‘the Night of the Murdered Poets’

Today marks the 29th anniversary of “The Night of the Murdered Poets.” Recalling that tragic event and the continuing Soviet repression of Jewish culture and emigration, Theodore Mann, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said in a specially prepared statement:

“Twenty-nine years ago, on August 12, 1952, In the basement of Lubianka Prison in Moscow, twenty-four Jewish writers, poets, artists, musicians and actors were executed. Their murder was the culmination of an anti-Jewish campaign during the ‘black years’ of purges and repressions which swept the Soviet Union form 1948 to 1953. Some of the victims were survivors of the 400 Jewish artists rounded up with their families in the winter of 1948-49 and banished to the gulag, where many of them perished in labor camps.

“No word of the August 1952 massacre reached the world until after Stalin’s death three years later, when the full implication of that dark day finally became clear. ‘The Night of the Murdered Poets’ was to sound the death knell for Jewish culture in the Soviet Union.

“Today, almost three decades later, another generation of Soviet Jews is reaffirming its Jewish heritage. Deprived of the tools to learn about Judaism–neither schools, books nor other material on Jewish history, art, literature, language or religion are available– they are nevertheless gathering in private homes for informal study groups. Their hunger for knowledge of their Jewish past remains strong, in the face of an increasingly hostile environment.

“In recent months, the harassment and arrests of participants in these self-study groups have accelerated alarmingly as the authorities once more attempt to stamp out Jewish culture and identity in the Soviet Union. Anti-Semitism has become all-pervasive in Soviet life, stimulated and directed by deliberate government policies.

“Many Jews, who see that the Soviet Union holds no future for them, focus their hopes on emigrating to Israel. While they wait for permission to leave, some for over ten years, they watch anxiously as the gates to freedom continue to close. Meanwhile, the leaders and organizers of the seminars and those who demonstrate and petition for their right to emigrate, are charged with random ‘crimes’ and sent to prison, labor camps and exile.

“Today, as we mourn the twenty-four men brutally slain during Stalin’s reign of terror, we hold the current Soviet regime accountable for the fate of contemporary Soviet Jewry.”

PRESENT FLIGHT OF SOVIET JEWRY JUXTAPOSED

Also commenting on the tragedy 29 years ago and the situation today in the USSR, Dr. Sey mour Lachman, chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, and University Dean of CUNY, said that “as we recall with great pain” the execution of the leading Soviet Jewish intellectuals, “the present plight of Soviet Jewry is juxtaposed. The continued arrest and imprisonment of Jewish activists, the increasing number of refusals issued to those seeking to leave the country, and the general climate of harassment and hatred exhibited against the Jews in the USSR sears our souls.

“Until the Jews of the Soviet Union are permitted to live as Jews, until emigration to Israel flows unimpeded we, free men and women in the West, can permit ourselves no respite in our efforts to free the Jews of the Soviet Union.”

The Union of Councils of Soviet Jews observed that “the cultural genocide of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union continues today. Unlike all other nationalities in the USSR, the Jews are prohibited from studying their language, history and culture. There are no Hebrew or Yiddish schools.” The Union noted that this repression is in violation of international agreements on human rights and urged all Americans to call upon the USSR to “cease this repression.”

NEW TRIALS PENDING

Ken Sweder, chairman of the Soviet Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, noted that while emigration figures dropped this year to what may be an all-time annual low, new trials against leaders in the Soviet Jewish emigration movement have been started in recent weeks. These, he said, include the sentencing of Dr. Viktor Brailovsky, Vladimir Kislik, Kim Fridman and Stanislav Zubko.

In addition, Sweder said, scheduled to be tried are Evgeny Lein of Leningrad, Boris Chernobilsky of Moscow, and Vladimir Tsukerman and Osip Lokshin of Kishinev. Chernobilsky has fled Moscow and is now underground in a dramatic effort to show the world that his scheduled trial would have been a “travesty of justice.”

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