A spellbinding biography of the author's ""Uncle Lazar,"" who happened to be Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich, Stalin's right-hand man and closest confidant, the chairman of the Soviet Presidium, ""the man who set up the amalgamation of the state security forces that later became the infamous KGB, the man who personally supervised the purges that ran rampant through Russia in the thirties and forties, the man who instituted more restrictions and quotas on the Jews than anyone else, the man who urged and orchestrated the deaths of 20 million people. . .who brought Khrushchev to power. . .--the ultimate Jew-hater himself, and the only Jew in the hierarchy."" Kahan's book derives from a 1981 trip to Moscow and a ten-hour interview with his nonagenarian ""Uncle Lazar,"" who lives in retirement in an apartment complex, and from information provided by Kahan's grandfather Morris Kaganovich--Lazar's first cousin, closest boyhood friend, now an immigrant to the US. We follow the family's origins in their home village of Kagan, Lazar's rise through the party ranks--along with that of two of his brothers--his falling in with Stalin, his growing fear at being the only Jew in the anti-Semitic government, his turning on his own people and use of them as a scapegoat for Stalin's paranoia, his consolidation of the secret police, and his growing frenzy as he brings to a froth the show trials and massive purges by which Stalin ensured his own safety through manic fear and the murder of millions. The book reaches its zenith in Stalin's assassination by Kaganovich and fellow Kremlin henchmen through the administration of a massive dose of an anticoagulant that induced Stalin's fatal stroke. This compelling chronicle tells us more about the gray Russian mentality than any dozen histories of the USSR, and deserves a wide public.