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Soviet Jewish Psychiatrist Writes of Ordeals in Labor Camp

Amnesty International has made available a letter written by Semyon Gluzman, a Soviet Jewish psychiatrist to his parents in Kiev. Gluzman, 28, after graduating from the Kiev Medical School in 1968 was offered a post at the Dniepropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital, but knowing the kind of “treatment” dissidents were receiving there he refused. In 1971 he challenged, together with two others, an official psychiatric diagnosis which found Pyotr Grigorenko insane. This was published in “Samizdat” publications.

On May 8, 1972 he was arrested for “anti-Soviet agitation,” and on Nov. 19 he was found guilty and sentenced to seven years strict regime in Perm. Together with Vladimir Bukovsky who joined him in the camp in 1972, he wrote a manual of advice for dissidents confined to psychiatric wards. They also went on a hunger strike together with other prisoners to protest against the death of one prisoner from medical neglect and the suicide of another.

In his letter, smuggled out of the camp, Gluzman spoke of his resolve not to weaken despite KGB pressure. His parents were prevented from visiting him and his father wrote him to “reconsider” his opinion. Gluzman wrote:

‘I HAVE NO WEAK SPOT’

“KGB Captain Utyr once said that I have one weak spot–my parents. He is wrong. I have no weak spot. I cannot allow myself such a luxury. I have lost my right to emotion….Every day and every hour they are murdering me as a person and as a living creature. I am shorn bald and always hungry. I freeze on the cement floor of the punishment cell. The dog snarling at me on the other side of the fence is better fed than I. I am a slave….Any sadist has the power and the authority over me.”

Gluzman enumerated the horrors of the Soviet camp system and the attempts to force him to recant his principles in order to disprove Western reports on the misuse of psychiatric methods in the USSR.

He then wrote: “I am a Jew, and my Judaism consists of more than memories–the memory of the victims of genocide and of the persecutions caused by prejudice become dogma. My Judaism lies in the knowledge of our people as they are today, with their own State, their own history, and happily their own weapons. My uncle Abraham who was shot at Babi Yar did not grant me the right to reconsider. Every September my spirit seethes with indignation for him.”

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