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July 8: The Anti-Fascist Committee at the Polo Grounds

July 7, 2015

[caption id=“attachment_37614” align=“alignleft” width=“300”]Sholem Asch, Itsik Feffer, Solomon Mikhoels Sholem Asch, Itsik Feffer, Solomon Mikhoels[/caption]

More than 47,000 New Yorkers rallied at the Polo Grounds on this date in 1943 in support of the Soviet war effort against Nazi Germany. Soviet actor and director Solomon Mikhoels and poet Itsik Feffer — leaders of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) — as well as New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Yiddish novelist Sholem Asch, and Rabbi Stephen Wise of the World Jewish Congress were among the speakers. Eddie Cantor, harmonica star Larry Adler, and Paul Robeson were the cultural performers. Mikhoels and Fefer were the first representatives of Soviet Jewry permitted to travel and mix with Jewish communities outside the USSR, and they were widely embraced by prominent figures of the day, including Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Marc Chagall, and others. Within the half-decade after the Holocaust, however, as the JAC set about documenting the dimensions of Jewish obliteration by the Nazis, the JAC was suppressed by the Stalinist government and Mikhoels and Fefer, among other leading Jewish cultural leaders, would be murdered.

“Special warm feelings and greetings come to you from the Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, their fathers and mothers, their children and grandchildren, from all Soviet Jews, just as from the entire Soviet people, a warm and far-reaching hello to you!” —Solomon Mikhoels at the Polo Grounds