Pauker, Ana (c. 1893–1960)

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Pauker, Ana (c. 1893–1960)

Foreign minister of Rumania, one of the leading Communist officials in Eastern Europe in the period after World War II, who was the first woman to serve as Cabinet minister in charge of a European country's international relations. Pronunciation: POW-ker. Born Ana Rabinovici in Moldavia in northern Rumania sometime in 1893 or 1894; died in Bucharest in June 1960; daughter of a Jewish butcher who held the status of rabbi in his community; attended medical school in Switzerland for a period beginning in 1915; married Marcel Pauker, a fellow Rumanian student (died, probably in 1937); children: three.

Studied for a period in Switzerland (1915–21); joined Communist Party (1921); elected to Central Committee (1922); imprisoned (late 1920s); in exile in Moscow (1931–34); imprisoned in Rumania (1935); husband executed in the Soviet Union (c. 1937); released from prison at request of Soviet Union (1940); reentered Rumania with the Red Army (1944); led Communist demonstrations in Bucharest (1944–45); appointed foreign minister of Rumania, helped to organize the Warsaw Pact (1947); attacked the heretical leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party (1948); named vice-premier (1949); treated in the Soviet Union for breast cancer (1950); purged from Communist Party (1952).

A leading Communist for many years, Rumanian Ana Pauker played a crucial role in Eastern Europe following World War II. She returned to her native country in 1944 from exile in the Soviet Union and led the way in establishing a Communist government in Rumania. Rising to the position of foreign minister, the first woman in modern European history to reach this high office, she became a key figure in her country's government. A cold and forbidding figure with a reputation as the most loyal follower of Joseph Stalin in Rumania, she was known as "the Iron Lady." Stalin himself described her as "the cleverest woman Communist outside Russia."

Nonetheless, her position was precarious. The Rumanian Communist Party was the setting for intense internal rivalries, and Pauker soon found herself confronted by such enemies as Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Another source of danger came from relations, marked by distrust, between the Soviet dictator Stalin and the leadership of the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe. When Communist dictator Joseph Tito of Yugoslavia broke with Stalin in 1948, the Soviet leader's suspicions of all Eastern European Communists reached a new peak. Within this dangerous political environment, even a veteran party member like Pauker found her position, and perhaps her life, in danger. She fell from her post in 1952.

In subsequent years, Pauker's successful rivals continued to blacken her reputation in the interest of bolstering their own political position. High points in her career such as the expansion of the Rumanian Communist Party, agricultural collectivization, and her leadership in the Central Committee Secretariat were reinterpreted. The scattershot assault on her reputation painted her as a figure of unbridled ambition who was also, paradoxically, a tool of the Soviet leaders.

The country to which Pauker returned in the closing months of World War II had undergone a difficult and complex experience between 1940 and 1944. Under pressure from the victorious Germans in the fall of 1940, King Carol II consented to having important areas of Rumania torn away to be given to the Soviet Union and Hungary. With his unpopularity at a new high, Carol was forced to leave the country, and General Ion Antonescu took over as the military ruler. German pressure on Rumania continued, and, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, the Rumanians joined in the war.

Initially, Rumania's stand on the German side had popular support. Many Rumanians, including the country's political leaders, thought that the Soviet Union was Rumania's natural enemy. Moreover, Rumania's military cooperation with Hitler let Antonescu's government retake territory lost to the Russians in 1940. It also allowed Rumania to go further, bringing large adjacent areas of Soviet territory, including the major port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, under Rumanian control.

As the war began to turn against Germany, Rumanian enthusiasm for the alliance with Berlin faded. In late August 1944, as Soviet troops began to occupy Rumanian territory, young King Michael, Carol II's son and successor, took a number of dramatic steps. He forced Antonescu out of power, replacing him with a coalition cabinet representing most of the political spectrum. Rumania then left the war, and, within a few days, reentered it on the Allied side.

In these dramatic times, there was little evidence of an active Communist Party. Writes Robert King: "From its founding in 1921 until the arrival of Soviet troops in Rumania in 1944, the RCP [Rumanian Communist Party] played a peripheral role in Rumania's political life." The party was dominated by intellectuals and lacked ties to the peasants who made up a majority of the Rumanian population. Many of its leading constituents were Jews or members of the country's Hungarian or Bulgarian minorities; thus

they were not accepted as true Rumanians by most of the country's population. The party had been declared an illegal organization and driven underground in April 1924. It was under firm Soviet control in the 1930s, a period in which it was also the target of effective police suppression. At the party's peak around 1936, it probably had only 5,000 members. In 1944, on the eve of its taking power, its membership may have numbered only 1,000.

Despite later claims by Gheorghiu-Dej, Communists played no role in wartime Rumania. Thus, the party lacked the prestige of its counterpart in Yugoslavia. There, Joseph Tito could claim that Communism had become a legitimate and significant force due to its leadership of the anti-Nazi resistance movement. Some of the party's main figures like Gheorghiu-Dej had been imprisoned since the mid-1930s. Most Rumanian Communist leaders, including Ana Pauker, had been in exile in the Soviet Union. They now returned with the victorious Soviet army and made their bid for power. From the close of the war, Ana Pauker was one of the members of the party's inner circle.

The future foreign minister and vice-premier was born in Moldavia, in the northern part of the pre-World War I Kingdom of Rumania, in 1893 or 1894. The details of her life up to 1944 are sketchy, with various sources presenting divergent accounts. All agree that she was the daughter of a Jewish butcher whom his community had named as its rabbi. She attended medical school for a time in Switzerland, married a fellow student, Marcel Pauker, and returned home sometime around the end of World War I. She joined the newly founded Communist Party in 1921 and served time in prison for illegal political activities. Sometime around the close of the 1920s or the start of the 1930s, she began a prolonged stay in the Soviet Union.

Returning to Rumania in the mid-1930s, Pauker was rearrested and sentenced to prison for ten years. By then, she had apparently become a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union and its dictator Joseph Stalin. Marcel Pauker, like many foreign Communists, was caught up in the purges that shook Soviet society in the late 1930s and was reportedly put to death by the Soviet police sometime around the height of the purges in 1937. According to some sources, Pauker denounced her husband as a follower of Leon Trotsky and thus hastened his death.

Events took a temporarily favorable turn for her after she had spent a prolonged period behind bars. Due to the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were temporarily allies. With Rumania under German domination, the Soviet Union in 1940 successfully requested that Pauker and other Communists be released. Only a year later, Hitler and Stalin were at war; the situation that had favored her release now disappeared.

The next several years found her in Moscow where she played the role of propagandist to her native country. Her broadcasts in Rumanian over Radio Moscow were directed to her countrymen at home. She also helped to organize a Rumanian division to serve in the Soviet army, drawn from Rumanians serving with the Germans whom the Soviets had captured.

Less than three years after the close of the war, Rumania had a Communist government. The presence of the Soviet army and firm pressure from Stalin's government in Moscow dominated the scene. Pauker played an active role in Rumania's evolution from monarchy to Soviet satellite. She led a street demonstration in late 1944 in which the Communists claimed several workers were killed when police fired on the crowd. In the ensuing political uproar, the coalition government, headed by peasant party leader Nicolae Penescu, was forced from office. In 1945, following a trip to Moscow with Gheorghiu-Dej in which the two probably received instructions from the Soviet government, Pauker helped undermine the government of General Nicolae Radescu. In late February, the Soviet leader Andrei Vyshinsky visited Bucharest, forcing a politically weakened Radescu out of office.

The combination of domestic turmoil, to which Pauker contributed, and Soviet pressure, moved the political balance steadily to the left. Stephen Fischer-Galati has suggested that Pauker and others with her Moscow background unsuccessfully urged Soviet leaders to move quickly to set up a thoroughly Communist government after Radescu's fall in 1945. This did not occur, but a series of coalition governments, each with the Communists in an increasingly prominent role, led gradually to a complete victory despite the party's weak popular support. Political opposition was crushed, and, in November 1947, a government dominated by Communists took office. Three members of the party who had spent the war years in the Soviet Union took important positions, with Pauker becoming foreign minister.

Pauker played a key role in forcing King Michael, the hero of the coup in August 1944, into exile. The young monarch traveled to Britain for a royal wedding in late 1947, and he returned to Rumania after announcing his own forthcoming marriage to Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma . The Rumanian foreign minister took the lead in opposing the marriage. The excuse she gave was the financial strain it would place on Rumania. According to Robert Wolff, the real objection was the fear it would rally popular enthusiasm behind the king.

By early 1948, Michael had been forced to abdicate. In February 1948, Rumania signed a treaty tying its interests to those of the Soviet Union. In March, a new constitution turned the country into the Rumanian People's Republic. The government began to collectivize agriculture on the Russian model in March 1949. Pauker played a leading part in the process of revolutionizing Rumanian agriculture, and her activities here became a weapon for her political opponents to use against her in future years.

In a recent article with a new perspective on her career, Robert Levy has argued that Pauker was a moderate on the question of the peasantry. He sees this as an early example of her conflict with Gheorghiu-Dej, dating back to 1947. In Levy's view, Pauker's years in the Soviet Union as a witness to forced collectivization had made her reluctant to endorse such a radical, painful change for Rumania. Thus, she was neither "the classic Muscovite" nor "an abject and dogmatic Stalinist."

Anne of Bourbon-Parma (1923—)

Princess of Bourbon-Parma. Born Anne Antoinette Francoise Charlotte on September 18, 1923, in Paris, France; daughter of Rene, prince of Bourbon-Parma, and Margaret Oldenburg (b. 1895, granddaughter of Christian IX of Denmark); married Michael I (b. 1921), king of Rumania (r. 1927–1930, 1940–1947), on June 10, 1948; children: Margaret (b. 1949); Helen (b. 1950); Irene (b. 1953); Sophia (b. 1957); Mary (b. 1964).

A major effort in which Pauker took the lead was the expansion of the party in the period starting in late 1944. By February 1948, the party had grown to 800,000 members. Meanwhile, the process of making decisions for the party, and thus for the country as a whole, became increasingly centralized. The four-person Central Committee Secretariat, to which Pauker belonged, played the key role in Rumanian life during these years. Included in the Secretariat was Gheorghiu-Dej. This small body was probably the place where the rivalry between the factions in the party's leadership became most evident.

Nonetheless, Pauker's credentials as a loyal Stalinist remained strong. In August 1948, for example, she took the lead in condemning the leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. The action of Tito in breaking with Stalin shook the façade of Communist solidarity throughout Eastern Europe and heightened tensions between Moscow and each of the satellite capitals. But Pauker's firm support for the Russians seemed unquestionable.

Ana Pauker was the trail-blazer for all women who have entered politics in the last 30 years.

—Greta Fink

Later that same year she presented another example of staunch loyalty to Communist ideals. The Rumanian government cracked down on the nation's Jewish Union in November in a campaign designed to weaken Zionist feeling among the country's Jewish population. Zionism came under direct government attack. Pauker's father and brother were in Israel at this time, and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion attacked her in burning words. "Ana Pauker—the daughter of a rabbi," he said, "is preventing her own brethren from returning to the Promised Land." Over the next several years, while she continued to serve as foreign minster, the Rumanian authorities became more brutal in their treatment of the country's Jewish population and in their verbal assaults on the Israeli government. In 1952, Jewish emigration to Israel was forbidden.

Pauker's political ascendancy reached its peak in April 1949, when she became one of Rumania's vice-premiers. Soon afterward, the conflicts within the leadership of the country's Communist Party began to cause her major difficulty. A crucial development in the Rumanian Party during the postwar period had been the development of two factions. One, led by Gheorghiu-Dej, played up its role in the coup of August 1944 as the basis to its claim to power. The other, with Pauker in a prominent role, found itself tagged as "the Muscovites" or "Moscow Stalinists" as opposed to Gheorghiu-Dej's "Rumanian Stalinists." The group led by Pauker and Vasile Luca had spent the war years in the Soviet Union. They were also Jewish or members of other ethnic minorities.

Rivalry between the two factions went on below the surface of Rumanian political life until Pauker and a number of her colleagues with similar backgrounds were purged in 1952. The precise course of events and the motives of the participants in the intra-party conflict remain uncertain. An initial split took place in June 1950, when Gheorghiu-Dej criticized Pauker for her mistakes in recruiting new party members after World War II. Pauker may have found her position at home weakened by a prolonged absence in 1950; ill with breast cancer, she spent much of the year receiving medical treatment in the Soviet Union.

In the spring of 1952, Pauker lost her position in the Politburo, the top-ranking body of the Communist Party. She remained the country's foreign minister for a time, but she lost that post as well in July. In September, she lost her last official position, that of vice-premier. Wolff discounts the possibility that Pauker's career went downhill because of a desire by Rumanian leaders to match the growing anti-Semitism evident in the Soviet Union. One of her colleagues whose career also went into eclipse was a known anti-Semite; moreover, figures rising to replace Pauker and her coterie were themselves Jewish. Fischer-Galati suggests, however, that the success of "the Rumanian Stalinists in June 1952 was carefully planned from the formal inception of the offensive in 1950."

For King, a plausible explanation for Pauker's political demise was the fact that several veteran Communist leaders, including Pauker, were now consulting together regularly within the Secretariat of the Central Committee. In this era of Stalinist paranoia due to Tito's defection, their joint thinking may have made them seem a dangerous center of opposition to Stalin, one that the Soviet leader needed to have brought under control.

Pauker's career retained its significance long after her fall from power. Rumania became one of the most independently minded of the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe by the early 1960s. Its leaders found it increasingly useful to resurrect Pauker as a symbol of the Soviet domination they now challenged. Thus, she was the target of intense criticism by the victorious Gheorghiu-Dej at the party's gathering in late November and early December 1961. He resurrected the issue of Pauker's alleged errors in the summer of 1944. The successful Rumanian leader claimed that Pauker had neglected to play a role in the coup that overthrew Antonescu's dictatorship whereas he, Gheorghiu-Dej, and other Communists in Rumania had stood at the center of this important event. Meanwhile, Pauker and other Communists located in the Soviet Union had allegedly looked to the Soviet army to bring Communism to power. After Gheorghiu-Dej's death in 1965, his successor Nicolae Ceausescu continued the campaign. Thus, Pauker was identified with Soviet interests at a time when later Rumanian leaders wanted to claim a closer link with non-Communist elements and to downplay the Russian role in bringing Communism to power in Rumania.

Pauker's success in increasing the ranks of the party also became a tool for her enemies in 1961. She was accused of bringing in unreliable elements, including former members of the Iron Guard fascist movement that had played a large role in Rumanian life in the 1930s. She was also accused by Gheorghiu-Dej of forming a three-person faction that dominated the Central Committee Secretariat and using it to serve their personal interests. Here, too, Pauker's political success in the period after 1945 was turned against her.

Pauker and her colleagues did not suffer the customary penalty for fallen Communist leaders in Eastern Europe during the Stalinist era. They were not subjected to a "show trial," although some sources indicate that Pauker spent some time in prison, in a Soviet mental institution, and in Bucharest under house arrest. When Stalin died in March 1953, rumors flew that the factions of the Rumanian Communist Party would be reunited. That summer, Gheorghiu-Dej replied to a question from a foreign correspondent at a news conference about Pauker's whereabouts by stating that she was still in Bucharest. But there was no reunification. Pauker vanished from the spotlight for the remainder of her life. Some sources indicate the former national leader held a series of minor government positions starting in 1954. She died in Bucharest, probably of a heart attack, sometime in early June 1960.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1948.

Fink, Greta. Great Jewish Women: Profiles of Courageous Women from the Maccabean Period to the Present. NY: Menorah, 1978.

Fischer-Galati, Stephen. Twentieth Century Rumania. NY: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Ionescu, Ghita. Communism in Rumania, 1944–1962. London: Oxford University Press, 1964.

King, Robert R. A History of the Romanian Communist Party. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1980.

Levy, Robert. "The 'Right Deviation' of Ana Pauker," in Communist and Post-Communist Studies. Vol. 28, no. 2, 1995, pp. 239–254.

"Pauker Reported Dead," in The New York Times. June 15, 1960.

Wolff, Robert. The Balkans in Our Time. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

suggested reading:

Fischer-Galati, Stephen, ed. Romania. NY: Frederick A. Praeger, 1957.

Palmer, Alan. The Lands Between: A History of East-Central Europe since the Congress of Vienna. NY: Macmillan, 1970.

Roberts, Henry L. Rumania: Political Problems of an Agrarian State. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1951.

Neil M. M. , Professor of History, San Diego State University, San Diego, California