Psychiatrists Urged to Condemn Soviet Use of Commitment As Tool Against Jews, Dissenters

Public condemnation of the use of commitment to mental hospitals as a tool of repression of Jews in the Soviet Union was urged by Richard Maass, chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, in a letter he sent today to Dr. Leo Rangell, president of the international Psychoanalytical Association currently holding its 27th Congress in Vienna. “I would like to alert the members…to the continued use of psychiatry and psychoanalysis as a weapon in the arsenal of political repression and human degradation in the Soviet Union,” Maass wrote. “Your esteemed profession is being debased when, in recent months, Jews seeking their lawful right of emigration have instead been committed to mental hospitals…(where) they are subjected to various pressures designed to force them to change their views or positions.”

Maass’ letter cited the recent case of Maj. Grischa Feigin, a much-decorated Jewish war hero from Riga, who was committed to a mental institution after returning his medals in protest against the anti-Jewish policies of the Soviet Government. His subsequent release and emigration to Israel was attributed by Maass to protests from Jewish organizations abroad. “Just this month.” Maass wrote, “a woman from the Ukraine, Nona Yanorskaya, aged 45, was retained for so-called ‘mental treatment’ after she participated with 44 other Jews in a hunger strike in the Moscow Central Telegraph Office” to protest the delay in processing applications for emigrant visas. Maass recalled that commitment had been used in the past in the USSR to stifle writers and intellectuals who expressed dissenting views. He said the practice “warrants the condemnation of the world which has remained too long silent on this issue.”

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