The bloody history of Stalin's purges is a history of relentless butchery and oppression of millions. Many of its victims share a very similar and short life story: from a loyal patriotic Soviet citizen, via a knock on the door in the middle of the night to an NKVD "confession room", torture, the required signature on a list of tramped-up charges and a bullet in the cranium from a bored NKVD sergeant.
The similarity in the tragic fate of so many may cause a certain numbness of the senses, a degradation of our ability to empathize with the innocent victims, some of whom held to their belief in Stalin's wisdom, kindness and omnipotence till their last breath. Even so, the story of Mirra Eisenshtadt is somewhat exceptional and is worth your attention.
The following article is translated, with Google's kind assistance, from a Kharkov's (Kharkiv in Ukrainian) Holocaust Museum's archive site, where it appears in Russian. I have added a few links for the curious who may want to know a bit more.
On November 23, 1950 a journalist Miriam (Mirra), Eisenshtadt (maiden name Kazarinskaya) was executed in Stalin's torture chambers. She was writing under a pen name Zheleznova. What was the crime of this woman? What kind of "treason" caused her arrest?
Mirra Zheleznova worked for the Jewish Antifascist Committee, where she, an already well known journalist and columnist of "Einikait", was brought into in the summer of 1942 by Ilya Ehrenburg. The best publications of the newspaper "Einikait" - the mouthpiece of JAC - were distributed via the Sovinformbyuro [the main Soviet propaganda organization at the time] in Allied countries. Zheleznova was one of the few who, as Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman, collected materials about the victims of the Holocaust and the Jewish war heroes and was preparing a book of the non-fiction stories of grief and courage.
It was she who in mid-1945 first published in the "Einikait" a list of the Jewish Heroes of the Soviet Union. It turned out that by the end of the war 135 Jews were awarded this title. The list was reprinted in the European and American press. One hundred thirty five Heroes of the Soviet Union were Jews! It was an incredibly high percentage of half a million soldiers and officers - the Jews who fought in the Great War, and it is fundamentally altered the hierarchy of Soviet national relations: second only to the Russian people - the victors, was small, with one third wiped out, but not broken, Jewish nation.
That's the crime for which Mirra Zheleznova couldn't be forgiven and, after waiting for some time, she was arrested in April 1950. During a single interrogation on May 20, 1950, the fact that she has published the number 135 has become a major item of the charges presented to her. In her file, according to the memoirs of her daughter, who saw the protocol of the interrogation, there is only one page - aside of the death sentence.
The courageous woman spent 229 days in the cells of Lubyanka and Lefortovo, until the evening November 23, 1950 when the tortured Mirra entered the execution basement...
So what was this "state secret" that Mirra allegedly disclosed? She had received all the information about the people who fought heroically from the 7th Department (responsible for military awards) of GlavPUR - the central political command of the Soviet Army, on the strength of documents drawn up and approved by the personnel department, at the official request, signed by Solomon Mikhoels and approved by Alexander Shcherbakov. Mirra's husband Leopold Eisenshtadt (Zheleznov), a war correspondent, who was dismissed from all his posts "for the loss of vigilance", in the summer of 1950 was able get an expert examination and to prove that all the lists of Heroes of the Soviet Union were obtained by Mirra Zheleznova legally and officially. But it did not help. Neither Stalin nor his Judeophobic court could forgive the journalist who published the list of Jews who were awarded the Gold Star of Hero (and didn't fit the Stalinist "National Policy").
The Russian historian Gennady Kostyrichenko in his study ("The Claws of the Red Pharaoh", M, 1994) wrote that a colonel from the award department, who helped the journalist to obtain the information, was sentenced to twenty-five years of GULAG, for "disclosure of state secrets".
Information for which Mirra Zheleznova paid by her life, is now openly used by the military historians, and the name of the courageous journalist appears on the monument to the victims of Stalinist repression in Jerusalem.
Afterword: Aside of breaking the silence on the subject of the Heroes of the Soviet Union, the publication of the total number (half a million) of Jews serving in the Red Army during WW II is an important event by itself. It is an answer to the Russian (and other) Jew-haters who used to pepper their anti-Jewish rants by references to certain people who spent their war years cowardly hiding in Tashkent. The Jewish population of the Soviet Union before the Nazi invasion was around 5 million, this number including the freshly annexed territories with more than 2 million Jews. Do the arithmetic.
Hat tip: M.T.