Ana Pauker served her ruling Communist Party as Romania’s Foreign Minister from 1947 to 1952. Politically, she was at the very forefront of bringing equality into international politics, being the first woman anywhere in the world to hold so senior ministerial position in a European government. Born into a modest Orthodox Jewish household in rural Moldavia. Her political success was hard won and she suffered arrests and brutality along with her husband, Marcel Pauker. It was after returning form one of these spells in exile that she was sentenced to 10-years in prison in her home country but was exchanged in a transfer and went to Moscow. She learned in 1959 that her husband had been executed. Her eventual return to Romania was under a Russian dictat for her to head up the Romanian Communist party (RCP) and she served as it’s unofficial leader until 1945. In 1947, she became Foreign Minister, cementing her position as a high-ranking communist and indeed, part of a regime, which brutally imposed communism in the country. The following year, Time Magazine put her on the cover and called her – ‘the most powerful woman in the world’.
Our view of her as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Romanian political life is tempered by more recent documentary evidence that she was a moderating force against the brutal excesses of Stalin and indeed she not only supported but actively assisted in the emigration of nearly 100,000 Jews to Israel between 1950-52, in direct contradiction to the Stalin’s anti-Zionist rulings. This contradiction in her politics, particularly as she had been such a fervent Muscovite and Stalinist, began her downfall and she was under house arrest from 1953 until her death in 1960.
There is a huge amount of written material on Pauker and her life, though few works are as complete or readable as Robert Levy’s book Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist. Berkeley and Los Angeles: 2001.