WASHINGTON (May. 23)
World-wide reaction to the trial and sentences of nine Jews in Leningrad last Thursday was not likely to comfort Soviet officials worried about their nation’s image abroad. The response ranged from expressions of anger and disgust over the proceedings to sober editorial analyses in leading newspapers which found the quality of Soviet justice wanting. The reaction by Western government spokesmen was cautious. After observing that because foreign newsmen were barred from the trial “we can’t know precisely what transpired and the exact nature of the evidence involved,” State Department spokesman Charles Bray said at Friday’s press briefing, “To the extent that the issues were the desire of people to live where they choose or preserve their cultural heritage–to the exclusion of other factors–we should judge such trials to be in violation of human rights.” In reply to questions, Bray said he did not know whether or not the State Department planned to file protests with the United Nations and its various international organizations. French officials at the UN said their government has not spoken out publicly against the treatment of Soviet Jews because it feels that would be “counter-productive.” One official said, “We have always been anti-racist but we must be discreet.” He added that a personal comment to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko by French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann would be far more beneficial to Soviet Jewry than public criticism of the Kremlin. The official said he did not know if Schumann ever made such a comment to Gromyko.
The London Telegraph reported yesterday that about 80,000 Jewish families totalling some 350,000 persons are known to have applied for permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union. The paper observed that this indicated that the trials and the attitude of general hostility toward Jews have not had the desired effect of intimidation. “The Soviet government has never before been faced with a social problem on such a scale which they cannot deal with simply by the use of force and repression,” the paper added, Commenting on the Leningrad trial today, Mrs. Henry Rapaport, president of the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, said “These sentences are ominous on the eve of the trials of other Jews to begin soon in five Russian cities. World opinion must understand this and cry out not only against the severity of the punishment but to challenge the basic definition of what constitutes a crime under Soviet law in face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives people freedom to leave their country of residence.” Monroe Abbey, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said in Montreal on Friday that “unless the world raises its voice” the nine Jews sentenced in Leningrad “will join the many other victims of religious and cultural genocide in the Siberian prison camps.” He said the sentences pronounced on the nine “can be equated to a living death.” He said “We will use all avenues available in a democratic society to protest and register our concern in a non-violent fashion.”
The Confederation of Brazilian Jews in Sao Paulo sent a cable to the Soviet Ambassador protesting the Leningrad trials and the other pending trials of Jews whose “Only crime is their wish to emigrate to Israel.” The group also asked the Brazilian Foreign Minister to make the Soviet government aware of “Brazil’s repudiation of trials that offend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In San Francisco, 300 people demonstrated against the Leningrad trial outside the home of the Soviet Consul General Alexander Zinchik. They represented the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry and were joined by a contingent of Hadassah members returning from a regional convention. In New York, the Jewish Labor Committee denounced the Leningrad sentences as “unjust” in cables to the chief Soviet prosecutor, Roman A. Rudenko and to members of the Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic.