ED-NOTE – THE ARREST AND EXECUTION OF YAGODA (Did Stalin put him to death because of the Holodomor?)
In March 1937, Yagoda was arrested on Stalin’s orders. Yezhov announced Yagoda’s arrest for diamond smuggling, corruption, and working as a German agent since joining the party in 1917. Yezhov even blamed Yagoda of an attempt to assassinate him by sprinkling mercury around his office. He was accused of poisoning Maxim Gorky and his son. It was discovered that Yagoda’s two Moscow apartments and his dacha contained 3,904 pornographic photos, 11 pornographic films, 165 pornographically carved pipes, one dildo, and the two bullets that killed Zinoviev and Kamenev. Yezhov took over the apartments. He had spent four million rubles decorating his three homes, boasting that his garden had “2,000 orchids and roses.”
Yagoda was found guilty of treason and conspiracy against the Soviet government at the Trial of the Twenty-One in March 1938. He denied to be a spy, but admitted most other charges. Solzhenitsyn describes Yagoda as expecting clemency from Stalin after the show trial: “Just as though Stalin had been sitting right there in the hall, Yagoda confidently and insistently begged him directly for mercy: “I appeal to you! For you I built two great canals!” And a witness reports that at just that moment a match flared in the shadows behind a window on the second floor of the hall, apparently behind a muslin curtain, and, while it lasted, the outline of a pipe could be seen.
Yagoda was summarily shot soon after the trial. His wife Ida Averbakh was executed in 1938. In 1988, on the 50th anniversary of the trial, the Soviet authorities belatedly cleared all of the other 20 defendants of any criminal offence, admitting that the entire trial was built on false confessions. Yagoda was the only defendant not to be posthumously rehabilitated.
THE JEWNIVERSE – 08MAR17 – An evil man rises to power with a grand plan to eliminate the Jews, until a twist of fate—a miracle!—happens, and the evil man dies; the Jews survive.
Who was that evil man? Well, it depends on what time period you’re talking about. Turns out there were some eerie similarities between Haman, the villain of the Purim story, and Stalin, the villain of Communist Russia.
Just days after Purim in March 1953—the holiday in which we mark Mordechai and Esther’s rescue of the Jews from Haman’s plot to falsely accuse and slaughter them from Persia—Stalin was reaching peak anti-Semitism with a plot of his own: to rid Russia’s 3 million Jews through mass pogroms and deportations to the inhabitable arctic regions of Siberia. The day before he was to kick off this plan with the “Doctors’ Trial,” in which six Jewish physicians were to be (falsely) tried for attempting to poison him and other Soviet leaders, Stalin “collapsed in a fit of rage,” and to the relief of Jews everywhere, kicked the bucket.
Fortuitous coincidence, or something more? Hasidic lore tells of the Rebbe partaking in some unusual rituals during the Purim farbrengen—joyous gathering—that year, like forming a triangle with his hands and chanting “hoo-ra”—he is evil—three times.
Whether it was a Purim miracle, or pure luck, the moral of the story is just the same: They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.