“Communist Ana Pauker.” Ana Pauker featured on the cover of Time Magazine, 20 September 1948. (TIME Magazine © 2008, Time Inc. Reprinted by permission)

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Pauker, Ana

(1893–1960), prominent official of the Communist International (Comintern), Romanian Communist leader, and foreign minister of Romania. Born Ana Rabinsohn to impoverished Orthodox Jewish parents, Ana Pauker grew up in Bucharest and began teaching Hebrew and Judaica at a Jewish community school when she was 17 or 18. In 1915 she joined the fledgling Romanian Workers Social Democratic Party and supported its pro-Bolshevik wing after the 1917 Russian Revolution; four years later, she and her husband, the Romanian Jewish socialist Marcel Pauker, emerged within the leading ranks of the newly formed Romanian Communist Party (RCP).

In 1928 Pauker entered the Lenin School in Moscow, which trained the Comintern’s top functionaries, and rapidly rose into the Comintern hierarchy. Secretly returning to Romania in 1934, she was soon arrested and became the featured defendant in a highly publicized trial that made her an international celebrity in leftist circles. Released in a prisoner exchange between Romania and the Soviet Union in May 1941, she was immediately designated as the RCP’s official representative to the Comintern—even though she had not complied with her superiors’ demands that she publicly denounce her husband Marcel, who had been executed in 1938 during Stalin’s Great Terror.

Returning to Bucharest in September 1944, Pauker was the unofficial leader of the RCP for the first year of the postwar period and remained its behind-the-scenes leader for several years thereafter. In November 1947 she was appointed Romania’s foreign minister, the first Jew to serve as a government minister in that country, and the first woman in the modern world ever to hold to such a post. In that capacity, she supported the mass emigration of Romanian Jewry to Israel in the period between 1948 and 1952 (enabling the departure of roughly 100,000 Jews) and opposed the Kremlin-ordered show-trial of Romanian Zionists in 1950–1952. Arguing in the Politburo in 1948 that all Jews—regardless of class—were oppressed by antisemitism (thus conspicuously contradicting Marxist-Leninist doctrine on the issue), Pauker unsuccessfully tried to contravene the openly antisemitic campaign of Stalin’s final years—as she did with a host of other Soviet-imposed Stalinist policies, such as the forced collectivization of agriculture, the repression of “Titoists” within the party, and the construction of the infamous Danube–Black Sea Canal. In the end, her dissenting posture and the Kremlin’s increasing antisemitism doomed her: she was purged from all her positions in May 1952, arrested as an agent of “international Zionism” in February 1953, and prepared for an antisemitic show trial (similar to the Slánský trial in Prague in November 1952). However, Stalin’s death in March 1953 led to the cancellation of her trial. Pauker was released from prison but remained a disgraced pariah until her death.

Suggested Reading

Robert Levy, Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist (Berkeley, 2001).