20.5 The Trial of Reiza Palatnik (Odessa)

No 20 : 2 July 1971

The trial of Reiza Palatnik took place on 22-24 June in Odessa (for her arrest, see CCE 17.8). The investigation was conducted by [Major] V. I. Larionov, an investigator of the Odessa Region KGB.

The chairman of the court was Kadenko; the Procurator, Tekunova.

The indictment was under Article 187-1 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code). Materials confiscated during a search, and forming the basis for the charge against R. Palatnik, included: an Open Letter by 40 Jews (in reply to the Moscow press-conference [of 4 March 1970]);[37] an article “Einstein and Zionism” [from Israel Today]; poetry by N. Korzhavin and A. Galich; Open Letters by members of the USSR Union of Writers V. Konetsky and V. Sosnora, and the letter by L[ydia] Chukovskaya [daughter of Kornei Chukovsky], all in defence of Solzhenitsyn. [38]

Palatnik pleaded not guilty and stated that she did not consider these materials to be slanderous.

The witnesses – colleagues of R. Palatnik at the library where she worked – spoke highly of her. Palatnik claimed that the court was persecuting, her for her desire to emigrate to Israel. When the judge remarked that Zionism, with which Palatnik sympathised, was a reactionary and anti-Soviet movement, she replied that A. Einstein had also sympathised with it.

Procurator Tekunova called Palatnik a renegade who had fallen under the influence of Zionist propaganda. “Her guilt is aggravated”, said the Procurator, “by the fact that she works on the ideological front.” Tekunova declared the letter by 40 Jews to be slanderous and fabricated, claiming [falsely] that many of the signatures to the letter were “fictitious”.

In her final address R. Palatnik said that she regarded her trial as a link in the unbroken chain of anti-Jewish trials in Leningrad, Kishinyov and Riga. She considered that now, when very many Jews in the Soviet Union were expressing the wish to emigrate to Israel, her trial was intended to intimidate them. Reiza told of the severe and humiliating conditions in which she had been held in prison. Palatnik ended her speech as follows; “I allowed myself the luxury of thinking, which is clearly not permitted. That is why I am in the dock. I ask nothing of the court but justice. ”

The sentence was two years of ordinary-regime camps. [39] Several of R. Palatnik’s relatives and friends, who had been admitted to the court-room to hear sentence pronounced, began shouting: “Reiza, we’ll see you in Israel! The whole Jewish people is with you! ”

[Commentary No 20]

20.5 The Trial of Reiza Palatnik (Odessa)

[37] The text of the Open Letter by 40 Jews was reproduced in Possev: sedmoi spets vypusk, pp 10-12, and given in a condensed English text in Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. IV, Issue 5, August 1970, pp 16-18.

[38] The letters by Konetsky and Lydia Chukovskaya are available in L. Labedz (ed), Solzhenitsyn: a Documentary Record, New York, 1971, pp. 90, 169-172.

[39. U.P.I. reported on 5 August 1971 that V. Chalidze had protested against the sentence on Reiza Palatnik in a letter to the Ukrainian Supreme Court.