East German Paper, Polish Official Blame ‘zionists’ for ‘threat’ to Czech Socialism

Two Warsaw Pact countries are attempting to justify their participation in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia to their own people on the grounds that “Zionist forces” were responsible for what they called the “threat to Socialism” in Czechoslovakia. According to a New York Times dispatch from Bonn today, the Neues Deutschland, the main organ of East Germany’s ruling Communist Party, charged that “Zionist forces have taken over the leadership” of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. In Warsaw, according to the Times, the Polish Government’s anti-Jewish campaign, which had abated in recent weeks, was revived by Maj. Gen. Jan Czapla who charged in an article in the Polish Communist Party newspaper Trybuna Ludu that “Zionists” were responsible for the “real threat of transition from Socialism to capitalism” which justified the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Gen. Czapla, who is deputy chief of the Polish Army’s political board, drew a parallel between the “anti-Socialist” forces at work in Poland last spring and those in Czechoslovakia and said the “common element” was the “extremely vigorous combination of revisionism and Zionism.”

It was student unrest and demands for greater freedom in Poland last spring that touched off an “anti-Zionist,” “anti-Israel” campaign, inspired by the Polish Government and Communist Party. The campaign was recognized by observers as an attempt to exploit latent anti-Semitism by making Poland’s surviving Jews the scapegoats for the grievances touched off by student riots. The Government vigorously denied this. Nevertheless, scores of Jews who had been devoted Communists and held high posts in the Government, the party and in the communications media, as well as other fields, were summarily dismissed and many Jews were arrested. Wladislaw Gomulka, Polish Communist Party leader, finally succeeded in muzzling the campaign which, while ostensibly directed against alleged “Zionists,” was conceded to have degenerated into a general anti-Semitic witch-hunt.

The invocation of the “Zionist” menace by the East German Communist Party was attributed by observers to evidence that the regime of party chief Walter Ulbricht is experiencing considerable difficulty explaining why East German troops joined the other Soviet-bloc forces in marching into Czechoslovakia. East German commentaries, according to the Times, disclosed mounting concern over the breadth and power of Czechoslovakian resistance to the occupation and have referred to “anti-Socialist rowdies.” The implication of the Neues Deutschland charges was that those elements are working with or are one with the “Zionist forces” that allegedly took over in Czechoslovakia before the occupation.

Mr. Ulbricht is known to be the most rabidly anti-Israel personality among all of the Eastern European Communist leaders. It was reportedly at his insistence that Czechoslovakia was forced to accept a reference to “Israeli aggression” in the joint communique issued at the Bratislava conference of Warsaw Pact nations earlier this month. That reference was subsequently assailed by Czech liberals as evidence that even the reform regime of Communist Party First Secretary Alexander Dubcek was making Czech foreign policy subservient to that of Soviet Russia. It is generally believed that it was Mr. Ulbricht’s report to the Kremlin that Mr. Dubcek could not hold the liberal forces in check in his country was one of the factors that led the Soviets to decide to invade Czechoslovakia last week.

(Concern for the safety of Czechoslovakia’s 16,000 Jews was voiced today by the American Jewish Congress. In a statement issued here, Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, of Cleveland, AJCongress president, called upon the United Nations and the free governments of the world “to make it clear that they will not countenance the victimization of Czech Jews or any other racial or religious groups in order to justify the present outrages against the Czechoslovakian people.”

(Rabbi Lelyveld said, “Czechoslovakian Jews have demonstrated their loyalty to their government time and again and their attachment to the people of Czechoslovakia cannot rationally be called into question. Nonetheless, there is danger that unless present Soviet pressures are reduced, Jews in Czechoslovakia will be made to pay the price for the demand of all the Czech people for a more liberal society and greater personal freedom.”

(Citing the statements in Neues Deutschland and in Trybuna Ludu, Rabbi Lelyveld declared that “these statements obviously were inspired by and follow hard upon attacks a little more than a week ago in the Soviet Army newspaper, Red Star, which warned the peoples of Communist countries against ‘fifth columns’ of Zionist sympathizers and denounced the World Zionist Organization as harboring ‘ideological saboteurs.’” Rabbi Lelyveld said, “these calumnies can no longer be dismissed as reflecting merely the personal prejudice of one or another local Communist leader. They appear unmistakably to be part of a concerted drive within countries subject to Soviet domination to use the time-dishonored device of blaming local Jewish populations for every internal shortcoming, failing, disappointment or limitation.”)

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