A Preliminary Critique of the Cofnas Critique
J. Otto Pohl, PhD
Nathan Cofnas seeks to explain Jewish disproportionate overrepresentation in various 20th century leftwing movements as being solely the result of higher average IQ and geographical concentration in urban areas. He completely ignores the role of affinity networks, in group ethnic preference, and the creation of economic niches by certain ethnic groups most notably middle man minorities as well documented in the scholarship of Thomas Sowell, Amy Chua, John Armstrong, Daniel Chirot, Anthony Reid, and Yuri Slezkine to name just a few, none of whom are mentioned at all by Cofnas. Instead he merely cherry picks examples from McDonald and seeks to show that Jews were equally involved in non-leftwing movements and that this somehow proves that the disproportionate role of Jews in leftwing movements such as communism is explicable entirely by IQ and geography and has absolutely nothing to do with any other possible factors.
Before tackling the main issue of Cofnas falsely claiming that IQ differences between ethno-racial groups is the “default hypothesis” in academia I would like to note that this is largely a false question and one that creates a self-serving narrative. Instead of asking why Jews were disproportionately involved in the terror apparatus of the Soviet regime from 1918 to 1938 should not the conclusion be that such involvement was morally wrong and that proper apologies and restitution should be made? Why a disproportionately large number of Jews including very prominent ones like Bela Kun, Genrikh Yagoda, Lazar Kaganovich, Genrikh Liushkov, Izrael Leplevski, Matvei Berman, Boris Berman, and many other Jews were involved in large scale crimes against humanity in the USSR is not the most interesting question to me. Rather the fact that while Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Hungarians, and others have been held collectively responsible for crimes against Jews that Jewish crimes against Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Koreans, and others have been completely de-ethnicized. This is true even when the Jewish state of Israel has openly harbored Stalinist murderers from justice like Solomon Morel and Nachman Dusanski. This blatant double standard rather than the reasons that the Jews in the USSR, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia were disproportionately involved in communist crimes against humanity should be the real focus of scholarship.
The vast literature on middle man minorities which include not only Jews, but Chinese in South East Asia, Lebanese and Syrians in West Africa, Asian Indians in East Africa, Armenians and Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, and Baltic Germans in the Russian Empire largely explains their overrepresentation in certain occupations and political movements. None of this literature which is quite mainstream and includes very accessible authors like Sowell, Chua, and Slezkine makes reference to IQ as an explanatory factor. Instead the historical cultural practices of these groups and their differences from the peasant majorities of their host societies is emphasized. The role and overrepresentation of Greeks and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was in the exact same fields as Jews in Europe and North America. Yet the average IQ of Greece is only 92, Armenia is 94, versus 110 for Ashkenazi Jews. The surrounding Turkish population that lived around the Greeks and Armenians is 90 not significantly lower. Likewise Asian Indians have dominated in many of these same positions in Africa and the Caribbean. This despite that the average IQ of India is only 82. Lebanese fill a similar economic role in West Africa with an average national IQ also of 82. Cofnas makes no reference to other comparable middle man minorities and thus does not deal with this huge problem in his Judeocentric approach.
Instead of dealing with the middle man literature regarding economic overrepresentation of Jews, Chinese, Greeks, Lebanese, Indians, and other diaspora groups Cofnas seeks to focus on individual Jews in intellectual movements. But, the most important political movement to have a disproportionate Jewish influence is communism. Cofnas has a short section devoted to Poland in 1949 after most of the Jews surviving the Holocaust from Poland had already left to Palestine to engage in a war of ethnic cleansing against the Arabs. He does not, however, deal with the much more important and larger case of the USSR especially in the years 1918 to 1938 when their overrepresentation in the highest echelons of the organs of terror were at extraordinary levels. This is a huge oversight.
The highest echelons of the NKVD between 1934 and late 1938 ranged from a high of 39% Jewish in October 1936 to a low of 21% Jewish in September 1938 shortly before most of them were purged despite the fact that less than 2% of the total Soviet population was Jewish. After their purge they were overrepresented by a factor of about double their percentage in the population the same level of overrepresentation Germans had in 1934. This is a far higher percentage than be accounted for by the differences in IQ and urbanization between Ashkenazi Jews and Russians and Ukrainians. It is easiest accounted for by affinity networks, in group preference in recruiting, and given the importance of the political police in Stalin’s USSR, the success of Soviet Jews as the dominant middle man minority in the state. Especially since the very highest official of the NKVD during 1934 to 1936, Genrikh Yagoda was himself Jewish. It is also a time period when the NKVD engaged in the massive arrest and execution of innocent civilians including hundreds of thousands of Poles, Germans, Latvians, and Finns targeted on the basis of their ethno-racial identity. In addition to the national operations this period of time also saw the massive ethnic cleansing of over 172,000 ethnic Koreans from the Soviet Far East into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The main overseers of these crimes were ethnic Jews. In the case of the Polish and German operations Izrael Leplevski and Boris Berman the heads of the Ukrainian and Belorussian NKVD branches. In the case of the forced resettlement of Koreans and creation of a whites only Soviet Far East, Genrikh Liushkov, head of the NKVD in the region.
The national operations specifically targeted Poles, Germans, Latvians, Finns, and other diaspora groups, but not Jews. As a result the proportion of Jews arrested during the great terror was just slightly above their representation in the Soviet population as a whole versus the extremely high levels of racially targeted groups like Poles, Germans, Latvians, and Finns. The Great Terror which saw the vast majority of executions by the Soviet state occurred in 1937-1938. Between 1921 and 1953 the Cheka and its successors the GPU, OGPU, NKVD, and MVD sentenced a recorded 799,455 people to death of which 681,692 took place in the two years of 1937 and 1938. The national operations such as the “Polish Operation”, the “German Operation”, and the “Latvian Operation” targeting alleged operatives of these foreign states and falling largely upon their diaspora populations in the USSR accounted for 247,157 of these death sentences despite the fact that collectively these groups only made up 1.7% of the Soviet population. Thus already before World War II Soviet persecution had taken on a distinctly ethno-racial basis against diaspora groups, but Jews were not one of the groups targeted for disproportionate arrest and execution.
Out of a total of 1,420,711 arrests in the USSR from 1 January 1936 to 1 July 1938 Russians and Ukrainians were underrepresented and Germans, Poles, Latvians, and Finns overrepresented. Russians constituted 657,799 arrests or 43.6% while they made up 58.4% of the Soviet population. Ukrainians with 189,410 arrests came in at 13.3% versus 16.5% of the total population. Germans with only 0.8% of the population racked up 75,331 or 5.3% of arrests or 6.625 times their proportion of the population. Poles with 105,485 arrests 7.4% of the total were only 0.4% of the population and overrepresented by a factor of 18.5. Latvians constituted 21,392 arrests or 1.5% compared to their 0.1% of the population an overrepresentation by a factor of 15. Finally, Finns with 10,678 arrests or 0.7% compared to 0.1% of the population were overrepresented by a factor of 7. Jews in contrast with 30,545 arrests or 2.1% of the total were just slightly overrepresented since they made up 1.8% of the Soviet population. Contrary to the myth that Jews were especially targeted for persecution in the USSR the number arrested during the Great Terror does not greatly exceed their proportion in the population as a whole whereas Germans, Poles, Finns, and Latvians were all overrepresented by factors ranging from 6.6 to 18.5 times.
The percentages of diasporas in the leadership of the NKVD does not mean that much when it comes to Poles, Latvians, and Germans since the total numbers involved are so small. Compared to the Jews the total number of these other diaspora groups in the NKVD was much lower although Latvians and Poles were significantly overrepresented. Latvians were the highest reaching 9% of the NKVD highest ranks in October 1936 or a factor of 90 although the total number of Latvians in these positions only reached 9. In contrast Poles peaked at 5.5% or overrepresented by a factor of 13.75. Although again the total number of Poles involved peaked at 5 in 1936. In July 1934 the German representation peaked at 2.08%, a total of 2 people, and an overrepresentation of 2.6 times. Whereas Jews made up 39% of the highest ranks of the NKVD or 43 people at this time, more than Russians at 30% or 33. Compared to their population as a whole Jews were overrepresented in the NKVD leadership by a factor of 21.9. Thus Latvians, Germans, and Poles were all also overrepresented in the highest ranks of the NKVD. But, their total combined numbers only came to 15, or only about a third of the Jewish membership numbers. Finns were not overrepresented in the highest echelons of the NKVD leadership. But, out of all the major Western diaspora nationalities only Jews are not greatly overrepresented as victims of the Soviet state during the Great Terror of 1937-1938.
The overrepresentation of certain ethnic groups in various professions is well established despite its complete neglect by Cofnas. None of this literature mentions yet alone stresses as the main explanatory factor, IQ. This is because some of these groups like Greeks, Armenians, Indians, and Lebanese do not as a whole score very high on IQ tests especially compared to Ashkenazi Jews. It should also be stressed that some of the niches disproportionately dominated by Ashkenazi Jews as dominant middleman minorities in various countries are not ones that require very high IQ scores. This is the case of the Soviet political police where a great many of its members even at high levels had very poor Russian language and mathematical abilities (just read through the NKVD reports in the archives). Given that less than a third of them were ethnic Russians in the mid-1930s the first deficiency is not surprising. But, they are both indicative of a lack of particular skills associated with intelligence among the ranks and even officers of the organs of state terror. Thus factors other than high IQ or even urbanization would appear to account for much of the Jewish overrepresentation in certain fields, professions, and movements just as it does in the case of the overrepresentation of other middle man minorities such as Greeks, Armenians, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, and other similar ethno-classes.
 Thomas Sowell, Markets and Minorities (Basic Books, 1981), Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (Doubleday, 2003), Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton University Press, 2004), John Armstrong, “Mobilized and Proletarian Diasporas,” The American Political Science Review, vol. 70, no. 2 (June 1976), Daniel Chirot and Anthony Reid, eds., Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe (London: University of Washington Press, 1997).
 Adam LeBor, “Israel Protects Concentration Camp Boss,” The Independent, 29 December 1998. And Accessed on 10 February 2019.
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 Mark Jan Chodakiewicz, After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War II (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2003), pp. 35-36.
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 Terry Martin, An Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union (London: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 338-339.
 J. Otto Pohl, “Cultural, Spatial, and Legal Displacement of the Korean Diaspora in the USSR: 1937-1945,” The Review of Korean Studies, vol. 21, no.1 (June 2018), p. 176.
 S.U. Alieva, ed. Tak eto bylo: Natsinal’nye repressi v SSSR, 1919-1953 gody (Moscow: Insan, 1993), vol. 1, p. 253.
 J. Otto Pohl, The Stalinist Penal System, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1997), pp. 7-9.
 Martin, pp. 338-339.
 Viktor Krieger, Hans Kampen, and Nina Paulson, Deutsche aus Russland gestern und heute: Volk auf dem Weg (Bundesministerium des Innern und Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland, Stuttgart, 2006), p. 16.
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