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Lehman Warns of Possible “liquidation” of Jews in Soviet Sphere

January 12, 1953
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The possible “liquidation” of Jews in the Soviet sphere, as a result of the new Kremlin policy charging Jews and Zionists with “espionage” for the Western Powers, was foreseen here last night by Senator Herbert H. Lehman, addressing the 38th annual meeting of the Joint Distribution Committee at which Edward M.M. Warburg was re-elected chairman.

“It is a bitter fact of current history,” Sen. Lehman said, “that individuals of Jewish faith and tradition, who were Hitler’s tragic scape-goats, seem now fated to draw the special attention of the Kremlin. The recent trials in Prague served notice that Israel and Zionism are to be made pawns in the internal and external power play of Communist imperialism. Jews in the Soviet sphere are to be intimidated–and perhaps liquidated–while common cause is made with those uneasy leaders in Arab countries who exploit anti-Zionism and anti-westernism as distractions from the domestic miseries of the Arab peoples.

“We must prepare, and move to meet this challenge on all fronts,” the Senator urged. “As Americans, we are threatened in our vital interests, chief among which are peace, security and stability, not only in the Middle East but everywhere. As Jews, we must be deeply moved by this new menace to those of our common faith, both in Israel and behind the Iron Curtain.

“We must support action on a governmental level designed to preserve the progress that has been made in the Middle East, and to accelerate it, for the benefit of all peoples in that area, and to frustrate the Soviet designs for fomenting new hatreds, new unrest, and new violence in that part of the world.

“On a private and organizational level, we must make new efforts to forestall, to the extent possible, the persecution of Jews behind the Iron Curtain, and to be prepared for such rescue, rehabilitation and asylum activities as events require. And in this latter activity, the Joint Distribution Committee must play a central role,” Sen. Lehman stated.


Sen. Lehman also severely criticized the new McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Law which entered into effect last month. He pointed out that immigration is not a “Jewish” question because the number of Jews seeking immigration into the United States is, according to all factual evidence, minimal. Also that for those Jews who may yet be permitted to leave the Soviet satellite states, the door to Israel is open. To bring the new law into harmony with democratic policy and American tradition, he demanded that:

1. The denial of full and equal justice to aliens living in this country just because they are aliens, must be remedied if we are to advocate, in world affairs, equal justice, under law, for all men and nations.

2. The distinction drawn in the McCarran Act between our native-born and naturalized citizens–one standard for the native-born and a more draconian standard for the naturalized–must be promptly eliminated.

3. The racial and national prejudice with which our immigration laws are permeated must be eradicated.

“The many barriers and booby-traps which senselessly and cruelly impede the admission of aliens into this country must be struck down, in favor of a system which invites the most desirable immigration within a reasonable quota limitation, while at the same time keeping guard against the entry of actual subversives, spies and saboteurs,” he declared.


Mr. Warburg, addressing the 500 Jewish leaders who attended the annual meeting, told the delegates that while “the needy still left in the DP camps and in Western Europe are few as compared with the vast numbers in 1947, by comparison their needs are even greater.” J.D.C. aid is “absolutely imperative,” Mr. Warburg declared, not only for the aged, the sick and the incapacitated among the DP’s, but for thousands in other areas. Among these he cited those now in the J.D.C’s Malben-operated hospitals and other institutions in Israel, as well as “vast additional thousands still waiting in bleak immigrant camps for Malben care.

“In Moslem lands,” he added, “there is the menace of hunger and disease–especially trachoma and tuberculosis–which, until J.D.C. came into these areas, was steadily driving thousands of Jews deeper into the bottomless morass which was their lives.” The delegates adopted a “minimum budget” of $25,500,000 for J.D.C. work in 1953.

Moses A. Leavitt, J.D.C. executive vice-chairman, reported to the conference that “1952 was a year of changing needs, in which the bulk of the 185,000 needy Jews who received J.D.C. aid were the sick, the incapacitated, the people who could not help themselves. By mid-year,” he declared, “emigration had come almost to a halt, and resettlement could no longer be counted on to solve the problems of the homeless and the destitute.

“Faced with an almost static population that would have to remain where it was for an indefinite period, it became necessary for J.D.C. to shift its perspective, placing stronger emphasis on physical, social and economic adjustment,” Mr. Leavitt said. He reported that in 1952 the J.D.C. spent more than $23,600,000 for its relief, resettlement and reconstruction programs in 20 countries of Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Moses W. Beckelman, J.D.C. director-general for overseas operations, told the delegates that perhaps the most difficult area for J.D.C. operations during the next few years will be the countries of the Moslem world. “The two most important single developments affecting the work of the J.D.C. in Moslem countries at present and for the immediate future,” he said, “are the drastic reduction of immigration to Israel and the sharp intensification of the Arab nationalist movement.”


It is impossible to predict, he declared, how long circumstances will permit the J.D.C. to continue operating in the Moslem world. However, in the time available, the J.D.C. intends to expand its aid, particularly its health services and its educational assistance programs, including vocational training, Mr. Beckelman noted that “in Europe, tens of thousands of Jews still need help” and that in 1953 no more than 3,000 Jewish refugees will be able to emigrate from Europe.

Judge Maurice Bernon of Cleveland, chairman of the J.D.C. National Council, reported that the 10, 000-member Council had become increasingly important during 1952 in bringing the story of needy Jews overseas to Jewish communities all over the United States. “The members of the National Council,” he declared, “have accepted the responsibility, and have taken up the burden. I think that as long as we bring the Jews of America the facts on overseas needs, they will never fail to answer those who need their help.”

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