Zydokomuna (Judeo-Bolshevism), the higher the level of the Soviet Communist government, the more massive was the Jewish over-representation. With reference to the NKVD, Zeltser writes, (quote) The phenomenon of Jews in top positions reached its peak under Yagoda and Yezhov…Of the ten deputy commissars between July 1934 and September 1938, five were of Jewish origin. Jews occupied significant positions in the state security leadership. From December 1936 to April 1937, Agranov was head of the GUGB. Until the March 1938 reorganization of state security, all three heads of the Department of Government Security were Jews, as were the three heads of the Counter-intelligence department, three of the four heads of the Secret-political Department, two of the three heads of the Special Department (OO), and one of the two heads of the Foreign Department. A Jew also headed the top-secret “special group” of the NKVD secretariat, which answered directly to the people’s commissar and was responsible for sabotage behind enemy lines in the event of war. During this period both heads of the GULAG were Jews, as was the head of police…Particularly significant was the number of Jews in top positions in the State Security Administration itself: Jews occupied six of the 13 posts. (unquote). (pp. 78-79).

JEWS FROM NON-BOLSHEVIK BACKGROUNDS IN NKVD LEADERSHIP

Interestingly, Jews, more than non-Jews, managed to secure high positions in the NKVD regardless of their prior political background. Zeltser comments, (quote) Of the 572 top NKVD personnel about whom we have biographies for the period 1934-1941, 37 (6.5%) had non-Bolshevik pasts; some of these had been on the side of the Whites. The proportion of Jews with a non-Bolshevik past was even higher—19% (22 out of 115). Nine of the 22 had belonged to Jewish parties (Poalei Zion and the Bund), while others had been Mensheviks, Right or Left Social Revolutionaries (SR), or members of the Ukrainian SRs (the BOROT’BISTY…Furthermore, some of the Chekists had “undesirable” family backgrounds (for Jews this meant that the father had been considered a well-off merchant or an entrepreneur). (unquote). (p. 86).

LIMITED HARM TO JEWS FROM SOVIET POLICY CHANGES

Much has been written of Stalin’s purges, in rather lachrymose manner, in how they affected the Jews. However, this was an across-the-board policy, effectively a Russification of the NKVD. Zeltser remarks, (quote) The newly adopted model of Soviet patriotism favored the KONENNYE peoples of the USSR, first of all the Russians, and gave them preference in promotion from 1937 onward. Representatives of “foreign” ethnic groups (Poles, Germans, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Greeks, etc.) were considered disloyal elements and they were gradually removed from institutions like the NKVD that the authorities considered to be of strategic importance…However, the total elimination of “foreigners” from sensitive fields did not affect Jews as such. When the latter was repressed, it was as political emigres, political refugees, or for having some tie to Poland, Latvia, or Germany. In general, they were not treated as harshly as ethnic Poles, Latvians, or Germans. At the same time, the preferential advancement of Russians and other Eastern Slavs was the most significant phenomenon. (unquote). (pp. 83-84).

Stalin's anti-Jewish policies were never absolute. In fact, some Jews remained in top positions of the NKVD even during Stalin’s last, anti-Semitic years. (p. 89)
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