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Soviet Defends Itself at U. N. Against Charges of Curbing Jewish Rights

January 27, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

For the first time in United Nations history, the Soviet Union today placed itself in a defensive position on the question of anti-Semitism in the USSR. After being severely criticized for days by leading Jewish organizations on the suppression of Jewish rights in the Soviet Union, a Soviet delegate, openly irked and angry, made an effort to answer some of the charges.

While a number of Jewish organizations have spoken up on the issue, the principal charges of specific anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union came from the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, comprising B’nai B’rith, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the South African Board of Jewish Deputies. These charges were first made in a formal report to the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and were partly supplemented before the Subcommission today by Label A. Katz, national president of B’nai B’rith.

Mr. Katz was interrupted by the chairman of the Subcommission, Jose D. Ingles, of the Philippines, because the Soviet delegate, Valentyn I. Sapozhnikov, had already complained that an earlier Jewish speaker was maligning his Government. That speaker was Dr. Isaac Lewin, representative of the Agudas Israel World Organization.

Alerted by Mr. Sapozhnikev’s earlier attack against Dr. Lewin, Mr. Ingles halted Mr. Katz’s statement on anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The chairman was supported by Professor D. Richard Hiscocks of Britain, by Mr. Sapozhnikov and Enrique Rodriguez-Fabregat of Uruguay. Mr. Katz was ordered to discontinue reciting further facts about anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union on the grounds that such a report had already been filed by the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations.


Mr. Katz was able to mention only the incident of the burning of a synagogue at Malak hovka, a small town 15 miles southeast of Moscow and the resultant death of an aged Jewish woman on the evenings of the Jewish New Year of 1959. During that incident, the B’nai B’rith leader said, an organization of Soviet Russians, calling themselves the “Beat the Jews Committee,” distributed a pamphlet, which in part stated: “Throw the Jews out of commerce for they damage socialist property and the people’s wealth.”

After a few more sentences, Mr. Katz was compelled to discontinue giving any further details about anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. He completed his address, however, calling upon the Subcommission not to wipe off its agenda the item dealing with “Manifestations of Anti-Semitism. ” He urged that the group request governments to submit regular reports to the Secretary General of the United Nations “concerning both the manifestations of anti-Semitism and the remedial actions taken toward reducing it.”

The Subcommission heard also, in addition to the statements by Dr. Lewin and Mr. Katz, from Dr. Max Beer, representative of the International League for the Rights of Man; Mrs. Victor Polstein, representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism; Dr. Maurice Perlzweig of the World Jewish Congress; and Alexander E. Salzman, of the Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations, which is comprised of the American Jewish Committee, the Anglo-Jewish Association and Alliance Israelite Francaise.

After various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations had addressed the Subcommission, all of them urging that the UN body must not drop its concern with anti-Semitic manifestations, Mr. Sapozhnikov took the floor again to answer what he called “these provocative so-called documents” which charged that anti-Semitism existed in the Soviet Union.


Citing constitutional provisions in the Soviet Union which guarantees freedoms “for all peoples regardless of race” and makes “manifestations of racial and religious hatred” punishable by law, Mr. Sapozhnikov said: “Jews, like all other nationalities, enjoy all political, social and cultural rights in the Soviet Union just as all other nationalities enjoy these rights. ” It was noted he did not mention religious rights among those enjoyed by Soviet Jews.

Continuing his attack against “these slanderous statements by some Jewish organizations,” Mr. Sapozhnikov said: “In the Supreme Soviet there are representatives of many nationalities, including Jews. Among the Soviet scientists who created the Soviet rockets, Jews are included. These slanderous statements speak of Jews in education. In the Russian Soviet Federated Republics, 0. 07 percent are Jews, but among students in higher education in the RSFR, 4. 1 percent are Jews.

“In Byelorussia, ” he continued, ” the Jewish population is 1. 9 percent of the general population. But the Jewish students in Byelorussia number 3. 2 percent of all students. Sixty-eight professors in Byelorussian institutions of higher learning are Jewish. ” The Soviet delegate evaded, however, to give any answer to the charges that Jewish cultural life is being suppressed in the Soviet Union and that Soviet newspapers are indulging in conducting anti-Jewish propaganda–two of the main accusations leveled by the Jewish organizations against Moscow.

Mr. Sapozhnikov concluded his long intervention by calling upon the Subcommission to adopt a draft resolution which he had presented calling upon all governments to enact and implement legislation against racial-and religious persecutions. The Soviet draft, which gingerly avoids mention of the “anti-Semitism” is designed to quash any further consideration of the subject of anti-Semitism by this Subcommission, as requested by many Western delegations.


Mr. Salzman, in his address, told the Subcommission that the Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations hopes “that the Subcommission will see fit to explore the problem of anti-Semitism in its political and international character with continued vigor. Surely, no brand of racial or religious poison, ” he said,”has proved more impervious to containment, more crippling to human rights and more deadly in its toll of human life. Until the use of anti-Semitism to subvert the body politic at home and promote aggressive policies abroad is brought to an end, it will present an ever-present menace to human rights and international peace.”

Dr. Lewin, on behalf of the Agudas Israel World Organization, rapped the thinking of some of the Subcommission members who had spoken of the swastika plague of 1959-1960 as “nothing more than the release of childish emotions, ” Nazi-racist theories, he pointed out, “were not mere political propaganda used to stir up youth–they became a living part of German culture. The recent outbreaks of swastika smearings and anti-Semitism, can surely not be so lightly dismissed, ” he declared.

Both Dr. Beer, for the International League for the Rights of Man and Dr. Perlzweig for the World Jewish Congress, objected strongly to views which hold that the 1959-1960 anti-Semitic manifestations were the actions largely of “crazy people, children or juvenile delinquents. ” Dr. Perlzweig pointed out that none of the many documents on the swastikaplague–except the one from West Germany “furnished any clue at all to the true perpetrators of the outrages,” It is obvious from the figures that the trained, hardened conspirators got away, he said.

Dr. Perlzweig proposed not only that the Subcommission appoint a rapporteur to continue studying the subject of anti-Semitic manifestations but also that Interpol–the International Organization of Police Authorities–be requested to apprehend perpetrators of anti-Semitic manifestations and others guilty of all types of racist and religious actions.

Mrs, Polstein, on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, indicated in a brief speech, that her organization was prepared to present new documentation in regard to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. She told the Subcommission that she cannot present certain new materials “because I am inhibited by the ruling we have heard here. ” She then expressed the hope that the Subcommission would continue its study of anti-Semitic manifestations and appoint a rapporteur for that purpose.


Earlier during the day’s debate, strong calls for the continued study of anti-Semitic manifestations were voiced by Pierre Juvigny of France, Dr. Fabregat of Uruguay and Girard Thormann, representative here of the International Confederation of Christian Trade Unions. A statement deriding the Subcommission’s concern with anti-Semitism “to the exclusion of graver forms of racialism” was made by Mohamed Ahmed Abu Rannat of Sudan.

Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Ghani of the United Arab Republic intervened again taking issue with the contention voiced by Dr. Beer that last year’s discussion of the swastika plague by the Subcommission had contributed toward averting the anti-Semitic manifestations. It vas Dr. Beer who, last year, first introduced a resolution requesting the Subcommission to examine the swastika plague. The UAR representative insisted however, that the outbreaks ceased not because of UN action but “because they had been promptly suppressed by the Governments.”

(In Washington, Senator Kenneth B. Keating of New York, today said that he wrote to Adlai Stevenson, U.S. representative to the United Nations, urging American action to air the plight of Soviet Jewry “before the forum of world opinion in the United Nations. ” The Senator urged that America make “the whole world aware of the perfidy of Soviet actions” affecting Jewish inhabitants of the USSR. He told Mr. Stevenson that “perhaps it will be possible to bring about a UN condemnation of these practices.”)

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