21 January 1920
On 21 January 1920, Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War, wrote to fellow minister Herbert A.L. Fisher. He was determined to defend himself against accusations that one of his recent speeches on the Jewish role in the Bolshevik movement may have contributed to the lynching of thousands of Jews in areas of Russia held by anti-Bolshevik forces. Writing at length, Churchill didn’t include one word of concern regarding the anti-Jewish pogroms, which also included acts of mass rape, looting and torture, but instead insisted that he was merely speaking the truth.
‘I find no escape,’ he declared, ‘from the plain and obvious conclusion that the Jews are undoubtedly playing a predominant part in the Bolshevik movement, and that the majority of the leaders are Jews.’ He commented in detail on the supposed number of Jews among the ‘leading commissars’, of whom he claimed ‘only three are not Jews.’ He also presented figures to demonstrate ‘the truly astonishing predominance of Jews in all the Soviet institutions’ and he quoted a report which claimed that Jews had ‘almost monopolised the official and social life of Petrograd.’1
Churchill even included an anecdotal account he had heard ‘the other day’ from the ‘two Misses Healy, nieces of Tim Healy, (who) came to see my personal military secretary and related their experiences in Kiev… They made it quite clear that the Jews were practically the only people in Kiev who remained prosperous during the Bolshevik regime.’ The two women had lived ‘by giving lessons to Russian families before the revolution,’ and ‘continued to earn their livelihood under the Bolsheviks by giving lessons to the Jewish families.’2
Later Nazi propaganda, which blamed Bolshevism on the Jews, owed a debt to earlier proponents of such theories, including in particular Winston Churchill and the anti-Bolshevik White Russian generals, who in early 1920 Churchill still strongly supported. Churchill consistently and grossly exaggerated the role of Jews in the Bolshevik revolution. As a persecuted minority, a disproportionate number of Jews may have been present among various political groups advocating reform or revolution, but they constituted only a small minority of members within the Bolshevik Party and only a similarly small proportion of Jews within Russia were Bolsheviks. Even the majority of socialist Jews disapproved of the Bolshevik revolution.3 One of Churchill’s motives for portraying a very different picture seems to have been to enhance the appeal of his anti-Bolshevik crusade among Conservatives, many of whom also shared his anti-Semitic prejudices.
- Winston S. Churchill letter to H.A.L. Fisher cited in Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume IV Companion Part 2 Documents, July 1919 – March 1921, Heinemann, London, 1977, pp. 110-112
- Winston S. Churchill, op. cit., p. 112
- Oleg Bugnitskii, Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2012, p. 3 and Christopher R. Browning, The Fake Threat of Jewish Communism, The New York Review of Books, 21 February 2019, accessed online at url https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2019/02/21/fake-threat-of-jewish-communism/
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