23.5 The Anniversary of the “Hijackers” Trial

No 23 : 5 January 1972

On 24 December, the anniversary of the sentence in the Leningrad “aeroplane” case, 29 prisoners from this and subsequent Jewish trials carried out a three-day protest hunger-strike. [93] The only non-participants in this were M. Dymshits, G. Butman, and M. Korenblit, who were at that time in the KGB prison in [the Mordovian capital of] Saransk.

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To mark their solidarity with the prisoners, Jews in many cities throughout the country declared hunger strikes. [94]

In Moscow 25 people began a three-day hunger strike at 7 p.m. on 23 December. They sent a statement to the Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, N. V. Podgorny. In the course of the following day 21 additional people joined the fasters. The hunger strike was carried out in five flats.

In Riga 22 Jews gathered beside the Supreme Court building on the morning of 24 December. Two days earlier they had sent a letter to N. V. Podgorny, announcing their 72-hour protest hunger-strike. The people who had gathered next to the building of the Latvian Supreme Court observed a minute of silence. Then they were arrested and taken to police headquarters in Riga, where they were held until the evening.

In Tbilisi eight people carried out a hunger strike and sent a letter to Podgorny, Rudenko, and the USSR Supreme Court.

In Kiev 19 people carried out a hunger strike in three flats, after sending a telegram to Podgorny.

In Rostov [-on-Don] Lazar Lyubarsky carried out a three-day hunger strike.

In Kishinyov [Moldavia] 14 Jews carried out a hunger strike to mark their solidarity with the prisoners.

Twenty Jews of Vilnius, in a letter to Podgorny, demanded the release of the prisoners. Eight people carried out a three-day hunger strike.

In Odessa four people joined the hunger strike on the second day.

Many letters and telegrams were sent to N. V. Podgorny. In a letter from 31 people in Moscow the signatories write that the sentence in the case of the “aeroplane people”, which by its cruelty and injustice provoked a wave of protests throughout the world, has not led to the results desired and expected by the organizers of the trial. The flow of requests to leave has only increased. The authors note that in the last year it has become easier to leave, and now the desperate step which was provoked by the circumstances of the previous year would probably not have been necessary. The letter ends with a request to review the case.

155 inhabitants of Leningrad, Riga, Vilnius, Odessa, and Kishinyov have sent a letter to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. “We appeal to you with this urgent request: in the name of Goodness and Justice, which ought to lie at the basis of all decision-making, release our relatives and friends, and give us the chance to leave with our families for the State of Israel.”

[Commentary No 23]

23.5     The Anniversary of the “Aeroplane” Trial

[93. See extracts from an appeal by the “aeroplane” prisoners, which calls among other things for a Red Cross inspection of the camps, in a U.P.I. dispatch of 24 December 1971.]

[94. These sympathy hunger strikes with the prisoners were widely reported in the world press on 27 and 28. December, and massive detail, with texts of the statements is given in News Bulletin on Soviet Jewry [NBSJ], Tel-Aviv, No. 208, 15-25 December. For details of this bulletin, and of Jews in the USSR – Latest Information, which also carries extensive news and documents, see Bibliography, sections I.c. and III.]