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Erlich-Alter Case

Title: Erlich-Alter Case
Inclusive Dates: 1913-2003
ID: RG 1459
expand icon Administrative/Biographical History
Henryk Erlich (1882-1942) and Wiktor Alter (1890-1943) were Jewish Bundist leaders in Poland, prior to the outbreak of World War II. Erlich was denounced to Soviet authorities (he had left Poland at the outbreak of the war), imprisoned, and interrogated for two years. Alter was likewise arrested by the NKVD on September 29, 1939. During this period, he was forced to provide detailed information regarding the activities of the Polish Bund. In August 1941, both Erlich and Alter were sentenced to die for anti-Soviet activities, but the sentence was later changed to a ten-year prison term. Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union and the signing of the Sikorski-Mayski agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviet Union, both Erlich and Alter were released from prison. Upon their release, Erlich and Alter set about establishing the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which raised suspicions among Soviet authorities. In October 1941, the Soviet authorities placed Erlich and Alter in a hotel in Kuibyshev (mod. Samara), where private conversations were conducted and taped. Among the content discussed and reported to Joseph Stalin were rumors about the murder of Polish officers, including many Polish Jews. During this period, Erlich once again endured harsh interrogations, which severely affected his health. He committed suicide on May 15, 1942 in his Kuibyshev jail cell. Official notification about his death was not released by the Soviet leadership until February 1943. Precise details surrounding Alter's death remain unknown to this day. According to some reports, he was sentenced to death on December 23, 1941, and immediately executed. Other sources state that his execution did not take place until February 1943. The death sentence was signed by Vyacheslav Molotov, in a note stating that Stalin had personally approved the order. Following Alter's death, in 1943, Soviet authorities issued a statement that Alter had been executed for "spying for Hitler." These events led to an international outcry. Erlich and Alter were not vindicated or "rehabilitated" until February 8, 1991, under Russian president, Boris Yeltsin.
expand icon Administrative Information
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Collection Material Type: Official Records
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