LONDON (May. 21)
Seven Jews from Vilna, capital of Soviet Lithuania, have sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General U Thant, Premier Golda Meir of Israel and the chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission demanding their right to emigrate and settle in Israel, “the land of our ancestors.” The letter, made public here today, stated that the signatories had applied repeatedly to Soviet authorities for exit vistas but were refused without explanation. “This has driven us to appeal to you, to world public opinion to help us and hear our plea,” they wrote. The signatories gave their own home addresses in the letter and listed the names and street addresses of relatives in Israel they said they wanted to join. The letter said in part, “Few Jews now remain in beautiful Lithuania and this green country has turned into the mute grave of 300,000 Jews massacred–87 percent of the Jewish population before World War II. Even the Jewish language inscriptions have been erased from the mass graves. No kaddish (prayer for the dead) or yiskor (memorial prayers) are permitted nor are Jews allowed to gather on the anniversary of the massacre. This is in what Jews for five centuries called Yerhushalayim Delitt–the Jerusalem of Lithuania.” The city of Vilna. which was part of Poland before World War II, was once regarded as the most important center of Jewish culture and scholarship in Eastern Europe.