Lord Russell Lashes out Again at Soviet Mistreatment of Jews
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Lord Russell Lashes out Again at Soviet Mistreatment of Jews

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Lord Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher who has repeatedly spoken out against Soviet discriminations against Russian Jewry, charged today that “conditions of assimilation” were being imposed on the Jews in the Soviet Union “in which they have virtually no choice but submission. “

Declaring that he was speaking “as a sincere friend” of the Soviet Union and its “policy of co-existence, ” Lord Russell made his charge in a letter to Aaron Vergelis, editor of the Sovietishe Heimland,the only Yiddish-language publication in the USSR. The letter, dated October 29, was made public here today by Lord Russell. He charged that he had written earlier to the Sovietishe Heimland for publication, but that its editor did not publish that letter.

Lord Russell assailed dismissal by Moscow of the expression of concern for Soviet Jews in progressive pro-Soviet and even Communist circles in the West as a “cold war attitude. ” He also denounced “the ridiculous charge” that the motive for such concern was “the diversion of attention from the racist and anti-Semitic orgy rife in some countries across the water. “

The British philosopher noted that “Communist parties in Italy, France, the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia and elsewhere have publicly criticized anti-Semitic literature in the USSR, discrimination against the Jewish religion and depredation of Jewish culture. ” He accused Vergelis of “grossly misleading” his readers “if you suppress this important fact and misrepresent honest criticism of the inequality experienced by Soviet Jews. “

Lord Russell criticized assertions by the Soviet Yiddish editor that Soviet Jews today “have less of a yearning for Jewish culture than in the twenties and thirties” and that “one cannot artificially expand without rhyme or reason the scope of cultural work done in Yiddish in the Soviet Union. “


“During the personality cult of Stalin, Jewish culture and its leading exponents were assassinated, ” Lord Russell pointed out. “Restitution since has been quite inadequate. This seems to many of us an unacceptable way of diminishing the yearning for Jewish culture,” he stressed.

He noted that “only five or six books in Yiddish have been published in the Soviet Union since 1940, and not one by a living writer. ” Adding that he was fully aware “of the cultural facilities accorded to Soviet Jews since 1956, ” Lord Russell said he welcomed them as “some mitigation of the crimes of Stalin committed against the Jewish people. “

“But, ” he added, “they are meager, grudging and inadequate to the needs of a vigorous intellectual community of some 3, 000, 000 Jews of whom almost half a million speak Yiddish as their mother tongue. Cultural amenities supplied to even the smallest Soviet national and linguistic minorities illustrate the injustice at present imposed on Soviet Jews. “

He also expressed concern “that little has been done to reunite survivors of Jewish families broken up by the war and so to terminate their prolonged sufferings. “


The charge of forced assimilation was made by Lord Russell in reply to a question in an “Open Letter” by Vergelis published in the Moscow Yiddish magazine, asking why the philosopher had not expressed anxiety about the unavailability of Jewish and Yiddish cultural institutions in Britain. Lord Russell retorted that the British Jewish Yearbook of 1964 listed hundreds of Jewish organizations of every kind, scores of institutions and a wide selection of book titles on Jewish history, sociology, politics and philosophy, and that many of the listed institutions “have facilities in both Hebrew and Yiddish. “

Lord Russell stressed that “all this exists for a total Jewish population of 450, 000 less than the number of Soviet Jews whose mother tongue is Yiddish and about one-sixth of the whole Soviet Jewish community. ” Moreover, he noted, Jews in Britain “are clearly at liberty to decide for themselves if they wish to assimilate, what form that assimilation shall take and in what way they shall express their interests as Jews. “

He added that, if Jews in the Soviet Union had a comparable choice within the framework of the Society–or if they had opportunities equal to those of other Soviet nationalities–outside interventions would be presumptuous. “Unfortunately they do not, ” he stressed. “Authority imposes upon them conditions of assimilation in which they have virtually no choice but submission. “

Such conditions, he added, require “all of us to explain the need for an enlightened Jewish policy to the Soviet Government. ” He recalled that, more than two years ago, he had told Soviet authorities that this situation would do much harm to the reputation of the Soviet Union. This indeed has proved true. It will be unfortunate for both the Soviet Union and the Jewish people if something is not done quickly to accord dignity and injustice to Soviet Jews, ” he emphasized.

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