Joseph Stalin Alleges 'Doctors Plot' To Assassinate Soviet Leaders

Shortly before he died on March 5, 1953, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin accused nine doctors, six of them Jews, of plotting to poison and kill the Soviet leadership.

The innocent men were arrested and, at Stalin's personal instruction, tortured in order to obtain confessions. "Beat, beat, and again beat," Stalin commanded the interrogators.

The unfortunate physicians can be described as lucky only in comparison with Stalin's eighteen million other victims. The dictator died days before their trial was to begin. A month later, Pravda announced that the doctors were innocent and had been released from prison. It later became known that after their pro-forma trial and conviction, Stalin intended to organize pogroms around the country, after which prominent members of the Jewish community would publicly beg him to protect the Jews by sending them all to Siberia.

On Jan. 13, 1953, the newspapers Pravda and Izvestiya announced that nine doctors, who had attended major Soviet leaders, had been arrested. They were charged with poisoning Andrey A. Zhdanov, Central Committee secretary, who had died in 1948, and Alexander S. Shcherbakov (d. 1945), who had been head of the Main Political Administration of the Soviet army, and with attempting to murder several marshals of the Soviet army. The doctors, at least six of whom were Jewish, also were accused of being in the employ of U.S. and British intelligence services, as well as of serving the interests of international Jewry. The Soviet press reported that all of the doctors had confessed their guilt.