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baby pisetskaya

On 5th March 1953 Stalin died. I was raised in Stalin's era. I was a member of the Komsomol and believed in Stalin enormously. I grieved a lot after him.
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Rafael Genis

Nevertheless, my colleagues always had a very good attitude towards me. I had excellent organizational skills and they valued me. I never noticed anti-Semitisms in all those years, neither at work nor beyond it. In 1953 when Stalin died, I was only happy for that, I knew what he was worth since I had been put in the cart with the peoples' enemies [15] during the war. I understood how much trouble that person had brought.
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Alexandra Ribush

When Stalin died in 1953 we were very young. I wasn't married at that time yet, lived in the dormitory and worked at the plant in Irkutsk. The country was in deep mourning, people were crying. I didn't cry. I hoped that since he had died, my parents would have an easier life. However, being an active YCL member, I stood guard of honor at the Stalin monument on the territory of the plant yard. Life was really so double-sided! We were one thing outwardly, but deep inside something different already started to ripen.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

On 5th March 1953 Stalin died. Of course, we, doctors, anticipated his death. In radio round-ups we were informed that Stalin had Cheyne-Stokes respiration, and everybody understood that he was on the brink of death. When I found out about his death, I had a feeling that the world would plunge into the abyss. I couldn't fathom how we could possibly live without Stalin. It was sincere grief. When I was on the ward round, I dissolved in tears. Then I went to Stalin's funeral. I walked amid a huge crowd on semi- thawed snow.
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Henrich Kurizkes

On 5th March 1953 Stalin died. His name was an icon and Stalin was God for those born in the USSR who grew up with his name. I spent my youth in a different environment and was critical about Stalin's personality. We associated Stalin's name with everything happening in the USSR: cosmopolitan processes, the Doctors' Plot [46] and ever strengthening anti- Semitism. Of course, there was no information available, but we were not blind and we had an inner feeling that these were initiated by Stalin since he couldn't be unawares of whatever was happening.

My wife and I were horrified when Nikita Khrushchev [47] spoke at the 20th Party Congress [48] with the report on the cult of Stalin and his crimes. Only parts of his speech were published, even then there was a ban on information, but what we could read was sufficient for us to feel horrified, though we knew and sensed a lot. We knew it, because so many people were returning from the Gulag telling us what it was like. Of course, it was a shock.

Later we learned that if Stalin had not died, Jews would have been deported to Siberia or farther away. I wouldn't say that this shattered my trust in the Party. By then my membership in the Party became a pure formality for me. It was a requirement for making a career and nothing more.
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Arnold Fabrikant

I was quite indifferent when I heard about Stalin's death [in 1953]. I heard the news on the radio when I went to work in the morning. I knew that he was ill and there had been announcements that he was better and then worse and it was clear that he would die. I had seen so many deaths that one more or one less didn't matter... I wasn't critical about Stalin, but I didn't sympathize with him either. My mother believed in Stalin. She always kept a newspaper issued on the day of Stalin's death, with all the praises in his address. When the denunciation of Stalin's cult began, my mother didn't believe it. She said, 'How could this be?' She was and stayed loyal to Stalin till the end of her life. The Doctors' Plot [22] had no impact on her.
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Isroel Lempertas

I did not associate state anti-Semitism, commenced with the assassination of the great Jewish actor Mikhoels [26], extermination of Jewish Anti- fascist Committee [27] and ended with the preposterous so-called 'doctors' plot» [28] with Stalin's name. I thought there were the willingness of the local state activists to outdo others in front of all-union dignitaries. I should say that I personally was not touched by anti-Semitistic campaigns. I kept on teaching successfully. Judging by the way tutors and students treated me, I can say I was respected. I took hard Stalin's death in 1953. Gradually I came to understanding his true role and the resolutions adopted at divulging the Party Congress [29] were taken by me as logical and necessary. The truth was revealed. Only now, after perestroika [30] we came to know almost everything about transgressions of the soviet régime and gangster leader Stalin.
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Dina Kuremaa

There was turmoil in the theater, when we found out about Stalin's death. We found his bust and put it in the foyer. There were a lot of mirrors and all of them were to be covered with black cloth and flowers put next to each of them. The mourning in the theater lasted for about a week. I didn't take Stalin's death as a grief, on the contrary I felt alleviation - there was no more fear. Aboriginal inhabitants had a different reaction. I remember the HR manager, Scherbakova, was in tears beating her head against the wall and crying, 'How will we be living!' I didn't have thoughts like that. We lived without Stalin, and our life was good. It was not as easy during his reign. We were always scared, were afraid of stooges. There was no fear under the regime of Khrushchev [28], and then Brezhnev [29]. We felt more liberty.

Anti-Semitism was displayed under the Soviet regime in Estonia. I never felt it at work. In general, I could feel that people didn't like Jews that much, but it was not coming from the local people, only from those, who arrived from the USSR. They got used to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and passed that feeling on here. In fact, they felt themselves the hosts of Estonia. Of course, Estonian was not banned, but Russian was the state language and everything was in Russian, beginning from the documents and up to the street signs.
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When campaigns against cosmopolitans [25] were held in the USSR, most Estonian citizens learned about them from papers. We didn't feel it. When I was working for the Ministry of State Planning, I didn't remember a single case, when a Jew was fired. There were other things happening in Estonia - recurrent exile of those, who managed to come back after deportation of 1941. In spite of the fact that those people came back on an absolutely legitimate ground, without being in hiding, they were arrested and exiled in the previous place. Of course, we were lucky, as the new leaders of Estonia were loyal to us. My sister Zelda, who was living in Latvia, said that there was tension there and sometimes she had to conceal that she was a Jew.

When the Doctors' Plot [26] commenced in January 1953, Estonian Jews also felt that. Every day there were radio programs, where people were told how Jewish doctors tried to poison Stalin, and we could feel that anti-Semitism was streamlined. We lived in fear. I knew that the management of the theater was given the task to make a list of Jews employees. There were a lot of Jews among the actors as well as among the employees of the theater. The chief producer was also a Jew. Such lists were definitely made in other institutions too. Our HR manager, Scherbatova, came to Estonia from Russia. She got those lists ready. I think if Stalin had not died in March, all of us would have gone to Siberia. We were living in constant fear. We had stocks of tinned food, rusks in case NKVD [27] officers came to us to send us in exile. Thanks God, Stalin died and our stored up things were not needed.
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Anna Ivankovitser

I cried when we heard about Stalin's death. Many people cried over him. We were convinced that he had been doing the right thing regardless of all the hardships and cruelty of reality. Everyone was concerned about what was going to happen. We thought life would be over without Stalin. We didn't know how to live or what to do without him. There was so much faith in Stalin that even the children whose fathers were in prison believed it was true that they were enemies of the people. Some people understood the true state of things, but the majority was blind to the truth. After the Twentieth Party Congress, [15] we had our eyes opened. It was easier for the Jews to believe the truth because we had seen what Stalin did to the Jews. They said that if he hadn't died all of us would have been deported like the Chechen or Tatar people. [The interviewee is referring to the policy of forced deportation to Siberia.] [16] God protected us.
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The Doctors' Plot [14] was a different matter, though. In the 1950s my sister and her husband were working at a polyclinic. They had problems. Their patients would run out of her office when they found out that my sister was a Jew. A Ukrainian nurse refused to work with my sister's husband. She said she didn't want to be an unintentional assistant of a doctor- murderer. Their patients didn't want to visit them and many of them were saying openly that they didn't want to be treated by Jewish doctors. My sister was about to quit her job and go to work as a cleaning woman. But fortunately, it was a short period of time and it was over when Stalin died in March 1953.
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ruth laane

I remember the Doctors' Plot [22] in January 1953. Now I wonder that this fearful period only lasted for two months. NKVD employees [23] managed a lot through this short period of time.... I was 13. I remember a meeting at school where students of our 7th grade held 'murdering doctors' up to shame. They made speeches saying what rascals those doctors were. I remember that one Jewish girl spoke even having no direction from the teacher. She also said how terrible this was.

My grandfather had many friends and acquaintances, and they often came to see him and discuss political news. My grandfather read newspapers, and could read between lines, which was common in the Soviet Union. He also commented on what he had read saying 'Well, if they write like this, this means...' He also liked listening to 'The Voice of America' [24] and other international radio stations that were forbidden in the USSR, and also discussed what he had heard.

I am grateful to my grandfather that all such discussions took place in my presence. Nobody feared that I could mention something that was not safe for my grandfather or his acquaintances. I think my grandfather did a lot for me. He planted the seeds of doubt in me, and he taught me to think and analyze. These seeds have grown out.

I remember 5th March 1953, when Stalin died. We knew about it from the radio news before it was time for me to leave for school. When my grandfather heard that Stalin had died, his face brightened with happiness. My grandfather did not work on this day as if it was a Jewish holiday. This was so very unusual that my grandfather stayed away from work on a weekday, which had never happened before. On hearing the news my grandfather rushed to see my mother and tell her the news. My grandfather was really happy, but for me Stalin's death was a terrible blow. We had a mourning meeting at school, and all attendants were sobbing.
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anna schwartzman

I think that the Doctors' Plot was a provocation premeditated by his enemies. If these doctors had still enjoyed their freedom, it would have been possible for Stalin to survive, that they would have saved him. This was all masterminded by those, who tried to take his place. After all, anti-Semitism didn't cease after Stalin's death, which suggests that someone wanted to keep it that way. Of course, I grieved when Stalin died. I was petrified by the thought of what would come after him.
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I remember Stalin's death in March 1953. People on the streets wore red and black mourning armbands. Their faces were puffy from tears. Yes, it's true, during Stalin's last years there was state anti- Semitism, but I believe that Stalin cannot be blamed for that. He actually liked Jews. He helped Jews a lot during the war. He said: 'The evacuated must be fed, the evacuated mustn't be harmed'.
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