No. 5/2002 - October 2002
Editor: Fran Bock

This article was first published in East European Jewish Affairs, Summer 2002, Vol. 32 #1.

The Belarus SIG is grateful for the permission granted by Howard Spier of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, London, to republish Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky's article on the Belarus SIG Online Newsletter.

We also thank Dr. Smilovitsky for adding to our knowledge about the Jews and Jewish life in Belarus and for his permission to republish the article here.

This article is copyrighted by East European Jewish Affairs, its publishers and Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky.

Reprinting or copying of is not allowed
without prior permission from the copyrightholders


Jews in Belorussia's Judicial System,

1944 - 1953 *

by Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky,

Diaspora Research Institute, Tel Aviv University

The author, in a Belarus forest


The ethnic composition of the employees in the judiciary of the Belorussian SSR was never a subject of open studies and discussion. Everything connected with the personnel of the bodies of state power was classified information. This especially applied to those bodies whose functions included supervision over the observance of laws, safeguarding public property, settling conflicts arising between the society, on the one hand, and the individual and other legal subjects, on the other. The state policy of the Soviet government in Moscow centred on common interests, rather than the interests of individual national republics. In the appointment and rotation of employees ideological loyalty was considered far more important than professionalism. Making public the ethnic composition of the personnel of the judicial bodies, the public prosecutor's office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Ministry of State Security (MGB) could show the undesirable share of Russians, Jews and other nationalities in these bodies as against Belorussians.

The formation of the law-enforcement bodies after the war proceeded in a special situation which was conducive to drawing a large number of Jews into the republic's judiciary, state security and the MVD. Beginning July 1944, bodies of state power had to be formed urgently in the liberated territory, young people called up for service in the Soviet Army, resources mustered to finish the war, the ground prepared for going over to peacetime construction and the restoration of the economic and cultural life, on the one hand, and, on the other, a section of the population that had collaborated with the Nazis during occupation had to be dealt with. Needed were trustworthy people who could exercise responsible functions during the period ethnic Russians and Belorussians were trained in law schools of different levels. Jews who before the war had been functionaries of the communist party or of the Soviets, lawyers with a prewar record, participants in the partisan movement, demobilized servicemen were seen as the most welcome replenishment for the judicial, law-enforcement and supervising bodies of the System, since Jews could not be suspected of having collaborated with the Nazis. Having survived the Holocaust and the crucible of the frontlines, they were loyal to the Soviet regime and ready to serve it.

Belorussia emerged from the war with its economy ruined, its transport, communications, infrastructure and housing practically nonexistent. Living standards dropped to an appalling low, there was an acute shortage of the bare necessities, medicines and food. In some regions epidemics and morbidity were rife. Adverse social conditions gave rise to a growing crime rate. Mass migration of the population was also an important factor. Some were coming back to their native parts from other European countries. Some 200,000 people repatriated to Belorussia in 1946 alone. Among them were those with a criminal record, Nazi accomplices, those who during the war had got out of the habit of working and did not want to work. The situation in the republic was aggravated by the 1946 drought and the resultant crop failure and famine which hit many regions of the country (1). The situation in the western regions of the republic was being destabilized by the underground detachments of the Armija Krajowa, out to restore the 1939 borders of Poland (2). In the southwest, namely in Brest and Pinsk regions, units of the Ukrainian Insurrection Army were active (3). Gangs of thieves and robbers were trying to form criminal communities which increased the crime rate dramatically. Much resentment was aroused by a series of unreasonable economic steps carried out by the authorities, such as collectivization of farming in Western Belorussia, liquidation of the private sector, banning individual enterprise and business activity, harassment on ethnic, cultural and religious grounds, forcing ideological uniformity. Living standards, low as they were, were further eroded by obligatory loans in the form of government bonds which the population were compelled to buy to restore the economy. In October 1949, militia (the police) were taken over from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and made subordinate to the Ministry of State Security, which greatly strengthened the state repression mechanism. The overextensive amnesty of 1953 made the situation worse still. Under the USSR Supreme Soviet Decree of March 27, "On Amnesty", a considerable number of hardened criminals who had no intention of putting paid to their criminal past were released. In some penitentiary establishments many dangerous criminals who had had more than one conviction were set free because the Decree was misinterpreted. Robberies, holdups, assaults, rapes, thefts, hooliganism became far more frequent. On the whole, the crime rate in the Belorussian SSR soared by almost 60 per cent (4).

Over 1944-53, the official ethnic policy in the build-up of the judiciary and the public prosecutor's office was changing. The number of Jews and other ethnic minorities was on a steady downgrade as they were replaced by Russians and Belorussians. Further ousting of Jews from the judiciary occurred during the drive against cosmopolitanism. Unofficial but strictly observed quotas were practised with respect to Jews wishing to study law in secondary or higher educational establishments. Jewish graduates were not assigned to jobs upon graduation, as was the practice with other ethnic groups. In general, Jews were refused jobs or fired on various pretexts. In those years many Jews had to quit their jobs in public prosecutor's offices and start practising as advocates or legal advisers, notaries or arbitrators. Those that remained, mostly old-timers, communists with a long record of party membership, former partisans and war veterans, had to toe the line of the System.

Paradoxically, although these people were discriminated against professionally on ethnic grounds, they had to act as vehicles of the policy of the communist party and the Soviet state generally and on this matter in particular.

This article is the first attempt to show the contribution of Jews to the restoration and development of the judiciary, the public prosecutor's office, the Bar, and law education in Belorussia in the last decade of the Stalin rule. The sources used were mainly documents and statistical data found in the archives of Belorussia, Russia and Israel, collections of documents and materials, periodicals of that time complemented by reminiscences of the contemporaries.

Choice of Profession

At that time Jewish young men and women chose to study at law schools for various reasons. Some saw this profession as an indispensable condition for returning to a peacetime life. Others wished to be "in the frontline of the struggle for justice," still others were attracted by the prospect of studying the humanities. Some followed in the footsteps of their relations already practising law. There were those who got into such schools by chance or under pressure of circumstances. Besides, it took four years to get a higher education at a law school, as against five years at a university or six years at a medical institute. Most of the applicants for admission to law institutes believed that lawyers were needed in the postwar Soviet society and this profession would help them get fulfillment and succeed in life.

In 1944, Raya Rabinovich from Gomel was among the first to enter the Minsk Law Institute. Hers was a chance choice. She had wished to be a doctor, but the four years at a law school against six at a medical institute tipped the scale. Her father, Iosif, had been killed in the war and she could not count on any support from the family (5). Sima Lvovich (born 1924) from Starye Dorogi made her choice while in evacuation in Kazakhstan where she entered the Leningrad Law Institute then in the Town of Djambul. After she graduated from the institute in 1946, she was assigned to Mozyr as assistant prosecutor in civil cases for Polessye Region where her parents had settled after returning from evacuation. Anna Budovlya (born 1924), who had been evacuated from Slutsk to Kazakhstan, got a secretarial job at the People's Court of Priishim District. In 1943, after taking a three-month course in law in Alma-Ata, she worked first as a notary and then as auditor of the North-Kazakhstan Region Department of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs). She was entitled to high-grade coupons for consumer goods and foodstuffs issued to the employees of the regional communist party committee and could help her family. However, after Belorussia's liberation, she decided to return there, although people were trying to talk her out of this move, saying that "she was abandoning bread in pursuit of crumbs". Still, she sent her documents to the Minsk Law Institute. Raya (Rachel) Kaplan from Minsk (born 1930) first wanted to enter the history department but the prospect of being a village teacher did not appeal to her. Her brother who had fought in the war and was a law student told her that there was "a lot of history" at his law school (6). Yakov Grinberg from Baranovichi liked philosophy and history. After he was demobilized in 1948 he wanted to enter the philosophy department of the Belorussian State University. His parents were against it, believing that under the Soviet regime such a profession was unlikely to be in great demand and suggested the profession of lawyer as an alternative. While at the law school, Yakov got interested in law and came to see lawyers as guardians of law and order involved in the public and political life of the country (7). Darya Plotkina from Bobruisk, fascinated by the public speaking and erudition of the famous Soviet lawyer, Member of the Academy of Sciences A.V.Venediktov, entered Leningrad State University after finishing school in 1948 but in the following year family circumstances compelled her to transfer to the Minsk Law Institute (8).

Raisa Epstein became a lawyer under the influence of her friend Irina Shmekler, a graduate of the Minsk Law Institute. In 1944 they worked at the headquarters of the Belorussian partisan movement. The profession of investigator looked romantic and important to her, allowing her to be in the frontline of the struggle (9). Alisa Mints believed that to be a lawyer meant becoming "a paragon of integrity, erudition and decency" (10). In the last two years of his term of service in the Soviet Army (1945-47), for which he had volunteered in 1942 at the age of 17, Lev Smilovitsky from Rechitsa was a driver in the SMERSH counterintelligence. He thought that fighting espionage and sabotage was an indispensable condition for returning to a peacetime life. In 1948 he entered the Law Faculty of Moscow State University but he had problems with housing and chose to continue his studies at the Minsk Law University where former frontline fighters were accommodated at a hostel (11). Tatyana Fainberg had wanted to study chemistry at the Belorussian State University, but for health reasons decided to enter the institute where her brother Pyotr (Peisah) Meter studied (12). Having been turned down at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Zelik Feigin from Vetka, Gomel Region, followed the example of his elder sister Fira, a graduate of the Leningrad Law Institute (13). Maya Idova (Drapkina) chose the profession of lawyer because her father was a judge of the Gomel Regional Court (14). In 1950, after Mikhail Buslovich failed to score the number of points necessary for being enrolled in the Journalism Department of the Belorussian State University, he was admitted to the Law Institute without taking the entrance examinations (15). Alexander Eidlin from Mstislavl District of Moghilev Region entered the Leningrad Kalinin Law Institute before the war. He was demobilized in December 1945 and continued his studies. After graduation he married and moved to Mozyr, where his wife lived. He was inspector for the notary service and the Bar at the Justice Department of Polessye Region and then was elected head of the Mozyr Bar Association and deputy head of the Polessye Region Bar Association (16).

Attitude to Yiddish and Ethnic Self-Identification

The postwar policy of over-all unification affected, among others, the judiciary and the public prosecutor's office, law-enforcement bodies and the language of tuition of law students. Russian was officially preferable, although Belorussian formally had the same status (17). Gone was the prewar practice when Polish and Jewish (Yiddish), had been used in Belorussia as official languages alongside Russian and Belorussian (18). Documents in the judicial circuits were no longer made out in the languages of ethnic minorities (19). Since 1924, the Minsk, Moghilev, Gomel, Bobruisk, Vitebsk, and Mozyr Jewish judicial circuits - six all in all - had been operating (20) with the ethnic chambers of People's Courts which examined both civil and criminal cases functioning there. Lawyers Rozinsky, Steiner, Feigelson, Plisetsky, Slobodov worked in the Jewish People's Courts of the Gomel judicial circuit and Moisei Bernstein was Gomel public prosecutor. Lawyer Aizik Reikhman worked in the Glussky District of Minsk Region, etc. (21). There were also three Polish chambers (Minsk, Bobruisk, and Moghilev) and one Lettish (Vitebsk) (22). Ethnic chambers functioned for almost ten years and then were abolished by a decree of the Central Executive Committee of the BSSR of March 31, 1934 (23).

Immediately after the war, Belorussian was in some places allowed to be used for work with the population, although office work was conducted mostly in Russian (24). Yet unlimited use of Belorussian to the detriment of Russian was not allowed as it could be interpreted as a manifestation of Belorussian nationalism (25). Yiddish, which over 70 per cent of Belorussian Jews could speak before the war, had lost its position. This came in the wake of the closure of the Jewish schools in 1937-39 and of the liquidation of unions of Jewish creative workers, which further narrowed down the sphere of its usage. The German genocide during the war decimated the number of native speakers. Many would-be Jewish lawyers changed their given and family names and even nationality, if they could do it. While doing his term of military service, Meir Barinbaum changed his first name to "Dmitry". In 1947 he was admitted to the Minsk Law School although 90 places were contested by 600 applicants. He had only "excellent" marks in his high school certificate and was allowed to take only one examination, that in the Russian language (26). Isaak Dobkin, who worked at the military prosecutor's office, became "Igor" instead of "Isaak". The parents of Maria Galperina, a student of the Minsk Law Institute, changed their first names and patronymics: her father, Peisah Srolevich, became Pavel Sergeyevich and her mother, Shprintsa Vikdorovna, became Manya Pavlovna (27). Hanna Rokhlenko from Gomel, gave her first name as "Anna" when she was getting her passport in Sverdlovsk Region to which she had been evacuated. Deputy head of the Gomel Region Justice Department Girshl Fleisher became Grigory, Head of a legal advice office Benyamin Mordukhovich Rozinsky changed his first name and patronymic to Boris Markovich. Head of the Mozyr Bar Association Alexander Eidlin had been Aron Eidlin before he entered the Minsk Law Institute. Two Minsk lawyers also changed their names: Fima Simkhovich Lapushin became Efim Semyonovich Lapushin and Mikhail Buslovich changed his patronymic of "Getselevich" to "Grigoryevich" . Head of the social-legal service at the outpatient gynecological department of the 3rd Minsk Hospital, Rachel Samuilovna Kaplan changed her name and patronymic to Raisa Semyonovna. The husband of notary Rosa Krachkovskaya from Gomel had to change his name of Abram-Leib to Alexander to prevent his son from having a Jewish patronymic written in his passport (28).

Law students, and budding and experienced lawyers had differing attitudes to Yiddish and the Jewish tradition. Some kept their love for their native tongue and used it in their daily life. The contributing factors were the atmosphere in the family and having attended a Jewish school before the war. But such an attitude had to be kept secret. A minyan was held at the home of Genya Shmuilovna Levina (Krigel) in Rechitsa behind shuttered windows to conceal the Shabbat candles (29). Her son Lev was investigator at the public prosecutor's office in Grodno. Haim Nisonovich, father-in-law of Rachel Kaplan who headed the social-legal service at the outpatient gynecological department of the 3rd Minsk Hospital, frequented the synagogue and celebrated Jewish holidays, and this in spite of the fact that his daughter-in-law was a lawyer and his son Moisei was a communist. Shabbat was observed and matsot baked in the family of Veniamin Chernov from Bobruisk, who worked as legal adviser for the Belorussian Railways. He always spoke Yiddish with his parents. Sima Lvovich, a lawyer from Mozyr, had attended a Jewish school in Starye Dorogi, Minsk Region, for three years before the war, and Rosa Krachkovskaya, who had attended a Jewish school in Gomel for four years, had a perfect command of Yiddish, including reading and writing. Alexander Eidlin, lawyer at a social security department in Brest, loved Yiddish and was fluent in it, but the only place where he could safely speak it was his parents' home in Mstislavl District. In public, Bunya Katznelson from Slutsk never called her husband Abram Pecker by his first name, only by his last name because a Jewish name "jarred on the ear" of the people around. But Abram Pecker, a lawyer, always corrected his clients when they addressed him "Arkady" and not "Abram" . He insisted that in the passage of the court verdict running "with the participation of Lawyer Pecker" his name should read "Abram Pecker" (30).

On the other hand, there were those who would like to conceal that they were Jewish. They would not speak Yiddish, fearing undesirable consequences. The parents of Yakov Greenberg, a lawyer, would speak Yiddish only when they did not want children to understand what they were saying. Yakov himself believed Yiddish had no future and sooner or later would give way to Russian as a language bringing peoples together. Maya Idova, legal adviser at the Gomel Plywood and Match Factory, did not know Yiddish and was ashamed of this language. Her parents saw Yiddish as a dying-out language which was useless in the USSR and sent Maya to a Belorussian school (31). Assimilation had made deep inroads in the case of Raya Rabinovich, a Gomel lawyer. According to her, she did not identify herself as Jewish when she was a law student and even was indifferent to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. It was not until she began practical work and started hearing such things as "Jews are to blame for everything," "they did not fight in the war", "they do not want to work" and the like that she began to see things in a different light (32). Maria Galperina, a legal adviser from Grodno, developed a fear of Yiddish after the drive against cosmopolitanism had been launched and Jewish men of letters arrested. Whenever she heard Yiddish spoken in the street, she would try to keep away from the spot. When the first All-Union census of 1959 was conducted, she was travelling by train and, fearing the reaction of other passengers, said she was Belorussian (33).

Most of the students had a penchant for Yiddish. They went to see Tevye the Milkman, 200,000 and other plays in Yiddish staged by the Belorussian State Jewish Theatre (BelGOSET) (34). Sofia Ladina, a notary from Rechitsa, said that as a student she had seen all the productions of the Jewish theatre and so had many of her fellow students, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Mikhoels' death in January 1948 gave rise to grave foreboding. He had come to Minsk for a final view of the play Konstantin Zaslonov. Holder of the title of People's Artist of the USSR, he was not only head of the Moscow GOSET, but also Chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Nobody believed the official version that he had been killed in a road accident near the Dynamo Stadium (35). At a lecture in the Minsk Law Institute students asked Prilutsky, chief forensic expert of the Belorussian SSR Ministry of Justice, about the details of Mikhoels' death. He evaded the question, saying they were not to be made public (36). Lev Sheinin, head of the Investigation Department of the USSR Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, came from Moscow to investigate the case. He arrived at the conclusion that it was assassination. Soon he was transferred to another position, outside the Public Prosecutor's Office, and arrested somewhat later (37).

In the years that followed, the attitude of the authorities to Yiddish did not change. The policy of assimilation pursued towards Jews as well as other ethnic minorities in Belorussia made it impossible to use languages other than Russian and Belorussian. Any deviation from this policy could bring accusations of bourgeois nationalism, of breaking away from the family of the Soviet peoples, anti-Sovietism, disbelief in socialism, and subsequent arrest and imprisonment. All of it was practised in the absence of a clear-cut ban on the use of minority languages and with official propaganda extolling Soviet internationalism (38). Most Jewish lawyers had accepted these terms of ethnic nihilism which the regime imposed on them as having no alternative.

Assigning Graduates to a Job

It was very important to get a good first job after graduation. A letter from the Justice Ministry was indispensable for getting a job in the judiciary, at the public prosecutor's office and even at a legal advice office. The Justice Ministry considered each graduate upon receiving the recommendation of the regional Justice Department before assigning him or her to a job. The initiative of the graduates themselves was limited to a great extent. The best jobs in large cities, regional and even district centres had been filled. Jews were also refused employment on the pretext that vacancies should be kept for Belorussians, because the republic was short of national cadres. It was easier to find a job for which one had been trained outside the republic. Subjective factors often determined one's specialization. The self-confident chose to become investigators or hold some other position at the public prosecutor's office. Inexperienced young women who had entered the law school immediately after finishing high school preferred to be notaries, legal advisers, lawyers. In many cases getting a prestigious position did not depend on the academic record. Many were issued "free diplomas", which meant that they had to look for jobs themselves. For some this ended in failure and they had to learn a new trade. Maria Goldina (Galperina) was offered an investigator's job in Siberia instead of Lyuban District of Minsk Region, her native parts. She refused to go there and was given a "free diploma" (39).

After graduation Rachel Kaplan was assigned to Baranovichi as legal adviser at the Department of Trade in Foodstuffs and Industrial Consumer Goods of the City Soviet of People's Deputies. After the obligatory two-year term of work on assignment she returned to Minsk and found a job in the social-legal service of a maternity advice centre. For many years she was elected people' s assessor of the law court of Lenin District of Minsk. Maya Idova was lucky to get a legal adviser's job at the Gomel Plywood and Match Factory. It took Veniamin Chernov, a disabled veteran, a long time to find a job as legal adviser at the railway administration. Tatyana Feinberg first worked in school in the Town of Khoiniki, Mozyr Region, and then moved to Minsk and worked as proofreader for a military newspaper (40). Helya Zaretsky had to work in school in Smolevichi and Zakhar Budnitsky as a fitter at a Minsk factory. Boris Kantorovich and Yakov Levin, both excellent students who under other circumstances could have been offered to take a post-graduate course, were not assigned to any job. Arkady Tarler managed to get a job at a legal advice office in Polotsk mainly because his father was a lawyer of long standing (41).

In 1951, almost all Jewish graduates, except a group of war veterans, were given "free diplomas" . Alisa Mints, whose parents lived in Minsk, managed to find work in Moghilev only with the help of some friends of her career-officer father. She started as an entry-level legal adviser in the procedure-legal group of the regional Executive Committee and in 1952 was promoted state arbitrator (42). In 1952, secret rules for assigning graduates to jobs existed at the Minsk Law Institute. First the graduate body was divided into Jews and gentiles and inside the Jewish group into men and women. Jewish men were offered jobs outside the law-enforcement bodies (lawyers, legal advisers, in rare cases prosecutors in local bodies of justice functioning under the Executive Committees of Town Soviets, etc.). Under the pretext of job shortage, women graduates were offered jobs in the alphabetical order irrespective of their academic record. Women whose family names began with L, M, N and further were issued "free diplomas" . Dasha Evnina, her name beginning with E, got into the priority group and was offered a job at the Bryansk public prosecutor's office. Her friend Riva Paperno, an excellent student, who did not get a red diploma (diploma cum laude) because she had one "good" mark even though the rest were "excellent", remained without a job. It was a hard blow to Riva as she was in dire straits and had been labouring against heavy odds to get a higher education. She saw it as a stroke of good luck that she had found a job in a village school in Talka, Pukhovichi District, where she taught the essentials of the USSR Constitution and the German language. Fully realizing that for her the prospects of practising law were nil, she entered the extramural department of the Minsk Institute of Foreign Languages, got a second higher education and taught English in school for the rest of her active life (43). Faina Okun from Cherven became an accountant after three years of fruitless effort to find a lawyer's job (44).

By the early 1950s, it was hopeless for Jewish law graduates to find a job in their profession, whatever the pull they might have. The situation was fraught with the threat of being fired without the prospect of finding another job. People felt desperate. In 1949, the situation in Raisa Epstein's family made it impossible for her to accept a job in Molotov (Perm) and she was out of work for two years. In 1951, finding a lawyer's job was already out of the question. In Raisa's case, her record of a ghetto inmate, escape to a partisan detachment, work at the headquarters of the partisan movement was of no avail. Wherever she applied she was refused under some forced pretext. Among the students of Raisa's husband, who taught at the Minsk Institute of Foreign Languages, was the daughter of the BSSR Minister of Justice Poduta. Although his wife was Jewish, he refused to help. Raisa's father, Meir Epstein, was director of the Minsk Prosthetic Factory. He got in touch with the BSSR deputy chief prosecutor Prudkovich whom he had helped with getting an artificial leg. All Prudkovich could offer was a low-level clerical position in the personnel department of the public prosecutor's office. Finally she managed to get a job as an educator at the technical school of the Voroshilov Plant, where she was a lecturer and secretary of the local Young Communist League organization (45). Leonid Sonkin was not offered any job. As a communist he applied to the Minsk Regional Party Committee and was appointed head of a savings bank in the Town of Berezino (46).

Abram Pecker's record is unique in its way. In 1951, he received a "free diploma". Director of the institute G.A. Povetyev, who was chairman of the examination board, explained it by the priority need to offer employment to "national cadres" . Abram applied to the BSSR Deputy Minister of Justice for Personnel and was offered the position of investigator in Pruzhany District. Two weeks later he was notified that the vacancy had been filled. At the USSR Ministry of Higher Education he was told that such matters were dealt with by the BSSR regional departments of justice and public prosecutor's offices. Abram contacted deputy prosecutor for personnel of Bobruisk Region where his native town of Slutsk was located. The officer said that they badly needed lawyers with higher education and sent a request for approval to the Ministry of Justice. No reply came, however. After a long search Abram was taken on as lawyer at the Slutsk Bureau of Technical Stock-Taking (real estate registry office) where he was in charge of the legal aspects of real estate (47). In July 1953, Ivan Vetrov was appointed BSSR Minister of Justice and Abram made another attempt at getting a proper job. He was received by the Minister and said that for two years he had been unable to get a job in his profession because he was Jewish. Stalin had just died and in the new situation Vetrov thought it possible to comply with Abram's request. He ordered Andrei Tretyakov, head of the Bobruisk Region Justice Department, to assign Abram to a legal advice office as advocate (48).

In 1953, as many as 241 persons graduated from the Belorussian law schools. The bulk of these - 113 graduates- were Russians, with 72 Belorussians coming second. Jews occupied the third place with 34 graduates. They were followed by Ukrainians (18), Tatars (2), and Poles and Greeks (1 each). The assignment board offered them jobs in the bodies of justice and the public prosecutor's offices of the BSSR, the Russian Federation and the Lithuanian SSR, at the public prosecutor's office of the railway administration, the militia. Some were sent to the BSSR Council of Ministers to be assigned to Executive Committees throughout the republic (49). Iizik (Isaak) Karan, Semyon Madorsky and Lev Shpilkin found work in Kemerovo Region, RSFSR. Peisah Meter left for Monchegorsk, Murmansk Region, RSFSR. He was legal adviser for the Severonikel Amalgamation, and then deputy secretary of the communist party committee of this amalgamation. A post-graduate course, jobs at the military prosecutor's office and the military tribunal were seen as the best offers after graduation. Representatives of these bodies selected their prospective employees from among the undergraduates. In 1949-53, not a single Jew was chosen, not even interviewed to keep up appearances. This was open discrimination because among the Jews there were many capable, even gifted students, holders of diplomas cum laude, secretaries of local Young Communist League organizations, chairmen of trade union committees, communists, war veterans, activists of voluntary social work. Several Jews were assigned to the post of zonal prosecutors, prosecutor-criminalists, regional or town deputy prosecutors, employees at the regional public prosecutor's offices. Not a single one, however, was subsequently promoted to a decision-making position, not even that of district prosecutor.

Having Relatives Abroad

In the postwar years, Soviet society was isolated to such an extent that any communications with relatives outside the USSR were reprehensible. The fact that Stalin-style socialism was not accepted by the international community was not the only reason. The regime feared that contacts with relatives abroad, even at the daily life level, could make the Iron Curtain penetrable and it would be no longer possible to keep secret the experiments on building a new social system. Not only relatives and close friends but even acquaintances who were nationals of other countries were seen as potentially dangerous. This applied to all Soviet citizens, irrespective of their education, profession or age. Screened strictest of all were civil servants, among whom employees in the law sphere held a special place.

Receiving letters, parcels, presents from abroad could entail dismissal from a position and expulsion from the party, which made one an outcast and could ruin his life. Therefore concern shown by relatives from abroad towards Soviet survivals of the Holocaust was most unwelcome and help had to be openly refused or the offer of help ignored . Maria Goldina, a legal adviser from Brest, kept it secret that her father Peisah Izrailevich had relations in America, and Benyamin Rozinsky, a lawyer, that his brother Zalman lived in Palestine (Petah-Tiqwa). He and his family had illegally emigrated there in 1925 (50). The arbitrator of the Moghilev court of arbitration Anna Budovlya had an uncle, the brother of her mother Fruma Davidovna, who lived in Montreal (Canada). After the war they received a letter from him but were afraid to reply. Relations of Anna's father Boris Vulfovich sent a parcel from Poland, but they chose not to collect it (51).

If "disgraceful ties" with the West became known, this could be an obstacle to getting a job and even be the cause of dismissal on the plea of "insincerity". Abram Pecker, who graduated from the Minsk Law Institute in 1950, was not taken on as investigator or offered any job. Before the war, his mother Shifra Efroimovna corresponded with her distant relations in the U.S., daughters of her stepfather. In 1933 they visited Slutsk and in 1945 they found her and sent her a parcel (52). In 1946, Sofia Farberova, a legal adviser, received by proxy a parcel from America addressed to her sister's husband, and in 1947, Sofia's husband was dismissed from the Armed Forces and denied the privileged status one was usually entitled to upon dismissal from the Armed Forces (53). In 1949, lawyer Zalman Ziskind was fired from the legal advice office at the People's Court in the Town of Gorky and was forbidden to practise law. It happened after it became known that he had been receiving parcels from America (54). In 1953, the Justice Department of Moghilev Region told lawyer Boris Goldin that he should quit "of his own accord" as his wife's parents lived in Palestine. They had lived there for 15 years and left long before their daughter got married. But that seemed immaterial. The situation was absurd, yet Boris did not dare to protest as it could lead to dismissal for a spurious reason, one which would make finding a job in his specialty far more difficult. After Stalin's death, Goldin was reinstated in the Bar Association. But reinstatement did not come easy as some of his colleagues were against taking on new lawyers because it could bring their earnings down. Later Boris Goldin became head of the Moghilev legal advice office (55). In March 1953, investigator Isaak Zak of the Zelva District public prosecutor's office and investigator Levin of the Bobruisk District public prosecutor's office were dismissed from work and from the bodies of the Belorussian SSR public prosecutor's office on the grounds that their families had ties with relations in America. An anonymous letter about E. Epstein, investigator in the Khotimsky District, Moghilev Region, informed the authorities that his uncle Abram Kisin had been convicted in January 1952 on a charge of Jewish nationalism (56). This proved to be a weighty reason for dismissing E. Epstein and making him change his profession.

Membership in the Communist Party: A Factor for Promotion

Membership in the communist party was an important factor for promotion. It was obligatory for regional court members and People's Judges and their deputies, prosecutors of all levels, investigators and high-placed officials of the Ministry of Justice. Advocates, legal advisers and notaries did not have to be communist party members. Their prospects for promotion were limited and they were seen as a means of demonstrating "pluralism", "independence", and "impartiality" in court proceedings or in settling conflict situations. The composition of the judicial and investigating bodies and the public prosecutor's offices of the republic in the late 1940s as regards party membership is given in the following table (57):

Share of Communist Party Members in the Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor's Offices
of the BSSR in 1947-48 (per cent) : Table 1


The Judiciary Public Prosecutor's Offices
As of Jan. 1, 1947 67.4 68.5
As of Jan. 1, 1948 76.4 80.0

These figures show that the authorities wanted to have more communist party members among judges, investigators and prosecutors. The usual quotas for admittance to the communist party were not applied to this section of the legal profession. The share of party members among advocates, legal advisers, lawyers, notaries and employees of regional Departments of Justice and in the Ministry staff was much lower. Most of them came to work in this profession after serving in the Armed Forces where they joined the communist party during the war, or after quitting a previous job. The official propaganda had made many of them loyal Marxists who believed in the ideals of building socialism and communism, and honestly wanted to be affiliated with the communist party. Zelik Feigin joined the party two years after graduation from the institute in 1952 and thought it a great honour. He believed that credit for all that was good in the country must go to it. Alexander Eidlin's superiors suggested that he join the party after he had been appointed deputy head of the Social Security Department of Brest Region (58). Lawyer Mikhail Buslovich wept, as many did, when the announcement of Stalin's death came in March 1953 (59). Boris Drabkin, Chief Justice of the Gomel Regional Court, had joined the communist party before the war and believed that whatever it was doing was right. Its dissolution in August 1991 was a hard blow to him. When he was returning his membership card at the Gomel Regional Party Committee he got nervous, fell, was ill for a long time and then died (60). Anna Rokhlenko, legal adviser at the Gomel Meat Processing and Packing Factory joined the Party after her superior laid his letter of recommendation on her desk and said that a lawyer at the factory must be a party member. She had to succumb to the pressure. Her generation had been brought up in the spirit of loyalty to the Soviet state, the communist party and Stalin personally, although some people knew who actually masterminded the repressions (61).

The work of the judiciary was closely watched by party bodies. The town and regional committees of the Belorussian Communist Party had departments supervising the work of the public prosecutor's office, the judiciary, the Ministries of the Interior and State Security, and of the penitentiary system. Party bodies also wielded a good deal of underhand influence. Going through the "sieve" of the party system preceded the appointment or approval of judges, prosecutors and investigators. Instructions over the telephone could come even direct to the court conference room to influence the final ruling. In 1949, Abram Berstein was dismissed from the Gomel Bar Association for asking acquittal for the accused at a court session. In 1952, Dmitry Shulkin had a lot of trouble after speaking at a court session against the militia which had beaten up his client. Shulkin was a "sore in the eye" of non-Jews. He took a keen interest in Jewish problems, could read Yiddish, tell a Jewish anecdote or sing a Jewish song and cite a Jewish saying. Raisa Rabinovich was strictly warned by the Gomel Regional Department of Justice that she would be fired if she continued to criticize the work of the Interior Ministry bodies (62). In 1951, the Moghilev Regional Court, upon the appeal of Defence Counsel Lazar Shparberg dismissed a criminal case as unimportant, which was strongly disapproved by the district court judge Gavrilenko and the district party committee. Lazar said that at that time he was a budding lawyer and that a few years later he would have thought twice before eliciting the disapproval of party bodies (63).

Judicial and Investigating Bodies

Under the conditions of going over to peacetime development when wartime laws were no longer applied, the courts had to protect the interests of society and the state. They examined civil, criminal and other cases on the basis of existing laws. The Belorussian SSR judiciary included district, town, economic, general courts (the Supreme Court, regional courts) and some others. The legal process in the Soviet Union had its specific features. Formally, judges were considered independent and guided only by law, which precluded any interference in their work.

The situation in the republic was grave: crime was rampant, title to property was claimed by many parties simultaneously, there was a shortage of goods and services, the main industrial consumer goods and foodstuffs were rationed. The rationing system could not cope effectively with the distribution of the staples. All this was the breeding ground for various crimes and offences, from fraud, theft and embezzlement to armed robberies ending in murder. In 1944-49, as many as 70,000 crimes were registered. The general picture is given in Table 2 (64).

Number of Criminal Offenses in the BSSR
From October 1943 to January 1, 1949: Table 2
Offense Total Per Cent Exposed Per Cent
Holdups, Robbery & murder 5,985 8.5 4,421 73.8
Theft of all kinds 32,666 46.7 26,838 85.2
Other Crimes 26,199 37.4 25,037 95.5

Misappropriation of public and personal property, profiteering, violation of the state monopoly on producing strong drinks (making home-distilled vodka) and what was termed "unearned income" had reached enormous proportions. Over the five-odd years, 46,000 proceedings were instituted against 57,124 people on these charges, 19,507 of them were taken into custody (see Table 3) (65).

Number of Economic Crimes in the BSSR
From October 1943 to January 1, 1949: Table 3
Crime Proceedings Instituted Taken into Custody Per Cent Arrested
Profiteering 7,955 3,882 48.9
Theft in State Trade 2,523 786 31.2
Theft in Consumer Cooperation 1,385 618 44.6
Theft in Procurement Organizations 1,525 780 51.1

Against this background, building up a judicial and investigation system was a priority. The investigators had to conduct all-round investigation, check all the versions, collect irrefutable proof exposing a concrete offender. The prosecutors' functions included supervision over the investigation and in some cases participation in some investigation acts. Before endorsing the bill of indictment submitted after the investigation and referring a case for trial they had to study the case to make sure that the guilt of the accused had been fully proved.

Much attention was paid to inculcating the "bolshevist" spirit, competence was considered just as important as political reliability. However, in a situation where there was an acute shortage of cadres, with the judicial bodies chronically understaffed, vacancies had to be filled without delay while specially trained and experienced workers were at a premium. No wonder that some local judicial bodies had incompetent employees of inferior moral qualities. The USSR Ministry of Justice had committed some mistakes too: it had assigned to Belorussia people of questionable qualification and poor health. In 1947 , 21 employees of the judiciary did not pass the certification test, 16 were dismissed and action brought against one of them. These and other circumstances made for a great deal of personnel turnover and reshuffle. Gradually, however, the situation was improving. While on January 1, 1947, only 84.7 percent of the staff vacancies in the judiciary had been filled up, the figure for January 1, 1948, was 92.8 per cent (66). The ethnic composition of the judiciary reflected on the whole the general demographic pattern of the republic's population after the war, which is shown in the following table (67).

Ethnic Composition of the BSSR Judicial and Investigating Bodies
in 1947-48 (per cent): Table 4
Nationality 1947 1948
Belorussians 56.5 59.5
Russians 30.7 27.7
Ukrainians 2.8 3.3
Jews 8.6 8.2
Others 1.4 1.3

As can be seen from the above Table, by 1948, Belorussians (59.5 per cent) made up the majority of the judiciary employees, followed by Russians (27.7 per cent). Ukranians (3.3 per cent) were fourth on the list. Official statistics did not specify the ethnic groups to which other employees (1.3 per cent) belonged. They were Poles, Lithuanians, Letts and people of some Central Asian and Caucasian nationalities. Germans, Estonians and Tatars who had worked in the BSSR judicial and investigating bodies before the war were no longer employed there on the pretext that they might not be loyal politically. The large share of Russians was due to the fact that people of legal professions with hi gher education and a record of practical work had come from the RSFSR. Besides passing on their professional knowledge, they had to see to it that laws and instructions of the Union government and the central bodies of power were strictly followed.

Jews, coming third, made up 8.2 per cent of the employees in the judicial and investigating bodies, as against the 1.9 per cent they accounted for in the ethnic composition of the Belorussian population in 1959 (68). This was primarily the result of the fact that a large number of Jews had been employed in the legal sphere before the war. In the last prewar years, they accounted for 40 per cent of the graduates of the Minsk Law Institute, a major law school in the country. They returned to their profession after coming back from evacuation or after demobilization, or were summoned from other Soviet republics. They worked mainly as People's Judges and judges of regional courts, the most time-consuming positions requiring profound knowledge. Many cases were reopened and postponed several times, of which the superior bodies disapproved and demanded to speed up the process. Frida Kaznelson, Boris Drabkin, Semyon Chernyavsky and Benyamin Rozinsky were members of the Gomel Regional Court, Maria Chausskaya, Abram Berstein (he had lost his leg in the frontlines and was a war invalid) were judges in Gomel's People's Courts. Kreinin worked in Mozyr District, Polessye Region, Lina Tretyakova in Slutsk District, and Rachel Serbina in Gorky District, Moghilev Region. In Minsk Region, Bella Drabkina and Evgeny Reznikov were judges of the Regional Court, Galina Akulich and Max Lipkin were judges of the Borisov Town Court (69). Fira Feigina was a member of the Molodechno Regional Court, Abram Lipa, a member of the Vitebsk Regional Court, etc . Boris Diment (war invalid with one leg) and Anna Greenglaz worked at the Ministry of Justice. Former judges worked in legal departments of BSSR ministries and other bodies of power, some even as their heads. Ruvim Morkhasev was head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, T.A. Levin was senior auditor of a Finance Ministry department, and Efim (Haim) Burdevitsky was head of the Legal Department of the BSSR Supreme Soviet Presiding Committee (70).

Most of the cases were connected with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office. Many were the result of the adverse situation in agriculture, others were caused by the administrative-command system and a ban on private enterprise, and resistance to collectivization in Western Belorussia. Numerous cases of illegal use of land and misappropriation of kolkhoz property had to be examined. In Minsk Region, action for misappropriation of land was brought against 87 people, including 4 kholkhoz chairmen, from June to October 1946 alone. As much as 3,408 tons of grain had been stolen. In Borisov and Dzerzhinsk districts, 2,600 and 4,240 hectares of land, respectively, had been misappropriated for personal use (71).

In Western regions of Belorussia collectivization was pushed at an accelerated pace. By January 1, 1950, there were 4,792 kolkhozes in this region, uniting over a third of the peasant holdings, and a year later their number came to 6,054, uniting 80 per cent of the individual farmers (72). Each high-ranking district official was made responsible for the performance of definite villages or kolkhozes - for sowing, harvesting and obligatory deliveries to the state. Peasants resisted collectivization. The kolkhozes formed were small and had few members. Usually there was one kholkhoz to a village and even two if the village was big. Individual peasants had to pay unreasonably high and absurd taxes: on each fruit tree, cow, piglet, sheep and even hen. Intimidation was widely resorted to (73). Meir Barinbaum, who was then investigator of Vidzy District, Vitebsk Region, described how it was done in 1949. A commission comprising the village elder, representative of the district communist party committee and inspector of the financial department of the district executive committee was formed to deal with a peasant refusing to join a kolkhoz. They measured the land which had been for decades cultivated by his family. As a rule, the plot above the allowed size was not fit for cultivation. Nevertheless, proceedings were instituted. The charges included use of hired labour. In the postwar years many were ready to work for food and shelter. The landowners worked as much as their hired hands, but that was not taken into account. An ordinary peasant would be sentenced to a two-year, and a kulak (well-to-do peasant), to an eight-year prison term, with his property confiscated. People could not understand why they had been arrested. Each district was given a plan from its regional authorities to identify at least two or three kulak holdings. Usually, kulaks were the most hard-working, thrifty and clever villagers.

Under the plan, the court had to examine at least ten cases a month. Charges had to be brought within 14 days and investigation completed within 30 days. Detention could be prolonged: up to two months by the district prosecutor, up to four months by the regional prosecutor, and up to six months by the republican prosecutor. Longer detention could only be permitted by a plenary meeting of the BSSR Supreme Court. Meir Barinbaum was reprimanded for insufficient zeal in pursuing the part y policy of collectivization. Although he was not blamed for professional mistakes, Barinbaum realized that he would be fired and quit on his own "for family reasons" (74).

The judges acted on behalf of the state and were the embodiment of its stance. The party and executive bodies feared that even a small number of Jews in the judiciary might cause disharmony in the predominantly gentile milieu. By the beginning of the 1950s, the number of Jews in the judicial and investigating bodies kept diminishing. Openly anti-Semitic ideological drives and the training of non-Jewish cadres for the legal profession greatly accelerated the process. There were 169 Belorussians, 91 Russians, 6 Ukrainians, 3 Jews and 7 people of other nationalities out of the 276 people's judge selected in the BSSR in December 1951. In March 1953, of the 93 people elected to regional courts, 48 were Belorussians, 37 Russians, 3 Jews and 5 people of other nationalities.

The policy of obliterating ethnic distinctions led to the Russification of the judicial and investigating bodies. This trend was particularly glaring when additional elections of judges were held.. In October 1953, additional elections of people's judges were held in Bobruisk, Baranovichi, Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Moghilev, Molodechno, Minsk and Polotsk regions, in 35 judicial circuits all in all, to replace those who had for some reason or other quit the position before their term of office expired. Among the newly elected judges were 17 Belorussians, 16 Russians, 1 Ukrainian and 1 Pole. Ivan Vetrov, BSSR Minister of Justice, reported to the Central Committee of the Belorussian Communist Party that there was not a single Jew in the list of 35 candidates from 10 regions recommended for election in the additional elections of people's judges. Most of the newly-elected judges were recent 14 graduates from secondary law schools and 11 graduates from the higher education law institutes with no experience of work in the judiciary (75).

In some cases Jews were allowed to hold the office till retirement age, but they were barred from filling in the vacancy. Grigory Fleisher had worked as senior auditor of the judicial section of the Gomel Regional Department of Justice, then deputy head and acting head of the Department. In 1956, the department was broken up and Grigory was recommended for the position of a regional court member, but the Bureau of the Regional Committee of the Belorussian Communist Party refused to approve his candidature. It was only after the recommendation of the BSSR Justice Minister I. Vetrov that he was admitted to a regional Bar Association (76).

On the whole, the ousting of Jews from responsible positions in the judicial system of Belorussia had been completed by the early 1950s. Although they were excellent specialists, had a wealth of practical work experience and their services to the country had been recognized, in 1953 there was not a single Jew holding the office of Chief Justice of the town or regional court. There were no Jews among the 16 highest-ranking officers at the BSSR Ministry of Justice. Likewise, all 22 members of the BSSR Supreme Court were non-Jewish (77).

Attitude to the Accused Jews

In most cases the relations between the Jewish accused and the Jewish representatives of the legal profession were those of people belonging to the opposite sides of the judicial system. But there were exceptions to this rule. Taking advantage of the power they wielded, some judges did not bother to conceal their antipathies. The accused Jews were given maximum punishment stipulated for their offence in the respective article of the Criminal Code. Some Jewish prosecutors did not miss a chance to demonstrate their "impartiality" when dealing with cases involving Jews. In 1953, Lazar Shparberg worked on a case of a group of criminals, with one Jewish woman among them. Laying down the conclusion of the court of appellate jurisdiction before the BSSR Supreme Court, the Jewish prosecutor demanded a more severe punishment for the accused Jewish woman on the plea that she had kept changing her testimony (78).

The bulk of the Jews were hard-working, law-abiding citizens, anxious to keep their job and their good name. This does not mean that there were no Jewish swindlers, self-seeking grabbers or thieves. But the crime rate among Jews was much lower than in other ethnic groups. The entire atmosphere compelled them to avoid conflicts and arousing displeasure. It was exceedingly rare that Jews took part in murder with aggravating circumstances, violence in the family, or alcohol-induced crimes. In the course of five years, proceedings were instituted against 177,205 people, with 92,435 of them taken into custody. Table 5 gives an idea of the general picture (79).

Ethnic and Social Breakdown of the People Taken into Custody
in the BSSR, 1944-1949: Table 5
Nationality Total Per Cent Social Category Total Per Cent
Belorussians 53,205 57.5 Blue-collar workers 14,135 15.2
Russians 15,904 17.2 Kolkhoz workers 13,309 14.3
Poles 14,822 16.3 White-collar workers 9,605 10.3
Ukrainians 4,663 5.0 Individual Peasants 23,453 25.3
Others 3,841 4.0 Without any definite occupation 31,933 34.9

Jews were not even specified in this Table. Together with "others" they accounted for 4 per cent of the offenders. Economic crimes were the most common: embezzlement, fraud, violation of spending or trade rules, abuse of office, and - less frequently - negligence. The view that there is nothing wrong in stealing from the state was current among a certain section of the people. "If not you, then somebody else will do it," was their motto. Lev Levin, who had worked at the Grodno public prosecutor's office for many years, could recall only two "Jewish" cases investigated by senior investigators of the regional public prosecutor's office. The first case was connected with a big fraud in a construction organization and upward distortion of the amount of work actually done. One of the main accused was head of this organization, a Jew. His guilt had been proved and he was sentenced to the prison term which his crime carried. In the second criminal case the culprits were charged with violation of the law and rules of currency transactions. Among the accused were two Jewish dentists who had used to buy gold for crowning teeth from private persons . They were sentenced to a term of correctional labour at the place of their work, with a share of their wages deducted (80). In 1952, director of the Vitebsk timber rafting office A.E. Blomstein was arrested following auditing (81). In 1953, the Penal Chamber of the Polessye Regional Court, with the participation of Prosecutor Nodelman and Counsels for the Defence Goldman, Rozinsky, Zalan and Lentyaeva established that Abram Babitsky and Kirill Sudzilovsky, responsible officials of the timber industry enterprise in Khoiniki, were guilty of embezzlement of public property. In the same year the Penal Chamber of the BSSR Supreme Court found Iosif Volper, Lev Dubeler and Grigory Benediktov also guilty of embezzlement of public property (82). Many were accused of engaging in illegal business activities. In 1949, Zalman Gaitelbund, director of the Belorussian branch of the USSR Artistic Foundation, Solomon Raikhman, head of the Foundation's decoration workshops and Tsodik Brudno, senior accountant, were arrested and convicted for "private-property" practices (83). Manipulations connected with the 1947 monetary reform were seen as economic crimes. In Minsk, Sara Krutkovich was sentenced to ten year imprisonment for using figure-heads to deposit in several accounts the 17,000 rubles she had got by selling 1938 bonds (bought and sold at their nominal value), and Benzion Finkelstein for buying up obligatory bonds at a price below their nominal value (84).

The Soviet legal system as a whole, including the judiciary and the public prosecutor's office, had a noticeable convicting slant. Of priority importance was prevention of a certain offence rather than establishing the truth (whether or not the suspect was guilty). The investigators' task was not so much to expose the crime as to find grounds to apply a certain article of the Criminal Code to the suspect. Acquittals were exceedingly rare and were regarded as a professional oversight, as poor work on the part of the investigator and the prosecutor resulting in the detention of an innocent person. Such cases carried official reprimands. To conceal the "oversight", the court usually referred the case for additional investigation and then dismissed it. Another way to deal with such cases was choosing one of the several episodes and pass a suspended sentence or give a probation period.

Punishment was far more severe than the gravity of offences. In 1947, in the Town of Rogachev, Etta Volpova, chairwoman of the Obyedineniye Cooperative, was sentenced to a ten year imprisonment for an offence at her work place (85). In 1948, Abram Shik was convicted for "speculation in leather goods". A former actor of the Belorussian GOSET, he got a shoemaker's job at the Ekonomiya Cooperative after the theatre had been liquidated. Fifteen pairs of soles had been found during a search at his flat and the People's Court of Minsk's Voroshilov District sentenced him to a prison term of five years. Girsh Okun, director of a shop in Dzerzhinsk, was accused of charging an extra ruble for three-facet files and tailor's scissors in order to get "personal gain" , which carried a three-year imprisonment (86). In 1949, Rachel Kiselman, shop director of the department of procurement to workers in Borisov, was sentenced to four years in prison for violating trade rules. In Minsk, Izrail Greenberg, director of the Vocational School No.9, was brought to trial (87).

Jews were often regarded as guilty of financial offences because they gave a helping hand to one another. In 1947-50, the Minister of the BSSR Local Industries Kagan was accused of dismissing director of the Krasny Metallist Works in Borisov by the name of Fursov without weighty reasons and replacing him "for reasons of personal connections" by Raikhlin, former director of the Moghilev Cast Pipe Works who had been fired for abuse of office.The Minister of the Timber Industry Lakhtanov was accused of taking on Kheiman who had been dismissed from the Osipovichi timber industry enterprise. As many as 90 Jews had "gathered" at the Polotsk Town Department for Trade in Foodstuffs and Industrial Consumer Goods. The number of Jews at the Minsk Department of Restaurants and Canteens, the Gomel Town Food Trade Department and other organizations was specially pointed out by the auditing bodies and assessed as lack of control over the personnel issue which had made it possible for "crooks" and "swindlers" to become civil servants. Information was cited to confirm this, namely that embezzlement and fraud at the BSSR Ministry of Trade ran to the tune of 5,200,000 rubles in 1947 alone, and in the Belorussian system of consumer cooperation, to 20,100,000 rubles (88). The atmosphere at the BSSR Supreme Court was especially unfavourable. Many Jewish lawyers felt that they were disliked by the Supreme Court Justice Shardyko and his deputy Zaitsev, the Minister of Justice Poduta and his deputy for personnel Dubovik, Slutsk prosecutor Volchek, etc.

Jewish lawyers, most of them graduates of higher schools, usually were more popular with clients, who appreciated their professional qualities and the level of general culture. People in trouble through the fault of their own or others did not care about the nationality of the lawyer who could help them in a critical situation. In the postwar years, the BSSR Criminal-Procedural Code did not allow a lawyer to act at the stages when charges were brought or investigation conducted. A lawyer could not start acting before the case was referred for trial. In many cases lawyers were not allowed even to see their clients at the place of confinement before the trial. Lazar Shparberg began his career in 1949 in Moghilev Region. He was counsel for the defence in criminal cases, represented the plaintiff and the defendant in civil cases, wrote defendant's and prosecutor's appeals, petitions to the supervising authorities, helped to draw up statements to be submitted to the judicial and investigation bodies (89). Raisa Rabinovich was assigned to Gomel after graduation and worked there for 35 years. She mostly dealt with criminal cases - robberies and hooliganism, cases involving German accomplices and Baptists. She also conducted civil cases, such as divorces, claims to property, title to real estate, transfer of parent rights, etc (90). Aizik (Isaak) Raikhman worked in Glusk District. His opinion carried much weight with everyone, from judge to the district communist party secretary. One could hear his name mentioned in combination with "said" , "believed" , "hoped" , "is sure", "insists" , which was taken as a guarantee of unbiased approach. This must not be taken to mean, however, that clashes of opinion did not occur between Jewish people representing the opposing parties in the court proceedings.

In 1953, a Brest lawyer Maria Krymskaya was appointed counsel for the defence in the case of a 15-year-old boy whose father had been killed at the frontlines and his mother was working as a teacher. He was charged with a grave crime - holdup with the use of firearms aimed at robbery. After a careful study of the case Maria came to the conclusion that there was no corpus delicti. He was guilty only of mischief-making which was not a criminal offence. He had a toy gun, robbery was not his aim, and it happened in broad daylight in a crowded place. Maria told all this to the investigator Lekhchina (also a Jewess). Lekhchina disagreed and applied to the Brest Town Prosecutor Mikhailov. He was openly rude to Maria and tried to remove her from conducting the case. Maria appealed against these illegal actions to the Prosecutor of Brest Region, although her colleagues had tried to talk her out of doing it. Mikhailov apologized and the "robbery" case was dismissed for absence of facts of the crime (91).

Jewish lawyers helped those whose rights were impinged upon owing to red tape and the indifferent attitude of officials even to people deserving every respect. Mikhail Altshul, an advocate at a Bobruisk legal advice office, had a client, one Semyon (Sholom) Zorin, former commander of Unit No.106 of the Ivatsevichi partisan detachment. His numerous applications for housing with modern conveniences to party and government bodies had been of no avail. Both Mikhail and Semyon were First Group war invalids (with one leg). The officials would ignore the fact that Zorin had saved dozens of people from death in the occupied territory by taking them to his family partisan detachment. Altshul drew up a well-argumented petition and Zorin's request was granted (92).

The attitude to Jewish lawyers was biased. It was only in rare cases that they were elected to the Presiding Committee of the Bar Associations, appointed heads of legal advice offices or members of regional courts. The powers-that-be were apprehensive even of having "too many" Jewish lawyers at a legal advice office. After Abram Shifrin from Borisov had been demobilized because of a war wound, he finished a short-course law school in Minsk in 1946, was admitted to the Bar in Borisov, earned the reputation of a good lawyer and was appointed head of a legal advice office. In 1948, a supervising official of the Ministry of Justice pointed out that there were three Jewish lawyers and one Russian lawyer working at this office. The Jews were Shifrin, Zarkhina and Levin. All the three were dismissed - Zarkhina and Levin on the pretext of professional incompetence and Shifrin for failure to exercise the necessary supervision, and this despite the fact that he was a party member and a war invalid. The action was prompted by political distrust stemming from the ideological precepts, rather than professional competition. Shifrin had to quit his advocate practice and get a legal adviser's job at the Borisov Upright Piano Factory where he was the only Jew out of the four legal advisers (93).

Up to the late 1950s, Jews accounted for almost 60 per cent of the lawyers working at legal advice offices in Belorussia. Pyotr Baivel, Iosif Barkan, Sima Verbuk, Vilenkin, Derevyanko, Nisnevich, Bronya Levina, Faina Milyavskaya, Lyubov Metlitskaya, Lev Kotlyar, Bela Mikhlina, Bernstein, Raya Rabinovich, Boris Rozinsky, Grigory Folb, Maria Feldman, Grigory Fleisher, Evsei Steiner, Dmitry Shulkin worked in Gomel Region. Mura Krymskaya, Lev Zalkind, Mark (Abramovitch) Bershitsky worked in Brest Region. In Pinsk Region there were Syrkin, Zvonkin, Khobod. In Minsk Region - Abram Rozovsky, Efim Lapushin, Semyon Barkan, Izrail Lancher, Vladimir Sorkin, Mikhail Goldfarb, Etya Per, Tsalik Rabinovich. In Moghilev - Lazar Shparberg, Kuzma Izrailsky, Anna Orkina. In Borisov - Abram Shifrin, in Grodno - Betya Posherstnikova; in Oshmyany - Levin; in Slutsk - Abram Pecker and Raya Gurevich; in Bobruisk - Mikhail Altshul, in Baranovichi - Semyon Ostrovsky; in Gorki - Raya Serbina; in Molodechno -Yakov Shif (head of a legal advice office) and others.

Yet only a fraction of them were promoted to responsible positions. They were an exception to the general rule. Among them were Boris Markovich (Benyamin Mordukhovich) Rozinsky, chairman of the Penal Chamber of the Gomel Region court, head of a legal advice office and later chairman of the Gomel Region Bar Association; Mikhail Baran, chairman of the Minsk Region Bar Association; Boris Pikulin, member of the Minsk Region court; Semyon Chernyavsky from Mozyr, member of the Gomel Region court with a 40-year service record in the legal profession. Efim (Haim) Burdevitsky was among those who for many years headed the legal department of the Presiding Committee of the BSSR Supreme Soviet (94).


After the war there was a great deal of property, title to which had to be established. Former owners might have been killed, died in evacuation or did not care to come back to their former place of residence. The notary service checked the attendant circumstances of the actions the parties were performing or going to perform, and explained the possible consequences of such actions. Notaries simplified the burden of proof, helped to establish whether or not the parties had concluded an agreement, if one person had actually authorized another person to act on his behalf, etc. Unlike lawyers, notaries had to deal with both parties (except when making out a will). Their job was to certify the agreed decision of the clients, not to uphold their interests. Notaries were mostly young women, fresh graduates of short-term law courses, law schools or institutes which they had entered straight after finishing high school. Sofia Ladina (b. 1927) from Gomel graduated from the Minsk Law Institute and was the first notary in Rechitsa, attending to clients in Rechitsa, Loev districts and Vasilevichi townlet. She held seminars and instructed members of the village Soviets empowered to perform notary acts. She formalized purchase and sale transactions, certified wills and title to inheritance abroad, maintained contacts with the Inyurcollegia (Association of lawyers handling cases abroad) in Moscow.

Often enough it was necessary to issue death certificates, certify the degree of kindred, identity of last and first names and patronymics, which could differ because some people had changed them to survive under occupation or because they had been misspelled during registration. Notaries requested copies of excerpts from birth, marriage, death registries. For instance, in the archive of the Commissioner of the Department for the Evacuation of the Population there is a list of people evacuated to Buzuluk District, Chkalov Region, RSFSR. An entry dated May 25, 1942, contains the names of the Chechik family from Rechitsa - father Izrail Aronovich Chechik (b. 1892), mother Ester Faifelevna Chechik (b. 1897) and the children Dora, Misha and Galya. Instead of the patronymic "Izrailevich" , the patronymic of the children was registered as"Ivanovich" (95). In the postwar years, working as notaries in Belorussia were Rosa Kaplun in Chechersk, Ida Zunina in Slutsk, Lyubov Elkind in Starobin, Maria Sherman in Kalinkovichi, Maria Krymskaya in Logishchin, Maria Plotkina in Gomel, Sofia Yudina in Orsha, Hana Leikina in Moghilev, Paulina Ryabenkaya in Vitebsk Region, Elizaveta Davydova and Tsirulnikova in Gomel, Nina Levina in Borisov (96), Sara Gilman in Novogrudok, and others (97). Their wages were very modest after the war but there was a lot of work to do and much was demanded of them. Any regime has its red tape laws expressed in the saying: "What's in a piece of paper (document, certificate)? You're a beetle/worm if you don't have it and a Man if you've got one."


Jewish lawyers were widely represented in the arbitration system. Since the early 1930s the court of arbitration had been operating in Belorussia to settle disputed issues between two or more parties. With the means of production nationalized and public and cooperative property being to a great extent nominal under socialism, arbitration was anything but easy. The postwar restoration of the economy was a strictly regulated process and any economic initiative had to be approved by the bodies of central government. Nevertheless, controversies often arose over the choice of priorities in the distribution and use of the financial resources, the spheres of priority development and other issues. The arbitrator's award had to be acceptable to all the parties involved. It was only in rare cases that the parties chose an arbitrator themselves. Usually, an arbitrator was appointed as envisaged by law.

State arbitration tribunal was functioning at the Belorussian Council of Ministers and at the Executive Committee of each region. Arbitrators had to be very good specialists inasmuch as huge economic units with a large money turnover depended on their awards. Experienced Jewish lawyers enjoyed great prestige as arbitrators. They were people whose career at the public prosecutor's office had been cut short or who had been disappointed with their investigator's job or just could not find any other work. It was refuge of a kind where one could remain aloof from social life and feel less vulnerable during ideological drives. Almost one third of the republic's arbitrators were Jewish. By 1951, after graduation from a Law Institute, Alisa Mints had worked for one year as legal adviser in the procedure-legal group of the Moghilev Region Executive Committee. In 1952 she was transferred to the arbitration tribunal and that was the peak of her career despite the fact that there had been practically no reversals of awards taken with her participation. She retired from the same post, although in the many years she worked there she saw three chief arbitrators at the Moghilev Region Executive Committee succeeding one another. As a rule, opportunities for promotion were very slim for the Jews. Only a few of them were promoted to chief arbitrator at the Regional Executive Committees. Aron Abramov, who was head of the Gomel Region Arbitration Tribunal, and Lesnik, who for some time was acting chief arbitrator of the state arbitration tribunal at the BSSR Council of Ministers, were the exceptions (98).

The Social-Legal Service

It had been functioning in the republic since prewar. Its offices were located at large clinics and maternity hospitals and gave legal advice to expectant and young mothers. In the late 1940s-early 1950s, each People's Court had only one catchpole. Lawyers of this service helped to draw up applications for divorce, confirming fatherhood, locating persons dodging alimony. They also acted as lawyers defending the rights of mother and child in the courtroom. Later these functions were transferred to the judiciary. The legal service at maternity hospitals helped single mothers get residence permits, accommodation at a hostel, a room at the place of work or study; it helped to collect and draw up documents needed for getting an allowance or lump-sum aid, etc.

An important field of this service was legal advice in the cases of mothers renouncing their newly-born infants. Lawyers explained what they should do, made out renunciation documents, had the babies registered at Civil Registry offices of the local Soviets, put the babies in children's homes (orphanages). They also dealt with all the formalities at District Executive Committees if such babies were adopted by a childless couple. There were from 15 to 18 lawyers working in such social-legal offices in Minsk alone. Raisa (Rachel) Kaplan, head of such office at the Sixth Outpatient Gynecology Clinic of the Third City Hospital, was a well known person in Minsk. The Minsk City Department of Public Health regularly sent young lawyers to her office for practical training. Raisa Kaplan had worked there for 37 years, up to her emigration to Israel in the early 1990s (99). Faina Lifshits headed the social-legal service at the infant advice bureau in Minsk, then at a children's outpatient clinic and later for many years was lawyer at a maternity hospital in Volodarsky Street. Alexandra Dulevich directed the work of all such social-legal offices in Minsk. In Pinsk, Ms. Hobod worked in this field. There were similar services at medical institutions in all Belorussian industrial centres and regional seats.

Material Remuneration

Socialist precepts presupposed a levelling scale of the remuneration for labour. On the one hand, this was caused by a shortage of funds in conditions of a non-recouping economy, and, on the other, was seen as a means to prevent social stratification. A court secretary got 335 rubles a month, a district People's Judge - 690, a regional judge - 950 as against 450 rubles for a beginner school teacher and 800 rubles for a skilled worker in 1946 prices. Wages were raised somewhat after the 1947 monetary reform and abolition of rationing in the USSR. The salary of an investigator of the district public prosecutor's office was 800-850 rubles, of district prosecutors and judges - 1,300-1,500 rubles, of the technical personnel in the judiciary and the public prosecutor's offices - a mere 500-600 rubles, while the salary of assistant professor at a higher educational establishment was 3,000-3,500 rubles.

Lawyers stood apart in this respect. Their labour was paid for by the clients, and the ceiling of the monthly earnings was much higher than in the case of prosecutors and judges. Lawyers paid part of their earnings (usually 30 per cent) to the fund of the Bar Association Presiding Committee. The income tax and other obligatory payments, in particular for the obligatory government bonds, were deducted from the remaining 70 per cent. Getting a fee from a client was in many cases very difficult. Under Article 51 of the BSSR Code of Criminal Procedure many cases had to be conducted free of charge. If th e court ruled that the fee should be paid by the convicted, getting it was problematic. The situation was particularly unfavourable for lawyers in district seats and rural settlements. Many of them had to quit their jobs at legal advice offices. Employees in the judiciary and the public prosecutor's office were civil servants barred from private practice. Taking presents, accepting an invitation to a restaurant, let alone taking bribes, was out of the question, as such actions were fraught with much trouble, up to dismissal, expulsion from the Party and even instituting proceedings. In the militia salaries were much higher. A junior lieutenant in the Ministry of the Interior system got more than a district deputy prosecutor. Additional money was due for seniority and rank. Jews, however, were not admitted to commanding posts and, on the other hand, they would not accept posts held by low-rank militiamen (patrol-guard, district inspectors, security at enterprises, etc.) even if such posts were offered to them.

The fact that guardians of the law had no material motivation and were not satisfied with their work diminished the prestige of intellectual occupations and of the intellectuals, led to high personnel turnover and incompetence, and was the breeding ground for corruption. All this had an adverse effect on the functioning of the Soviet judiciary.

The Impact of the "Doctors' Plot"

Jews in the legal profession felt the full impact of state anti-Semitism during the official hounding of "doctor poisoners". Their profession made them very vulnerable (100). In their line of duty they had to present the Soviet legal system as just and unbiased in its decisions. What they actually saw was lawlessness and hounding on ethnic grounds practised on behalf of the regime. Like medical workers, teachers, engineers and other sections of the Jewish intelligentsia, lawyers came under fire and were wrongly accused of lack of loyalty to the state and lack of patriotism (101).

In the winter and early spring of 1953, many of them were dismissed or demoted. Anna Budovlya had worked as adviser at the Moghilev Region Department of Justice and since 1950 as senior auditor. She checked the work of People's Courts, drew up reviews of cases, conducted seminars. The Department head had once said that but for her nationality, he would have made her his deputy. In January 1953, by the order of the auditor from Moscow and without explaining the reasons, she was dismissed from the post of senior auditor of the judicial section of the Department and demoted to the Bar Association allegedly "on her own request" . She worked there for 35 years (102). Some lawyers treated their Jewish colleagues with hostility, intimidated and insulted them. Sima Lvovich remembers a judge of the Polessye Region court saying to her in January 1953 that "the vengeance of the people will be boundless." Senior assistant prosecutor for investigation Kacharovsky was demoted to prosecutor of the investigation section. Jewish employees were continuously reprimanded by prosecutor of Polessye Region Zakharov (103).

In February 1953, head of the Polessye Region Justice Department Solovyev ordered Pyotr Platonov, chairman of the regional Bar Association to dismiss Alexander Eidlin as "untrustworthy". Pyotr Platonov, who at one time had worked in a military tribunal, refused to obey (104). Jewish lawyers saw their relatives being harassed but could not do anything about it. Aron, the father of lawyer Anna Rokhlenko, was working as chief accountant at the Izoplit Factory in Novo-Belitsa. Although he had a 20 year work record and was known as a competent accountant, in February 1953 he was dismissed on orders from the factory communist party bureau (105). A similar situation obtained in other regions of the country (106). Lawyer Abram Pecker from Slutsk was hospitalized at an eye hospital in Kharkov in March 1953. He saw a Soviet Army colonel bring his son to the hospital. Urgent help was needed to save his eyesight. When head of the ward, a Jewish woman, came out to attend to them, he said: "I won't let a kike woman treat my son" (107).

When the drive was over, many could not hold back their feelings. According to Sofia Farberova, who worked as legal adviser for the Main Department of the BSSR Ministry of Local and Fuel Industries, in January and February 1953 tension grew daily. When she was visiting the outpatient clinic in the Minsk district where she lived, she saw fear in eyes of "ordinary people", as if the purpose of her visit was to do harm to them, not to see a doctor. But after the TASS statement about the doctors being innocent, things changed. She was returning from a business trip on April 6, 1953, and the train-master, who did not even know her, rushed to hug her (108). However, the shock lingered in people's minds. Distrust and suspicion were hard to overcome. The powers-that-be chose not to stress the anti-Semitic character of the drive. N.S. Khrushchev, for all his unprecedented condemnation of the Stalin personality cult, never mentioned Stalin's hatred of Jews. He realized what the public mood was, and the sensitivity of a great part of the population to the "Jewish question" (109).


In 1944-53, Jews were working in all the divisions of the Belorussian judiciary. They were investigators, judges, employees of public prosecutor's offices, criminalists, lawyers, court statisticians, legal advisers, notaries, employees of the social-legal service, and arbitrators. The first postwar decade was the last period of Stalin's undivided rule and had two stages. The first stage (1944-48) was marked by the necessity to set the judicial system functioning after Belorussia had been liberated. A shortage of experienced specialists capable of working unaided compelled the authorities to employ competent people irrespective of their nationality. Each lawyer with prewar work experience was specially registered. In this situation Jews, like Belorussians, Russians and people of other nationalities, were much sought after in the legal sphere. Lithuanians, Letts, Estonians, Germans and people of some Caucasian nationalities were an exception because they were suspected of having collaborated with the nazis. The second stage (1948-53), the last years of Stalin's life, was entirely different. The drive against cosmopolitanism, the closure of the establishments using Yiddish, arrest of the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, hushing up of the aftermath of the Holocaust and of the contribution of Jews to the victory over Germany bred an atmosphere of distrust of the Soviet Jewry.

Under the circumstances, Jews working in the legal profession found themselves in a special, unfavourable situation. Jewish young people had chosen this profession owing to a number of factors. Lawyers were in great demand, and in a postwar society practising law held a promise of a life in comfort. Jewish students had not thought of themselves as being different from their non-Jewish fellow students and tried to adapt to the new realities. The absence of Jewish national life, with the use of Yiddish actually banned, was presented by the regime as supremacy of the inter-ethnic over the ethnic, an allegedly indispensable condition for taking joint effort to overcome the consequences of the war. The real attitude of the authorities to Jewish lawyers became clear when it came to giving them jobs. Young graduates of law schools who had left Belorussia on their own or in the framework of the system of assigning graduates to a job, had better job opportunities than those who had remained. The latter were professionally discriminated against. In the public prosecutor's offices they would not be promoted to a post higher than deputy district prosecutor or prosecutor-criminalist. By 1953, not a single Jewish judge was allowed to rise above the district level. Jews were kept away from responsible posts in regional Justice Departments, the judiciary and the public prosecutor's offices, let alone the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court or the BSSR Public Prosecutor's Office.

Other obstacles to promotion were having relatives abroad or staying away from the communist party. The rule applied to everyone, but Jews stood apart in this respect, too. Traditionally they had had wider ties abroad, and concern for the Holocaust survivors had galvanized these ties. At the same time, the postwar ideological drives made it impossible for Jews to join the communist party. Communist party bodies exercised strict control over all aspects of the work of the judiciary and the public prosecutor's offices. The election of judges, preparation of investigation documents, the trials - all the way to court judgements - were influenced by them. The Soviet legal system had a convicting slant and precluded acquittals.

The conditions in which Jewish lawyers had to work were conducive to assimilation. Their non-Jewish milieu was on the alert against any oversight or action on the part of the Jews that could be misinterpreted, and it took a high degree of competence and responsible attitude to one' s duties to be able to foresee the consequences of every step and keep to the letter of the law. Jewish lawyers had to have all of it to keep their jobs. They accepted the dogmata and precepts of socialism but this did not eliminate the distrust with which they were treated by the regime. Many of them chose to quit such jobs and seek employment in a more neutral legal sphere in which one did not have to belong to the nomenklatura, a privileged section of civil servants. Lawyers, legal advisers, notaries and arbitrators, unlike judges and prosecutors, were allowed a degree of freedom in their work, as no agreeing with and approval of higher bodies was necessary. Jewish advisers and notaries did not elicit a negative reaction either from the non-Jewish population or the authorities. Even under the Soviet legal system with its numerous limitations, by-laws and "telephone law", people in these professions could realize their professional potential. Heads of factories and other enterprises held their experienced and competent Jewish legal advisers in high esteem and often shielded them from trouble.

Most of the Jews starting their career in the punitive system of the regime (investigators, judges, prosecutors) had by the early 1950s been ousted from it. Nevertheless, Jews in the legal profession managed to get adapted to the highly-id eologized Soviet society and find their niche by working as advocates, legal advisers in law departments of industrial and other enterprises, in notary offices and the courts of arbitration. Despite the fact that they were not allowed to go abroad and the bulk of them were not communist party members, they stood firmly on their feet. As they were becoming better-off, they no longer depended for their well-being on housing belonging to an enterprise or government body, special shops for the nomenklatura, vouchers to sanatoriums or boarding houses at a discount. They could afford a good education for their children. Like Jewish doctors, engineers and teachers, they were needed by society and the state. Alongside other sections of the Belorussian Jewry, they were the target of the policy of eliminating ethnic distinctions and full assimilation in line with the ultimate CPSU aim of creating a new human entity- "the Soviet people".


1. A. Rakov. "Belorussiya v demograficheskom izmerenii". (Belorussia in the Demographic Dimension) (Minsk, 1974), pp.10-11.

2. Ya. Syamashka. "Armiya Krayeva na Belarusi" .(Armija Krajova in Belarus) (Minsk, 1994); V. Ermalovich, S. Zhumar. "Ognem i mechom. Khronika polskogo natsionalisticheskogo podpolya v Belorussii. 1939-1953" (By Fire and Sword. The Chronicle of Polish Nationalistic Underground in Belorussia) (Minsk, 1994); Yurka Vitsbich. "Antybalshavitskiya paustany i partyzanskaya baratsba na Belarusi" (Anti-Bolshevik Uprisings and Partisan Struggle in Belorussia) (New York, 1996).

3. OUN in the Light of the Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Other Documents Relating to the Struggle of 1929-1955. Library of the Ukrainian Underground, Part 1, 1955); Yu. Kirichuk. "Istoriya UPA" (A History of the UPA) (Ternopil, 1991); P. Mirchuk. "Ukrainska povstanska armiya, 1942-1952" (The Ukrainian Rebel Army. 1942-1952) (Lviv, 1991); "Antysavetskiya rukhi u Belarusi. 1944-1956" (Anti-Soviet Movements in Belarus. 1944-1956 (Mensk, 1999).

4. A. Vyshnevsky, A. Ilyinsky, I. Sorokovik."Istoriya militsii Belarusi. 1917-1994" (A History of the Belarussian Militia. 1917-1994) (Minsk, 1995), pp. 107- 111.

5. Author's archive. Talk with Raya Rabinovich (Levitskaya) recorded in Bnei-Brak on December 22, 1997.

6. Ibid. Anna Budovlya's letter from Haifa dated March 12, 1999.

7. Ibid. Yakov Greenberg's letter from Haifa dated January 30, 1998.

8. Ibid. Darya Plotkina's letter from Givataim dated May 15, 2001.

9. Ibid. Talk with Raisa Gitlina (Epstein) recorded in Jerusalem on December 14, 1997.

10. Ibid. Alisa Mints' letter from Netania dated February 23, 1999.

11. Ibid. Manuscript by Lev Matveyevich (Motelevich) Smilovitsky (1925-1997). "Iz opyta perezhitogo" (From My Life's Experience) (Minsk, 1990).

12. Author's archive. Tatiana Fainberg's letters from Natsrat-Illit dated April 28, 2001.

13. In 1948, Zelik Feigin wrote a letter to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations asking if Jews are admitted, but did not receive any answer. See Author's archive. Z. Feigin's letter from Jerusalem dated March 2, 2001.

14. Drabkin, Boris Lvovich (1908-1991). Was raised in an orphanage, type-setter at the Polespechat Printing House, graduate of the Minsk Law Institute, judge, in wartime chief justice of the military tribunal of an army corps, member of the Gomel Regional court in 1944-1948, from 1955 lawyer at a legal advice office. See Maya Idova's letter from Natsrat-Illit dated March 15, 1999.

15. Author's archive. Mikhail Buslovich's letter from Rosh-ha-Ain dated June 11, 2001.

16. After Pinsk Region was abolished as an administrative division in January 1954, A. Eidlin worked as legal adviser at the Brest Region Social Security Department, was conferred the title of Merited Lawyer of the BSSR. See A.Eidlin's letter from Natsrat-Illit of May 26, 2000.

17. National culture and the tragedy of the Belorussian language in the book: A.I. Zalessky and P.N. Kobrinets "O natsionalnykh otnosheniyakh v Sovetskoi Belorussii" (On Inter-Ethnic Relations in Soviet Belorussia) (Grodno, 1992), pp. 151-152.

18. Abraham Greenbaum: "The Fate of the Belorussian and Yiddish in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods". East European Affairs, Vol.30, No.2, 2000, pp. 71-76.

19. The language of the legal process was defined in the BSSR Code of Criminal Procedure of 1922. Article 22 of the Code stipulated that the legal process could be conducted in any of the four languages - Belorussian, Russian, Polish or Yiddish - and the accused had the right to have an interpreter.

20. "Prakticheskoye razresheniye natsionalnogo voprosa v Belorusskoi sovetskoi sotsialisticheskoi respublike" (Tackling the Ethnic Issue in the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in Practice) (Minsk, 1928). Part 2, p. 20.

21. I.I. Martinovich. "Natsionalnyye kamery v istorii sudoproizvodstva BSSR" \ (National Chambers in the History of the Legal Process in the BSSR). See Vesti Belorusskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, Series III, No.2 (Minsk, 1990), p.68.

22. A.T. Leizerov. "Natsionalnyye menshinstva v BSSR. 1920-1930" (Ethnic Minorities in the BSSR. 1920-1930). See Aktualnyye voprosy gosudarstva i prava. Transactions of the Belorussian State University, Issue 1 (Minsk, 1992), p.140.

23. "Ugulovno-protsessualnyi kodeks BSSR" (BSSR Code of Criminal Procedure) (Minsk, 1938), Art. 22.

24. "Farmiravanne i razvitstse belaruskai satsyyalistychnai natsyi" (The Formation and Development of the Belorussian Socialist Nationality). Issued by the BSSR Academy of Sciences (Minsk, 1958); Ya. Karneichyk. "Belaruskaya natsyya. Gistarychny narys" (Belorussian Nation. History Sketches) (Minsk, 1969); G.S. Martsul and M.S. Stashkevich. "Gistoryya Belarusi: naselnitsva. Farmiravaniye i vyznacheniye etnichnykh i dzyarzhauna-administratsyvnykh mezhau" (A History of the Belarus: Population. The Formation and Crystallizing of Ethnic and State-Administrative Boundaries (Minsk, 1997).

25. A.Yu. Bodak. "Natsionalnaya politika v BSSR. 1943-1955" (Ethnic Policy in the BSSR. 1943-1955). Author's abstract of the thesis for the degree of Candidate of Science in history (Minsk, 1997).

26. Author's archive. Talk with Meir Barinbaum recorded in Jerusalem on November 8, 1997.

27. Ibid. Maria Galperina's letter from Kiryat-Gat dated May 29, 1999.

28. Ibid. Rosa Krachkovskya's letter from Natsrat-Illit dated February 25, 2000.

29. Ibid. Lev Levin's letter from Brooklyn dated February 28, 2001.

30. Ibid. Talk with Bunya Mironovna Katsnelson recorded in Javno on June 5, 2001.

31. Grinberg and Idova retained their passive knowledge of Yiddish. After repatriation to Israel in the early 1990s, spoken Yiddish came back to them.

32. Author's archive. Raya Rabinovich's letter from Bnei-Brak dated January 11, 2001.

33. Ibid. Maria Galperina's letter from Kiryat-Yam dated June 25, 2001.

34. M. Altshuler. "Agony and Liquidation of the Jewish Theatre of Belorussia" . Jews in Eastern Europe. No.3 (25), 1994, pp. 64-72; A. Maldis, T. Plysko and L. Nelson. "Vzglyad v istoriyu. Yevreiskyi teatr BSSR. 1926-1948" (A Closer Look into History. The Jewish Theatre in the BSSR. 1926-1948). Mastatstva , No.9, 1996, pp. 5-12; A.Gerstein. "Sudba odnogo teatra" (The Fate of a Theatre) (Minsk, 2000).

35. G. Kostyrchenko. "Out of the Red Shadows: Anti-Semitism in Stalin Russia" (New York, 1995); "Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee" . Edited with introduction by Joshua Rubenstein and Vladimir Naumov. Yale University Press in association with U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (New Haven, 2001).

36. Author's archive. Talk with Abram Pecker recorded in Yavno on June 5, 2001.

37. Lev Sheinin, head of the Investigation Department of the USSR Public Prosecutor's Office, was arrested in 1952 for the alleged participation in a Zionist plot at the Ministry of State Security. See Yevreiskii kamerton, (Tel Aviv, April 19, 2001).

38. A.V. Liutsko. "Deyatelnost KPB po podboru , vospitaniyu i rasstanovke kadrov. 1946-1950" (Work of the CPB in the Field of Selecting, Educating and Appointing Cadres) (Minsk, 1975); G.V. Korzenko."Nauchnaya intelligentsia Belarusi v 1944-1990" (Belarus Scientific Intelligentsia in 1944-1990) (Minsk, 1995).

39. Author's archive. Maria Goldin's (Galperin) letter from Kiryat-Yam of March 18, 1999.

40. After working for 10 years for the Boyevyye krylya newspaper of the headquarters of the Air Force of the Belorussian Military Area, Tatiana Fainberg was taken on as junior editor in the Polymya Publishing House. See Author's archive, Tatiana Fainberg's letter from Kiryat-Shmona dated June 26, 1998.

41. Author's archive. Veniamin Chernov's letter from Tiberias dated June 26, 1999.

42. Ibid. Alisa Mints' letter from Ashkelon dated February 9, 1999.

43. Ibid. Darya Yevnina's letter from Ramat-Gan dated March 5, 1999.

44. Ibid. Tsodik Rytov's letter from Netania dated March 4, 2001.

45. Ibid. Talk with Raisa Gitlina (Epstein) recorded in Jerusalem on December 14, 1997.

46. Leonid Sonkin worked as director of a Berezino savings bank until 1958, then as goods manager and legal adviser at the Chief Administration of Cooperative Trade in Cultural Goods in Minsk. It was not until January 1971 that he was given the opportunity to work as advocate in the Town of Lyban, Minsk Region. See Author's archive. Leonid Sonkin's letter from Petah Tiqwa dated June 29, 2001.

47. The Bureau worked for Slutsk, Starobinsky, and Krasnaya-Sloboda districts of Bobruisk Region. Abram Pecker collected documents which had escaped destruction, interrogated witnesses, drew up the statement and wrote his conclusion for the District Executive Committee which was empowered to adopt decisions on recognition of title to property; the communal economy department issued the appropriate valid deed. (L.S.)

48. Author's archive. Talk with Abram Pecker recorded in Yavno on June 5, 2001.

49. National archive of the Republic of Belarus (NARB), collection (fond) 4, inventory (opis) 53, file (delo) 38, p. 166.

50. Author's archive. Grigory Rozinsky's letter from Petah Tiqwa of January 21, 2001.

51. Ibid. Anna Budovlya's letter from Haifa dated March 12, 1998.

52. Ibid. Talk with Abram Pecker recorded in Yavno on June 5, 2001.

53. Sofia Farberova's letter from Hadera dated May 5, 2001.

54. NARB, col. 4, invent.62, file 164, p. 127.

55. Author's archive. Lazar Shparberg's letter from Ashkelon dated February 1, 1998.

56. The BSSR Supreme Court sentenced Abram Leibovich Kisin to 25 years of correctional labour not for "participation in a Jewish organization" but for embezzlement of cooperative property on an exceedingly large scale. See NARB, col.4, invent. 53, file 38, p. 289.

57. The table is compiled by the author and is based on NARB materials, col.4, invent. 29, file 539, p.80.

58. Author's archive. Talk with Zelik Feigin recorded in Jerusalem on November 12, 1997.

59. Mikhail Buslovich practised law in Belynichi, Staryye Dorogi, Mstislavl, Krugloye, Borisov, Logoisk and starting 1963 in Minsk. All in all he worked as an advocate for 40 years (1953-1993).

60. Boris Drabkin died in 1992. See Author's archive. Maria Idova's letter from Natsrat-Illit dated March 22, 2001.

61. Author's archive. Anna Rokhlenko's letter from Shelomi dated March 23, 2001.

62. Ibid. Talk with Raisa Rabinovich (Levitskaya) recorded in Bnei-Brak on December 22, 1997.

63. Ibid. Lazar Shparberg's letter from Ashkelon dated May 1, 1998.

64. The table is compiled by the author and is based on NARB materials, col. 4, invent. 62, file 38, pp. 8-11.

65. Ibid.

66. NARB, col. 4, invent. 29, file 539, p. 82.

67. The table is based on NARB materials, col. 4, invent. 29, file 539, pp. 78-80.

68. "Itogi Vsesoyuznoi perepisi naseleniya 1959 g. Sovetskii Soyuz" (Results of the All-Union Census of 1959. The Soviet Union) (Moscow, 1962), pp. 202-208.

69. A. Rozenblum. "Pamyat na krovi. Yevrei v istorii Borisova" (Memory of the Bloodbath. Jews in the History of Borisov) (Petah Tiqwa, 1998), p. 130.

70. NARB, col. 4, invent. 62, file 72, p. 157.

71. A.F. Vishnevsky, N.I. Ilyinsky and I.A. Sorokovik "Istoriya militsii Belarusi. 1917-1994" (A History of the Belarus Militia. 1917-1994) (Minsk, 1995) p. 115.

72. N.S. Patolishev. "Sovestyu svoyei ne postupis" (Do Not Trade Your Conscience) (Moscow, 1995).

73. A.M. Sarokin. "Na rosstanyakh aichynnai gistoryi. Belaruskaya veska ad Dekreta da Kodeksa ab zyamli. 1917-1990 gady" ("On the Roads of Our History." Belorussian Countryside from the Decree on Land to the Land Code. 1917-1990 ) (Minsk, 1999).

74. Author's archive. Talk with Meir Barinbaum recorded in Jerusalem on November 8, 1997.

75. NARB, col. 4, invent. 53, file 38, pp. 30, 38, 62, 275.

76. G.I. Fleisher retired in 1986, having worked as advocate for 30 years. In 1979, his name was entered in the Book of Labour Glory of the BSSR Ministry of Justice - (L.S)

77. A.T. Leizerov. "Natsionalnyi sostav partiinoro, gosudarstvennogo, khozyaistvennogo apparata v Belorussii v 1920-1950 gg." (The National Composition of the Party, State, Economic Apparatus in Belorussia in 1920-1950). See Aktualnyye voprosy gosudarstva i prava. Transactions of the Belorussian State University, Issue 4 (Minsk, 1994), pp.104-105; A.F. Vishnevski, Ya.A. Yukho."Gistoryya dzyarzhavy i prava Belarusi u dakumentakh i materiyalakh" (A History of the State and Law of Belorussia in Documents and Materials) (Minsk, 1998).

78. Author's archive. Lazar Shparberg's letter from Ashkelon dated February 12, 1998.

79. The table is compiled by the author and is based on NARB materials, col. 4, invent. 62, file 38, p. 12.

80. Author's archive. Lev Levin's letter from Brooklyn dated April 3, 2001.

81. NARB, col. 4, invent. 53, file 38, p. 168.

82. Ibid., pp. 43, 95.

83. Ibid., col. 1, invent. 22, file 14, pp. 22-25.

84. Ibid., pp. 32, 180.

85. Ibid., col. 4, invent. 30, file 51, p. 168.

86. Ibid., col. 1, invent 22., file 15, p. 29.

87. Ibid. file 14, p. 186.

88. Ibid., col. 4, invent. 29, file 539, pp. 51, 56.

89. Author's archive. Lazar Shparberg's letter from Ashkelon dated February 1, 1998.

90. Ibid. Talk with Raisa Rabinovich (Levitskaya) recorded in Bnei-Brak on December 22, 1997.

91. Ibid. Maria Krymskaya's letter from Kiryat Gat dated February 8, 1999.

92. Yevreiskii kamerton. May 27, 1999.

93. Somewhat later Shifrin became head of the legal department of the Borisov Upright Piano Factory. See Oral History Department. Contemporary Jewry Institute. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, file 217/63, pp. 9-13.

94. Author's archive. Grigory Rozinsky's letter from Petah Tiqwa dated January 21, 2001.

95. State Archive of Orenburg Region, col. R-2144, invent. 1, file 16, sh. 193.

96. A. Rozenblum. "Pamyat na krovi. Yevrei v istorii Borisova" (Memory of the Bloodbath. Jews in the History of Borisov) (Petah Tiqwa, 1998), p. 156.

97. Author's archive. Talk with Sofia Ladina recorded in Holon on December 29, 1997.

98. Alisa Mints worked as arbitrator of the Moghilev Court of Arbitration in 1952-1983. She was conferred the title of personal pensioner of republican level. See Author's archive. Alisa Mints' letter from Ashkelon dated February 9, 1998.

99. Rachel Kaplan got many letters of thanks and photographs from her clients. Many adoptive parents maintained contacts with her even after she had emigrated to Israel.-(L.S.)

100. L. Smilovitsky."Belorussian Jewry and the 'Doctors Plot'" . East European Jewish Affairs (London), Vol. 27, No.2, 1997, pp. 39-52; L. Smilovitsky. "Non-Jewish Reaction to the 'Doctors Plot' in the Light of the New Archival Documents" . Shvut (Tel Aviv University), No.9 (25), 2001, pp. 67-92.

101. A. Lokshin. "Delo Vrachei" : "otkliki trudyashchikhsya" ("The Doctors Plot" "Reaction of the Working People" Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta v Moskve. No. 1 (5), 1994, pp. 52-62.

102. Author's archive. Anna Budovlya's letter from Haifa dated December 23, 2000.

103. Ibid. Sima Lvovich's letter from Natsrat-Illit dated March 5, 1998.

104. Ibid. Alexander Eidlin's letter from Natsrat-Illit dated May 26, 2000.

105. Ibid. Anna Rokhlenko's letter from Shelomi dated March 27, 2001.

106. M. Altshuler and A. Chentsov. "Party and Popular Reaction to the Doctors Plot" (Dnepropetrovsk Province, Ukraine). Jews of Eastern Europe, 1993, No.2 (21), pp. 49-65; M.Goldstein. The "Doctors Plot in Poltava Region", Shvut, No. 9 (25), 2001, pp. 93-102.

107. Author's archive. Abram Pecker's letter from Yavno dated May 29, 2001.

108. Ibid. Sofia Farberova's letter from Hadera dated May 5, 2001.

109. B. Pinkus."The Jews in the Soviet Union: The History of a National Minority." Cambridge University Press (New York, 1988); Yakov Rapoport. "The Doctors Plot of 1953." Harvard Press. Camb., 1991; Y.Ro'i (ed.) "Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and Soviet Union" . Frank Cass (Ilford. 1995).

* The English translation of this article was made possible by a generous contribution from the American Jewish Distribution Committee

Copyright 2002 Belarus SIG, the publishers of East European Jewish Affairs and

Leonid Smilovitsky

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