PARIS (Dec. 28)
The French government, which has had serious differences with Israel over the last three years, has emerged in the forefront of European powers urging clemency for two Russian Jews sentenced to death in Leningrad last week. Such an appeal was conveyed by the French Ambassador in Moscow today to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that this initiative was taken on the personal instructions of President Georges Pompidou. (Similar appeals for clemency have been sent to Moscow by Premier Hillmar Baunsgaard of Denmark; Norwegian Premier Per Borten and Premier John Gorton of Australia. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsay, declared that he was deeply concerned over the harsh sentences and would exert whatever influence he could to save the lives of the two condemned men. A Vatican spokesman said today that “it was to be assumed that the Holy See was quietly urging Soviet authorities to spare the lives of the two men sentenced to death in Leningrad.”) French protests against the Leningrad verdicts and sentences have come from the entire political spectrum, ranging from this country’s powerful Communist Party to the Gaullists who govern France.
Prominent Frenchmen, among them Premier Jacques Chaban-Delmas and former Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville, have sent personal messages to the Kremlin warning Soviet leaders of the consequences should the Leningrad death sentences be carried out. Sources here claimed today that initial reaction from Moscow indicated surprise over the passionate outpouring of protest from France and led them to believe that the Leningrad sentences would not be carried out and that further trials of Soviet Jews might be cancelled. Public reaction to the sentences has been vigorous. A mass public rally will be held in front of the Paris City Hall on Wednesday night. Police meanwhile have posted a 24-hour guard around Soviet offices here following an attack on the In tourist, Soviet tourist bureau office here tonight. Demonstrators smashed several windows and broke office equipment before they were forcibly removed by police. Anti-Soviet demonstrations occurred in Marseilles where nine Jewish youths have been on a hunger strike since last Friday when the Leningrad sentences were officially announced.
French newspapers, including the Communist Party organ L’Humanite, have condemned the Leningrad trial and sentences. Le Figaro published an editorial today signed by the Catholic writer Thierry Maulinter, which described the Leningrad proceedings as “a trial of all the Jews in Russia.” A serious rift reportedly developed within the French Communist Party over the Leningrad trial between the old hard line Stalinist and liberal factions. The latter have argued that failure to oppose the Leningrad trial would alienate the party from French workers. The Stalinists reportedly accept this argument but insist on an uncompromising denunciation of Israel and Zionism. (The Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published an unsigned article today disclosing that many “highly qualified” appeals have been received by Pope Paul requesting his intervention on behalf of the Leningrad defendants. According to the article, said to have been “inspired by the highest authority,” a “respectful and self-possessed” demonstration on behalf of the Leningrad 11 was held during the Pope’s Christmas message In St. Peter’s Square. The article said that while the Holy See has no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, “We are in a position to assure that it does everything possible in this instance.”)