21.7 The Jewish Movement to Leave for Israel

No 21 : 11 September 1971

[1]

MOSCOW. On 12 July a group of Jews from Georgia went to the Reception Room of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, where they handed in a collective statement demanding visas to leave for Israel. At five p.m., after waiting all day in vain for an answer, they went to the Central Telegraph Office, where they announced a hunger- strike. They sent telegrams to the Soviet leaders, informing them that they would not end the hunger-strike until they were given permission to leave the country. [11]

Throughout the entire hunger-strike they did not leave the premises of the Telegraph Office. On the second and third days they were joined by several people from Georgia and Moscow, bringing the total number of hunger-strikers to 44. On the second day of the strike they were asked by police officers to leave the premises of the Telegraph Office, but they refused to do so. At three a.m. on 15 July more than a hundred policemen entered the building and arrested all the participants in the hunger-strike, as well as several Moscow Jews who were also present. The detainees were taken to sobering-up station No. 9 (near the Voikovskaya underground station), where they were questioned on a charge of violating public order. At mid-day on 15 July those who lived in Moscow were released, after being warned that in future their punishment would be more severe. The Georgian Jews were taken to the railway station, placed in a special carriage under guard and despatched to Tbilisi, where they were released.

[2]

At mid-day on 29 July officials of the KGB and of the ordinary police detained a group of Jews in the Reception Room of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs [MVD], where they had presented themselves in order to be received by Verein, head of the MVD OVIR [Department of Visas and Registrations]. The twenty detainees were taken to sobering-up station No. 9, where they were questioned by KGB officials, one of whom was I. M. Sazonov. During questioning they were threatened with criminal prosecution and with being placed in psychiatric hospitals. At 5.15 p.m. they were released.

[3]

On 27 July eleven Jews from Lithuania presented themselves at the Reception Room of the MVD. They insisted on being received by N. A. Shchelokov, Minister of Internal Affairs, or by one of his deputies. At the time of the hunger demonstration staged by Lithuanian Jews at the Moscow Telegraph Office in June [see CCE 20.11, item 20], they had been promised that their request to leave for Israel would be met. Receiving no answer from the Lithuanian MVD, they had again travelled to Moscow.

After spending the entire day at the Reception Room without receiving a satisfactory reply, they announced on the following day, 28 July, a six-hour standing protest demonstration at the entrance to the Press Centre of the Seventh International Film Festival. The demonstrators remained there from midday until six p.m. Despite the presence of reinforced detachments of vigilantes and police in the square where the demonstrators were standing, none of them were detained.

[4]

Nineteen years ago, on 12 August 1952, the Jewish writers Perets Markish, David Bergelson, Leib Kvitko and David Gofshtein, together with other members of the Presidium of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, were shot. On the anniversary of the executions Perets Markish’s widow Esther Perets-Lazebnikova and his son David Markish staged a demonstration at the entrance of the Reception Room of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet “to honour the memory of our husband and father, and also as a protest at the refusal to give us permission to emigrate to Israel, our historic Motherland”, as they stated in a letter addressed to N. V. Podgorny.

The demonstrators remained where they were from ten a.m. until six p.m., with yellow six-pointed stars attached to their clothing. The police made two attempts to drive the demonstrators away from the premises of the Reception Room, but they declared that they would yield only to force. The police did not resort to this method. [12]

[5]

TBILISI. Some time after the forcible removal of the group of Georgian Jews from Moscow, they and other Jews in Tbilisi three times visited the Georgian OVIR. Receiving no positive answer, 300 persons went to the premises of the Central Committee [of the Georgian Communist Party]. A hundred of them went inside, but the remainder were barred from doing so by police who had appeared on the scene. After a long wait the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, several members of the Central Committee and the head of OVIR came out to see those present in the building.

It was decided by mutual agreement that the Georgian OVIR would arrange for the emigration of fifteen families per week, the order of priority to be determined according to the time when applications to emigrate had been submitted. A list of 530 families awaiting permission to emigrate was in the possession both of OVIR and of a public commission composed of representatives of the citizens who had submitted applications to emigrate. The agreement is so far being observed. By 1 September the 80th family had been given permission. [13]

[6]

KIEV. On 1 August eleven Soviet citizens, who had received unexplained refusals of their request for permission to emigrate to Israel, arrived at Baby Yar, [a ravine near Kiev where large numbers of Soviet Jews were exterminated by the Germans during the Occupation] to hold a hunger demonstration of protest at the memorial to the victims.

They sat on flag-stones around the grave-stone. Officials of the Shevchenko district police, using force, despatched all the participants in the sitting demonstration to the police station. On the following day they were tried for violating public order. The judge, Senatorova, established the fact of violation on the basis of testimony by police officials, who stated that those in custody had damaged flowers and trampled down the grass around the memorial to the victims of fascism. Ten persons were sentenced to fifteen days’ imprisonment and one was fined ten roubles.

The victims addressed a complaint to the judicial organs of the Ukrainian Republic about their illegal detention and their humiliating treatment in prison (searches at which they were stripped naked, abuse, harder work than that of other prisoners and so on). Their complaint was supported by nine persons who had come to Baby Yar to lay flowers at the memorial and had witnessed the incident. [14]

[7]

RIGA. On 3 September Vatslav Palchevsky, a pensioner aged 67, beat up his neighbour, the father [Abraham] of Joseph Mendelevich. The son was convicted in the “hijackers” case (see CCE 17.6). Palchevsky shouted: “You’ll never see your Israel, I’ll show you your motherland”. His victim was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he was given stitches for three head wounds, each seven centimetres in length. The cranium was injured. [15]

After statements to the police by relatives of the victim, Palchevsky was placed in a psychiatric hospital for examination.

On the day after the attack, Riga Jews resolved to assemble at the Rumbol// cemetery, at the memorial to the victims of fascism, to express their indignation at the act of the anti-Semite. But they were not allowed into the cemetery – there were troops there. It was explained to those who had come to attend the rally that the troops were carrying out exercises, and the entrance was therefore closed. The exercises ended as soon as those assembled had dispersed.

[8]

Reactions to the Trial of V. Kukui (see CCE 20.4)

SVERDLOVSK. Relatives and friends of V. Kukui who appeared as witnesses at his trial have issued a statement about that trial.

They describe it as “yet another link in the long chain of repression and persecutions which, in violation of all Soviet laws and of the international obligations assumed by the government of the USSR, have descended upon persons expressing the desire to emigrate to their spiritual and historical motherland, Israel”. During the investigation searches were carried out at the homes of all Sverdlovsk Jews who had submitted applications to emigrate to Israel. “All materials in which the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Jew’ were used in contexts different from those in which they appear in the journals Agitator’s notebook and Ogonyok” were confiscated, “even the book Against the Anti-Semites [Protiv antisemitov] by Gorev, published in the USSR in 1927, which is a panegyric to Soviet nationalities policy.”

The newspaper Urals Worker – an organ of the Sverdlovsk Region Party Committee – had printed articles about the trial which had in essence been “an attempt to influence public opinion and a directive to the organs of investigation and justice dealing with Kukui’s case”.

On the subject of the questioning of witnesses at the trial, the authors of the statement ask the question: “Surely the time when men were tried for their opinions has not returned?” . . . “We demand an end to all persecution of Jews who do not wish to link their fate with the places where they were born or where they live, but who desire to emigrate to their motherland, to Israel. We demand guarantees that our legal national rights will be implemented, above all the right to national self-determination.”

The statement is signed by Ella Kukui, Vladimir Aks, Ilya Voitovetsky, Yuly Kosharovsky and Vladimir Markman.

*

KIEV. Six residents of Kiev have submitted a statement to the RSFSR Supreme Court asking for their testimony to be heard at the appeal in the case of V. Kukui, since they were witnesses to the events of 29 September 1969 which are described in the essay “Baby Yar” [cf CCE 16.11, item 6]. This essay was described at Kukui’s trial as slanderous, and its circulation figured in the charges against him.

[9]

MOSCOW. A. Sakharov and V. Chalidze, members of the Committee for Human Rights, have submitted a statement to the RSFSR Supreme Court about the trial of V. Kukui (see this issue, CCE 21.5: “The strange trial in Sverdlovsk” in the section “Materials of the Committee for Human Rights”).

NOTES

[11. See also a U.P.I. dispatch of 12 July.]

[12. For more details on this case see The Observer, 22 August, and The Guardian, 13 August, where Mrs. Markish’s appeal to Jewish writers is quoted.]

[13. For-more details on the Tbilisi protests see the Daily Telegraph, 6 and 9 July, and The Times, 28 September 1971.]

[14. See also an A.P. dispatch of 11 August 1971.)

[15. See also letter by C. Shindler in The Times, 17 September 1971.]

[16. Probably the same as the samizdat item summarized in CCE 16.//.]