Research Unit Politics

The World Tour of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

A Case Study of the Notion of Jewish Unity

This research project focuses on a unique six-month world tour undertaken in the latter half of 1943 by the Soviet Jews Solomon Mikhoels and Itsik Fefer, who as representatives of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee visited numerous cities in North America and the United Kingdom. Their mission was to promote international Jewish unity in the fight against National Socialism and to solicit military, material, and financial support for the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of Jews attended the rallies featuring the two Soviet delegates. The world tour was the climax of an appeal launched by Soviet Jews in the wake of the German invasion of their country, during which they called for the fraternization of Jewries across national and political boundaries.

This trip illuminates the first ever rapprochement to take place since the October Revolution between Soviet Jewry on the one hand and American and British Jewry on the other, sparked by the Holocaust and the German war of annihilation. Indeed, this rapprochement was only made possible by the exceptional threat they faced at the time, which did not last beyond the end of the war. During this apparent window of opportunity for a rapprochement between East and West, representatives of international Jewish organizations discussed with their Soviet guests mutual ideas to improve the situation of European Jewries and to revive Jewish life after the end of the war.

Proceeding from the multiple self-conceptions of the two travelers, this study examines the notion of Jewish unity and its political, cultural, and artistic aspects. Of particular interest is the role of Yiddish, which served as the lingua franca during the world tour and through which a transnational sense of Jewish belonging was established on the basis of mutual experiences.

This research project is part of the interdisciplinary joint project »The Short Life of Soviet Yiddish Literature« funded by the »Leibniz Collaborative Excellence« program of the 2020 Leibniz Competition.