NEW YORK (Aug. 21)
The sentencing to death last week in Moscow of a Jew accused of “economic crimes” prompted the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry today to ask the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, Switzerland, to determine if the Soviet Government has embarked on a new series of such trials and convictions as were held in 1961-64, which had anti-Semitic connotations.
The Jew sentenced to death by a Moscow court was an industrial engineer, M. Rabinovich. The announcement of the sentence raised the question of anti-Semitism among Soviet newspaper readers as well as among various Jewish and non-Jewish groups abroad. Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry wrote to the International Commission, as the agency which conducted a study of the economic crimes trials in the Soviet Union in the 1961-64 period.
(A Moscow dispatch printed today by The New York Times also reported that Soviet newspaper readers, reacting to the death sentence against Mr. Rabinovich, wonder whether there has been a revival of the practice under the Premiership of Nikita Khrushchev of using the Jews as scapegoats in economic trials. The dispatch attributes many of the 1961-64 death sentences against Jews convicted of economic crimes to the known fact that Khrushchev was personally anti-Semitic. The Times report reveals that Khrushchev had often referred to Jews as “Zhid,” an insulting term equal to the word “Yid” or “Kike.”)
The International Commission of Jurists is an association of more than 45,000 highly distinguished and respected judges, lawyers and jurists from countries throughout the world. Its exclusive concern is the investigation of problems and violations of the rule of law in all nations. Fearful that “Soviet authorities may once again embark on a road of scapegoating,” Rabbi Miller recalled the Commission’s concern that “it is a tragedy for the Soviet Jewish people that they have been made the scapegoat for the transgressions of those whose guilt it would be dangerous to make public.”
The American Jewish Conference pointed out to the International Commission that the Commission reported that there had been, during the 1961-64 trials, “an insidious and sometimes subtle propaganda campaign directed against the Jewish people of the Soviet Union, specifically against those charged with economic crimes and also against the supposed general characteristics of Jews that have been reiterated for centuries. They (Jews) have been made the target of a dangerous propaganda campaign, and Jewish participation in economic crimes has been highlighted if not actually magnified.”
In an assessment on Soviet Jewry published by the Conference earlier this year, it was reported that, in that period, at least 250 persons were executed for economic crimes. “More than 50 percent of these were Jews, and in some parts of the country — for example, the Ukraine — the percentage rose to 80,” the Conference asserted. “These trials and death sentences were carried out to the accompaniment of an extraordinary press campaign that purveyed the most vicious anti-Semitic stereotypes. By mid-1964, the campaign ground to a halt, and with it the anti-Jewish press campaign and the singling out of Jews for capital punishment.”