The Hunger Strike of the Jewish Prisoners

A hunger strike of prisoners has been in progress for three weeks in the Soviet strict-regime camp complex in the Perm region. In all, eleven Jewish prisoners are taking part in this protest for better conditions.

In camp 35, Hillel Butman, Leib Khnokh, Lev Yagman, Anatoly Altman and Iosef Mishener are on hunger strike. In camp 36, the participants are Mark Dymshits, Iosif Mendelevich, Wolf Zalmanson, David Chernoglaz, Shimon Grillius and Oleg Frolov.

The prisoners are striking in shifts thus ensuring a continuous protest. Their demands are three-fold. Firstly they want an improvement in conditions in the camp and a better supply of food. Secondly they demand a change in the starvation diet of those prisoners in punishment cells. lastly they have come out strongly for the transfer to hospital of the ailing Russian dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, who is extremely ill.

Before his arrest in Moscow, Bukovsky sympathised with the exodus movement and consequently made many Jewish friends.

The prisoners have been threatened that if they do not cease their hunger strike, they will be transferred to the notorious Vladimir prison.

Two Jewish prisoners are held there – Yuri Vudka and Yaakov Suslensky. they were transferred after alleged offences in Perm. Suslensky was sentenced to a year in Vladimir by the People’s Court in the nearby town of Chusovskaya. It found him guilty as ‘a malicious violator of the regime, who refused to work, to fulfil the demands of the administration and did not respond to measures of an educational character – all of which influenced the other prisoners’.

Suslensky was further charged with writing slanderous complaints and sending a copy of the verdict of his trial in Bendery in October 1970 through unofficial channels.

When a prisoner is transferred to Vladimir, he is fed on a reduced level of rations, consisting of a daily diet of 450g of bread, 250g of potatoes and a further 200g of vegetables. Meat, flour, fat and sugar are excluded. he is unable to use the prison canteen or his own food brought from the camp. This diet is calculated at 1500 calories. It is only some months later that the prisoner is put on a general person diet, calculated at just over 2000 calories and including 40g of meat and a little sugar.

At the end of February, one of the Jewish prisoners, Shimon Grillius, who is serving five years, dislocated his shoulder as a result of hard work. No medical aid was provided and his arm was set by other prisoners. As soon as this was done, the guards immediately ordered Grillius back to work.

Jerusalem Post 19 May 1974

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