NEW YORK (Jul. 5)
The American Jewish Congress last night challenged denials by First Deputy Frol R. Kozlov of suppression of Jewish cultural and religious life in the Soviet Union with a display of photographs said to show the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries in Russia during the past year.
Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the AJC, exhibited copies of the originals at a press conference, declaring he was satisfied with the authenticity of the pictures which he said were taken by tourists who made prints available to him. He charged that the “pictorial evidence” was another indication that “the Soviet Union has now apparently undertaken to fragmentize the meager remains of organized Jewish religious life which have still been permitted.”
The Soviet leader had asserted, en route to San Francisco Friday, that no synagogues had been forcibly closed in the Soviet Union, citing specifically Russia’s three main cities, Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. The photographs shown by Dr. Prinz pictured a boarded-up synagogue in Voronezh in Kremenchug, the only one in the city; and a desecrated mass grave of Nazi victims in Babiyar, a suburb of Kiev.
Dr. Prinz asserted that the synagogue in Kremenchug, where 20,000 Jews live, was the only one in the city and that the Soviet officials had refused to permit it to be reopened for worship. Noting that 80,000 Jewish victims of Nazis and Ukrainians were buried in the Babiyar grave, the AJC president showed widespread vandalism pictured in the area and said “no effort” had been made by Soviet officials to correct the desecrations. Other pictures displayed at the press conference showed a desecrated cemetery in Kieve, which has 200,000 Jews, and another vandalized burial ground in Bendery near the Rumania border.
Rabbi Prinz, replying to Mr. Kozlov’s statement, asserted that “no one” had claimed that the synagogues in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev had been closed. He said that “the information available shows that in these main centers, which are regularly visited by tourists, the authorities took some care to avoid steps which might ‘leak out’.” He added that while restrictions on the baking of matzoh were lifted in Moscow and Leningrad, they remained in force in Odessa, Kharkov, Kishinev and Rostov, “cities which are not regularly visited by outsiders.”
He also cited Khazkov, Voronezh, Chkalov, Bubushkin, Stalino, Chernigov and Novoselitsa as Russian cities where synagogues have been reported closed recently and said: “We would welcome assurances from Mr. Koslov to the effect that these synagogues will now be reopened.”