MOskow, August 12, 1952: After an absurd secret trial, thirteen leading Jewish intellectuals of the Soviet Union, including two women, are executed. The scene of the crime is the Ljubyanka, the notorious remand prison of the then Soviet secret service NKVD. Another defendant will later die as a result of incarceration; Lina Shtern, at that time the first female member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, is banished. Among the murdered are five writers who wrote in Yiddish: the children’s book author Lejb (Lev) Kvitko, who is known throughout the Soviet Union, the literary multi-talent Peretz Markisch, the poet Itzik Fefer, who will turn out to be an informer, and Dovid Bergelson, one of the most important twentieth-century Yiddish prose writers, and the poet, playwright and translator Dovid Hofstein. They were all leading voices in Yiddish literature (not only) of the USSR. They were all members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee set up by the Soviet leadership to fight Nazi Germany ten years earlier.
This anti-fascist committee – there were four others besides him – not only aimed to collect information about the fate of the Jews under the German occupation and to help with the evacuation. It was also intended to be an important propaganda tool at home and abroad. From May to December 1943, the chairman, the actor and director of the Yiddish State Theatre, Salomon Michoels, and Itzik Fefer traveled to Mexico, the USA, Canada and Great Britain on a large-scale tour. They performed at countless events and in front of thousands of people, met important personalities (among them Albert Einstein), collected donations.