LOS ANGELES (May. 31)
President Francois Mitterrand of France was urged, prior to his first meeting in Moscow with Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko, to undertake a new initiative on behalf of Soviet Jews and other dissidents in the USSR, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported here yesterday.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the Center, who met with Mitterrand at the Elysee Palace in Paris, asked him to personally take up the plights of human rights activist Andrei Sakharov and Jewish refusnik Anatoly Shcharansky with the Soviet leadership.
Hier headed a 25-member North American delegation of the Wiesenthal Center. The meetings with Mitterrand and with French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, were held in conjunction with the Center’s 1984 “Mission of Remembrance and Renewal” to West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and France. Mitterrand was presented with the Center’s Humanitarian Award for his lifelong friendship to the Jewish people and his commitment to human rights.
Hier told the French President that the delegation had just come from Budapest where they honored the heroic mission of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, responsible for saving the lives of some 100,000 Hungarian Jews in the closing months of World War II, who disappeared after the Red Army entered Budapest in 1944 and may still be alive in a Soviet prison.
Hier urged Mitterrand “to do all you can on behalf of these two great people to see that the Soviets will not be able to do to Sakharov and Shcharansky what they succeeded in doing to Raoul Wallenberg.”
He added, “We hope you will confront President Chernenko with the cultural genocide which characterizes the official Soviet policy toward its Jewish citizens. Ask him why his country virtually prohibits the study of the Bible, silences teachers who want to teach, considers it a crime to speak the language of Isaiah and Jeremiah — all this while the USSR seals its borders with artificial restrictions and continuously harasses the nearly one-fifth of the world Jewish population that lives there with a relentless barrage of official inspired anti-Semitism.”
At a meeting later at the Foreign Ministry with Cheysson and chief Political Counselor Jacques Andreani, the delegation spokesman Ira Lipman of Memphis, Tenn., urged that France follow the U.S. lead and openly assign French diplomats in Moscow and Leningrad to attend services at synagogues there.
The French diplomats promised to consider the request. They agreed that some additional concrete gestures toward the Jewish community in the Soviet Union should be undertaken, the Wiesenthal Center reported.