Looking back from nearly 75 years on, with the Nazis enshrined in history as the embodiment of evil, Elly’s desire to get involved with anti-war activities might seem shocking. At the time, though, it wasn’t an unusual sentiment. The US wasn’t officially involved in the war, and many Americans had reasons for hoping it would stay that way — whether they were afraid of the human cost of war, thought that what was happening in Europe simply wasn’t America’s problem, or were themselves fascists and/or anti-Semitic.
In Elly and Leon’s case, it was that the CPUSA saw the war in Europe as a battle between imperialist powers with no upside for the masses. Even aid to countries fighting the Nazis was seen as “warmongering.” That changed rather abruptly on June 22, 1941, when Germany threw over its 1939 non-aggression pact with the USSR and launched a surprise invasion codenamed Operation Barbarossa. In the face of this betrayal, the CPUSA immediately turned pro-war, urging its members not to participate in strikes and other activities that might hobble the war effort and keep the US from helping the Red Army.
(Keep following this blog to find out how Leon and Elly responded!)