Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Physicist Relates Struggle to Leave USSR for Israel

January 30, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Professor Herman Branoyer, the world renowned physicist who was released from the Soviet Union after intervention by American leaders, today told a news conference sponsored by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry that he had to pay a $40,000 ransom tax to emigrate from Russia with his wife and his 8-year-old son.

Branover, 41, author of more than 100 scientific works, left Russia in Oct. 1972, three months after the exit tax was invoked by the USSR, and a year after he had first appealed to emigrate to Israel. The decision by Soviet authorities to release him came after the intervention on Branover’s behalf by Dr. Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s advisor on national security, and Sen. George McGovern (D.S.D.), Branover related.

Speaking in fluent English, Branover described the oppression of Soviet Jews, particularly scientists, educators and other intellectuals, seeking to leave the Soviet Union for Israel. He also described the harassment he and his family had to face until they were allowed to leave the country.

“The moment I submitted my request for a visa my wife was fired from her post on the faculty of the Academy of Science in Riga. I left my work in April 1971, as a result of harassment and health reasons.” Branover, a native of Riga, and a former professor at the Academy of Science in that city, is in the U.S. on a brief visit to address scientists at major universities.

According to Branover, for more than a year no one in his family was able to obtain employment. “We had to live on gift packages that we received from the U.S., but we saved all the money we got from abroad in order to pay the ransom.” Answering reporter’s questions, Branover said that he paid the tremendous amount of the “exit tax” with the help of American Jews who sent the main part ofeit. The other part was loans from his friends in Russia.

When Nixon visited the Soviet Union last year, Branover cabled the President and asked for an opportunity to meet with him. As a result, he was told by the KGB that he would not be allowed to go to Moscow while Nixon was there and was asked to sign a paper agreeing to this. He refused, and was subsequently imprisoned on the false charge that he had killed a young girl in a traffic accident. After a few days he was released and was told that his arrest was a mistake.

Recommended from JTA