236. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hillenbrand) to Secretary of State Rogers1

New Trials of Jews and Anti-Soviet Violence

On May 18 you authorized Ambassador Johnson to deliver a statement about Soviet Jewry to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin (Tab B).2 We hoped thereby to register our concern, show support for moderate American Jewish organizations, and thus help forestall anti-Soviet violence by militants during the current trials of Jews in the USSR.

On May 19, Ambassador Johnson’s prospective representation was cancelled in conjunction with the President’s announcement on SALT. However, we continue to believe that the statement to Dobrynin is necessary.

With the beginning of another trial in Riga—the third in this series—twelve Jewish leaders met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Davies May 24 to express concern over the widespread frustration among American Jews that more is not being done by the Government, [Page 696] the press, and Jews themselves.3 They said it was increasingly difficult for responsible organizations to restrain some members from drifting toward tactics of disruption. They reported demands being made even in some responsible organizations for picketing of the White House and the Department. They said that respectable Jews, who had never run afoul of the law, are now talking about courting arrest in order to publicize the deprivation of human rights being practiced by the Soviet Government towards Soviet Jews.

The American Jewish leadership views this period of trials as crucial for the mood not only of American Jewry but also of the Soviet regime, which apparently is testing how far quasi-legal repression can be pushed without an outcry abroad.

The Jewish leaders believe they can restrain extreme actions by responsible organizations and Jewish personalities if they are able to point to a responsive attitude on the part of the Administration.


That you authorize Ambassador Johnson to telephone Dr. Kissinger at the White House, using the talking points attached (Tab A),4 and to clear our previously suggested approach to Ambassador Dobrynin on Soviet Jewry.5




  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 29 USSR. Confidential. Drafted by Mainland on May 25; cleared by Atherton; forwarded through Johnson. Eliot initialed the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed. Tab C, “Action Memorandum on Anti-Soviet Violence (May 11) with attachments,” is Document 208.
  3. A memorandum of conversation is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 29 USSR.
  4. Attached but not printed. According to the talking points, Johnson would emphasize that the Department wanted to support “Jewish moderates to contain the anti-Soviet violence that has complicated our relations with the Soviets during the past year.” Johnson would also assure Kissinger that “[m]aking the approach to Dobrynin will in no way affect SALT, Middle East policy, or other key substantive questions. The Soviets do not confuse vital security questions with secondary issues.”
  5. The Secretary did not mark any of the options.