cover image Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist

Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist

Robert Levy. University of California Press, $55 (419pp) ISBN 978-0-520-22395-0

Virtually unknown internationally today, Pauker appeared on a 1948 Time cover, described inside as ""the most powerful woman alive."" In Romania, she's remembered as a dogmatic, fanatically subservient Stalinist, emblematic of the terror and repression of the 1947-1952 period in which she served as foreign minister and more briefly as de facto behind-the-scenes leader. Levy easily refutes this image, since Pauker was purged on Stalin's urging precisely for being too soft. What's more difficult is to discover who she really was. Levy concisely describes the recurrent, historically precarious position of European Jews as social pioneers eventually viciously displaced as ""parasites"" a pattern repeated with revolutionaries like Pauker. Though ultimately unsuccessful in avoiding this fate, she displayed high levels of historical self-awareness, acting in often surprising ways. The central chapters explore her roles in agriculture, party purges and Jewish emigration, which provoked the major accusations against her. As agriculture secretary she opposed forced collectivization and supported higher prices for agricultural products; as a party leader, she opposed the purge of popular leader Lucretiu Patrascanu and the foreign, disproportionately Jewish veterans of the Spanish Civil War and the French Resistance, while her complex relations to her Jewish heritage, identity and compatriots were typically demonized by the anti-Semitism that doomed her. Though Pauker the person remains enigmatic, the political figure's complexities and contradictions, as portrayed by Levy, belie the caricature her homeland clings to, and challenge simplistic notions of the Cold War's darkest hours. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. (Mar.)