A ‘Zionist’ Network in Minsk?

Latest reports from Minsk indicate that the KGB investigation of Yefim Davidovich-Gedalya Kipnis case is moving to a close and that a big show-trial of Jews will take place shortly.

On February 1, the KGB instigated a second series of searches of Jewish homes in Minsk, during which all books in Hebrew and Yiddish about Jewish history and literature were confiscated. At that time, about 20 people were constantly being called to KGB headquarters for interrogation about the collection of signatures for open letters and telephone conversations with people abroad. The KGB appeared to be particularly interested in the activities of two ex-army officers, Lev Ovsishcher and Naum Alshansky.

At the end of March, four Jews in Riga were interrogated about the Minsk affair by two KGB investigators, one of whom, A. G. Nikiforov, was the same man who had handed Davidovich the charge sheet last December. All four were told that they would be called as witnesses at the trial.

The KGB’s attempt to create ” an inter-city Zionist conspiracy” seems to be drawing more people into the investigator’s net, many of whom have never been acquainted with either Kipnis or Davidovich. One man who came from Khabarovsk to visit relatives in Minsk recently was suddenly pulled in for questioning.

Iosif Kuchmar, a retired captain, has been called in by the KGB four times. he has one kidney which is cancerous, the other one having been removed. The KGB is reported to have demanded that Kuchmar, a dying man, should testify that Davidovich had agitated against the Soviet Union. The son of Davidovich’s neighbours, 17 year-old Robert Poliachek, is alleged to have been intimidated by the KGB to such an extent that he became ill and has been placed in the psychiatric section of Clinical Hospital no. 2 in Minsk.

between 60 and 80 Jews in Minsk are now involved in the series of day and night interrogations and the questions that are being asked by the KGB, appear to be straying further and further away from the original reasons for the investigation.

On February 21, Davidovich suffered his fourth heart attack after yet another session at KGB headquarters. It is reported that he was forced to climb four flights of stairs at the KGB headquarters before facing repetitive questioning for many hours. Even in hospital he was visited by a squad of KGB men who are alleged to have told him that his fight against anti-Semitism could noit be regarded as a sign of normality and therefore the best place for him would really be in a mental asylum.

The 70,000 Jews in Minsk are becoming more frightened as the case proceeds. In Kiev also, KGB officers are reported to have been looking for “witnesses” to testify at a forthcoming trial of Jews there. The recent suspension of the emigration tax was a subtle public relations exercise designed to placate public opinion outside the Soviet Union and to convince anyone who wishes to, can emigrate. In Minsk where the Jewish population is living in an atmosphere of fear, there has been virtually no emigration during the last five months, compared with more than a 1000 people in 1972.

Davidovich and his friends in Minsk are anti-Stalinist Communists. Naum Alshansky has applied for membership in the Communist Party of Israel (MAKI). At the end of a recent letter to Leonid Brezhnev, he included an appeal to other leftists in other countries.

On the strong voice of progressive public opinion – Jews and non-Jews – veterans and anti-fascists, communists and non-communists, the people of goodwill – will be able to stop the ruthless machine of death and to prevent in Minsk the conducting of a shameful anti-Jewish trial.

As far as I am concerned – whatever happens to me, I will repeat until my last breath, the words of one of the first revolutionaries of Russia, Alexander Radischev:

I am the same as i was before and will be all my life – not an animal, a tree, a slave – but a man.

Tribune 25 May 1973

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