Albert Kaganovitch

Jewish Refugees and Soviet Authorities during World War II


During World War II, many hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees found themselves in the eastern areas of the USSR. They can be divided into three categories: Soviet citizens; new Soviet citizens from territories annexed by the USSR in 1939 and 1940; and foreign citizens who escaped into Soviet territory, mainly from the German-occupied parts of Poland between September 1939 and the summer of 1940. The Soviet authorities experienced great difficulties in their efforts to resettle these people in their new surroundings. Shortages of housing, suitable jobs, food, heating fuel, clothing, and medical services heavily increased the adversities in the refugees’ daily lives. They were beset by hunger, frequent illness, and increased mortality. While the central government tried to ensure that industry and resources would be supplied, the local authorities saw the refugees as a burden both because their duties and responsibilities had been subjected to many other wartime shortages and travails, and because they saw the refugees as aliens in their regions. The differences in the attitudes of the central and local administrations to refugees became especially apparent with regard to Jewish refugees. While the lower-ranking local officials were themselves the source of antisemitism, the central officials mostly struggled with its manifestations.