As secretary of the Women's Central Commission, Pauker was a leader in the trade union movement. As a member of the RCP's General Council, she traveled to Moscow in 1922 for the Communist International (Comintern) congress. Arrested for her political activities in 1923, she was soon released and went into exile in Switzerland and the Soviet Union before being involved with Comintern activities in France and the Balkans (1931–1935).
Returning to Romania in 1935, Pauker was again arrested and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, but in May 1941 she was exchanged for a Romanian Bessarabian leader held by the Soviet Union. In Moscow she served on the Executive Bureau of the Comintern and headed the External Bureau of the RCP. During World War II, she was the undisputed leader of Romanian communist exiles. In 1943 she helped organize Romanian Army prisoners held by the Soviets into a division to fight against the Germans, becoming its political commissar with the rank of colonel.
Returning to Romania in September 1944 after the Soviet armies had entered the country, Pauker became secretary of the RCP Central Committee. Known as the "Red Iron Lady," she played a major role in the establishment of communist rule. Associated with party excesses of the 1948–1951 period and slavish devotion to Stalin's policies, she did oppose a number of policies, including the widespread party purges (1948–1952).
As vice premier from April 1949 to September 1952 and minister of foreign affairs during November 1947–June 1952, Pauker was the first woman to hold such powerful positions within the Soviet bloc. Time magazine in February 1948 called her "the most powerful woman alive." During 1948–1949, she arranged treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Soviet Union and other people's democracies as well as Romanian diplomatic recognition of Israel (June 1948) and the immigration to Israel of 118,000 Romanian Jews.
Beginning in 1952, Premier Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, a strong Stalinist, angry at Pauker's opposition to his purge directives as well as her handling of Romania's economic crisis, purged the Jewish leader from her posts, with Stalin's blessing. Arrested in February 1953, Pauker was freed following Stalin's death the next month, although she remained under house arrest and never regained a position of leadership. Later she was permitted to work as a translator of French and German for the party publishing house. Retiring on a pension, Pauker died from breast cancer in Bucharest on 14 June 1960.
Dumitru Preda and Spencer C. Tucker
King, Robert R. History of the Romanian Communist Party. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1980.; Levy, Robert. Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.