"Blind as Young Kittens"
Excerpt from The Second Terror by Robert Conquest
Responsibility for the terror that gripped the Soviet Union in the 1950s ultimately rests on Stalin's shoulders, but he was far from alone. Indeed the Doctors' Plot, as the case that kicked off the terror came to be known, was started by MGB agent Mikhail Ryumin. This odious dwarf was one of the most brutal men to work in that monstrous organization. A large part of his day was spent in Sukhanovo Prison savagely beating prisoners in his office, which was covered in Persian rugs to absorb the blood his gruesome activities splattered around. In 1951 Ryumin came to his superior, MGB head Viktor Abakumov, with an incredible tale. He accused Professor Yakov Etinger of murdering several of Stalin's henchmen, most notably Andrei Zhdanov. Abakumov refused to believe him, and Etinger was so horribly tortured that he died shortly thereafter. Blamed for this death Ryumin was forced out of the MGB, at which point he went to Stalin and detailed the plot. Stalin sided with Ryumin and the tables were turned, with Abakumov being the one who was arrested. A few months later Ryumin's plot became the focus of national attention when Dr. Lydia Timashuk's letter to General Vlasik (head of Stalin's personal security) was unearthed. Timashuk confirmed that there was a conspiracy of doctors attempting to kill off the Soviet leadership. Ryumin and new MGB man Semyon Ignatyev moved quickly, arresting Zhdanov's doctors and dozens of Jewish doctors (however Ryumin was later removed by Stalin, who found his version of the plot unsuitable, and replaced with Sergo Goglidze). The Jewish doctors were arrested to please Stalin, whose anti-Semitic campaign soon reached a fever pitch.
Taken from the Transcript of the Trial of the Doctor-SaboteursGregory Safonov
: Mr. Vovsi can you confirm your membership in the American-Zionist spy organization known as the Joint?
: I can confirm it.
: Can you describe your activities in this organization?
: Our goal was to kill the leaders of the USSR, with Comrade Stalin being our primary target. In July of 1948 we were presented with a great opportunity when Comrade Zhdanov entered our care for persistent heart troubles. On August 1st Professor Etinger, Doctor Vinogradov, and I met with representatives of the CIA and MI6, who paid us handsomely for our treachery. We proceeded to conceal Comrade Zhdanov's myocardial infection, instead apply harmful medicines and treatments. Our plot bore fruit on August 31st, when Comrade Zhdanov met his untimely end. We held a great celebration that night, raising toast after toast of Kedem wine to the ill health of our country's leaders.
Safonov questioned Vovsi some more, then moved on to Vladimir Vinogradov, Stalin's personal physician. Vinogradov was asked about his plans to kill Stalin:
: Is it true that you planned on assassinating Comrade Stalin?
: That is correct. I observed that Comrade Stalin was suffering from several risk factors for a stroke, but I concealed this diagnosis from him and in fact put him on a regimen which was designed to increase risk. The hope was that Comrade Stalin would soon suffer a stroke, at which point we could kill him with incorrect medical treatments. Thankfully I was arrested before this infernal plot could be carried out.
The next day Safonov questioned Yakov Rapoport.
: Do you know of any other members of this infernal conspiracy?
: I do not personally know of any other members, but this is just proof of the power of American intelligence. They ensured that we were divided into cells, so that if any of us were caught the vast majority of the plotters could remain at large. And then we must consider how deep Zionism's tentacles have dug themselves into the Soviet body politic. Given these facts there are no doubt many more plotters out there, hoping to crush the Soviet people under the jackboot of capitalist imperialism.
Excerpt from The Great Pogrom by Simon Sebag-Montefiore
In Russia Easter has historically been a dangerous time for the Jewish people, with anti-Semitic violence reaching its height around that holiday. There are two myths behind this: that the Jews killed Jesus and the Blood Libel. For a millennium anti-Semites have whispered that the Jews would kill Christian children and use their blood to make the matzo for Passover, which often coincides with Easter. As a result on Easter mobs would attack Jews and their property to “avenge” Christ and lynch Jews they accused of committing the blood libel, often with the support of the Russian state. Easter 1953 resurrected this wretched tradition. For on that day (April 5th) the twenty doctors accused of being “doctor-saboteurs” were executed. Upon hearing the news a crowd gathered in Red Square, chanting slogans like “Thank you Comrade Stalin for protecting us” and “Death to the American-Zionist agents” (there were even sporadic cries of “Kill the Yids”). Stalin, by this point paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, was unable to go and greet the crowds, so he sent Nikita Khrushchev instead. “Today we send a message to the imperialist powers and their Zionist allies,” Khrushchev declared, “We have shown that we will not stop until we have ripped out their insidious spy organizations root and branch. I ask my fellow Soviet citizens to be eternally vigilant, for the Zionists are clever and ruthlessly deceptive.” The message of the speech was clear: Stalin's war on the Jews had begun.
Across the Soviet Union the authorities began hunting for Jews. Despite their relative assimilation into Soviet society finding Jews wasn't that hard. Under the propiska system everyone residing in and around a city had to register for an internal passport, which listed information including name, date of birth, and, most crucially, ethnicity. MGB agents were assigned to shift through piles of these documents, with those of Jewish citizens being placed in special envelopes. The names and addresses on the passports were then typed up on massive arrest lists. Ordinary citizens joined in, denouncing their neighbors, coworkers, even in-laws as Zionist agents. While many did this because of antisemitism others did it for simple survival. In August Stalin began a wider purge of the Party and Soviet society with the Trial of the Fourteen. As the terror of the '30s roared back to life denouncing Jews was an easy way of proving one's loyalty.
It is difficult to describe the terror that gripped the Jews. Shortly before his arrest and execution in July 1955 the famed writer Ilya Ehrenberg told a friend “Imagine spending every waking moment wondering if you are going to be arrested. Imagine wondering if ever person on the street who looks at your or walks towards you is an MGB agent preparing to drag you to Lubyanka. Imagine laying in bed every night listening for the sounds of a Black Maria [a prison van] or the footsteps of an MGB man. Imagine that even in your dreams you see yourself being dragged into the torture cellars. That is the Hell I live in.” Each Jew became an island, isolate from everybody else in the world. Gentile friends avoided them, Gentile spouses divorced (and often denounced) them, and shops and restaurants refused to serve them. Many Jews were also removed from their jobs. The case of Rahil Kaplan is typical. In mid-November 1953 Kaplan, a teacher in Leningrad, was called into the administrator's office. Kaplan was then informed that due to her “links with Zionists” she was being removed (two weeks later she was arrested). The Jews were even isolated from each other. Going to a synagogue or one of the few remaining Jewish cultural centers was too dangerous, and one could never be sure if a friend today wouldn't be denouncing one in the torture chambers tomorrow.
The numbers for 1953 alone are staggering. 500,000 people, about a quarter of the Soviet Jewish population, were arrested by the end of the year. In many cities, particularly those that had been in the center of the Holocaust, the Jewish population was completely eliminated. Even in large cities like Moscow nearly 1 in 5 Jews had been seized. And this was only the beginning.
 The Joint is short for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a New York City based humanitarian organization. Although it had links to the Zionist movement the allegations of spying were little more than Stalin's paranoia talking.
 Hundreds of doctors were arrested, but in the end only 20 were put on trial.
 It also gave the regime deniability about the anti-Semitic nature of the purges. Jews were disproportionately were purged en masse and the propaganda campaign was extremely anti-Semitic the fact that so many Gentiles were also being arrested allowed the regime to claim they were "just" launching another purge. Given the lack of information people at the time would have had about the inner workings of the USSR these claims would be incredibly difficult for contemporaries to counter.