Disposable Jews: Ep. 4
A Soviet Yiddish actor gets a boost from Stalin to travel the world and save the Jews—but a career in show business in the Soviet Union doesn’t end in a house in Malibu
In this episode, we explore the marvelous and terrifying life of the massively renowned Soviet Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels: international star of stage and screen, director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, and leader of the Soviet Union’s Jewish Antifascist Committee during World War Two … and later, in a rather less desirable role, the leading man in the Soviet Jewish nightmare that came to be known as the “Night of the Murdered Poets,” a group of world-class Jewish artists and leaders executed by Stalin one night in 1952.
Mikhoels wasn’t one of those murdered poets, but he was intimately connected to all of them—and the unbelievable story of his valiant attempt to become a savior of the Jewish people came at a horrifying cost. What happens when being a Jewish artist and leader requires erasing yourself?
Sneak peeks at Vassili Schedrin’s work-in-progress on Mikhoels’ life and on Soviet Yiddish theater can be found here, here, here, and here. Justin Cammy’s new translation of Sutzkever’s work is From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg: Memoir and Testimony by Avrom Sutzkever. More information on the Moscow State Yiddish Theater can be found in The Travels of Benjamin Zuskin by Ala Zuskin Perelman and in The Moscow State Yiddish Theater by Jeffrey Veidlinger. The trial records of the Jewish Antifascist Committee can be found in Stalin’s Secret Pogrom by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir P. Naumov.
More information about Solomon Mikhoels’ careerlong acting partner and fellow Jewish Antifascist Committee member Benjamin Zuskin can be found in the works above, and also in “Executed Jews” in People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn.
Adventures with Dead Jews is brought to you by Tablet Studios and Soul Shop. It’s created and written by Dara Horn, and produced and edited by Josh Kross and Robert Scaramuccia. The managing producer is Sara Fredman Aeder, and the executive producers are Liel Leibovitz, Stephanie Butnick, Gabi Weinberg, and Dan Luxenberg. We hope you’ll rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts, so that more people can join us on our adventures.
Dara Horn’s new book, People Love Dead Jews, is published by W.W. Norton and is available wherever books are sold. It’s also available as an audio book from Recorded Books. We hope you’ll check it out.
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