WASHINGTON (May. 17)
B’nai B’rith International today called on the academic community to protest the systematic revocation of advanced degrees by the Soviet Union of its Jewish citizens seeking to emigrate.
In an address to the annual meeting of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry here, Dr. William Korey, director of international policy research for the International Council of B’nai B’rith, charged that the Soviet Union has begun “an extraordinary assault on the autonomy and integrity of academia” by revoking academic degrees earned by Jewish scholars.
A total of 65 scientists “have so for lost or are in the process of losing” their advanced degrees, Korey said. He noted that throughout the world advanced degrees are awarded in recognition of scholarly achievement and that “a veritable sanctity” envelopes the awards. In the Soviet Union he pointed out, the agency that grants advanced degrees is under the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers.
This Council, Korey explained, requires applicants to “combine a profound professional knowledge with a mastery of Marxist-Leninist theory and with the convictions of an active builder of Communist society.”
A RENEWED OUTCRY IS NECESSARY
Under current interpretation, “Jews seeking to exercise the fundamental human right to leave a country do not display the required convictions,” Korey stated. Several scientists deprived of their degrees were informed that the revocation was based on their “unpatriotic behavior,” that is, they had applied to emigrate, he added.
The B’nai B’rith executive pointed out that the loss of advanced degrees is “profoundly burdensome and humiliating.” It don mean cuts in salary, demotion, denial of access to libraries laboratories, seminars, scientific meetings, and even dismissal from the job.
Last year nearly half of the 500 would-be emigrants with advanced degrees were fired, he said. Korey noted that before the current action of the Soviets, only in Hitler’s Germany were academic degrees of Jews revoked, “and that action foreshadowed even more intense persecution.”
In urging protests against the Soviets, Korey contended that the “burden of responsibility” lies with the international academic community. “It was the outcry of Western academics…that helped to end the notorious ‘diploma tax’ (imposed by Soviets)” he said. “A renewed outcry might produce a similar result now.”