David Goldfarb, Refusenik Rescued by Armand Hammer, is Dead at 71
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David Goldfarb, Refusenik Rescued by Armand Hammer, is Dead at 71

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David Gold-farb, the Soviet refusenik whose seven-year attempt to emigrate became entwined with the fate of an American magazine correspondent arrested in Moscow for alleged espionage, died in Washington on Saturday of heart failure, at the age of 71.

Once a geneticist of renown in the Soviet Union, Goldfarb had worked since December as a visiting scholar at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He had been working on a history of Soviet biomedical science in the 1940s and 1950s, and was assessing current trends in Soviet scientific research.

Goldfarb, who suffered from acute diabetes and heart disease, had lived in New York with his wife, Cecilia, since October 1986, when the Soviets finally allowed him to fly to the United States for medical treatment.

He arrived on the private jet of industrialist Armand Hammer, who had persuaded the Soviets to make the humanitarian gesture.

Goldfarb technically never received emigration permission or an exit visa. He came to this country under the humanitarian parole system, without receiving U.S. refugee status.

Only a month after coming here, Goldfarb underwent a successful operation to remove a cancerous lobe on his lung, discovered during a medical exam given upon his arrival.

The retired geneticist had been hospitalized in Moscow in grave jeopardy during the publicity over the case of Nicholas Daniloff, Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report.


Daniloff was arrested Aug. 30, 1986, following the U.S. apprehension of an alleged Soviet spy in the Bronx. Daniloff, a friend of Goldfarb’s, was imprisoned in Moscow and then exchanged for the alleged spy, Gennady Zakharov, a physicist who worked at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.

Goldfarb had reportedly refused Soviet urgings that he testify against Daniloff, then and in 1984. His son, Alex, who was living in New York, said Goldfarb had lost his just-received visa in 1984 because of his refusal to testify in a trumped-up case against Daniloff.

Goldfarb was not adequately treated medically and was in danger of losing his leg, already partially amputated because of complications of diabetes. Goldfarb lost his other leg in the Battle of Stalingrad.

Fear for his life prompted Alex to seek media attention and ask Hammer’s help in rescuing his father. The highly publicized case came to a happy ending on the tarmac of Newark Airport in October 1986, when Goldfarb, strapped to a stretcher, was lifted to the ground, weak but smiling.

Goldfarb later told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had really wanted to go to Israel, but came here to join Alex, who immigrated to Israel in 1975 but came to the United States in the early 1980s to get a doctorate in microbiology.

In December 1986, on his first Chanukah in freedom since 1923, David Goldfarb said his visit to a synagogue was “an event to remind me of many things about which I thought a long time.”

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