Assassins at Large. Hugo Dewar 1951
Shortly after twelve o’clock on the morning of 22 September 1937, General Eugene Miller, President of the White Russian Federation of ex-Combatants, left the office of his organisation, situated in the Rue du Colissée, Paris, in order to keep a secret appointment. For a long time he had been plagued by doubts... He was still not altogether easy in his mind about meeting these men. Not because he did not know exactly who they were; not because of the secrecy – he was used to that; nor because he was meeting them on a street corner instead of in a club, a restaurant, some other place more usually assigned for business discussions. This was not going to be precisely a business discussion. The two men with whom he had the rendezvous were, he had been given to understand, emissaries of a foreign power; the nature of their forthcoming discussion was delicate – and dangerous; it was natural that they should prefer a somewhat secluded spot at which to meet. Yet... a vague feeling of uneasiness oppressed the General.
His misgivings had been sufficiently strong for him to take an unusual precaution. Before leaving his office he had handed a sealed letter to the secretary of the organisation, saying as he did so: ‘Don’t think I’m out of my mind, giving you this. You are to open it if I don’t return.’
General Miller had solid reasons for this action. The organisation he headed had powerful enemies. Seven years before, on 26 January 1930, his predecessor in office, General Koutiepov [Kutepov], had mysteriously vanished without leaving the smallest clue. He had never been heard of again. But for the General the disappearance of Koutiepov was no mystery at all – those powerful enemies were also completely unscrupulous. They would stop at nothing to gain their ends. They had eliminated Koutiepov and they would also eliminate him at the first favourable opportunity. And the man who had arranged the appointment he was now on his way to had once been under a cloud, a cloud that in the minds of some had not been entirely dissipated. Nothing one could put a finger on, nothing concrete... but... it was just barely possible that he might be an agent of the enemy.
General Miller’s premonition of disaster was fully justified. He never returned from that rendezvous. He vanished as though dropped into a bottomless well.
His disappearance, unlike Koutiepov’s, was not without a clue. This clue lay in the letter he had fortunately left behind: a few lines only, but it proved of vital importance. With its help at least a partial solution of the mystery was achieved, and one of those involved, although by far not the most important, was brought to book.
At the time of his disappearance the General was a man of seventy. A former Chief of Staff of the Fifth Army under the Tsar, then nominally C-in-C of the Archangel and Murmansk operations against the Bolsheviks in 1918, he had lived in France as an émigré since 1925, taking an active part in the work of the most violently anti-Bolshevik White Russian émigrés, and after Koutiepov’s disappearance occupying the post of President of their largest and most influential organisation. With Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany this organisation was torn between two conflicting factions – the one pro-French, the other pro-German. Both wings regarded foreign intervention as the only means by which the Soviet regime might be overthrown, but one opposed any support for Germany in the event of her attacking Russia, while the other, to which it was rumoured Miller adhered, favoured full support of Germany in such a contingency. After Miller had vanished it was suggested that he had been lukewarm in his attitude and that it was this lack of enthusiasm for the pro-Hitler wing that led to his ‘removal’. The general weight of evidence, however, is strongly against this appraisal of his views, which gives every appearance of having been thought up after the event.
When Miller failed to return from the rendezvous the secretary of his organisation opened the letter he had left behind. It read:
I have a rendezvous at half-past twelve today at the corner of the Rue Jasmin and Rue Raffet, in Auteuil, close to Bois de Boulogne, with General Skobline [Skoblin], who is arranging a meeting for me with a German officer, Mr Strohmann, military attaché with a neighbouring power, and an official of the Embassy, Mr Werner. Both speak Russian fluently. Perhaps it is a trap.
Called to a hastily summoned conference of leading members of the Federation of ex-Combatants on the night of 22 September, General Skobline, confronted with this letter of his colleague implicating him in the arrangement of the fatal meeting, denied all knowledge of the affair. Taking advantage of a momentary lack of vigilance on the part of the meeting, he slipped from the room – and vanished. General Skobline too disappeared as completely as if the earth had opened and swallowed him up.
There was no need to seek further proof of Skobline’s guilt. But who was behind him? Who were the other two men mentioned in the above letter? The German authorities in Paris denied all knowledge of Werner or Strohmann. One could not expect them to do otherwise. But it was pointed out that ‘Strohmann’ in German signifies ‘man of straw’. If either of these two men ever existed except in the imagination of Skobline, their real identity was never established.
Suspicions as to Skobline’s real role in the Federation of ex-Combatants had already been aroused some two years before when a fellow member of the organisation, a Captain Fedossienko, had accused him as an agent of the Soviet Government. A Court of Honour, presided over by General Erdeli, had cleared him of this charge and since that time he had apparently enjoyed the full confidence of the Federation, even being looked upon as Miller’s right-hand man. Undoubtedly, Skobline himself imagined that he had been completely freed from all suspicion. The tell-tale letter revealing Miller’s doubts about his loyalty must have come as a staggering blow, catching him completely off balance. It was the one flaw in an otherwise perfectly engineered operation. Without the letter the Miller case would have had to be listed, like Koutiepov’s, under the category of unsolved. However much suspicion might have pointed in a certain direction, there would have been no tangible proof. In the eyes of his former colleagues, Skobline’s flight now set the final seal of proof on the charge, made against him in 1935, that he was an agent of the Soviet Government. The subsequent police investigations appeared to go all the way to a complete confirmation of this.
Skobline, whoever might be behind him, was at any rate the key man. But the police sought him in vain. Evidently caught off guard by the letter, he had visited a friend late on the night of the 22nd, borrowed a small sum of money and left hurriedly. He had not dared to go home. It was clear that he had been unprepared for flight. But it was equally clear that he had resourceful allies who recognised the vital importance of his not falling into the hands of the police, for that was the last ever seen of him. Alone, with a few hundred francs in his possession, unable to go to his bank to draw more money, how far could he have got, how long could he have remained hidden without the assistance of such allies? The whole of the French police force was mobilised for the man-hunt, but they found not the slightest further trace of him. Obviously there was a powerful organisation at work. Only this organisation knows precisely what happened to Koutiepov and Miller; only it knows how Skobline made his escape. But one thing is sure – the world will never see any of them alive again.
In the circumstances it was inevitable that not only the anti-Soviet members of the White Russian emigration but also a large section of French public opinion should believe that here was evidence of something involving the secret agents of the Soviet Government. But it is one thing to have suspicions, even to be absolutely sure in one’s mind; it is another thing to have concrete, unassailable proof. A similar charge had been made in 1930 when Koutiepov had vanished, but no definite evidence had been unearthed. All that was known for certain was that the missing General had been seen to enter the limousine at the invitation of two men, that the limousine had driven off, followed by a taxi in which was a uniformed police officer – or rather, as it later transpired, someone masquerading as such.
Nothing further to the affair turned up until 1935, when a French convict named Le Gall alleged that he had been paid by Soviet agents to take a car to the main north road outside Paris to meet a taxi containing two men and a woman. According to his statement, Koutiepov had been taken from this taxi and placed in the car, which had then been driven to the small seaside resort of Malo-les-Bains, near Dunkirk, where the General had been carried into a villa. Such ‘evidence’, however, was of no real value, although useful as propaganda material for certain elements hostile to the Soviet Government. It was argued, and the argument was not implausible, that no other body could possibly have both a sufficient interest in getting rid of Koutiepov and the necessary resources to accomplish his removal. But in the case of Koutiepov neither direct nor indirect responsibility of the Soviet Government could be established at that time: one could believe it or not, according to one’s political convictions.
But with the disappearance of Miller this charge against the Soviet Government was again made – and this time it seemed a little less wild, a little less improbable than before. Commenting on the affair, the Manchester Guardian of 25 September expressed what was perhaps the most general reaction to it in this country. The paper argued:
While it would be reckless to suggest that Miller was the victim of the right-wing extremists, it seems almost equally improbable that the Soviet could have any interest in kidnapping him.
Thus it was improbable that the right-wing extremists were involved but only ‘almost’ as improbable that the Russian Government was involved. There was in fact little if anything to connect the affair with right-wing extremists, although, as will be shown, an attempt was made to lay a trail in this direction. On the other hand, there was some evidence that appeared to implicate the Soviet authorities. And if neither was responsible, then this was indeed a mystery beyond hope of solution – for what others could possibly have any interest in kidnapping General Miller?
In spite, therefore, of all the seeming improbability of the involvement of the Soviet Government in the affair, the French police were compelled to recognise that what little evidence there was pointed in a very definite direction.
On the evening of the day of Miller’s disappearance the Soviet freighter Mariya Ulyanova was reported to have left Le Havre before her scheduled time and without having fully completed the normal harbour formalities. This unusual haste was, in the circumstances, suspicious. Even more suspicious was the fact that shortly before its departure a van belonging to, or hired by, the Soviet Embassy in Paris had been observed on the quayside, and customs officials had noted that a large trunk had been taken from this van and carried aboard the Soviet vessel. Evidence as to the time of arrival of this van was conflicting, and the question of time was of considerable importance, since upon this depended the possibility or otherwise of the van having been used to transport Miller’s body from Paris, a distance of roughly one hundred and forty kilometres. Inspector Piguet stated that the van had arrived between three and three-fifteen and that in his opinion it was impossible to do the journey from Paris to Le Havre in under four hours. Miller could not have been kidnapped until some time after twelve o’clock, the time of his appointment, and therefore the van could not have been used for the purpose suggested. A Mr Colin, however, who had been in the captain’s cabin aboard the Mariya Ulyanova for the purpose of signing some papers connected with a shipment of goods, testified that while he was there a man had entered without knocking and spoken a few rapid words in Russian to the captain, who thereupon had left hurriedly. Mr Colin’s business having been already completed, he made his way ashore, noticing as he did so the van in question standing on the quay. The time then, he said, was somewhere between three-forty and four-fifteen.
A Mr Paulin, also present at the time, informed the special police commissioner in Le Havre, Mr Chavineau, that the van could have arrived at any time between three-thirty and four-thirty. The customs officials said that the van gave the appearance of having travelled fast and far.
Whatever the exact time of arrival of the van may have been, the circumstances were at first regarded as sufficiently suspicious for the French Government to contemplate sending a destroyer in pursuit of the Soviet vessel. Matters went so far as an interview between the Soviet ambassador and a representative of the French Government, during which the ambassador was informed that in view of the widespread feeling the case had aroused it would be wise to contact Moscow and have the ship return in order to clear it of all suspicion. But an hour after this interview the Socialist Minister of the Interior, Mr Marx Dormoy, advised the leader of the government that the trail was a false one, the van having arrived too early to have any connection with the affair. If any such drastic action as the despatch of a destroyer had in fact been contemplated, this report of Dormoy’s finally decided against it.
Two further points which, rightly or wrongly, added to the general feeling that all was not strictly above board with regard to the Mariya Ulyanova, must also be mentioned. First, in returning to Leningrad the ship did not pursue her normal course, which would have taken her through the Kiel Canal, but went instead by way of the Danish coast. The authorities in Leningrad explained her precipitate departure as due to the urgent need for her to proceed to London immediately after discharging her cargo in Leningrad in order to pick up passengers waiting there. Secondly, Mr Chavineau alleged that although at first complimented on his prompt action in reporting all the circumstances surrounding the unusually hasty departure of the Soviet ship, he had subsequently been informed that ‘at the moment we are on very good terms with the Soviets and your report threatens to disturb these relations’. Furthermore, he complained that following upon this he had been transferred to lower-grade duties at the Gare St Lazare. In the course of the legal proceedings subsequently taken against the only person arrested in connection with the case, the prosecution suggested at one point that Mr Chavineau had been penalised for carrying out his duties conscientiously. Maître Maurice Ribet thought that it might not have been entirely outside the realm of probability that the commissioner of police sent from Paris to check up had been instructed not to attach particular importance to alleged facts tending to implicate the Soviet vessel; and that, therefore, there had been a tendency to minimise such evidence as might appear to lead in this direction. The suggestion was, not unnaturally, denied by the authorities concerned. According to Mr Ducloux, Controller-General of the Sureté Nationale, Chavineau had been demoted because of faults committed subsequent to the institution of the investigation, and his demotion had nothing at all to do with the investigation. Chavineau, he said, had gone on leave without first obtaining the official permission of his superior. Against this, Chavineau pointed out that his vacation had been perfectly in order. It seemed obvious that he was genuinely convinced he had been victimised. Cited to appear before the Court, Mr Marx Dormoy excused himself on the grounds of parliamentary immunity. All this left a bad taste in the mouth of the public; there was a widespread suspicion – however unfounded, it was in the circumstances quite understandable – that a solution of the Miller case was being hampered by considerations of high politics.
On 25 October the wife of General Skobline, better known as Nadine Plevitskaya, the popular cabaret singer of Russian folk-songs, was arrested and charged with being an accomplice in the kidnapping of General Miller.
On the morning following the disappearance of Miller and the flight of her husband, Plevitskaya had been seen to leave her hotel apartment in a markedly distressed state. In response to solicitous enquiries, she had said that she was going to visit her doctor. The police had been unable to find her for questioning until the following day, when the explanation she gave of her movements, and those of her husband, on the fatal day was in contradiction to the testimony of other witnesses. Documents seized at the Skobline’s apartment in Paris and at their villa in the country established beyond doubt that the General was a secret agent of a foreign power. The fact that this material had not been destroyed confirms that Skobline had been caught unprepared. According to The Times of 22 October, this material threw ‘some light on his activities... it is alleged that he compiled dossiers of all Russian organisations in France, whether Tsarist, Republican or Soviet; that he was head of a well-equipped espionage system, the so-called “Interior Line” founded by Koutiepov in Sofia in 1927’. Two of the alleged agents were foreigners wanted in connection with the Reiss affair (the Reiss affair is dealt with in the next chapters). The documents seized were also said to throw light on the murder in Paris, earlier that year, of the Russian economist Navachine [Navashin], and on the suicide of Kreuger, the Swedish financier-industrialist. (The Navachine case is discussed in Chapter IV.)
Exactly how much did Madame Skobline, alias Plevitskaya, know of the activities of her husband? The prosecution sought to prove that not only did she know all about them, but that she was in fact the dominant personality in their partnership. A damning piece of evidence against her was the fact that she had, whilst in jail, asked for a bible, to be sent from her home: a particular bible with a green cloth cover. This bible proved to contain the key for decoding the secret correspondence of her husband. She denied any knowledge of this code and insisted that she knew nothing of the activities of her husband as an undercover agent. Confronted with Madame Miller, with whom she had always maintained relations of the most friendly nature, and being begged by her to reveal all she knew, she continued to deny any secret knowledge whatever of the circumstances of Miller’s disappearance. But she did say that she imagined that both of the vanished men were in Russia by that time. Perhaps by this she meant to console Madame Miller with the belief that her husband was still alive. But it was a strange remark for her to make in the circumstances. Indeed, it was reported that she was naive enough to suggest that she be allowed to go to Russia herself, where she felt sure that she would be able to find the missing men.
On 14 December 1938, Nadine Plevitskaya was sentenced to twenty years’ hard labour, a sentence generally regarded as a particularly severe one for a French court to pass on a woman. Its harshness indicates the intensity of public feeling aroused by the case. There seems little doubt that she knew about her husband’s activities; but was she actually initiated into the plot for Miller’s abduction? Perhaps she kept silent for the sake of her husband? He, unquestionably, was the chief culprit. The part he played excites so little sympathy that few will shed tears at the thought that he in all probability eventually suffered the same fate as his victim. But behind him there were many others; there was a powerful organisation whose leading strings went back to – where?
Madame Skobline, otherwise Nadine Plevitskaya, died in Rennes prison in October 1944, taking her secrets with her to the grave.
On 22 February 1938, the body of a man was fished out of the Seine near Sevres. He had been strangled and then thrown into the river, and from marks on his body it was evident that he had put up a desperate resistance before succumbing. According to the press at the time, documents found on him tended to show that he was in possession of precise information concerning the circumstances of Miller’s disappearance. But if this was indeed so, and not simply a piece of journalistic imagining, nothing developed from it. This man, Colonel Chimerin by name, was also a White Russian émigré. He had been earning a living, in common with quite a number of his exiled compatriots, as a taxi-driver. He had left his home in Levallois, Perret, on 20 January and, not returning, had been reported missing. One of the letters found on him was stated to have referred to arrangements for a meeting of White Russian officers formerly belonging to Denikin’s Army. One does not know if this statement was inspired as a counter to the statement that he knew something about the Miller case, the implication behind which was that he had been a Soviet agent who knew too much and was not to be trusted to keep his mouth shut. The letter, if it ever existed, and if it was legible after immersion in the river, would suggest, on the other hand, that he was in league with strongly anti-Soviet elements. One must bear in mind that a sharp propaganda campaign was then being waged by the Communists and their fellow-travellers against the White Russian emigration; the political atmosphere was thick with accusation and counter-accusation. According to Communist Party propaganda the political crimes of violence against individuals arose from internecine warfare in the ranks of the White Russian émigrés in which the Gestapo was also involved. People like Miller, Skobline and Chimerin were referred to by Molotov in the following terms:
Up to the present, notwithstanding the existence of friendly relations between the Soviet Union and the French Republic, the territory of France offers a refuge for all sorts of adventurers and criminal organisations which are nothing but nests of vipers, nests of terrorists and diversionists, which openly pursue their hostile and anti-Soviet activities under the eyes and under the protection of the French authorities. These facts cannot be justified by the right of asylum for foreigners. It may well be asked who finds it necessary to encourage all sorts of criminals of Russian or non-Russian bourgeois origin, who engage in terrorist and anti-Soviet activity on French territory and openly perpetrate their crimes against Soviet representatives and organisations. Why are these persons protected in France, and how does this accord with the Franco-Soviet pact of friendship? Our People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs will certainly have to concern itself with this question. (Max Beloff, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, Volume 2, RIIA, 1949, pp 113-14)
Thus, according to Molotov, the enemies of the Soviet were the only people to engage in terrorist activities. This line was faithfully followed throughout the world by the loyal supporters of Soviet policy. The Comintern organ International Press Correspondence (6 November 1937, no 48) carried an article that expressed this policy of throwing the responsibility on to the White Russian organisations and the Gestapo. Under the heading ‘Hitler and the Russian White Guards in France’ is the accusation that Miller was ‘in touch with spies of the German general staff, directing the sending of spies and wreckers to the USSR through the channels of the Gestapo’. The Miller case is characterised, in the jargon of the Communist International, as a ‘diversionist’ affair. One may well ask, therefore, who was diverting from what? Presumably the Communist argument was that Miller had been kidnapped in order to put the Soviet Government in a bad light. To do this effectively, the ‘diversionists’ had chosen as the key man in the plot a person who had already at one time been suspected of being a Soviet agent. The French police, however, claimed that their examination of the material found at the Skoblines’ addresses had established the existence of a vast Soviet counter-espionage system. So the ‘diversionists’, in choosing Skobline for their instrument, had chosen very well indeed. The only mystery is, how they managed to get him to take on the job.
The supporters of Stalin could not deny that Miller was completely hostile to the Soviet Union. It was clear, from the fact that he had accepted a rendezvous with two men represented to him as German agents, that he was in some way connected with German military intelligence. They therefore argued that while Miller was prepared to send spies and wreckers into the Soviet Union, he had baulked at certain ‘reforms’ that his masters, the Gestapo, wanted to introduce into the activities of the Federation of ex-Combatants. The article went on:
The reforms consisted mainly of terrorist and provocative activities directed against the democratic countries, in espionage for Germany on a large scale and – especially for France – in organising assistance for Franco and preparing the White Guards living in France for participation in the Fascist coup...
Because of his resistance to these ‘reforms’ Miller became ‘inconvenient’, and so he was got rid of by his friend and protégé, General Skobline, ‘who undertook to lure him to his doom’. The affair is therefore at one and the same time ‘diversionist’ – it still remains more than unclear who was diverting from what – and a purely internal struggle between completely pro-Hitler agents, such as Skobline was represented to be, and the not-so-completely pro-Hitler agents like Miller. In an effort to give colour to this line of argument, which certainly needed some colour to give it any semblance of plausibility, Pravda published (30 September 1937) a despatch from its special correspondent in Spain, Michael Koltzov [Mikhail Koltsov]. Koltzov quoted from papers allegedly found on General Anatole Fock, captured on the Quinto (Aragon) front while fighting for Franco, in order to demonstrate that Miller was at loggerheads with other members of his organisation over the question of how far they should go in supporting Nazi-fascism. According to this despatch, opportunely enough published eight days after the kidnapping, a letter from Miller was found on Fock blaming him for his extremely pro-Hitler attitude. These captured documents, said Pravda, proved that the White Guards were linked with Italian and German intervention in Spain and, what was the real purpose of the despatch, that they had an account to settle with Miller.
So, to recapitulate, the argument runs: Miller did not object to espionage, but he did not want it to be ‘on a large scale’; he did not object to supporting Hitler and Mussolini, but he did not want this support to go too far. He was therefore removed by the more extreme elements with the assistance of the Gestapo. At the same time his removal was a diversionist affair calculated to arouse public opinion against the Soviet.
In passing, it may be remarked that Michael Koltzov, sender of the above-quoted despatch, was one of the many Soviet representatives in Spain during the Civil War who were suddenly recalled and heard of no more.
The International Press Correspondence article goes on to assert that Koutiepov had been eliminated as a result of internecine disagreements of the ‘Interior Line’ espionage organisation; that the killing of Navachine was the work of the Gestapo; and that the killing of Ignace Reiss in Lausanne was also carried out by the Gestapo. No proof of these assertions is given. It may, of course, be argued that such cases are, by their very nature, usually impossible of solution; that it is normally impossible to obtain concrete evidence against some particular person or persons, and that any evidence must therefore necessarily be of a circumstantial nature. In an effort to fix upon the guilty party the first thing one must look for is a motive. Secondly, one must discover who possessed the means to carry out such operations, since they require more than a little organisation and considerable material resources. This was especially true of the abductions of Koutiepov and Miller. Thirdly, one must connect up all this circumstantial evidence into a logical whole.
Approaching the problem in this way, what does one find? Only two organisations could have had a motive for ‘liquidating’ Miller – this was admitted on all sides. The strenuous efforts of the Stalinists to place the responsibility elsewhere constitute in themselves a tacit admission of the strength of the Soviet motive. But the motive attributed to the Gestapo appears far-fetched, to put it mildly. The Stalinists themselves charged Miller with being a key man in the business of sending spies and wreckers into the Soviet Union. Would not this in itself constitute the strongest possible motive for wanting him out of the way? Certainly a far stronger one than it was possible to show the Gestapo had. It is instructive to recall that in the so-called ‘Wreckers’ Trial’ in Moscow in 1933, the President of the Court, VV Ulrich, suddenly asked one of the accused, Monkhouse, who had been with the British forces in Archangel and Murmansk: ‘And where was Miller?’ Monkhouse replied that although he had been in Archangel he had not seen him. ‘When did he leave?’ asked the President. ‘I do not know when he left’, answered Monkhouse. (Wrecking Activities at Power Stations in the Soviet Union, Modern Books Ltd, 1933, pp 522) That was all. The name of Miller crops up suddenly like that, in passing as it were. It is not mentioned again; but General Miller had obviously not been forgotten by the Soviet authorities; he remained a figure of some interest for them.
So far as resources were concerned it can be said that both the Gestapo and the GPU  disposed of adequate means for enterprises of this nature. But apart from the fact of its having the means, there is not a scrap of other circumstantial evidence that arouses suspicion against the Gestapo. It is worth noting that Skobline, accused by the Stalinists of being a Gestapo agent, had in 1935 been acquitted of the charge of being a GPU agent by a Court of Honour presided over by General Erdeli, and it is this same Erdeli who is referred to in the International Press Correspondence article as one of the ‘whites who did not like to be spied upon’ and who ‘succeeded in putting the “Interior Line” out of action in France’. Let us recall that it was Koutiepov who organised the ‘Interior Line’, Koutiepov who was kidnapped and never seen alive again.
The Soviet Embassy van alongside the Mariya Ulyanova; the trunk carried aboard the Soviet vessel; the precipitate departure; the subsequent removal of the too zealous Chavineau from his post and the refusal of Dormoy to testify at the trial of Plevitskaya – all these facts inevitably direct suspicion towards a certain point.
The only piece of ‘evidence’ appearing to involve the Gestapo comes precisely from the quarter most anxious to turn attention away from the GPU. Compare Koltzov’s despatch to Pravda with the note sent on 8 January 1932 to Sir Eric Drummond, then Secretary-General of the League of Nations, by Krestinsky, at that time acting Commissar for Foreign Affairs (executed in 1938 as a spy of the German Intelligence, with which he was alleged to have had connections since 1921!). ‘Our authorities’, said this note, ‘have learned reliably that certain Russian émigrés in Paris led by Miller, Dragmilov and Shatilov, were given orders to make an attempt on Litvinov’s life...’ Several months before, the German Communist paper, Rote Fahne, published the following piece of inspired information:
An extraordinary piece of provocation, as planned by Turkul [a White Russian émigré – author], is to be the assassination of Trotsky... In executing his plans the honourable general will utilise the fact, which has already been reported by his agents, that Trotsky is poorly protected by the Turkish authorities.
This alleged projected terrorist activity of General Anto Vasilievich Turkul was also, it was said, to include the elimination of Litvinov and Gorki. These statements are calculated to create a certain atmosphere. In the first place, notice is given of the fact that Trotsky is ‘poorly protected’. Linking the names of Litvinov and Gorki with that of Trotsky as the intended victims of the White Guards helps to give the ‘warning’ an appearance of genuineness. But why should either of the first two require to be warned? And what purpose had the Stalinists in warning their deadliest enemy, Trotsky? There is absolutely no sense in this warning; it has no meaning – except as an alibi established beforehand, belonging to the same category as Koltzov’s despatch (although that, perhaps through an unfortunate oversight, was not issued until after Miller’s abduction).
All the statements of the Soviet Government and its supporters in various countries on the subject of terrorist activities are thus seen to have one and the same objective – to create the impression that these activities, or alleged activities, are directed against the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union alone (with the sole and peculiar exception of Trotsky). These statements, however, only succeed in adding weight to the view that it was precisely the Soviet Government itself that had the strongest motive for ‘liquidating’ the leaders of this anti-Soviet terrorist activity.
Yet even if all the known facts on the Miller case are still felt to be insufficient to establish with absolute and irrefutable authority the guilt of the GPU, a new line of approach to the problem remains to be explored. If it is possible to show that the Koutiepov and Miller cases were not the only ones of this nature, but that a whole series of like crimes have been perpetrated in many countries; if in every case it can be demonstrated that all the victims had, in spite of their varying political viewpoints, one thing in common, namely, opposition to the Stalin regime and to the world policy carried out by its satellite bodies in every land; and if one can also advance, not simply circumstantial, but direct, concrete evidence linking the foreign section of the GPU with these crimes – then the Miller case appears in a new light. It will be then seen as one of a series of political executions carried out by the GPU in accordance with a calculated plan. It has been said that foreign policy is simply the extension of domestic policy on to the world scene. Likewise it may be suggested that GPU methods abroad would exhibit the same feature as at home.
Before we leave the Miller case as such, a final point in the above-quoted International Press Correspondence article must be noted. This point is the claim that the assassination of Ignace Reiss was carried out, like the other crimes, by the Gestapo. In making such a claim the Stalinists committed a grave error. For if it can be shown that this charge has absolutely no basis in fact, then the doubts regarding the other accusations are considerably strengthened. And if, still further, incontrovertible proof can be advanced that the GPU itself, and not the Gestapo, was responsible for the murder of Reiss... then this doubt is transformed into absolute conviction.
1. See Addendum for a brief outline of the development of this organisation, and the reason why the initials ‘GPU’ are used throughout this book, in preference to other initials expressing a change in form but not in content.