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Plight of Soviet Jews

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The plight of Jews in the Soviet Union was likened today to pre-Civil War slave practices in the United States by a New York City official who recently returned from a visit to the Soviet Union. Benjamin J. Malcolm, New York City Corrections Commissioner, told a press conference that just as slave owners sold Black famine members to different parts of the South, Soviet authorities “have broken up families, permitting parents to emigrate and withholding permission for children, or have allowed children and loved ones to depart while re-fusing visas to parents.” Eugene Gold, Kings County District Attorney and chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, and New York attorney Ezra G. Levin, took part in the news conference.

Levin and Malcolm met with Soviet officials in charge of correctional institutions and visited with Jewish activists in Moscow, Lvov, Kiev and Leningrad during their two-week visit Oct. 28 to Nov. 11. Malcolm said that visits with “refuseniks”–those denied exit permits–had to be held at night.

Malcolm said that if the new U.S. Soviet trade agreement, which links trade concessions to the USSR with an increase in the number of Soviet emigrants and an end to harassment of exit visa applicants, is to have any meaning, it must provide for the restoration of communications, so that “refuseniks” throughout Russia can tell the West their stories of intimidation and harassment. Without “continued publicity in and pressure from the West,” no change will be made in Soviet policy, they said.

They reported that they found their rooms searched, their activities monitored and the KGB secret police outside the apartments of several of the “refuseniks” they visited.

Malcolm, a leading New York Black Protestant, and Levin, a Jew, attended a privately-held worship service, allowed by authorities after confiscation of prayer-books and prayer shawls during the past High Holy Days. They said the congregation of 15 men and one woman, all 65 or older, begged them to leave because they were afraid of the government. They were told, “You must leave at once.” They also reported that many of the “refuseniks” study Hebrew secretly in their apartments.


In a related development, the Greater New York Conference reported that it had received “new and shocking evidence” that the Soviet Union is determined to destroy the Jewish people in Russia. Conference officials said they had received an appeal from R. Brizinov for his brother-in-law, Albert Koltunov of Chernovitz. Koltunov was arrested last March 13 after he and his wife applied for visas to rejoin their families in Israel.

Koltunov was accused of “spending millions of rubles” and witnesses were employed to provide false statements against him. Two anonymous letters, written in 1972 and 1973, were submitted by the prosecution in Koltunov’s trial and witnesses testified he had received bribes from them to influence lottery winnings. Koltunov was a senior auditor in the Vinnitsa department of the Chernovitz sports lottery office.

Brizinov said Koltunov had no reason to accept bribes because there was no way he could influence lottery winnings and that the anonymous letters “were obviously fabricated” for the purpose of intimidating Soviet Jews wanting to go to Israel. The trial began last June 3 with defense witnesses barred from the courtroom and a new attorney appointed to defend Koltunov on the trial’s opening day. He was sentenced to five years in a strict regime camp for “economic crimes” and his property was confiscated. Seeking an appeal, his wife hired several lawyers who were all denied access to the evidence.

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