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Wiesel Asks Gorbachev to Clear Names of Murded Yiddish Poets

August 8, 1988
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Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has called upon Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to clear the names of 24 Soviet Jewish writers and cultural figures murdered on a single night, Aug. 12, 1952.

The group, known collectively as the “murdered Yiddish poets” because of the preponderance of Yiddish poets among them, has never been totally accounted for, and their story has become legend among Jews of diverse political and cultural bents.

In a telegram to the Kremlin, Wiesel requested that Gorbachev follow up on the recent rehabilitation of top Communists killed in the 1930s, during the purges of Josef Stalin, with a gesture toward the dictator’s Jewish victims.

“You have had the courage to do so much for so many in recent years,” Wiesel wrote the Soviet leader, “and so I appeal to you on behalf of a very special group of people: Soviet Jewish intellectuals unjustly executed under Stalin between 1948 and 1953.”

Wiesel’s appeal was part of an effort being coordinated by the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, which will erect bronze plaques dedicated to these murdered Soviet Jews in 19 American cities on Aug. 12.

“Through the dedication of these plaques, we’re asking the Soviet authorities to make amends for the past injustices done to Soviet Jews as individuals and as a people,” explained Michael Pelavin of Flint, Mich., who is chairman of NJCRAC.

NJCRAC will also dedicate a plaque in its New York offices and a second plaque will be brought to Israel during a NJCRAC mission in October, to be presented to relatives of several of the murdered poets who live there.

The plaques include the names of 10 Jewish cultural figures known to be among those murdered in the cellar of Lubianka Prison on Aug. 12, 1952: Dovid Bergelson, Itzik Feffer, Dovid Hofshtein, Leib Kvitko, Solomon Lozovsky, Peretz Markish, Yitzhak Nusinov, Shmuel Persov, Eliahu Spivak and Benjamin Zuskin.

Also listed are 16 others murdered during the “Black Years” for Soviet Jewry, 1948-53: Shlomo Bilov, Yechezkiel Dobrushin, Benjamin Gotiansky, Zerach Greenberg, Nahum Levin, Shlomo Mikhoels, Der Nister (Pinchas Kaganovitch), Leib Rabkin, Boris Shimshelevich, Dov Ber Slutzki, Alexander Sodarski, Anna Stelmach, David Tzaike, Meir Yosefovitch, Gregory Zashitz and Mira Zhelzanova.

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