Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize Winners, Educators, Protest Soviet ‘Police Action’

December 29, 1970
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Five Nobel laureates, two Pulitzer Prize winners and dozens of educators have signed petitions protesting the Leningrad trial and sentences of Jews and others accused of attempted hijacking. Three Nobel winners–Dr. Arthur Kornberg (Physiology and Medicine, 1959), Dr. George Wald (Physiology and Medicine, 1967) and Dr. Eugene P. Wigner (Physics, 1963)–joined with Pulitzer writers Arthur Miller and Robert Penn Warren in an interreligious, interracial protest against “a nationally concerted police action based on high-level policy, aimed at militant Jews…seeking help in their desire to leave the USSR for Israel.” The other signers of that petition, which was sent to the Kremlin, were novelist Saul Bellow, academician Noam Chomsky, historian Henry Steele Commager, Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, writer Alfred Kazin, critic Dwight Macdonald, scientist Hans J. Morgenthau and black activist Batard Rustin. Dr. Wald and a fellow Nobel laureate, Dr. Salvador E. Luria (Physiology and Medicine, 1969). sent a joint letter to the Soviet ambassadors in Washington and at the United Nations, Anatoly F. Dobrynin and Yakob A. Malik, asking whether the Kremlin had “gone into the business of making martyrs to decency and freedom for all the world to see.”

They noted that the Palestinian hijackers of planes last September “went scot-free,” and asked: “Has the government of the Soviet Union no concern for human rights or for the decent opinion of mankind?” A1970 Nobel winner. Dr. Paul A, Samuelson (Economic Science), and 24 other professors sent a telegram to Dobrynin expressing their “shock” at the “severe” sentences and urging mercy for the two prisoners condemned to death. They asked that the Soviet leaders “reconsider their attitude toward emigration.” The signers of the telegram included David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, Talcott Parsons, Seymour Martin Lipset and William Leuchtenberg. Prof. Chomsky and 10 other educators sent another wire to Dobrynin stating that “We in the academic community are appalled by the harsh sentence meted out” and asking why assertion of the right to emigrate should be deemed “a capital crime.” More than 100 professors at Harvard, Tufts and Brandeis Universities cabled Dobrynin that they could not remain “silent in the face of a campaign of blatant anti-Semitism.” Writer Howard Fast, who forsook the Communist Party in the 1950s, sent a telegram to Konstantin Fedin, head of the Soviet Writers Union in Moscow, to “beg you to protest this action and to ask your fellow writers to protest it–in the name of all mankind.”

Fast declared that the death sentence has become “an act of barbarism that will destroy the last shreds of trust that so many people still have in the Soviet Union.” He said that “In its unreason and mindlessness, it is reminiscent of the most hideous persecutions of the Czar against the Jewish people and it can only serve to increase the melancholy and hopelessness that men of good will in my land feel when they look toward the Soviet Union.” New York City’s five district attorneys have written to Soviet prosecutors Roman A. Rudenko and S.Y. Soloviov asking permission to attend the upcoming closed trials in return for the pair’s “right to attend and report to your people and to the world upon any trial or proceedings within the jurisdiction of our offices.” They added that “we are familiar with the gravity of your responsibilities and know that you must share with us a common devotion to the cause of equal justice under law.” Mayor John V. Lindsay declared he was “deeply distressed and shocked” by the Leningrad sentences, continuing: “In this time of prayers for peace and good will I join with all of the people of our city in praying for justice and mercy for the Leningrad defendants and for the rights of Soviet Jewry.”

Recommended from JTA