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“Among his entourage, Loitzker systematically expressed hostile views on the national policy of the Soviet Union”, – stated the arrest warrant for Chaim Berkovich Loitzker, a Jewish philologist detained by the Ukrainian SSR Ministry of State Security on March 5, 1949.

Three years before the arrest of the academic, on December 3, 1946, the Minister of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR Savchenko reported that Chaim Loitzker, Reception at the Promotion Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (b), declared that it was undesirable to disband the Cabinet of Jewish Culture. After the conversation “at the top”, Loitzker convened a meeting within the walls of the Academy of Sciences, where he repeated his position among his colleagues: there should be a cabinet of Jewish culture! During the meeting, Jewish writers not only supported Loitzker, their party organizer, but also discussed the idea of creating an Institute of Jewish Culture. The writer David Gofshtein, who was present at the meeting, proposed to discuss not only organizational building, but also the prospects for studying Hebrew in the USSR. This demarche to Loitzker was later recalled.

First of all, the Chekists were interested in the social and national origin of the arrested. During one of the first interrogations, the scientist confirmed that he was a Jew. During interrogation, Chaim Loitzker called Kanev, his small homeland, “a Jewish shtetl” – even this trifle did not go unnoticed by the MGB investigators: an inadvertently spoken phrase in the criminal case was underlined. In Soviet Ukraine there could be no Jewish townships – only Soviet ones!

In Kanev, the boy graduated from only a two-year city school, but he was engaged in self-education all the time. After graduating from college, Chaim began to help his father in the workshop, but the craft of a shoemaker did not bring him satisfaction. From an early age, he was keenly interested in books. Loitzker decided to devote his life to the Hebrew word at all costs.

The Chekists were especially interested in the early part of the academic's biography. According to investigators, Chaim Loitzker carefully concealed some information about his past. After serious pressure, he admitted that in his youth he was under the influence of the Zionists. In 1916, at the height of the First World War, he joined the Tze'irei Zion (Youth of Zion) organization. Chaim Loitzker was one of the most active members of the organization and even was in its bureau. The Kanev Zionist youth enthusiastically studied Hebrew, read reports on Jewish history and culture, and set as their goal the building of their own state in the land of their ancestors – in Eretz Israel.

Until 1923, Loitzker worked in his native town as an accountant in the Zemstvo Administration, later – in the same position – in the Kanev Food Administration. After working for several years in administrative positions, the young man finally decided to leave the service and completely go into Jewish education and literature. First, in his native shtetl, he became a teacher of a Jewish orphanage, and then he was invited to the town of Boguslav, where Chaim Loitzker, as it turned out, was a talented teacher, who brought up Jewish street children for a whole year. There were not enough educated people in Boguslav, and Chaim Loitzker was almost immediately asked to become a teacher and director of a Jewish school created in the town.

In 1926, on a ticket to the Jewish section of the Department of Public Education, Chaim Loitzker entered the 2nd Moscow University at the Jewish Literary and Linguistic Department of the Pedagogical Faculty.

Already in 1925, Chaim Loitzker began publishing articles on the Hebrew language and literature in the Di Yiddish Shprah magazine and other periodicals.

In 1930, having received his diploma, Loitzker worked as a teacher of the Hebrew language and literature in Jewish schools in Kiev for about a year. The young specialist also took a part-time job – he lectured at the Jewish department of the evening workers' university.

Interested in linguistics, literary criticism and the theory of translation, Chaim Loitzker entered the graduate school of the philological section of the Institute of Jewish Culture in Kiev in the fall of 1931, and two years later began working there as a research fellow.

The relatively calm work of Jewish scholars and writers ended a year before the start of the Great Terror. In 1936, the Institute of Jewish Culture was liquidated. In fact, it was a demonstrative pogrom, followed by the arrests and execution of the main leaders of the institute. The Cabinet of Jewish Culture of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR was created in its place, where Loitzker managed to take the position of a researcher in the linguistic section.

In May 1937, Loitzker, who moved to the Cabinet of Jewish Culture, managed to defend his thesis “The Language of Alberton's Characters” and receive a PhD in Philology. As a researcher, Chaim Loitzker Loitzker took an active part in the compilation of textbooks for labor schools and higher educational institutions.

With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, together with his wife and daughter, Loitzker was evacuated to Ufa.

In Bashkiria, Chaim Loitzker was listed at Institute of Literature and Language, Academy of Sciences, USSR. In 1944, he began working there as a scientific secretary and head of the literary department. Like all evacuated literary workers, he took an active part in promotional and cultural work, gave lectures and organized literary meetings.

On March 18, 1949, the scientist was charged under Articles 54-10, Part 1 and 54-11 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR. Chaim Loitzker was convicted of being an enemy of the Soviet regime, for many years he had grouped Jewish nationalists around him and carried out active hostile activities against the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and the Soviet government. To top it all off, Loitzker was accused of keeping in touch with foreigners and passing on espionage information to them.

In fact, Chaim Loitzker’s fault was that he was the scientific secretary and head of the literary department of the Cabinet of Jewish Culture of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Loitzker spent his entire adult life in the field of Jewish culture, during the war and in the post-war years he was connected with the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee of the USSR. And in connection with the JAC case being promoted throughout the country, Chaim Loitzker was seized by the Kyiv Chekists.

Exhausted, driven to prostration by endless night interrogations, a middle-aged man refused to participate in a farce called “investigation”. “In Jewish circles you are known as an active nationalist”, – senior investigator for especially important cases demanded a confession on June 25, 1949. Loitzker did not give up: “I have been doing research work in the field of Jewish national culture for many years, and talkative people could therefore call me a nationalist”.

According to the investigation, the textbooks and articles written by Loitzker contained a large number of “anti-Soviet nationalist moments”, although not a single concrete example was presented by the MGB officials. Nevertheless, Loitzker’s “confession” appeared in the case that his linguistic works, which he began to write under the scientific supervision of Nochum Shtif, were of a nationalist character.

Specialists dealt with the lack of physical evidence elegantly. Allegedly, the arrested person, remaining at liberty, burned all the incriminating correspondence and anti-Soviet works of his accomplices – Spivak, Hofshtein and Fefer.

Subsequently, Chaim Berkovich recalled that he had to sign the interrogation protocols, which he called absurd, because of the rough pressure and refined torture of the investigators.
On the day of the indictment, March 18, 1949, Loitzker “testified” that, as an employee of the Cabinet of Jewish Culture, he maintained a long-term relationship with Jewish nationalists aimed at undermining the national policy of the Soviet Union.

The accusation of espionage was also supported by a letter from Loitzker to the American Jewish Society for the Restoration of Russia, which promised to provide the Cabinet of Jewish Culture with humanitarian aid in the form of printing equipment. But where the printing house is, there is also the publication of anti-Soviet materials.

In December 1949, Chaim Loitzker underwent a medical examination within the walls of the internal prison of the MGB on Vladimirskaya Street. Despite myocardial dystrophy, the scientist was found fit for hard labor. On January 25, 1949, Chaim Loitzker, an enemy of the Soviet regime, was convicted under Articles 58-1 “a”, 58-10 part 1 and 52-11 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR for 15 years in prison for anti-Soviet nationalist and espionage activities. The linguist was sent to Kazakhstan.

While in the camp, Loitzker could not have expected that any semblance of legality would ever prevail in the country. But everything changed with the death of Stalin. A revelatory article was published in Pravda: former Deputy Minister of State Security Ryumin was dismissed from his job as an “opportunist and saboteur”. He was the one who put Loitzker in jail. It was Ryumin who fabricated the indictment; by blackmail, threats and torture he forced Chaim Loitzker to give testimony, and also “strengthened” it with his own editorial board.

After the exposure of Ryumin and the rehabilitation of the People's Artist of the USSR Solomon Mikhoels, the inconsistency of the charges against Loitzker became especially obvious. In the conclusion given by the Deputy Prosecutor General of the USSR Vavilov on February 20, 1954, it is indicated that the Loitzker case was not fully investigated. The charges were based solely on the convict's personal confessions, which he later retracted.

In July 1954, Loitzker was transferred to the Lubyanka internal prison of the KGB in Moscow. The additional investigation lasted until the beginning of October 1954 and ended with an acquittal. At the end of 1955, Chaim Loitzker was completely rehabilitated.

After his release, Loitzker returned to scientific and literary work. Chaim Berkovich continued to work on the study of the work of Jewish writers. Including those who testified against him. For him, the preservation of the endangered Yiddish throughout the Union and the popularization of Jewish literature were his main priority. Loitzker actively published in the last years of his life in “Sovetish Heymland”, at the same time he was preparing a fundamental translation of the works of Sholem Aleichem into Russian, acting both as an author of notes and as a translator.

We are also indebted to Chaim Berkovich for the fact that, thanks to his works, the fundamental “Russian-Jewish (Yiddish) Dictionary” was published in the Soviet Union. Together with prominent linguists Moishe Shapiro, Ruvn Lerner, Moishe Maidanskiy, he worked on compiling the dictionary until his death.

A unique dictionary of 40 thousand words, of course, seriously revised, was released in 1984. It is still the reference book of all Yiddish translators.

Chaim Loitzker, who devoted his life to his native language and culture, died on February 1, 1970 in Kyiv. Despite the difficult fate, he did not lose faith in humanity and remained faithful to the chosen path to the end. Blessed be the True Judge!

Еврейски герои
Расстрелян тройкой

Chaim Loitzker

1898 – 1970

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