Twenty-four of the Soviet Union’s leading Jewish writers, poets, artists, musicians and actors were executed in Moscow’s notorious Lubianka Prison on Aug. 12, 1952. That event came to be known as “The Night of the Murdered Poets.”
“Some of those executed were among the more than 400 outstanding Jewish artists who were rounded up in the winter of 1948-1949 and exiled, with their families, to the Gulag,” Burton Levinson, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, recalled today on the 28th anniversary of the tragic event. “Most of them died in labor camps, leaving three million Jews without teachers, creative leader and communal institution.”
August 12, 1952 “was one of the darkest days in the struggle for Jewish survival and freedom in the Soviet Union,” Levinson said. “Today 28 years later, we are reminded that there are many in the USSR who are still oppressed and enslaved because they are Jews. Anti-Semitism, in many guises, is increasingly pervasive.”
As an example, Levinson noted that the rate of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel and to other nations has been slashed to about 40 percent of its 1979 level. Furthermore, emigration procedures imposed upon applicants are becoming increasingly more difficult. Never the less, he said, thousands of Soviet Jews continue to display remarkable courage and tenacity.
CITES TOKEN GESTURES
In commemoration of “The Night of the Murdered Poets,” Levinson said “we are reminded that the suppression by Soviet officials of Jewish culture and religion still persists. Today, any vestige of Jewish culture in the USSR is merely a token gesture.” A case in point, he said, is that not one Jewish school or class has been permitted for over 30 years. “Just recently, however, a token Yiddish school was allowed to be opened in remote Birobidzhan,” Levinson reported. “Even if it begins to function, it is in an area thousands of miles from any Jewish population center.”
Continuing, he said that despite the estimated two million people who have declared themselves as Jews, living in the Soviet Union, only one limited edition Yiddish newspaper is printed in Birobidzhan, and one Yiddish magazine is published in Moscow, with a heavy overseas subscription list. With no formal outlet to obtain Jewish education, Jews gather for seminars and unofficial classes in available apartments, studying Hebrew and Jewish culture, often using primitive, homemade texts.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.