The unexpected cosmopolitans - Romania's Jewry facing the Communist system

Raphael Vago*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article presents the failure and inability of the emerging Communist regime in post-war Romania to integrate and make the surviving Jewish community of more than 400,000 into a productive participant in the new socialist regime. Ultimately, both leading Communists of Jewish origin and Jewish activists of the Communist Party, acting through the Jewish Democratic Committee, were branded as 'cosmopolitans', removed and purged as unfit to enjoy the benefits of living in a new Romania. The paper traces the mutual images between Jews and Communists, the role of the Joint Distribution Committee in becoming the major agent of the Communists to communise the Jewish community and take over its leadership and elements of civil society, only to be disbanded at the end of the Stalinist era with its leaders purged as 'cosmopolitans' and 'Zionist agents'. The activities of high-ranking leaders of Jewish origin such as Ana Pauker, and their attitude towards Jewish emigration, are also examined in the light of documents available since 1989. In this context, the paper also examines the growing dilemma of the new regime. On the one hand it supported, based on the guidelines of Soviet foreign policy, the establishment of the State of Israel. At the same time, it tried to avoid mass emigration of Jews from Romania. Later, it would again shift policy according to the Soviet pattern and brand Israel as a 'Zionist state, supported by US imperialism'. By 1951-52 the Romanian Communists realised several facts - that the Jewish community is largely made up of 'middle class cosmopolitan' elements, that the regime should get rid of them, and that high-ranking Communist leaders of Jewish origin, soon to be purged themselves, promoted the idea that Jews were unfit to adapt to the new regime and had better leave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-504
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Review of History/Revue Europeenne d'Histoire
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Communism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Romania
  • Securitate
  • anti-Semitism
  • class-struggle
  • national Communism


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