Interview with Martin Gilbert

Yuli Kosharovsky’s interview with Martin Gilbert on June 14th 2005 in Jerusalem

Yuli: We are in a restaurant at the King David Hotel. Esther, Martin, Enid and Yuli are sitting around the table. We begin. First of all, I’d like to know how you became involved in the Soviet Jewry movement. You are a famous historian who was acting in a different sphere.

Martin: I initially became involved when I was in the British army. I served as part of the compulsory national service at that time. There was a two year compulsory service. I served from 1955 – 1957. Part of my task was to read the Soviet provincial press obviously from a military intelligence perspective.

Yuli: In Russian?

Martin: In Russian but because it was the provincial press as you know from your own experiences of those days, there would always be little articles or letters dealing with the Jewish question normally putting a spotlight, condemning someone for practicing Judaism, or holding a religious service. Sometimes there would be letters from fathers denouncing a son or a daughter for their Zionistic activities. That aroused my interest. For the first time ever I wrote a public letter to a British newspaper, it was after reading the sentence of Rabbi Gavrilov from Piatigorsk who was sentenced to an enormous period of time – 17 years and the accusation was for conducting a religious service in his apartment in Piatigorsk. That aroused my interest. When I left the army I made contact with Emanuel Litvinoff. He was then providing material which was not yet a publication.

Yuli: Mr. Litvinoff was working with Lishkat Hakesher.
(A poet and novelist Emanuel Litvinoff began mobilizing international support for Soviet Jewry in the 1950′s by preparing a bulletin on Soviet Jewry, initially distributed as a supplement to the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review. Two years later in 1959 he began preparing and publishing a quarterly newsletter, Jews in Eastern Europe, highlighting Soviet anti-Semitism and the plight of Soviet Jewry with information received from Lishkat Hakesher. E.L.W.)

Yuli: You served from 1955 to 1957. It was after your army service. It was after 1957

Martin: It was immediately after army service. I think that I was in university.

Yuli: When were you in university?

Martin: I was in university from 1957 – 1960.

Yuli: Where did you study Russian?

Martin: In the army. In 1957 I went to university. There we sometimes had speakers who came from Israel. I remember one speaker who came and spoke to the Israel Society or the Jewish Society. Undergraduates have a hundred societies – Labor; Socialist; Communist; Federalist. I don’t know who he was. Maybe, he was Yehoshua Pratt but I don’t know.
(Please note Yehoshua Pratt was the Second Secretary in the Israeli Embassy in Moscow from 1959 -1961 and First Secretary from 1961- 1962; and in the Israeli consulate in New York from 1972-1973. He was in the Israeli Embassy in Washington from 1984-1987. In the U.S. he represented Lishkat Hakesher – Nativ. E.L.W.)

I remember vividly this talk about the Jews in the Soviet Union. He spoke that they were not dead or forgotten, that there was a struggle. I remember he said one day the gates will be open. Yuli, you will be amused as a citizen of Beit Aryeh {on the West Bank – E.L.W.} that my question as a young man then (I’d never been to Israel) if these Jews come from Russia, surely you’ll need more than just little Israel of 1960. (Laughing) It was my brief flirtation with Jabotinsky. I was a young man. He was speaking about millions of Jews. They weren’t dead and one day etc. I then said you’ll need more land. That’s vividly in my mind. Then I graduated in June 1960 and then I went to St. Anthony’s College for two years.

Yuli: In university, what was your specialization?

Martin: As an undergraduate I read modern history which was from the Roman Empire until the present day. I specialized in Russia, the Czarist period. I did a big paper of the Czarist Empire and Central Asia. That was my interest. You could only do one or two papers on your interests. The rest you had to do rightly – the history of the evolution of the British history. You chose one European period and I chose the European period of the Russian Revolution to the Second World War, the intra war years. I graduated in 1960. I was already involved in what are now called human rights groups but then they weren’t called that and I can’t remember the name. Then there was an organization which sent Western Europeans to Eastern Europe, behind the Iron Curtain to marry a dissident or somebody who had to get out? I was sent in July 1960 to Bulgaria. I took the plane to Sofia with the wedding ring sewn into my coat to marry Pukia Romanov from a Russian émigré family in Bulgaria who was in trouble with the authorities. It was very difficult in those days to communicate. I had an address. George Washington Street I remember. It amused me in that very Communist country. When I arrived, she burst into tears because she had given up hoping anyone would come. A few months earlier she had married a very nice fellow who played the fiddle in a restaurant. I came back.

Yuli: Was the human rights movement in England different from the human rights movement in America? In America the human rights movement was about civil rights; the Vietnamese War. What was the human rights movement in England?

Martin: My first contact with the American Human Rights Movement, my first experience and my first knowledge came in 1962 and in 1965. Those were the two years I was there. In England the focus was on the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain and the satellite countries. This derives from the original question that first of all to every British soldier like myself the potential enemy was the Soviet Union. We lined up along the Iron Curtain – our troops, our intelligence. People were very concerned in England with the situation behind the Iron Curtain. You may look into this yourself. Certainly Jews played a large part. It was the situation of Jews behind the Iron Curtain that was important. I went to Poland in 1959 while I was still in undergraduate school. What was the situation of the Jews was of very great concern to British students. I don’t think they were called human rights activists in those days.

Yuli: Was it a students’ organization or was it state supported activities?

Martin: The group that sent me to Bulgaria, I have no idea who supported them. You know, one didn’t ask these questions. I know who it was who approached me and I said I would be interested. It was a friend of mine. I didn’t ask.

Yuli: It was really heroic.

Martin: It wasn’t heroic. It was very difficult.

Yuli: To go behind the Iron Curtain and to marry a dissident and try to get her out, it’s not an easy task.

Martin: In theory she could have come out and then arrangements would have been made. That was the summer of 1960 and in the autumn of 1960 I went to St. Anthony’s College Oxford which was the center of Soviet studies. I was there for two years and there, there was a lot of talk about what the Soviet Jewry situation was. There were three or four teachers who were very knowledgeable. There were presentations including incidentally a presentation from Keinan who came from America and made a very interesting presentation. (Perhaps Si Kenan, the founder of AIPAC. E.L.W.)?.

I was two years there. Then I left and became a fellow at Merton College Oxford in 1962. Ironically the same year I began work for Randolph Churchill. That basically was my career. I began at Merton as a research fellow. I only did temporary teaching. Working for Randolf; I was at research full time. I did three – four days a week at Merton researching and a little teaching; three- four days a week with Randolf Churchill which made eight days a week. It made my life quite difficult as there’s only seven days a week. One is meant to rest on the seventh day?

Yuli: At this time was your Jewish identity quite strong or was it just one of the topics which interested you? Did you get some Jewish education in the family?

Martin: I think in retrospect my Jewish education was strong. You have to remember in those days that people didn’t want to go behind the Iron Curtain. They were frightened. When the Polish government offered what was to be an annual exchange of six students Polish and six students English they couldn’t find six British students to go. They wanted to go to Morocco, Italy or Switzerland. I was asked by these younger students (I was already in my third year) if I would come with them because they needed a sixth person. I jumped at the chance. I became a historical guide. I had to tell them where we were. We each had one Polish student to look after us. I remember specifically asking my Polish student who was the only one of the six Poles who was really a Communist. I remember saying I want to go to Treblinka. I didn’t know then that half my family was murdered there. (from Cz?stochowa) ?(During World War II approximately 45,000 of Cz?stochowa’s Jews, almost the entire Jewish community living here, were killed by the Germans. Before the Holocaust, Cz?stochowa was considered a great Jewish center in Poland. By the end of WWII, the town was essentially completely depleted of Jews. E.L.W.)

?.As a fellow of Merton I had to give seminars. One of my very first seminars was on the Jews of Europe. I remember the college saying that wasn’t part of the syllabus. I gave a little lecture on Jewish expulsions, Jewish migrations through the ages. -

Yuli: Was your family rooted in England?

Martin: My parents were born in England. My grandparents were born in Russia, in the Russian Czarist Empire – all four of them.

Yuli: (Laughing) All of us are from there from the Pale of Settlement.

Martin: Everybody. You can’t escape. I was interested in Jewish things. At school I once or twice got in trouble for my Zionistic activities. Once I had to fight a boy behind the gymnasium because he made some anti-Israel remark. I said we’ll fight this out. To go forward I worked for Randolph Churchill and at Merton College. I was the first Jew to be elected a fellowship at Merton College, the first Jew since the Jews returned to England in 1650 to become a fellow at Merton and a member of the student government. Other colleges had Jewish fellows but Merton had resisted until then. Merton existed from 1264. It’s not relevant to your story but if you come to Merton you’ll be surprised when you enter the college gate; do you know what a gargoyle is? (a stone figure above a building – a face E.L.W). There’s a gargoyle of a Rabbi there. You’ll see there is a Rabbinical hat. That is the Jew Jacob who in 1270 gave the college its first building because Jews owned estates

Yuli: But didn’t they accept Jews in the college?

Martin: Then they were expelled.

We remember the Jew Jacob with great affection. The college was religious with a Christian foundation. There I was and Emanuel Litvinoff continued to send me stuff and we continued to meet. I was a historian so they asked me to prepare material on the history. I still have my notes? Then in 1967 Randolph Churchill while the (Six Day) War was still being fought wrote a book about the war. It was published in two or three weeks. He asked me to do the first chapter.

Yuli: There was a very famous story about how the son of Churchill wrote a book about the war.

Martin: The first chapter was written by me. He phoned me up. I was in Oxford. It was one of my Oxford days and he said we’re writing a book about the war. I said I know as I was writing about the 1st World War about his Father. He said, don’t be a bloody fool, it’s about the war that’s on now.

Yuli: It shocked everyone in the world.

Martin: He said I want you to write the first chapter. I said what’s that? He said the history of the Jews from Moses to Nasser in 4,000 words. I did it. It’s a lovely chapter, a beautiful chapter. I decided to do my Jewish History Atlas. There again the Russian Jewish story comes in.

Yuli: How much time did it take you to write the chapter?

Martin: I had to do the chapter over the weekend. When the situation worsened considerably for Polish Jewry in 1968, I returned to Poland. There I tried to help some of the Jews.

Yuli: Just a minute – about your chapter in the book about the Six Day War, it’s a fascinating story.

Martin: That led me to do my Atlas of Jewish History. That was the origin of my Jewish History Atlas which is now in its 8th printing and comes out every 5-6 years and you’re in it. You probably don’t even know you’re in it. It’s the whole history of the Jews. I did that having been inspired to write that history. I had to draw maps.

Yuli: How does a person do this kind of chapter in two or three days?

Martin: I had no choice. Ein brera? You do it!

Yuli: Did you have all the materials?

Martin: I had my head and some books?. I tried to get some sleep at 2 or 3 in the morning. I did it!

Yuli: Basically from 1962 – 1982 – 20 years you were primarily pre-occupied with Churchill’s biography. Is that correct?

Martin: I had to do it. I had to write millions and millions of words. In 1968 I went to Poland. I went to Poland three times to help the Jews there. You remember once I was here in Talpiot (Gilbert’s Jerusalem home – E.L.W.) and I had 4,500 US dollars. This was in 1980. $4,500. – to help the Polish Jews with the various things that they were doing. I was scheduled for a flight the next day to Vienna from Tel Aviv and then a train that night to Warsaw. During the night before my trip, it was windy and stormy and there were bangings which I couldn’t understand. I kept being woken up. Bang! Crack! I’d go out on the mirpeset and I couldn’t see what was happening? At 4AM, the man who had been banging and cracking all night had tried to get in through the side gate. He even put a ladder up to the balcony and it had fallen down. He finally got in through the roof of my study; broke in and stole everything including the $4,500. I had it all laid out with my ticket and my passport. Next door, there was a building site and he had seen me. This Arab had seen me counting my money. I lost everything. I remember going around town to all my friends like David Harmon – can you give me $500? Finally, I assembled the $4,500. with difficulty. A taxi waited and zoomed me to the airport. I just caught the plane. That night in Vienna I couldn’t sleep because every time there was a real bang or someone shut a door, I thought I was being burgled. I blocked the door of my room in the hotel in Vienna with a chest of drawers. I got to Warsaw. Then I was approached? Everything must have been by Lishkat Hakesher. I was always very discreet as I had worked in Intelligence for two years.

I was approached by somebody in London. He was on the Soviet Jewry committee of the “Board of Deputies” of British Jews. He approached me, I’m sure, from Lishkat Hakesher and they asked me to do an atlas for the campaign, The Jews of Russia, its history in maps. They asked me to prepare that. Their idea was very good and I contributed to the evolution of the idea. It was their idea. The whole history of the Jews, to show the Jews of Russia? You know the atlas. It showed that the Jews of Russia had been there for a long time but focusing in the end on the situation today which nobody knew including the trials, the executions, bringing it up to date with the Refuseniks and the Prisoners. People said isn’t this bubamises? Either it’s Zionistic rubbish – it can’t be true? I knew enough from my experiences going back to 1956 that it was true. That was my campaign document. It came out in various editions.

This was the first time that I had been approached by Lishkat Hakesher. Then they asked me to prepare historical material. Their plan was to send in from Britain teachers who could teach history? I prepared a series of historical data focusing on the Russian/Soviet Jewish experience but also, more generally on Zionism and so on. It must have been before 1973 because in the end I used that material in the Arab-Israel Conflict Atlas. I remember one lesson which they wanted me to prepare and you’ll see in the Arab-Israel Conflict Atlas a map you won’t find anywhere else the Russian Jews coming here before 1914 and how many came and where they settled; which settlements they built; towns; villages? That I did? That was quite hard work. Many of those maps I incorporated in the Arab-Israel Conflict Atlas. Incidentally before my visit in 1983, I was shown pictures of the various people that I had to go and visit. One was Grisha Vasserman (Leningrad refusenik activist – E.L.W.). I was so excited – a picture of him with his beard and his smile and behind him was his bookshelf. There I saw on the bookshelf my Jewish History Atlas. When I went it was still there. I said it’s too high up? I did that work. That was interesting.

Yuli: You were doing the history of Churchill at this time? You found time?

Martin: My main work was writing Churchill. You have to find time. For these things you find time. I developed a system in my writing until the Soviet Jewry issue overtook it which I don’t have any regrets about, of course? Whenever I finished a volume, I would take a break? Whenever I finished a chapter I could take a break. If something was needed to be done?if I had to prepare a lecture or the atlas which took some time. I’d finish a Churchill chapter, the next week I’ll attend to the atlas. The Churchill family got very upset about it. They got upset because I was dealing with a “Jewish issue”. They wanted me to get on with it because they received the royalties. I never got one penny from the royalties.

Yuli: On which basis did you earn money?

Martin: On a cash payment which was disastrous for me.

Yuli: They paid for your time.

Martin: They paid for the volume. They gave me no royalties or no rights for the book which was disgraceful. The result was they need the books quickly because they wanted the money they were going to get from them but for me since I wasn’t being given a royalty I had no interest in?.

Yuli: They would have done better if they proposed a royalty?

Martin: It must have been in the summer 1982 when I just had moved from Oxford to London and Shmuel Shinhar came to see me. I was impressed by him. Like all the people working for Lishkat Hakesher, he was very intense. He focused on nothing else. He was very bright. I liked him and I got on well with him. I had great admiration for him.

Yuli: He was an intellectual. He was a lawyer.

Martin: Shmuel said to me that there was going to be a meeting in Binyenei Hauma and he would like me to go to Russia and meet some refuseniks; fly from Moscow back to London and then straight on to Jerusalem. I would be the unnamed, unannounced surprise person who had just arrived from the Soviet Union. He briefed me very well.

Yuli: They always call this speaker the “honorable guest”.

Martin: I worked very hard. He wanted me to cover? Well, you can see in Jews of Hope essentially the people who he wanted me to meet. There were certain specific tasks like the one where I turned up in your house looking for Inna Shlemova (Begun). There she was sitting? You know that story – what happened. It was so funny. I came to ask you because you were my contact. You weren’t there. Your wife was there, Inna and Inna Shlemova. Two women sitting there whom I’d never met. I explained to your Inna that I’d come to see you and she said you’re not here. Somehow I sat. I can’t remember whether they thought you might be coming back. I sat for some time. Inna made me a cup of coffee. Eventually I met you but not on that occasion. One of the things I had to ask you was to meet Inna Begun. You said she was there yesterday on the couch.

Shinhar briefed me very well. I was very impressed by the briefing. He provided me (which was funny in retrospect) with a bodyguard, a chap called Jonathen Wootcliff, a British Jew. He was younger than me. He must have been a recent graduate and he was big. He was a big fellow. Somehow the feeling was that he would look after me. He had no tasks except to be with me, to accompany me. It was very difficult for me because Josh had just been born and Susie was not at all happy that I should go. Even I thought that I shouldn’t really go because I just had this young baby. I went and did what I did. This was in January 1983.

Basically that story is in the Jews of Hope. Including the book you gave me. Remember the Geographia SSR. You wrote in it. They confiscated it. It was a school textbook. I even had at home one. They said it’s forbidden to take out of the Soviet Union books published before 1957 or whatever the year after the publication. I said “don’t worry; all I need is the page with the inscription.” You had written me a lovely inscription. The man behind the man slammed his hand down and said this is the property of the Soviet Union and this book has been confiscated. Therefore, it’s the property of the Soviet authorities and you can’t tear the page out. I was shaking. One is frightened. No one is courageous under these circumstances. I had the presence of mind to say that I want to write down what my friend has written. You had written a nice inscription. Trembling and shaking I wrote it down on a piece of paper.

The strangest thing that happened there was that they lined me up. Poor Jonathen was so petrified. I was scared. He was just there as my guard. They emptied out my suitcase and they put everything in a row on a low bench and they filmed it. They did it to lots of people. The Zionist provocation.

In my jacket I had the diary that I kept which later became the Jews of Hope. Well I thought I’d had it. I had been discreet. I gave everyone bogus names. I was holding my jacket and they started searching it – in the pocket. While the senior man was searching me; I thought I’m not going to be able to hide it. He even went into this pocket and everything was taken out. Luckily each time he went into a pocket, it took a little time. There was another man searching my belongings. Just as the senior fellow was about to go to the pocket with the diary, the other fellow found a Lenin I had (which I still have hidden behind my bookshelves), a pewter Lenin, Lenin’s bust and the man who was looking at the Lenin looked underneath it to see if anything was inside. It was a hollow Lenin and he put it down. The man who was about to discover my diary suddenly turned on him with abusive Russian swearing that he hadn’t done it properly because Lenin had a head. Inside Lenin’s head could be something? So this big man takes it and shows him how to do it and he cuts his finger badly from the inside of Lenin’s head. It was not well executed.

Yuli: Mr. Lenin helped you very much.

Yuli: Do you think that they searched you because they were following you or they knew who you are? Do you think that they had some preliminary knowledge about you?

Martin: It could be. I just don’t know the answer. Certainly they knew where I went?.

Yuli: Did you see the people who followed you?

Martin: Actually in Leningrad I remember vividly. I don’t think I saw them in Moscow. In Leningrad I definitely saw them.

Yuli: Do you remember the people you have met in Moscow?

Martin: Yes everybody. Just let me finish the story of what happened. I flew to London with my Lenin and my diary. I then flew to Israel. I went to Binyenei Hauma and I am sitting there. Abe Harman is sitting there whom I knew. Arye Dulzin was there. (Yuli: the head of the Jewish Agency.) I get a program. It says Dulzin will speak and then a visitor from the Soviet Union. (Yuli: Honorable guest) I’m waiting. I’m nervous. I prepared my remarks. I made such an effort. It was the first of more than 200 speeches that I gave on the Soviet Jewry situation. They said now we have the guest who has just come from the Soviet Union Rabbi Kushner / Goldberg or whatever, an American. He comes up and gives the most ridiculous speech that he and his group were searched. It’s all about him and his experiences; how wonderful the Soviet Jews were and how terrible his experiences were. I passed a note to Abe saying that I’ve just come from the Soviet Union. You’ve paid the money for me to get me to Moscow. I’ve got my report. Abe was sitting in the front row. He went up to Dulzin. Then Dulzin called on me. Everyone heard the Rabbi’s emotional speech all about himself and his importance. I go up. First I was very nervous because people had already heard the visitor and wanted to get on?.. I started. Enid was there. We had never met. Then the exciting thing was?the last story that I told was about Genya Utevskaya. I described going to her apartment in Leningrad; what she asked me. I try not to bring myself in but rather who she was; what she was doing; her friends and her group. I ended by saying her last words to me were: “I want to be reunited with my father in Israel.” There was a gasp from the audience because Lev Utevsky was sitting on my left hand side. Everyone thought it was a plant? Wasn’t that amazing?

Yuli: How many minutes did you have?

Martin: Not long. 10-12 minutes and of course, my amount was curtailed because of this Rabbi. Dulzin passed me a note at one point asking me to please conclude. I went on?. It was properly constructed – what the refuseniks had said and what the refuseniks had wanted. Incidentally I discovered much later? When I went to see Evgeny Lein and Evgenia Utevskaya, a young fellow was leaving their apartment. You don’t look at people. You’re told to be discreet.. This was Alex. I wrote the introduction to his book. He was killed in Lebanon while rescuing a fellow soldier who’d been badly hurt. Remember that? It’s a lovely book. His family published his letters and there are his letters from his visit with refuseniks. He describes three people five minutes before I was in their apartment. How I knew because his name was Alex and Evgeny Lein’s son was Alex. They formed a bond. That was very sad. I never met him. What was his surname?

Enid: Singer

Martin: Alex Singer. His Mother is Suzanne Singer.

Yuli: Who do you remember from your first visit to Moscow?

Martin: Everybody. I remember everybody.

Yuli: Can you mention names?

Martin: There was this fellow, Kosharovsky. It was you; Inna Shlemova (wife of POZ Yosef Begun). I was asked to ask certain questions about Begun and to bring back some photographs of him. The photos were among the things confiscated. You gave me this wonderful wooden carving. You said this is Begun. I still have it. It is a wooden mask which looks a bit like him – a man with a pipe and hair which you gave me. My wooden Begun. Then I went to Mikhail Kholmyansky’s because his brother Sasha had just been incarcerated. That’s interesting because they gave me on my second visit a letter which Sasha had written from the Gulag. That was confiscated on the grounds that it was forbidden to take out of the Soviet Union any envelope from the Gulag. That was in 1985. That was when they forbade me to take out the envelope which I was interested in as a philatelist. I have an incredible collection of Soviet Jewish philately – stamps; strikes. I went to see Mikhail and Ilana Kholmyansky. With Mikhail and Ilana, it’s a typical story of visitors. I was told by Shmuel that you never go to the exact address; you take the taxi to the next number. They were 22; and we drive to the suburbs and pass this big block of 22 or 222. On to the next block and suddenly it was the countryside and no more blocks?

Then I was asked to go and see Ilya Essas and deal with that aspect of it. Going to Ilya you had to be very careful. The campaigners had issued information about Essas that the KGB had been to his apartment and all his books had been confiscated. I go to his apartment and I’ve never been to an apartment with so many books. The campaigners had said that this scholar has lost all his books?

Yuli: He had an overflow of religious Hebrew books?

Martin: I went to Ilya’s. Then I went to the Brailovskys – also, as you know a long way out. I had a most interesting discussion. Irina was very bright. He was in Beyneu. Victor was a Prisoner of Zion in Beyneu near the Caspian Sea. I was very impressed by her. I think you were there. They asked me to meet the Praismans (Alla and Leonid) and Khazanov (Anatoly). Is he back here? I’d like to see him.

Yuli: By the way your friend Eitan Finkelstein has written a book and he’s now printing it in Russian which is called Shepherd of Pharaoh about Jews of course, a very interesting interpretation of the prelude and beginning of the movement.

Martin: From the Jews of Hope you’ll get all the names. Then I went to Leningrad and then to Minsk. That was my itinerary. In Minsk I saw Lev Ovsischer in very unpleasant circumstances. I went to Leningrad and my task was to make contact with Aba and Ida Taratuta which I did; and to attend a Hebrew lesson which I did; and to meet Grisha Genusov because his case was then uppermost in Soviet Jewry circles; and to go on a tour with Mikhail Beizer; and to go to Evgenia Utevskaya. I did everything that I was told. The whole task which I took seriously was to assemble materials of what the refuseniks were doing which I was asked to present to the Presidium of the Brussels Conference. Then I didn’t think I’d write a book. It’s just that my diary was so full that I turned it into the Jews of Hope.

Yuli: It was a very difficult year – 1983; and 1984 and 1985. You went there in the most difficult years.

Martin: I hope I was able to transmit both to the conference and more importantly in the Jews of Hope book. I put a lot into that.
I saw Evgeny Lein and I open my book with the story of his trial. He gave me a photograph of the picture taken through the door. Each case I presented in the talk. When Dulzin told me to stop, I remembered saying that I’ve was asked to stop but I still have more to say.
Then in Minsk and there, through arrangements made by telephone from the hotel, Lev Ovsischer agreed to come to the hotel in the morning and would take us to the Ratomskaya Holocaust memorial which you could see from the lobby of the hotel. I come down into the lobby and Olga, the head of Intourist appears with two men. She said: “We want to welcome you to Minsk and we’ve prepared a special tour for you. We’re leaving immediately to the Katyn massacre site where Stalin and Beria murdered these Poles and Jews – 15,000 people which became a scandal.

Yuli: The elite of Poland.

Martin: The elite of the Jewish medical profession. The finest? 250 of the leading Jewish surgeons. They built in about three hours drive from Minsk, there was a village destroyed by the Germans, one of thousands, called Katyn. I said I’m terribly sorry but I’m meeting a friend. Olga became quite angry – how can you come to Minsk and not pay respects to those murdered by the fascists?? She became quite aggressive. I began to see the tip of the monument from the hotel and I said actually my friend is taking me to a monument to victims of fascism over there. They looked over there and I walked out. They couldn’t do anything really. I understood that?which helped me in my second visit enormously. They can’t do anything. They can’t physically stop you leaving the hotel.
There was poor old Ovsischer covered in snow. We went to the monument.

We came back from the Soviet Union and as the Hebrew phrase is I became meshuga ladavar and I spoke all over the world. Every speech was different. I corresponded with everyone that I could. I made every speech – what is the latest news; what is the latest arrest. I wrote my columns all over America syndicated in the Jerusalem Post. I always chose a different person or a family. Mainly I lectured; I put the Churchill aside and for the whole of 1983 and 1984 I traveled and lectured and sometimes it was the Canadian Parliament inviting me to speak; the Dutch Parliament; when missions went; when the British government sent a mission to Russia, they asked me to brief them (with others). When Neil Kinnock {a leader of the British Labor Party – E.L.W.} went, he asked me to come – which case should he raise. Every British politician wanted to take up a case. They couldn’t take up the whole Soviet Jewry thing. They were going there for trade. Is there a case like Begun?
At that time the case that was dominant was Nadezhda Fradkova. Remember her? They took up her case and she was released from the psychiatric hospital and then she was arrested and sentenced. Neil Kinnock got very depressed. He asked to see me. He asked if his intervention led to her re-arrest. When I met her some years later and I said that you know that Kinnock was depressed because of your arrest. She said prison was like paradise after the psychiatric hospital? One of my pupils became a senior member of the Conservative government. To show you how some people misunderstood the Soviet Jewry issue. Lord James Douglas Hamilton was also going to Russia. I said will you take up a case? It was the case of Cherna Goldort of Novosibrisk and he agreed to do it. He was my pupil. Quite soon afterwards, Cherna Goldort came out. I invited her to the House of Commons to meet him and say thank you, to show him that he was effective and that he should do it again. We’re sitting having tea in the House of Commons and he turns to me tell me Mrs. Goldort why did you want to leave the Soviet Union for Scotland?. He was a Scottish member of Parliament? I couldn’t believe that he misunderstood? I had explained to him properly about Israel? He thought she wanted to immigrate to Scotland. He didn’t understand?

Yuli: Can you explain why in the West, for the Western mentality, it’s more important to present personal cases than the whole issue of Soviet Jewry, ‘let my people go’?

Martin: It wasn’t more important but with certain types of non-Jewish diplomats like Parliamentarians with whom I was working quite well from all the countries, they were going for some quite different task and they didn’t want to do anything but what they had to do; the official business. If you went to them and you said, there is this case, can you raise it, they were prepared to do it because they had decent souls. Other types of people, you raised the whole issue. They had to be people of a different sort who were involved in human rights or were going there on some task which involved human rights.

Yuli: Did it need more complicated preparations to raise the issue?

Martin: Just certain people you knew or you hoped that they would raise the case. James would be sitting with the Soviet Minister of Education and he had an agenda. You hoped that he would say by the way Minister, there is concern in England about this case. It was one method.

Yuli: My constituency is interested in a particular case.

Martin: The phrase we used is everything has to be tried. In these cases since there was to-ing and fro-ing of these people. When it came to Mrs. Thatcher, and I went to see her before her visit, then she was interested in the whole thing. She still herself very cleverly, invited a small group for breakfast at the Embassy. Even she understood, perhaps by personalizing it? The same at the United Nations, for two years I was at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva and there we always raised the major cases. I raised the case of the long term refuseniks. You and I discussed once, should there be a strategy and perhaps they will start by letting out the long term Refuseniks and then the 5 year Refuseniks. We tried every type of device. The only success we had there was Alec Zelichenok. That was extraordinary. We’re losing the chronology here.

Yuli: He was one of the last to be arrested. 1985

Martin: In the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, anyone could speak on human rights questions. If you make a factual mistake then any delegate can press the buzzer and say what he is saying is wrong. Let’s say there are 50,000 refuseniks and they say the figure is wrong and they can interrupt you. I raised every issue there but among the cases was Alec Zelichenok. In my 1985 visit I met his wife Galina. I raised the case. Emanuel Zivs {an official Soviet Jewish apologist – E.L.W.} who may still be alive, presses the button and says this is a libel on the Soviet Union to say this Zelichenok is in Siberia? Even now, he says to the President of the Commission, Zelichenok is a free man on his way to Moscow and he can leave the Soviet Union whenever he likes. I asked permission and said can I leave the chamber to telephone Galina in Leningrad to tell her? Of course, she didn’t know..

Enid: Was it true?

Martin: It was true. Zivs had won a temporary victory? but we got someone out.

Yuli: Zivs was crying on my shoulder in 1988 that the Soviet authorities are so dishonorable, they killed his son in order to keep him linked to their politics. He was such a miserable man. A person after this career saying to me he would be happy to give his life in order to be in my place. It was a completely moral corruption of this man.

Martin: It’s relevant to your story? Later we discovered how Zivs knew the Zelichenok case was being raised and how the Soviets knew again and again in advance and were able to sabotage all sorts of things. There was a very remarkable man in London whom I hope you’ll bring into your book called Alan Howard who died of cancer at the age of 50 tragically? The person who can tell you about him is Alex Ioffe. Every week Howard held a meeting at his house in London – all tachlis – to work out what can we do to help Soviet Jews. Alex was one of the people he telephoned once a week. He’ll give you his story. The group was not large – 7 or 8 people. The group fluctuated. There was one fellow in this group, he would never talk to me. He was a foreigner, a Dutchman. Everyone knew I was interested.. asking where did your grandparents come from? I was always curious, what town? I was always writing this down for my work and for my maps. The special branch came to see me from the British police, Security Services and said do you know this fellow; they showed me his picture and I said yes and asked me what I know about him? I said I meet him at Alan Howard’s home. They told me they arrested him and we’ve charged him with espionage for the Soviet Union. He had joined all the human rights groups – Amnesty International, Keston College. He was able to tell them next month this case is going to be raised? When the Soviet Union disintegrated, he petitioned the court to be allowed out of prison because the country for which he spied no longer existed. Alan Howard ran a very important operation for approximately a decade from about 1981-1991 or perhaps a little earlier.. Alan Howard was a very important decent chap. Very unassuming?

Yuli: You said that you briefed the British Prime Minister? How did it happen that you achieved the status to meet with the Prime Minister prior to her trip to Russia?

Martin: When Margaret Thatcher was writing her memoirs, she asked me to help her on the memoirs. I said you played an important part in Soviet Jewry? I drafted her a paragraph. “I was concerned about the future of Soviet Jews. I went to Moscow?. When the book came out, there was my paragraph slightly reduced but in the same paragraph was something about the poor Palestinians. This is what Israel is up against in my view. She couldn’t have something about Soviet Jewry without showing that she was also, supporting the poor downtrodden Palestinians.
I was very lucky in my life. When I began my writing, Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964, and he asked to see me and I got to know him. He was interested in my history. I had written a book on appeasement. I had written 7-8 books before Churchill. Harold Wilson, among other things, was a very good friend of Israel. Wilson had a friend Lord Kagan who later went to prison. Kagan was a British school boy whose parents sent him for the summer holidays of 1939 to his family in Kovno. Poor Kagan spent the war years in the ghetto and in Dachau. He wanted to give recognition to the Lithuanian woman who saved him. (about whom I wrote in my Righteous book) He was concerned with the situation of the Jews in Lithuania because he had been there during the war. Wilson had made him a knight. Then he made him a Lord. He made mackintoshes. He made overcoats and then there was a scandal about the overcoats and he went to jail. I liked him actually. He also talked to me about this situation and how difficult it was? Then Wilson asked me to work with him when he was defeated in the election in 1970 and I worked with him for six months helping him on his memoirs and re-build his political office. Then in his second Prime Ministership? Kagan was in prison quite late. Kagan was influential. Wilson was always very concerned about Lithuanian Jews and he was very proud.

Wilson, like many politicians, was vague. I believe that they are decent people – the ones that I worked for but they are vague. Wilson’s great thing was that he got the Panovs out of Russia. This was done by a very remarkable Jewish woman called Lillian Hochauser who ran an agency to bring Russians to perform – Kirov Ballet etc. Impresarios – Lillian and Victor Hochauser. They campaigned for the Panovs and Wilson took it up when he met with Brezhnev. Wilson was very proud. I remember when I was helping Wilson with his memoirs, he said I want to tell the Panov story. He felt proud of it. He was a decent man.

That is my role – to help everyone to write their memoirs. I worked for Wilson in 1970 and then when he became Prime Minister in 1974, I saw quite a lot of him. It was my interest in India that he was interested in before he became Prime Minister. Then he was succeeded by Callahan whom I didn’t know; and then he was succeeded by Thatcher whom I worked for from time to time?(before and after she became Prime Minister); and then John Major who I worked for seriously from 1992-1997. I came here with Major. I went to the White House with Major.

Yuli: You were Major’s official advisor?

Martin: That was afterwards. I was meshuga ladavar throughout 1983 and 1984. I lectured and I spoke. I met all the campaigners. Then I’d be invited by Lynn Singer. I did it. I shlepped here and there?. I felt so determined? I still had all my talks. I made many phone calls. I was in contact regularly with various people on the phone like Tanya Zunshein; Yakov Gorodetsky. Tanya is lovely. Enid and I were in Jerusalem when Gorodetsky and three other meshuganas chained themselves across Ben Yehuda street as a protest against Lishkat Hakesher, stopping the traffic until a policeman came along and cut the chain. Then with the Kholmyanskys – with Ilana.; with Galina Zelichenok.. . I passed on the information from my calls with refuseniks to the person who succeeded Shinhar. I tried to go back in 1984 and I was refused a visa. Then I was written up in the Soviet press with other people as well – a Zionist etc.

Yuli: Did you write articles about the situation of Soviet Jews?

Martin: Every week I wrote articles.

Yuli: Your articles analyzed the situation and fate of Soviet Jews?
Martin: I did. In each article? Remember No More Refuseniks by 2005. I was desperate to go back and see you actually and to see other refuseniks. We were in touch with visitors; with some people I had correspondence. With some people I had a big correspondence, like the Leningrad people, Mike Salaman. He wrote me once a week; Lein wrote once a week. I had these correspondents including from Moscow. I used to get letters from Inna Shlemova; taped messages from her; and always from the Kholmyanskys I received all their letters. I wanted to go back. I had a feeling I want to see my friends. I want to refresh my knowledge. There were other activists that I wanted to meet about whom I was beginning to write. I don’t want to write about Pasha Abramovich if I haven’t met him. I don’t want to write about Yosef Radomysilsky if I haven’t met him and also, people in Moscow. Elena Dubianskaya; I must meet them.

My visa was refused in 1984. Then I found a way of going to Moscow with a group of Reform Rabbis. They asked me to come as their historian. Then again my visa was refused. It’s a most interesting story? I said to myself how can I ingratiate myself to the Soviet authorities? I knew my next visit would be important in many ways. I was already speaking everywhere. I knew all the politicians. I must ingratiate myself with the Soviet authorities. I had a friend who edited a magazine called The Illustrated London News, a picture paper with serious articles. In June 1984 which was the 40th celebration of the Normandy landings, when the Allies had landed in Normandy. Mrs. Thatcher held a great thing and deliberately did not invite the Soviets. She said this is for the British, Americans, Canadian, French. She was anti-Soviet and she didn’t invite the Soviets. I phoned up my friend and I said, Roger can I write an article for you about how if it wasn’t for the Soviet Union, the Allies couldn’t have landed one soldier in Normandy. This was true because we had 16 deception plans to hold back German divisions from the beaches on the day and one month after that and of these 16 plans, four depended entirely on the Soviet Union, Stalin and his advisors agreeing to do it, agreeing to making massive deceptions. They did it.
I wrote this article and I get a phone call from the Soviet Embassy, will I come to a reception. I had never been inside the Soviet Embassy. I go to this reception. The Ambassador says how nice to meet you. We liked your article. I’m giving a dinner next week; would you come to the dinner? Then the British Foreign Office phoned me up and they say two Russians, Yakovlev whom you know (Yuli: from the Politboro) and a KGB Colonel from the Ministry of Interior, Oleg Rzeshevski are traveling around America on Brezhnev’s orders lecturing about the failure of Britain and America to help the Soviet Union in World War II. They’re making a hasbara trip with all their authority with documents. They’re going to be in England one day on their way back to Moscow to make a presentation. Would you be willing to be one of the British panel? I said yes. I go and meet these two Russians. I’m on the panel and I’m thinking how can I make a good presentation. My theme was that the British and the Americans gave the Soviets massive help but in the end it was the Soviet fighting man.

The program went on until midnight. The last train back to Moscow had long gone. It was pouring with rain and I had my brand new car, my Volkswagon car. I said Colonel Rzeshevski and Yakovlev, can I give you a lift back to the hotel? They said: “How wonderful!” Soviets used to travel with hundreds of bottles of Caucasian cognac to give away. They had some of it left. Yakovlev said to me: “Would you give that presentation in Moscow?” My heart? they’re inviting me to Moscow. Rzeshevski said the invitation would not come from the Academy of Sciences but from the Ministry of Defense. It was pouring rain and I quickly said I’ll take you back. They left me all the cognac. I took them to their hotel. They said to me could they meet me the next day. I chose the most expensive London restaurant, The Connaught. I took them to lunch there. I phoned the Foreign Office and said I was doing it. They said we’d really like you to come to Moscow. I said I’d be delighted to come. They said we have a conference on How the Soviet Union Liberated Europe and Asia and would I come and make my presentation. I said: “Certainly.” They fly back to Moscow. The next day I get a phone call from Valentine Konghenko. You never heard of him. He’s a young diplomat from the Soviet Embassy. He saw his opportunity. He will help me. He will give me everything for my visit and he will get the credit for helping me to the Soviet Union. He comes to the house and he brings more cognac. He says what can I do? You’ve been invited by the Ministry of Defense. Is there anything that I can do that would make your visit easier? Please when you go to Moscow, tell the people how much I helped you. A nice Soviet diplomat. I’ve seen a lot of him recently because he got into a lot of trouble because of my visit. Konghenko said “Is there anything that I can do to help you?” I said I’m going for a week in Moscow. I’d love to have a week in Leningrad. I wanted to see all my friends and the new people I had been writing. He says: “No problem. We’ll put you on the red eye. We’ll put you up at the Astoria as a guest of the Ministry of Defense. Everything is ready. I’m very excited. I didn’t dare tell anyone. You’re so frightened it’s not going to work. I remember that I phoned someone every day. The Kholmyanskys were on Monday. I phoned Ilana Kholmyansky and she was very, very depressed. I tried to cheer her up. I knew I was going to be in Moscow the next Monday but I didn’t dare tell her. I said we’d speak next Monday. Then my friend in the Foreign Office who is now ambassador in Washington phones me up. He was then in charge of the Soviet Union. He was a youngish man, a good friend of mine. He said Martin can you come, there’s a problem. I go to the Foreign Office and I ask: “What’s the problem?” He says yesterday a Soviet Jew was sentenced to labor camp and in the accusation against him, it said that he had been in correspondence with the anti-Soviet Zionist activist Martin Gilbert. Alec Zelichenok. I thought what do I do?

My friend had asked me to bring all my documents. My friend said, you’ve got this visa, you got this letter of invitation from the Ministry of Defense. You’re at a very high level. He said: “Go!” When you reach Moscow, during your flight in your mind you’re not going to Russia, you’re not going to see your friends because he knew all about what I was doing. In your mind you’re going to the Moscow airport where you will be put on the next plane back to London. Have no expectations. What good advice. Otherwise, they’ll stop you at the airport and you’ll collapse. I manage somehow to make the flight without any expectations as if I’m going to come back?. I come to the airport. There’s a big balagan there. I get finally to the fellow (customs agent). He puts the barrier down and he presses a button. I think that’s it. I’ll go back. I was completely calm. I was desperate to see you. I thought that’s it. I tried hard. The next thing I know Rzeshevski approaches with a young lieutenant and says “my dear Professor” and embraces me; and tells the lieutenant to collect the bags and we go into a car.

Yuli: Rzeshevski, of course, knew everything?

Martin: He did not know?. They take me to a Party hotel and put me in a wonderful suite of rooms on the top floor; magnificent views. The lieutenant who later became Deputy Mayor of Moscow and he’s now in hiding in Warsaw because Putin is trying to get him.. God knows what he did? He rose up? He later stole my address book. There was nothing in my address book. Rzeshevski says I have to go back now; I’ll collect you tomorrow morning. Stankevich will take you to Moscow by night. I said I’m tired; I’ll just have a shower and go to bed. I went to shower and went to bed. Then I got up and dressed. I went to the nearest phone and I phoned Ilana. It was my Monday call. I said I’d love to see you! Are you free to take a taxi to wherever I was? She screamed? She came. We spent the evening together. Then every day Rzeshevski collected me.. We went to this amazing conference.

The street was sealed off. I was only with generals and colonels, all in their uniforms, people I never met before?North Korean generals; Mongolian generals; Vietnamese generals; Cuban generals? The all spoke and said that if it wasn’t for the Soviet Union, they’d still be under Nazi rule. Stankevich would take me back in the evening. On one occasion I wanted to go visit Professor Alexander Lerner. Stankevich said this evening we have the circus. We have front row seats. I think what am I going to do? The Moscow Circus goes on for a long time. There are lots of intermissions. Just before the first intermission, there were dancing bears. The intermission begins and I said look Sergei, you’re a much better socialist than I am. I’m revolted by seeing these bears so close up. I said I’m going to see a friend in town. I walked off followed by the two lieutenants. I waved a five or ten dollar bill and the first car screeched to a halt. It was some party car with a chauffeur who was going home. I said take me to this address Leninsky Boulevard/Prospect. I said wait for these two fellows to get in their car. There was a lovely evening with a whole group – Alla and Leonid Praisman; Anatoly Khazanov; Ilana and Mikhail Kholmyansky. We talked until two in the morning. One of the hevre gave me a lift back?I saw everyone I wanted to. Every morning I left the hotel at 5:15 and I’d walk to Krasen Street where Elena Dubianskaya was and she’d arrange every morning to see 5-6 refuseniks whom I hadn’t met previously; who I wanted to meet; leaders of the movement and Elena would have them there at 6AM. Eric Khassin would meet me with his dog and then I’d walk.

On one occasion Rzeshevski said: what did you do; you were up early this morning. I said I met a man with a dog. That’s when you drafted your plans to be presented at the Presidium of the Brussels Conference. I went straight to Washington to the Presidium where Harman and Bronfman were and you had a plan. I presented your scheme word for word? We discussed it. It was a proposal to put to the Soviet Union. I made my remarks. I was there just as a guest but I had come from Moscow directly from the activists.

On the third or fourth morning of the conference, I’m sitting next to Rzeshevski and suddenly he takes hold of my arm and he really hurts me. And suddenly he squeezes my arm and really hurts me. He says my dear Professor I strongly advise you against visiting any more of these criminals and he hurts me, and then he let go. I was in pain.. I remember thinking suddenly this is the worst he can do to me. If he could have done worse than that, he would have done it. I saw all my friends and many new people which gave me another two years of writing and speaking; not about my experiences.. I saw many more refuseniks than I had seen in 1983. I took many more stories with your help; and then in Leningrad.

Yuli: After he warned you, did you follow his recommendations?

Martin: No. No.

Yuli: That’s the way to behave with Russians.

Martin: It’s only because I thought that’s all he can do. He didn’t say we’ll arrest you. I went on? The only time I got a slight scare was after the meeting that afternoon. Rzeshevski drove me back to the hotel and he said that I just have to stop to collect my files, to collect my work. He drove me to a side entrance. He came out and drove me back.

On the last evening, I went to see a wonderful young couple in their home; you’d given me their names. Later that evening Rzeshevski gave me a dinner with Stankevich at a smart restaurant. There was a partition and beyond the partition was the sound of music. There was something going on – a wedding; a festivity. We’re talking and a door opens from the partition and we can see dancing. This young couple comes out and they see me. The girl says: “Oh Martin, how wonderful to see you!” I could see Rzeshevski. It was a Jewish function. A Jewish event. They were Jews. I said: “Let’s dance.” I took her in my arms and said this fellow is a Ministry of Interior Colonel and she fainted in my arms. I came back and he said the Jews always make so much noise. We’re coming to dessert and I had from Kanzhenkov in London a train ticket to Leningrad and vouchers for the Astoria Hotel. Rzeshevski says to me I’ll collect you from the hotel tomorrow morning myself to take you to the airport which was the original ticket. I said well no, I’m going to Leningrad and he then turned on Stankevich and a foul abuse came out from his mouth. What is this? Why wasn’t I told? Why is he going to Leningrad? Stankevich took me to the station and put me on the train and when the train reached Leningrad, there was a lovely Olga again, a different Olga with two men. She said: “Welcome to Leningrad, we have a full program for you. Before you go to your hotel, we have an appointment in the police station. We go to the police station. I said look Olga, I speak a little Russian but it’s important since this is quite serious, that you should interpret for me. We go into the police station and there’s a quite senior police officer. He says to Olga tell him that it’s forbidden for visitors to the Soviet Union to go to the homes of criminals. Olga interprets for me. I said will you please give him my answer. I’m not a dissident to the Soviet Union; I’m a guest of the Soviet Ministry of Defense. She said I’d rather not tell him that. I said, I’m sorry, that’s my answer. She told him and there was no expression on his face. What seemed like a long time, was half a minute or a minute. He got up and left the room. I said to Olga, please take me to the hotel. About an hour later, I went to see Galina Zelechenok because I couldn’t phone anyone. She then gave a party for me. Her Alex was still in Kresty Prison accused of corresponding with an anti-Soviet. Here was the same anti-Soviet. All the refuseniks said show me your invitation from the Minister of Defense. I stayed the week and saw all my old friends and met many new people. It gave me two more years of real knowledge, information, energy. It revitalized me as well. Many years later Stankevich became a Yeltsinite and became Deputy Mayor of Moscow.

Yuli: May I ask a couple of final questions? First, what role did the Cold War play in the support by some politicians of the Jewish movement in Russia.

Martin: You’ve asked me that before and I tried to think quite carefully about it. For sophisticated politicians, perhaps diplomats – people who understood the situation, the Soviet Jewry issue. The Soviet Jewry issue became a weak point in the Soviet armor.

Yuli: From a hasbara point of view; Soviet propaganda or as an internal weakness from the point of view of weakening the regime inside?

Martin: I think across the board depending what your particular issue was; certainly from a hasbara point of view; certainly from an internal weakness point of view? Here was a chink; here was a break. That’s my perception of it? They tried many other issues. What’s interesting to me, they tried on the issue of Christians in the Soviet Union. I worked quite closely with Michael Bordeaux from Keston College. The Christian world did not respond in the way the Jewish world responded. The politicians and diplomats couldn’t say to the Soviets we have a mass movement; we have a Union of Councils of Soviet Christians; we have the National Conference of Soviet Christians. It didn’t exist whereas the Jewish organizations did. This created a chink.

The other thing I think was the Cold War was changing in its methodology so that the military confrontation of the Cold War was dissolving, was changing? Everything was changing? The western politicians were looking for issues with which they could be confrontational; issues where they could say you’re not behaving correctly in this regard. Clearly the Afghanistan issue gave the cold warriors a boost. That was a clear issue. Hungary was 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968. Soviet Jewry evolved then. I remember that at one point Amnesty International taking up individual Prisoners of Zion. They also understood? They had so many political prisoners. They couldn’t get anything. I also thought that the Jewish visitors who went to the Soviet Union mattered. I’d love to learn from your research one day how many visitors there were weekly; monthly; There was no other group which approached that access to the Soviet Union; maybe a limited access? These were people who were coming back who had some experience of what the Soviet Union was like. Were there hundreds? In the thousands or in their tens of thousands?

Enid: There is a person documenting this information in Israel. Remember?

Yuli: They touched this number. These were people who were sent on the recommendation of Lishkat Hakesher. You always have independent visitors organized by Student Struggle and, other Soviet Jewry organizations. Religious groups independently sent quite a lot of people.

Martin: There must have been ten thousand. These people came back and they were active in their different ways. I do think it was an integral part of the Western campaign; of the Cold War. It was a weakness..

Yuli: It was looked upon with a positive approach by the government especially after the Afghan War began.

Martin: That was one reason why in my writings, which Enid knows, I always stressed the positive. A group of Jews are meeting; a group of Jews are discussing; a group of Jews are defying the authorities to do this? In other words there is action? It’s not pathetic creatures who shrei and gavalt? One direction I tried to change was the photographs. They used to have miserable photographs. I said show people smiling. Do you remember that? I fought to get an Ida Nudel picture where she wasn’t looking miserable. I always stressed that aspect. This is something that happened. When Elena Dubianskaya and her group went to Kiev for Babi Yar; they’re doing something. This made the Western governments realize that things can be done; things can happen; Then you can go and say this one has been imprisoned or harassed and they would take it up?

Yuli: The last question.. What was the perception of the Soviet Union as a threat to the West; to western values; how did it change during the time after Afghan War when it was really terrible; and what was particular force or might of the Soviet Union which was so frightening? Soviet weaponary or monolithic structure or party line or ideology?

Martin: I think the Soviet control of the satellites played a big part? It wasn’t only the Soviet Union but considerable number of countries in the Eastern bloc e.g. Poland; Czechoslovakia; East Germany; Bulgaria; Rumania. That was one thing.. Then generally the military might because the Soviets were very clever to promote their military might?In fact which Afghanistan showed, they were prepared to exercise it. I think that the turning point in the West was 1956 in Hungary. Somehow the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution because it had been so successful; because Nagy had formed the government; thrown off the oppression? The savagery of the Hungarian regime and the Soviets of which Andropov was a part that scared me. That remained for 30 years? The arrest of people?the execution of people.. the brutal way in which it happened. I was in the army at that time. To my generation, Englishmen and Western Europeans, this Hungarian Revolution and Russian reaction was a shock to our system. It was an astonishing thing. It showed that until Gorbachev, they were not prepared to accept any formal change. Nagy originally wanted a more liberal communism.


Edited by Glenn Richter and Enid L. Wurtman

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