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State Dept. Says Suppression of Jewish Culture in U.S. S. R. Continues

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Suppression of Jewish culture in the Soviet Union continues and Soviet Jews fear that eventually they will lose their identity as a group, the State Department has informed the Jewish Labor Committee here in a communication sent under the authorization of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

The communication, addressed to Adolph Held, JLC national chairman, and made public today, was dated June 6. It was signed by John P. Meagher, chief of the State Department Public Services Division. It expressed regret that it was not possible for Mr. Dulles to send a message in time for the protest meeting held by the Jewish Labor Committee on April 30, because at that time he was busy making preparations for the meeting of the NATO Council of Foreign Ministers which took place in Europe.

“Apart from the rehabilitation of a few writers, improvement in the status of Soviet Jews during the post-Stalin period has not been great,” the State Department statement said. “During the past year some minor concessions have been made in the practice of Judaism as part of a less stringent approach to religion. A small number of Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel. A few Yiddish-language artists have been permitted to appear on the stage. In addition, Soviet periodicals during the past year have in two instances specifically denounced anti-Semitism in contrast to earlier practice of avoiding comment on the subject.

“Nevertheless,” the statement continued, “the basic policy of severely restricting Jewish cultural activity (publications, schools, libraries, and the theatre) especially in evidence since the purge of 1948-49, remains unchanged, and Soviet Jews have expressed fears to foreigners that eventually they would lose their identity as a group.”

The State Department emphasized, in its statement, that “the Soviet regime has never repudiated the cosmopolitan purge’ of 1948-49 during which a great many Soviet Jewish intellectuals disappeared. Some steps have been made recently to rehabilitate some Jewish writers; however, the circumstances of the rehabilitation suggest that they are dead.”

The statement referred to the Soviet newspaper, Literary Gazette, of January 24 and March 29, 1956, in which it was announced that the secretariat of the board of the Union of Soviet Writers had formed “Commissions for the literary heritage” of David Bergelson, L. Kvitko, I. Nusinov and S. Persov, four of the most prominent missing Jewish literary figures, as well as two lesser known writers presumably also Soviet Jews who had vanished during the purge. “The Soviet authorities have never divulged the fate of any of the purged Jewish intellectuals,” the State Department stated.

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