The anti-Jewish campaign was presumably set in motion by Stalin as a pretext to dismiss and replace Lavrenty Beria, prosecute other Soviet leaders, to launch a massive purge of the Communist Party, and, according to Edvard Radzinsky, even to consolidate the country for the future World War III.
In 1951 Ministry for State Security (MGB) investigator Mikhail Ryumin reported to his superior, Viktor Abakumov, Minister of the MGB, that Professor Yakov Etinger, who was arrested as a "bourgeois nationalist" with connections to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, had committed malpractice in treating Andrei Zhdanov (died 1948) and Alexander Shcherbakov (died 1945), allegedly with the intention of killing them. However, Abakumov refused to believe the story. Etinger died in prison (2 March 1951) due to interrogations and harsh conditions. Ryumin was then dismissed from his position in the MGB for misappropriating money and was held responsible for the death of Etinger. With the assistance of Georgy Malenkov, Ryumin wrote a letter to Stalin, accusing Abakumov of killing Etinger in order to hide a conspiracy to kill off the Soviet leadership. On 4 July 1951 the Politburo set up a commission (headed by Malenkov and including Beria) to investigate the issue. Based on the commission's report, the Politburo soon passed a resolution on the "bad situation in the MGB" and Abakumov was fired.
Abakumov was arrested and tortured soon after being dismissed as head of the MGB. He was charged with being a sympathizer and protector of the criminal Jewish underground. This arrest was followed by the arrests of many agents who worked for him in the central apparatus of the MGB, including most Jews.
The doctors-killers case was revived in 1952 when the letter of cardiologist Lydia Timashuk was dug up from the archives. In 1948 Timashuk wrote a letter to the head of Stalin's security, General Nikolai Vlasik, explaining that Zhdanov suffered a heart attack, but the Kremlin doctors who treated him missed it and prescribed the wrong treatment to him. Zhdanov soon died and the doctors covered up their mistake. The letter, however, was originally ignored.