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November 29: General Yakov Grigorevich Kreizer

Lawrence Bush
November 29, 2016
The highest-ranking Jew in the Soviet military after Stalin's bloody purges of the 1930s, Yakov Grigorevich Kreizer died at 64 on this date in 1969. In July 1941, General Kreizer had been the first Red Army senior officer to outfight the German Wehrmacht and deter its assault on Moscow, including during a skillfully managed fighting retreat that stalled Nazi panzer divisions for twelve days and gave the Red Army enough time to bring up reserves that would defend the capital city along the Dnieper River. Stalin named Kreizer a Hero of the Soviet Union, the first Soviet general to be so awarded. (According to an internet thread on Jewish military service in the USSR, "of the Heroes of the Soviet Union . . . the Jewish population obtained 6.83 out of 100,000 [such] distinctions. Ahead of Jews was only Russians -- 7.66 Heroes of the Soviet Union out 100,000.") Kreizer went on to command the Soviet Third Army, which fought the German Blitzkrieg to standstill at Smolensk, and the battle-hardened Second Guards Army, which helped defeat the German's at Stalingrad. Twice wounded, and steadily promoted, Kreizer nevertheless saw his postwar career stalled until Nikita Khrushchev came to power and made him commander-in-chief of the armies of the Far East, which were crucial to Soviet power after the Sino-Soviet split, and appointed him to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, where he served from 1962 until his death. "[Kreizer] had joined the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during the war, and in 1953, had refused to sign a letter supporting the campaign against the defendants in the so-called Doctors Plot." --David B. Green, Haaretz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.