Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Stephen Berk




jews, soviet, period, life, war


From 1941 to 1953, the Jewish community of the Soviet Union experienced an unprecedented period of suffering, an era which some historians have aptly called “the black years” of Soviet Jewry. Relying on interviews conducted by this author as well as others, this study aims to give a human face to a period that is often recounted with anonymity and abstraction – to examine what these years meant for the Soviet Jews who endured them. To state it simply: Life was difficult. The challenges and demands of the period were innumerable for the Soviet Jews. Upon the German invasion, many Jews struggled with the complicated and life-saving decision to flee. For those who remained, life under German occupation was brutal and ephemeral, with many Jews spending their last days in despondency amidst the dreadful conditions of the ghetto. For those who fled to the interior of the country and survived, the food shortages and other rigors of wartime rendered life grueling. Whether toiling in factories or fighting for the Red Army and the partisans, the Jews of the Soviet Union contributed mightily to the war effort. Despite these contributions, the Jews experienced widespread popular anti-Semitism wherever they found themselves, especially towards the war’s end. The persecution continued into the post-war period, only then the full force of the state was directed against them. Stalin’s death at last brought a close to the fearful immediate post-war period, as well as to the most destructive era in the history of the Soviet Jews.