First Published: Morning Freiheit, May 6, 1984.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: In honor of the 114th anniversary of the birth of V.I. Lenin (April 22, 1870) we present the following article from our Lenin file:
Lenin’s personal library in the Kremlin contained many books dealing with Jewish problems and Jewish history.
The then contemporary Jewish problems were reviewed in the book, “Jewish Poverty in Odessa” by Yu. Brodavsky which was published in 1902. Another book published in Berlin in 1921 is, “Notes of a Jew and a Citizen ” by A. Margolin. Lenin’s own comments can be found in the margins of this book and there are underlinings in red ink in a few places.
The Lenin library contains three volumes by Shimen Dubnov about the Jews in the period of the anti-Semitic reaction in Europe and also Otto Bauer’s book on the nationalities question which is preceded by an introduction by Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky (a former leader in the Socialist Revolutionary Party in czarist Russia and later in the United States one of the distinguished spokesmen of the Yiddish cultural movement).
Lenin was well acquainted with the sad chapter of the anti-Jewish pogroms in czarist Russia. He spoke and wrote about them with great anger. His personal library contained the book, “How Pogroms on Jews Are Organized” which had been issued in 1915 by the Foreign Committee of the Jewish Socialist Party, Bund.
A collection of articles, “History of the Anti-Jewish Pogroms ” was issued in 1923 by a Soviet book publishing house. The book’s editor and writer of its introduction was the well known Jewish activist in the Ukraine, G. Krasni-Adumi.
Lenin devoted particular attention to Nochem Shtiffs book, “The Pogroms in the Ukraine.”
At Lenin’s suggestion the noted Jewish labor activist Esther Frumkina wrote a special pamphlet on anti-Semitism. This pamphlet was published for mass distribution in one hundred thousand copies! This was done at a time when in the Soviet Union paper was lacking to print newspapers. The press then was printed on coarse, often colored wrapping paper and the newspapers were put up in public places. But for a pamphlet against anti-Semitism paper was made available.
Lenin’s personal library also contained the 1906 edition of the book, “Nationalism and Anti-Semitism” by L. Pietrovich. Apparently this was a pseudonym. It would be worthwhile to ascertain the author’s real name.
In addition there was the book, “Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World” by S. Luriya. Another book was “The Origin of Anti-Semitism” by A. Amputyetrov, published in Berlin in 1906. This book is divided into three sections: 1) Jewry and Socialism; 2) Jewry as the spirit of the revolution; 3) The Pogrom in Bialystok.
Lenin’s library also had a copy of the Black Hundreds book which the czarist secret police (Okhrana) had forged and produced, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In addition his library had two books which exposed this czarist fabrication. One book was, “The History of a Falsehood” by A. Dolevski (issued in Berlin) and the second, “The Truth About the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; A Literary Forgery,” which was translated from English.
Several works in Lenin’s library indicate his interest in Yiddish literature. These included: “The Russian Yiddish Literature ”by V. Lvov-Rogachevski with an introduction by B. Gorev; “The Russian Literature and the Jews ”(1922) which was published in a state publishing house and also the book, “Silhouettes of Yiddish Authors.”
Of books dealing with the Jews in the Soviet period there is one by his close co-worker, Shimen Dimanshtein, “The Nationalities Policy of the Soviet Government in the Past Two Years” (1920).
In the Lenin library one also finds the book, “From the School Commune No. I to the Children’s City Named for the October Revolution.” The writers of this book were two famous Jewish educators, G. Shulman and S. Rives. The School Commune No. 1 consisted of Jewish children, survivors of the counterrevolutionary pogroms (1918-1920). This book is of great cultural and historic value. It is a fragment of a sharp controversy among the Yiddish educators at the time on the conception of children’s cities which was advanced by G. Shulman and S. Rives. Their position was opposed by another distinguished Jewish pedagogue, the professor of mathematics, Yasha Reznik who argued for smaller children’s collectives.
Let us add that Lenin also kept in his library the book of the later martyred Janusz Korczak, “How to Love Children.”
It may seem like an anecdote, but Lenin’s personal library also had a place for, “A Sermon on the Theme: Moses and Aaron” by the rabbi of Odessa, A. Gurland. This sermon was published in Odessa in 1888.
It is especially gratifying to meet on the shelves of Lenin’s own library the works of our well known and beloved Jewish personalities such as Esther Frumkina. (She was executed in the Stalinist purges of 1937-38). The Lenin library also contains two albums by the famous Jewish sculptor, Natan Altman. In one of these albums the dedication reads: “To Comrade Vladimir Ilyich Lenin with much gratitude. Natan Altman, Moscow, 12-4-21.”