231. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and Billy Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association1

G: Sorry to bother you again but the matter I raised with you quickly on the plane2

K: Incidentally I am sorry I ran away from you but the President had called me.

G: I understand. This has taken on quite a larger proportion than on Saturday when I talked with you.3 The lady spoke at the UN,4 Mrs. Arthur Goldberg was in the Chair. There were Protestants there, Jewish leaders there and Black leaders and so forth. They all signed the strongest petition to the Soviet Union and they sent a letter to the Pope. They had her speak and she was the first Jewish woman to speak. Right now meeting in Rochester, New York.5 They passed a terrific Resolution. Her daughter has become a symbol—the youngest political prisoner, probably in the world.

K: How old is she?

G: 23 years old. All they will want to do is mold public opinion—nothing anti-Soviet, nothing Cold War or this type of thing. She thinks her daughter will die. The trial is in Riga and she is on trial for spreading [Page 684] anti-Soviet propaganda. All she did was to print a pamphlet in Yiddish. Maybe a word quietly or privately to the Soviets, word that the White House is interested would have some effect. And if the President had her down and had her picture taken with him and made a statement that he was interested.… They brought this lady to see me and I have had a talk with her. I was very much impressed with her story. Let me give you her name, her name is Mrs. Rivka Alexandrovich.

K: I know it.

G: What the [omission in transcript] did today … (read statement)6 … Standing Committee on Churches and Society of the Soviet Citizens of the Jewish Field appeal to President Nixon to use his authorities with the Soviet Union.… Request World Council of Churches to raise with the Soviet Union.…

The statement reached at the UN today was much longer and much stronger. I thought I would give you the information and you act on it as you see fit.

K: I will bring it to the attention of the President.7

G: If something can be done, I would appreciate your getting in touch with me. Thank you, Henry, God bless you.

K: Thank you.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File. No classification marking. Kissinger was in Washington; Graham was presumably in Chicago, where he held a press conference earlier in the day to publicize his upcoming 10–day crusade there.
  2. Kissinger and Graham accompanied Nixon aboard Air Force One during the flight from Washington to Austin, Texas, on May 22 to attend the opening ceremonies for the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Graham at the White House on Saturday, May 21, from 4:36 to 5:16 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
  4. Rivka Aleksandrovich. The Soviet Government allowed Aleksandrovich, a Latvian Jew, to emigrate to Israel on April 26, but continued to hold her daughter, Ruth, on charges of “anti-Soviet agitation.” Upon her arrival in New York, Aleksandrovich sought various means to secure American support for Ruth’s release, including writing an oped piece, which the New York Times published on May 20.
  5. Aleksandrovich addressed the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in Rochester on May 21. (George Dugan, “Presbyterians Hear Plea for Jailed Soviet Jews,” New York Times, May 22, 1971, p. 37)
  6. Not found.
  7. During a meeting with Nixon at 10:18 a.m. on May 26, Kissinger briefly mentioned the Aleksandrovich case: “Billy Graham has been calling—there’s nothing you need to do about it—about the daughter of some Jewish lady, who is being tried in Riga. And every Presbyterian, Jewish, and other group is passing resolutions.” Thinking out loud, Nixon suggested approaching Dobrynin but then quickly reconsidered: “We probably—we don’t want to screw it up.” Kissinger: “I think we ought to stay the hell out of it, frankly.” Nixon: “That’s right. Ain’t nothing going to happen.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 505–4)
  8. The Latvian Supreme Court convicted Ruth Aleksandrovich and three co-defendants of “anti-Soviet agitation” on May 27; she was sentenced to one year in prison. (Bernard Gwertzman, “4 Riga Jews Given Terms to Three Years,” New York Times, May 28, 1971, p. 1) On June 1, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, called Kissinger to plead her case. Tanenbaum reported that Aleksandrovich had been “put in ‘private punishment,’ which is worse than solitary confinement.” Tanenbaum added that Rivka Aleksandrovich was “extremely concerned” and “willing to make any arrangement providing they release her daughter.” “Let me see what I can do,” Kissinger replied, “but for us to do anything publicly would be counter-productive. But let me see what I can do through other channels.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 10, Chronological File)