PARIS (Sep. 12)
The condition of Soviet Jewry has slowly but steadily deteriorated during the last two years, according to an interim report issued here today by the Conference on the Situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union. The report was transmitted by Dr. Nahum Goldmann to members of the Conference of which Daniel Mayer, French Jewish leader, is chairman.
The report revealed that, according to official Soviet sources, 354 synagogues have been closed in Russia during the past seven years. The total of synagogues fell from 450 in 1956, according to the Soviet Union’s report to the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Discrimination, to only 96, according to 1963 figures from official Soviet sources.
The 17-page report declared that “one cannot fail to note a slow but steady deterioration in the position of Soviet Jewry, not only on the collective, national and religious planes, but also individually.”
Discussing the “large number” of Russian Jews condemned to death as a result of trials for “economic offenses, ” the report declared that “in some of the more adversely affected communities there is deep-seated anxiety and apprehension” among Jews as a result of that development.
The report expressed the hope that as “de-Stalinization makes further progress, the Jewish problem too will achieve a solution. ” However, conference participants were urged in the report to resume their work because “circumstances are pressing and the difficulties faced by Soviet Jewry do not permit indefinite delay.”
80 JEWS CONDEMNED TO DEATH IN TWO YEARS FOR ‘ECONOMIC CRIMES’
The report cited figures published in the Soviet press showing that between July 1, 1961 and July 1, 1963, at least 140 persons were condemned to death for economic offenses in Russia and that about 60 per cent of these, or some 80 people, at least, were Jews. “This proportion is especially disquieting when one remembers that the Jews represent only about 1. 5 per cent of the total population, ” the report noted. “In the Ukraine, where Jews constitute two per cent of the population, they account for 80 to 90 per cent of those condemned to death” in such trials.
The report emphasized that the Soviet press was “only too willing to harp” on those trials in which the accused are Jews, “laying heavy indirect stress on the ‘fatal connection’ which is supposed to exist between offenses committed and the national or religious identity of the offenders. Such articles help to back up the current anti-religion campaign, especially in its anti-Semitic aspects.”
The report asserted that the entire Yiddish literary output from 1948 to 1963 amounted to a total of five books by deceased writers, one anthology, the newspaper, the Birobidzhan Stern, and the bi-monthly Sovietish Heimland.
In a message accompanying the report, Dr. Goldmann said that “considering the large number of Jews still very attached to their national heritage, this state of affairs can only be explained by the fact that the Soviet authorities themselves must be vigorously opposed to any revival of Jewish culture in the USSR.”
The report said that not only had there been no improvement during the past two years in the sphere of Jewish religious life but further deterioration. Synagogues are still being closed regularly and during 1962, the report stated, synagogues were closed at Sverdlovsk, Zhitomir, Kazan, Grozny, Zhmerinka, Chernovitz, Belaya-Tzerkov, Kaunas, Lvov and Piatigorsk. Most of these towns now have no synagogue at all, the report declared.
Dr. Goldmann cited reports of cases in which Russian Jews “were imprisoned and condemned to solitary confinement with hard labor for baking and distributing matzoth by improvised means” since the state bakeries quit baking matzoth two years ago.
The report warned that publication of articles in the Soviet press describing synagogues as “centers of illicit trading” breeds anti-Semitism among the masses “and it is inevitable that this causes some excesses. ” Dr. Goldmann then referred to a previously publicized anti-Semitic incident at Dhagestan on August 9, 1961, when Jews were accused of ritual murder. He asserted that this was not an isolated case, and that similar charges were made at Uzbekistan in 1962, in Georgia and in 1963 in Vilna.