Assassins at Large. Hugo Dewar 1951

Chapter XI: Legalised Murder

They picked him up one evening as he was about to enter his lodgings. He was naturally agitated. What could he have done wrong? His knowledge of English was very limited and he could not understand what they were saying, but he knew he had to go with them. This was authority... But, after all, they were American military policemen and he had been screened, received his papers. What was there to fear? Another routine check-up on Displaced Persons. Yes, they had to be careful...

The jeep tore at a rocking speed through the almost deserted streets. And now, suddenly, his vague alarm turned to real fear. This was not the way to United States Headquarters! He turned to one of the escort, stated a protest, was met with a menacing glare, a snarled order, a significant lifting of the white baton. Panic mounted in him, overwhelmed him... They stopped with a scream of brakes in a dark side-street and half-carried, half-dragged him towards the waiting car from which two men sprang to meet them... The abyss yawned under him... In a matter of seconds the transfer was over; the two cars sped away in opposite directions; the street was once more deserted; there was nothing to show that here a tragedy had been enacted.

The following evening two American military policemen would meet a man in a bar; money would change hands...

On 11 February 1949, the United States authorities in Austria announced:

Two American military policemen have been arrested here on a charge of kidnapping a displaced person and ‘selling’ him for 7000 schillings (about £175) to the Russians... Russians whom they met in a bar in Vienna offered them big sums for various named persons, whose address and description were provided.

On 22 August 1949, a car stops in the British Section in Vienna and one of the occupants enquires of a passer-by the way to Soviet HQ. There is a struggle within the car, a window is smashed, a man leaps out and runs. He is chased by the other men in the car, caught, beaten over the head. They try to get him back to the car, but a crowd has gathered and the captive is released. The crowd becomes threatening; stones are thrown. A platoon of British police arrives and surrounds the Russians to protect them from the fury of the people.

Dr Karl Sondermann, an Austrian, arrested a week previously and charged with spying for the Western powers, is one of the lucky ones...

An ambulance pulls up in a Berlin street. Four white-clad men get out and enter a house. They give themselves out to be asylum warders, looking for an escaped woman patient. They find the woman they are seeking; she protests that she is perfectly normal and attempts to resist. They give her an injection that renders her unconscious and carry her off. On 4 June 1949, the Paris police announce the arrest of a man, alleged to have betrayed to the Russians the hiding place of this woman, a French citizen formerly working for Soviet intelligence.

On 21 September 1949, the Austrian Volkstimme admits that Chief Inspector Maref, police official who had disappeared without trace more than a year before, had been arrested and sentenced by the Soviet authorities. This disappearance had been repeatedly raised in the Allied Council and always the Soviet representative, General Sviridov, had steadfastly refused to admit any knowledge of the matter, although he promised to ‘make enquiries’.

Up to the time of writing the mystery of Paul Markgraf’s fate remains unsolved. One-time head of the police in the Eastern Sector of Berlin, Markgraf vanished some time in October 1949. No official statement has ever been made about him, not even when Waldemar Schmidt was announced, in February this year, as his successor.

Dr Edith Bone left this country in April 1949 for a stay in Hungary of six months. On 30 September she wired to friends in London to say that she was returning and asking them to meet her at the airport. She was seen off at the Budapest airfield but did not arrive in London. Subsequent enquiries as to her whereabouts were without result. The KLM airline has no record of her ever having boarded the plane she was to have taken. In reply to a British Note (22 December 1949) on this case, the Hungarian Government stated that since Dr Bone’s residence permit expired on 1 October, it must be presumed that she had left the country. No trace of her has since been found.

Dr Bone, is, or was, Hungarian by birth, and British by marriage. She was known as a Communist Party supporter, a member of the National Union of Journalists who occasionally contributed to the British Daily Worker. It is possible that she is being groomed for a demonstration trial. On the other hand, it is more likely that the outside world will never see her again.

Many more cases of a like nature could be cited. To give an indication of their extent attention is drawn to the statement at an Allied Council meeting on 16 September 1949 of General Keys, United States High Commissioner in Austria, that over 800 Austrian citizens had been illegally arrested during the previous four years. And in June of that year the Protestant Bishop of Berlin, Dr Otto Dibelius, asserted in a pastoral letter that ‘thousands of men and women are disappearing from the Soviet Zone of Germany’. ‘The Gestapo of recent evil memory’, he charged, ‘has come to life again in Department K5 of the so-called People’s Police’. That summer the trial before an American Court in West Berlin of seven members of this notorious K5 department of the secret police added weight to his charge, and gave a brief, but revealing glimpse of the methods employed: corruption, blackmail, kidnapping, murder (see the report of this trial in Tribune, 30 September 1949 by Melvin J Lasky).

On 23 April of this year, the trial in Salzburg, Austria, of two Austrian men and a German girl on the charge of trying to kidnap a displaced person and hand him over to the Russians ended in a verdict of guilty against all the defendants. Gisela Sell and Rudolf Weichselberger were sentenced to seven and eight years respectively; Michael Berger to eight years, six months. Another accused, Max Bair, who had been released on a bail of 75 000 schillings, did not appear in court. According to The Times, 24 April 1950, Bair held a press conference in a café in the Russian Sector on the day before the trial. Bair is an Austrian Communist who spent many years in Russia. He returned to Austria with the Russian troops in 1945 and became party secretary for the Tyrol region.

In order to make the situation perfectly clear to the reader we shall cite the case of Karl Fischer.

In 1937 Karl Fischer was condemned by the Schuschnigg regime in Austria to five years’ penal servitude for anti-fascist activity and membership of a banned anti-Stalin group of Communists. Freed by a general amnesty in 1938, he fled to France as a political refugee. In 1943 he was handed over by the Vichy authorities to the Nazis, and was held in the Buchenwald concentration camp until liberated by the Americans, when he returned to his mother’s home in Austria. His mother had herself been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the Nazis for anti-Fascist propaganda.

Fischer found work in Linz, in the American Zone, first in the French Liaison Service as secretary to Captain Rozan, then in the Arbeiterkammer. His immediate superior in the Arbeiterkammer was a Herr Strasser, member of the Socialist Party and also of the organisation known as ‘The Friends of the Soviet Union’. Fischer himself became active in the Socialist Party.

On the evening of 22 January 1947, Fischer went to keep an appointment in the Russian Zone. He never returned.

Some time before, a girl-friend, Vera Kerschbaumer, had warned him that the Communist Party was taking a close interest in him. This girl was the daughter of the editor of the local Communist newspaper, Neue Zeit, and herself a member of the party, employed in a Communist bookshop in Linz. She told Fischer that Herr Haider, secretary-general of the Communist Party in Upper Austria, had suggested that she take advantage of her friendship with Fischer to report on him. She refused to do this. Fischer was then warned by another member of the party to break off relations with Vera – ‘otherwise he would take the consequences’. Fischer ignored the warning, remained friendly with the girl, trying to win her away from the Communists. Within the Socialist Party he continued to be a persistent opponent of Communist Party manoeuvres to infiltrate and dominate that party.

Around five o’clock on 22 January 1947, he accompanied Vera to her home in the Russian Zone. According to Vera, he left her at a quarter to seven. From that point on, all trace of him was lost.

Socialist deputies, the State Secretary, Herr Mantler (who knew Fischer personally), the Mayor of Linz, the Austrian delegate to UNO in London, Dr Koref, and the Socialist Minister of the Interior were all notified of his disappearance, but it does not appear that any noteworthy activity ensued. Herr Strasser volunteered the information that shortly after five o’clock on the evening of the disappearance, a man with a ‘foreign accent’ had telephoned the office asking for Fischer. He thought that this might be a clue: perhaps Fischer had been picked up by the Americans or the French? On 3 February 1947, the following notice appeared in the Communist Neue Zeit:

Puzzling Disappearance

Linz – Since 22 January 1947, the twenty-nine-year-old employee, Karl Fischer, of 11 Nietzschestrasse, Linz, has been missing. He is 5ft 6in tall, has blond hair, blue eyes. He was dressed in a blue-grey overcoat, brown patterned suit, dark-blue shirt and tie to match. He was last seen in Poestlingberg. Information to the Criminal Police or the nearest Security Service Station.

In the light of our information on the kidnapping activities of Russian agents, information which could hardly have not also been in the possession of the editor of this paper, this notice has a mocking ring. Its hypocrisy is even more apparent when one knows that during Fischer’s stay in Buchenwald the Communists there had more than once tried to ‘liquidate’ him, but thanks to the protection of Benedict Kautsky, son of the well-known Socialist theoretician, Karl Kautsky, he survived. The reader may find this incredible, imagining that all inmates of such camps would be united against the common enemy. This was not so however. On this point we have the very precise evidence of Ernst Federn (Prisoner no 2402, Buchenwald, a psychoanalyst and former colleague of Freud: ‘Camp political life was poisoned, however, by ridiculous conflicts between different factions, feuds which sometimes led to the actual destruction of opponents through the aid of the SS.’ (The Terror as a System: The Concentration Camp, State Hospitals Press, NY, p 26; reprinted from the Psychiatric Quarterly Supplement, Volume 22, Part 1, 1948, pp 52-86)

The latest news of Karl Fischer, received by the author from private sources, is that he is now serving a fifteen-year sentence in a Russian concentration camp.

Once again it must be emphasised that these methods of dealing with political opponents are not isolated and temporary expedients necessitated by exceptional circumstances and employed only with the greatest reluctance and distaste. On the contrary, they form part and parcel of a deliberate and well-thought-out system. With the Soviet occupation forces in Eastern Europe came also the GPU. The lists of Wanted Persons they brought with them contained the names and descriptions not only of war criminals but also of others who by no stretch of the imagination could be so classified. In the course of time new names were added to these lists. They came to include not only refugees from the Soviet Union, but also citizens of the occupied countries known or suspected as opponents of Soviet policy.

The war necessarily slowed down the international work of the GPU, or rather, that aspect of it that is not destined for the public. The espionage apparatus, directed against its wartime allies, remained intact, as the case of Dr Klaus Emil Fuchs, Communist Party member and eminent atomic scientist, showed. But the tasks, kidnappings and murders, assigned to it abroad as ‘by-products’ of the purges inside the Soviet Union, had, with one or two notable exceptions (Trotsky, Krivitsky), been completed before the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which was the ‘Go’ sign for Hitler. The postwar situation brought new political problems, but the methods used to solve them are not in essence different from those already noted; the only difference lies in the fact that the postwar situation has vastly strengthened the power of the GPU outside the Soviet Union, and given it the possibility of acting ‘legally’, that is, with the connivance and support, and within the framework of the state apparatus of the satellite countries.

In order that the states brought within the Soviet ‘sphere of interest’ should be economically and politically integrated with the Soviet Union – that is, in the final analysis, should be rendered completely subservient to it – it was necessary to eliminate any who might serve as a rallying-point in a struggle for independence, or for dependence on some other, ‘competing’ power. An early example of the Soviet pattern of behaviour in this connection, its utter lack of scruple, its cynical contempt for moral considerations, its reliance solely upon duplicity and fraud, is seen in the case of the fifteen Polish leaders of the underground struggle against Hitler. Early in March 1945, Mr Janowski, Deputy Prime Minister of the Polish Underground Administration, received an invitation from a certain Russian Colonel named Pimonov, ostensibly acting on behalf of the Soviet Military Authorities, to discuss with Soviet representatives the future political set-up in Poland. The leaders of the political parties and General Okulicki, commander of the Underground Army, were included in this invitation. A promise of safe conduct was given. After a series of talks the first official conference was arranged. At this conference it was stated from the Russian side that Marshal Zhukov, who had full plenipotentiary powers, or his representative, General Ivanov, would be present. Instead of being taken to Marshal Zhukov’s headquarters, however, the Polish representatives were taken to Moscow. and driven in luxurious cars – straight to the Lubianka Prison. In due course they were brought to trial – charged with sabotage in the rear of the Red Army! With one exception all of them pleaded ‘Guilty in part’ (this was not a confession trial proper) and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from four months to ten years. Among those sentenced was the representative of the Polish Socialist Party, Mr Puzak, one-time political prisoner of the Tsar, who had spent four years of a long term of imprisonment chained in a cell of the notorious Schlusselburg fortress. He received a sentence of eighteen months. General Okulicki and Deputy Prime Minister Janowski received ten and eight years respectively. The one Pole who refused to confess, Mr Stypulkowski, received a term of four months, eventually returned to Poland and from there escaped to the West. His description of the methods employed to extort ‘confessions’ fully confirms the evidence submitted to the Dewey Commission that investigated the Moscow Trials.

Right up to the moment when the cell doors clanged to behind them, these Poles were treated by the Russians with every consideration; relations between the two parties were cordial in the extreme. Yet the whole affair, from the letter of invitation, the series of talks, to the proposed conference with Marshal Zhukov, was an elaborately organised farce, played out by the GPU with profound contempt for world public opinion and cynical rejection of the elementary decencies of civilised behaviour. At the trial Mr Stypulkowski pointed out that the accused were in court only because they had been prepared to accept an invitation to take part in discussions with the Soviet authorities. Would saboteurs have accepted Marshal Zhukov’s invitation? ‘Who invited you for these talks?’ asked the President, Colonel-General Ulrich. Stypulkowski replied that the invitation had come through Colonel Pimonov on behalf of General Ivanov, and Ulrich answered cynically: ‘Do you really believe that Pimonov and Ivanov exist at all? The NKVD [that is, GPU, author] merely tricked you.’

Had the Soviet Government wished openly to declare to the world the utter worthlessness of its pledged word, it could have devised no better means than the action taken against these Poles.

Already then in March 1945, the Soviet Government gave a sufficiently clear indication of the fact that its methods had not changed; already is demonstrated for those with eyes to see that its chief governmental arm was the secret police. The trial of the Poles foreshadowed the later trials in Eastern Europe. For the GPU would in due course, with the consolidation of its power in the satellite states, be in a position to export the Moscow Trials to the territory of Europe, while at the same time, in Austria and Germany, still having recourse to the kidnapping and spiriting away of its opponents.

The defection of Yugoslavia from the concert of satellite states (a serious blow that may yet prove fatal to Soviet policy) speeded up the holding of such trials, which would have taken place even without Tito’s ‘treachery’, although, of course, the confessions would have been different. This rift in the lute exposed in the sharpest possible manner the weaknesses of the regimes and made urgent action imperative if the rot were to be stopped. Tito’s assassination was undoubtedly placed on the order of the day. It remains on the order of the day. And one purpose of the trials has been to create the atmosphere necessary to an attentat.

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The trials of former leading Communists in Eastern Europe are of major significance because, in the first place, they demonstrate that ‘Titoism’ is not a purely Yugoslav phenomenon; and, in the second place, they reveal the essential nature of the regimes in the satellite states. Whatever the final socio-economic results of Tito’s policy for Yugoslavia, it is evident that his main political strength rests upon nationalism. Nationalism has also shown itself in the Bulgarian, Hungarian and Polish Communist Parties, and without doubt it also exists in those of Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Albania (the execution of General Kochi Djodje, 13 June 1949, former General Secretary of the Albanian Communist Party, points to this). No sooner do Stalin’s men come to power in their respective countries than some of them are suspected of trying to cut the wires that make them dance, and immediately the iron hand in the very threadbare velvet glove is revealed. It is highly doubtful if either Kostov or Rajk thought themselves strong enough to pursue a policy independent of their master. But Tito had what they lacked – a popular following, which made a break with Stalin possible. True, he made the break reluctantly, the intransigence all on the side of the Soviet Union, but still, he made it. And the danger that others might be strengthened by his example was too great to be ignored. The remaining Communist Parties must be shown who was master – and at once, in no uncertain manner. So the very significant fact of Tito’s defiance of Stalin was followed by the no less significant revelation that the Communist Parties are merely means to an end, and, that end achieved, they can be, virtually, if not actually, dispensed with. True, so far it is only a question of the execution or imprisonment of top-ranking leaders. But, just as the Communist Party in Russia has been destroyed in all but name, so it will be destroyed in the satellite states. As in Russia, itself, the real rulers will henceforth maintain themselves on the basis of the GPU. The situation in Eastern Europe has also destroyed the myth of Soviet internationalism, and revealed Soviet policy as in direct line of succession with the ‘expansionism’ of Tsarism. As the hold of other empires weakens, as they retreat, make concessions, the new imperialist power strides ruthlessly forward.

The trials of former Communist leaders are therefore of greater educational value than the trials of those who must inevitably be opponents of the new regimes. All these trials have, of course, the same symptomatic importance, since they all express the same drive towards a totalitarian state, rigidly controlled by Russian satraps, and politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world. But it would be an error to assume from the measures taken against the Church, notably in the cases of Cardinal Mindszenty and the Protestant pastors, that the destruction of religion as such is aimed at. The Soviet Government has shown its willingness to foster the Greek Orthodox Church and to use it as an instrument of its policy, both domestic and foreign. Elsewhere, in Czechoslovakia, for instance, it seeks to erect its own state Church. Provided that a religious body is prepared to be wholly subservient to the Soviet state, and willing to use its influence on its behalf, no action is taken against it – on the contrary, it may even be assisted. Action taken against the Church is not, therefore, dictated by a desire to suppress religious teachings as such; does not spring from some doctrinaire adherence to a set of principles (principles, Marxist or any other, are the last ground one should examine for an explanation of Soviet policy), but is aimed at binding the Church to the state apparatus and making it a tool of that apparatus. The broad purpose is the same in all the trials and it is not necessary here to consider the Church trials in detail, since the ultimate and sharpest expression of this purpose is seen in the judicial murder of the Soviet Government’s own leading agents suspected of seeking something less for their countries than absolute colonial dependence upon the ‘beloved Fatherland’.

In whatever direction the GPU strikes its purpose is simply to root out and destroy all those who are political non-conformists, and such persons are most dangerous precisely in those parties through which Russian control achieves political form and substance. The use of that particularly Russian concoction, the confessional trial, is itself sufficient to expose this control.

Today no one can question the source of inspiration of the Rajk Trial in Hungary, the Kostov Trial in Bulgaria, or the forthcoming Gomułka [1] Trial (if he has not already proved too hard a nut to crack) in Poland. Writing in Borba (22 September 1949), Mosha Pijade, chief theoretician of the Yugoslav Communist Party, said that ‘The Budapest trial recalls the 1936 trial in the Soviet Union, the stage managers of which have been able to give the organisers of the Budapest trial the benefit of their rich experience.’ This admission that the Moscow Trials were frame-ups comes a little late in the day from one who was for years a cover-up man for these very ‘stage-managers’. Nevertheless, it is to be welcomed. It is, however, hardly necessary to call witnesses to the fact that the Rajk trial, and all the others, were staged by the GPU. All the hallmarks are present. Once again there is no evidence against the accused except their own confessions (the ‘document’ which occasionally figures in them will not bear serious investigation, and would, in any case, be meaningless without the self-inculpatory testimony of the accused). Once again the Public Prosecutor, or the President of the Court, gives the accused their cues by means of leading questions, prompts them when they forget their lines, warns them when they are in danger of going outside the prepared script; and once again the defence abjectly apologises for daring to undertake the task, finds it necessary to spend time justifying its presence in court, and then proceeds to underline the guilt of its clients. But the most characteristic feature of all is the nature of the confessions themselves; for they are never simply admittances of guilt, but are always propaganda speeches in defence of the accusers, in defence of the regime, of all that the accused are alleged to have plotted and fought against so persistently, so tenaciously, and for so long. One and all – life-long Communists, business men, religious leaders – they phrase their confessions to harmonise with whatever happens to be the political line of the regime, that is – the Soviet Union. One and all they burn with the desire to aid the prosecution’s work, which is not to dispense justice, but to propagate a political viewpoint. A bargain has been struck beforehand. When the accused come into court it is not their defence that interests them – they have already been found guilty. What interests them is only the sentence they will receive; the treatment of their families, the welfare of a loved one. By complying with the requirements of the regime they grasp at the only chance left. The speeches for the defence (what a mockery of the word!) and the final pleas boil down to appeals for mercy because the accused have faithfully carried through their allotted roles; Counsel for the Defence says, in effect – Without the full cooperation of the accused this demonstration could never have been held; they therefore deserve the reward promised them – leniency. Typifying all these appeals are the following words of Robert Vogeler’s Defence Counsel: ‘Let me call the attention of the Honoured Court to the contrite confession with which my defendant exposed this whole intricate criminal act and to the manly statement which... showed sincere repentance...’ (Official Report, Budapest, 1950, p 260)

The fabric of these trials is skilfully woven but falls apart at the slightest touch. Look at László Rajk’s case. He stated at his trial that:

Tito and Rankovic worked in close and organic cooperation with the American information service. Regarding their close and organic cooperation I had various facts at my disposal. There were first of all my experiences in the French internment camp when I personally convinced myself that the persons who fill the key positions in the Yugoslavia of today had been active agents of the Deuxième Bureau and arrived home with the help of the Gestapo. Of course, the Deuxième Bureau had already during the war closely cooperated with the American information organisation. (L Rajk and his Accomplices before the People’s Court, Budapest, 1949, p 49)

Now what exactly were his ‘experiences’ in the internment camp? Rajk testified that:

... as a former International Brigadier, who carried on Trotskyist activities, I was on several occasions called in and asked for information about what was happening in the camp by the officer of the Deuxième Bureau... I have to add that for the French officer to call me in it was not necessary for him to know my past, because in general the Trotskyists always, and everywhere, internationally, worked in close contact with the police... I told the French officer, the head of the Deuxième Bureau, that a strong Yugoslav Trotskyist group was active in the camp, and roughly who were the leaders of the group... The officer... told me that he knew about the activities of this group, and further, that they did some things with his approval and what is more, sometimes on his instructions. I... once saw Kosta-Nadj, Vukomanovic, Stefanovic, Milic and others, the leaders of the above Yugoslav Trotskyist group who were also going to the Deuxième Bureau officer or coming from there. From this it became clear to me that these Yugoslavs were, in fact, the organised men of the Deuxième Bureau, and were carrying out its instructions just as I was. (Ibid, pp 39-40)

Let us examine this statement more closely.

First, it became clear to him that the Yugoslavs were agents of the Deuxième Bureau because he ‘once’ saw them either coming from or going to an interview with the French Officer. On the basis of such reasoning (?) it could be argued that any Communist interrogated by military intelligence is automatically recruited as an agent. Second, why was this evidence of interrogation necessary for him to realise that they had been recruited? Did he not in the same breath state that the Trotskyists ‘always and everywhere, internationally, worked in close contact with the police’? And since, as he himself affirmed, he carried on Trotskyist activities and was ‘in a way’ a leader of the Yugoslav group of internees engaged in the same work, he of course must have known of the connections with the Deuxième Bureau – if they existed. Besides the inner knowledge he must have had if he had really been working together with these alleged other agents, the mere fact of an interview with the Deuxième Bureau officer would be insignificant. Every inmate of the camp would at some time or other have been interrogated by an intelligence officer. Following Rajk’s line of reasoning that would make them all ‘Trotskyists’ working for the police – a claim which Rajk would hardly have cared to make. Then why drag in this absurd ‘evidence’ of an interview with the French officer? Obviously for the simple reason that this was the only ‘evidence’ there was.

Yet on the basis of these ‘experiences’ Rajk ‘personally convinced’ himself that the Yugoslavs were agents of the Deuxième Bureau. And since the Deuxième Bureau had ‘already during the war’ worked with ‘American information organisations’ then they must also, don’t you see, have been agents of the Americans. But although Rajk first of all convinced himself of all this between 1939 and 1941, he, according to his own later words, did not in 1945 ‘yet know that they worked in close cooperation with the Americans’ (ibid, p 50). In addition, the Yugoslavs worked with the Gestapo, which was such a comic-opera organisation that it got them back to Yugoslavia to help organise the guerrilla warfare against the German occupation! But of course, this apparent absurdity is explained away by the fact that Tito never really fought the German occupation forces; this is all an invention on the part of McLean and other interested persons. And, in any case, the fact that McLean and Randolph Churchill were at Tito’s partisan headquarters proved that Tito was and remains an agent of the British. It’s all so simple if you know the recipe.

As a further exposure of the completely phoney nature of the confessions which serve the GPU executioners as excuses for liquidating opponents, take the following.

When Rajk went to Spain to join the Rákosi Battalion he ‘avoided the central organ of the French Party which supervised politically all those leaving for Spain’ (ibid, p 38). For he was, you understand, going to Spain on orders from the police, for whom he was working, in order to discover who was in the Rákosi Battalion and at the same time to ‘disrupt’ it. As soon as he gets to the Rákosi Battalion he is made its party secretary, and immediately he starts his ‘Trotskyist activity’ and gets himself expelled from the party. Never was there such an obliging police spy! – obliging to those he was supposed to be spying against! Instead of covering up and being more orthodox than the orthodox, a matter of elementary common-sense for any self-respecting police agent, he comes out right into the open and actually gets himself expelled on the gravest of all charges. The reader will by now be well aware of the consequences of expulsion on such a charge in such circumstances. Yet nothing happened to Rajk. He continued to serve in the battalion and carry on his ‘disruptive’ work. To underline the magnitude of his crimes, he even goes so far as to suggest that his activities contributed in a large measure to the defeat at the battle of the Ebro:

... the result of all this political activity... was that the efficiency of the Rákosi Battalion – the battalion fought in a very important section of the front – was very much weakened just before one of the most decisive battles of the Spanish Republican troops. (Ibid, pp 38-39)

Yet this quite open ‘counter-revolutionary’ work, open enough to get him expelled from the party, was then dismissed by all concerned as a matter of no importance. The Party Secretary of the Rákosi Battalion expelled for Trotskyism! – and the matter never goes any further! It is, of course, possible that he was actually expelled, but in any case it is clear that the dispute, if it existed, must have been in the nature of a personal squabble rather than a serious political difference. The matter of the expulsion, if it ever took place, never went any further; it was not reported to the top party organs or in any way publicised – as it would have been if it had really been the serious matter Rajk and his judges tried to make it. Had he really been expelled on a serious count it is doubtful if he would have got out of Spain alive; certainly he would never have afterwards risen to the key position in the Communist apparatus in Hungary.

Desperately endeavouring to give some semblance of reality to his self-portrait as a traitor Rajk only succeeds in exposing his confession as false. He says, for example, that he ‘deserted’ from the battalion in February 1939, and hastily adds ‘before the fighting was over’ – words that appear at first glance to be redundant. If he deserted, then he deserted. Why was the addition necessary? (The Indictment, by the way, says that he ‘escaped’, not ‘deserted’ – another small, but not unimportant contradiction.) Because Rajk knew well enough that the battle of the Ebro was the final decisive military defeat of the Republican military forces. The International Brigade, of which the Rákosi Battalion was a part, was officially disbanded in October 1938; the British and French Governments recognised Franco on 27 February 1939, the very month in which Rajk confesses to deserting. Long before this recognition the Spanish-French frontier had been thronged with thousands of ‘deserters’ like Rajk. If Rajk, this alleged counter-revolutionary Trotskyist expellee, had really deserted, how eagerly it would have been seized upon by the Communist cell in the internment camp to discredit him and Trotskyism in general! But, of course, in February 1939 no one raised the question.

Rajk had to lie about this because the prosecution had to present every single public action of his in a new light, in the light of Rajk the traitor, instead of Rajk the beloved revolutionary leader. Once again the old familiar pattern of the Moscow Trials.

Take another interesting little lie from among the sum total of lies which compose his whole confession. While in French internment, he says, the Americans attempted to ‘organise’ him as a member of the American intelligence agency:

It was in the Vernet internment camp that an American citizen called Field, who was as far as I know [why this caution?] the head of the American intelligence agency for Central and Eastern Europe, visited me in the internment camp after the end of the Civil War. He referred to an instruction he had received from Washington, that he should speak with me and help me to get out of the camp and return home to Hungary. He even told me that they would like to send me home because as an agent who had not been exposed I would, working in the party according to the instructions received from the Americans, disorganise and dissolve the party and possibly even get the party [the ‘disorganised and dissolved’ party?] into my hands.

Now it appears from this that the American intelligence was very well informed about Rajk. Instructions about him even came from Washington! Yet a long time after, in 1945, when he was back in Hungary, the Americans appear to have mislaid this information, since the American agent collecting information only discovered that Rajk was a police agent through a message from another Hungarian police agent. But even more strange is the reference to the mysterious Mr Field.

According to the indictment, Noel H Field was ‘one of the chiefs in Switzerland of the American espionage organisation known as the “Office of Strategic Services"’. Noel H Field, his wife Hertha Field, and his brother Herman Field disappeared from sight in 1949; the last known trace of them was in Warsaw. Noel Field was born in London of American parents; his wife is of German extraction; they worked together in Switzerland for an American refugee-aid society called the Unitarian Service Committee. A German anti-Fascist refugee, writing in the French journal Confrontation Internationale (November-December 1949), relates how he met this couple in Geneva and how his suspicions were aroused by the fact that Field, ostensibly working on behalf of a religious refugee-aid organisation, was in close contact with Anton Ackermann and Walter Frisch, leaders of the German Communists in emigration, and with Leon Nicole, leader of the Swiss Communists. A further pointer to Field’s political affiliation was the fact that his secretary was a well-known German Stalinist. But quite positive evidence that Field was himself a Stalinist, using the Unitarian Service Committee as a cover for his political activities, comes from Jules Humbert-Droz, foundation member of the Third International (Comintern), now secretary of the Swiss Socialist Party. In the Swiss weekly Travail Humbert-Droz denounced the Budapest trial and gave the following facts about Field:

Another name cited by the indictment: it is that of Noel Field, designated as the head of the American spy system in Switzerland, who had given out instructions to American spies among the Yugoslav and Hungarian internees in the camps in Southern France.

I knew Noel Field very well at the time. He was a member of the Swiss Communist Party and an agent of the American churches to aid refugees in the South of France. He intervened, as an American and as a church representative, with the Vichy Government to save a great number of German and Italian Communists who were under the threat of being given up to the Gestapo by the Pétain Government. He helped hundreds of militants in the camps, distributing food and transmitting messages. He helped a large number to hide or to flee to the United States or elsewhere. He did this work in close connection with the Swiss Communist Party; and the German and Italian émigrés. Field had previously rendered great services to the Soviet Union. [2]

It is amazing now to see those people denounced as American spies who in all good faith utilised the services of the Communist Noel Field at that time.

Certain high functionaries of the German and Italian Communist Parties who owe their lives to Noel Field could have a bad quarter of an hour in that case.

It is clear, therefore, that Field was a Stalinist agent and that it was in this capacity that he visited Rajk – or, if he did not visit him, at least tried to pull some strings on his behalf – when he was in the Vernet internment camp. But was he a double agent? Was he at the same time in the service of the American intelligence? The only evidence to support such a view is Rajk’s assertion that Field tried to ‘organise’ him ‘as a member of the American intelligence service’. This was ‘after the end of the Civil War’. It was not until more than six years later, in August-September 1945, that the Americans allegedly really did ‘organise’ him, as a result of the fact that Kovach, ‘a member of the American military mission... received a message from Sombor-Schweinitzer through which he discovered that I had worked for the Horthy police’. But how explain this six-year delay in making contact? And if the delay can be attributed to objective difficulties, it still remains to be explained why Field, allegedly head of the American intelligence for Central and Eastern Europe, did not make any report on this eminently important contact; that, in fact, he forgot all about him! But if Washington had instructed Field to contact Rajk in 1939, it would not have been necessary for Kovach to wait for Sombor-Schweinitzer to tell him that Rajk was a police agent – Kovach would already know from Washington that he could be ‘organised’. There is only one explanation for this apparent amateurish functioning of American intelligence: Field never received any instructions from Washington about Rajk, Field did not try to ‘organise’ Rajk, and Rajk never was in the service of the Americans. There is also only one explanation for Field’s disappearance: from his work in Switzerland and in France among the refugees – in carrying out which he, as a Communist Party member, acted in accordance with instructions from the Communist apparatus – he was in a position to tear to shreds the whole flimsy fabric of the Rajk trial. He knew too much! It was impossible to take a chance on his keeping his mouth shut. If ever he should come to figure in a ‘Moscow Trial’ it will not be before he is thoroughly broken (both his wife and his brother have also disappeared). But it is more than possible that the Field family will not be heard of again.

Everyone concerned in the Rajk Trial – president, prosecutor, the defence, defendants and witnesses, accusers and accused alike – are all unanimously agreed upon the purpose of the trial and bend all their efforts to achieve this purpose. A truly striking example of this obviously prearranged agreement is seen in the following. Asked by the President of the Court what was the standpoint of the so-called Trotskyist group that carried out political activity in the French internment camp, Rajk replies: ‘I could outline the essence in a few words: by saying that it was a refutation and disruption of everything which is in the interests of the revolutionary working-class movement, on a political basis that completely lacked principle.’ (Ibid, p 39) Remember that this is supposed to be a self-confessed police spy, an agent of American imperialism speaking. Yet he does not talk a bit like one; he talks like a Stalinist. Here is the man who ‘wanted to restore capitalism’ – defending Stalinism! ... He does not simply ‘confess’, he makes a propaganda speech in favour of everything against which he has secretly struggled for years; he denounces with virtuous indignation his and his fellow-conspirators’ lack of ‘principle’, proclaims the Stalinists as the sole true defenders of the interests of the working-class movement... Here in this single reply to the president’s question is revealed the prearranged agreement of the accused with the political aims of the trial. Tito, the Yugoslav regime, British and American imperialism – these are the targets against which all concerned direct a concerted ideological bombardment in strict conformity with the extant political line of the Soviet Union. On the one side Stalin, the beloved leader, the Socialist fatherland, the People’s Democracies tenderly sheltered under its protective wing – the forces of light; on the other hand Tito, the Trotskyists, American and British imperialism – the forces of darkness. Once again – the Moscow Trials; with, naturally, a fresh cast and the plot adapted to the exigencies of the postwar world.

As has been emphasised here, a principal charge made against the disgraced Communist leaders was that they were ‘bourgeois nationalists’ – mostly the ‘bourgeois’, is dispensed with. Here lies the real core of the trouble. Stalin, creator of the theory of ‘socialism in one country’, is mortally afraid of being hoist with his own petard. Nationalism for Russia – good, excellent! But nationalism for Tito? Socialism for Yugoslavia? Anathema! A deadly sin! No! The satellite states will either bask in the sun of Stalin or they will be cast into the outer darkness. Nationalist Russia, posing as the standard-bearer of revolutionary internationalism, [3] suppresses with an iron hand all manifestations of nationalism – that is, of desire for political independence – in the countries under her domination. Yet on the international field Stalinism has in the past built up, and continues to build up, its mass influence by posing as the disinterested champion of all those ‘backward’ lands struggling to free themselves from imperialist domination. Unfortunately for this claim, the contrast between words and deeds has been thrown into bold relief in Eastern Europe. Before the conquest of power by the Communists, the fight for ‘national independence’ was a patriotic duty; under this standard all men of goodwill could unite. After the conquest of power nationalism became a crime – for the simple reason that then nationalism must necessarily be the enemy of the new foreign master that had only too evidently replaced the old, and in a much more direct form.

This inner-party struggle revolving around the question of national independence comes out very plainly in the statement issued by the plenum of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party on 26-27 March 1949, when the case of Traicho Kostov was considered (Report in Rabotnichesko Delo, 5 April 1949). It is evident from this report that a factional struggle did in fact exist in the party. The plenum resolved: ‘To explain to the party organisation, and in the press, the relevant text of the party constitution concerning party discipline, and forbidding the creation of factions and conducting of factional activity in the party.’ Nothing human is alien to politics and without doubt personal antipathies and ambitions entered into the dispute, but the manner in which it developed and terminated shows that the individuals concerned were felt to express more than merely their own feelings and convictions; that is to say, were regarded as reflecting the pressure of nationalist sentiment in the country. In this first openly-revealed stage of the struggle Kostov is still referred to as ‘Comrade’; he is accused only of ‘crude political and anti-party mistakes’ (author’s emphasis) and nowhere is espionage, sabotage and wrecking mentioned. His attitude, especially on the question of ‘giving economic information to Soviet representatives’ was ‘insincere and unfriendly’; he tolerated ‘nationalist tendencies in the state apparatus and personally encouraged them by his incorrect anti-party orders’. As a result Kostov was relieved of his posts as Vice-President of the Council of Ministers and President of the Committee for Economic and Financial Affairs and also taken off the Politbureau. Still he was not arrested. Instead he was given the post of director of the national library. Here, too, the familiar technique of the GPU. Dimitrov was then still alive, although already in the Soviet Union for the cure from which he was not to return; his chance of recovery not considered very great, since Kolarov was already referred to by Sofia radio as President of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (in a domestic language broadcast – not subsequently repeated in the English-language broadcast). The possibility that Kostov felt he might enlist the support of his close friend Dimitrov is indicated by the following point from the statement of the Central Committee already quoted: ‘He did not refrain from attempting to hammer a wedge into the Bolshevik unity of the party and into its solidarity round our teacher and leader, Comrade Georgi Dimitrov.’ It appears that Dimitrov was not even aware of Kostov’s arrest later, since his last message to the Politbureau, in June, did not contain a word against Kostov.

At any rate it was not until after Dimitrov’s death that the stage was ready for Kostov’s trial. And then Kostov went and spoiled the whole show; he refused to adhere to the confession made during the preliminary investigation. He denied that he had been at any time a police spy or an agent of Western imperialism.

In seeking to defend the methods of the Mindszenty trial the Hungarian authorities replied to the charge that no defence was available to the Cardinal, by quoting The Times correspondent: ‘Mindszenty’s words were deliberate and clear.’ Kostov’s denial of his guilt was also deliberate and clear. But in the one case this was proof of the accused’s guilt, in the other it is – still proof of his guilt. By deliberately and clearly admitting the charges against him, Mindszenty proved the correctness of those charges; by doing the opposite Kostov ‘only confirmed the charges laid against him’ (Soviet Monitor, 11/135, p 2). Kostov ‘insolently [sic] denied the evidence written in his own hand during the investigation’ (ibid, p 1). Therefore he was guilty. Nothing could better bring out the position of the accused. ‘Heads, I win; tails you lose’, says the prosecution.

Kostov’s public refutation of the accusations and his withdrawal of the confession extorted from him during the preliminary investigation was a severe blow to the prosecution. This had not been anticipated. Since he at the last moment refused to play the role allotted him, the court put no more questions to him. Instead, the confession extracted behind the scenes was read in too; after which his ‘cross-examination’ – which had never really begun, since he refused at the outset to give the right answers – was ‘discontinued’, to quote the official report.

In his final plea Kostov stood firm. ‘I consider it the duty of my conscience to declare to the court and through it to Bulgarian public opinion’, he said, ‘that I have never been at the service of British intelligence, that I have never taken part in the criminal conspiratorial plans of Tito and his clique...’ The president interrupts him – ‘What do you want of the court?’ He attempts to resume, is again interrupted – ‘What do you want of the court?’ He finishes the sentence expressing his ‘respect and esteem for the Soviet Union’, and the president sharply calls on the next accused. What, indeed, did the author of the Bulgarian Communist Constitution, adopted in December 1947, want of the court? Justice?

The curtain falls, but the last act is played out behind it, hidden from the public gaze. Sentenced to death, Kostov pleads for mercy from his old comrades, ‘realising barely at the last moment the incorrectness’ of his conduct before the Supreme Court, ‘which was of a nature to inflict harm on the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and to stain its People’s Democratic Government’. In the darkness of the condemned cell he retreats from the position that an open court and the light of day gave him temporary courage to adopt, and once again confirms his ‘confession’. In vain. The appeal is rejected and his execution takes place the same day.

The authorities thought it advisable to publish Kostov’s last pleas for mercy in facsimile; so acutely aware were they that this tardy repentance must inevitably appear peculiar to say the least.

There was no more evidence against Kostov than there was against Rajk. Their real ‘crime’, however, lay in that they were considered capable of aspiring to follow in Tito’s footsteps, that is, of not wanting to take orders from the masters of their respective countries. For this they were judicially murdered. It is true that the actual evidence demonstrating their reluctance to take orders was extremely meagre. But, after Tito’s defection, the GPU could afford to take no chances. In sifting through the past records of all those holding responsible positions, the slightest hint of ‘deviationism’, the smallest suggestion of any reluctance to carry out without question the commands of those who rule from behind the scenes, any indication that in trade relationships with the Soviet Union it was possible to do more than simply accept what the Soviet Union offered, would stand out, in the light of Tito’s defection, like a hovel in a Potemkin village. Any further spread of Titoism would mean that some GPU chiefs would answer with their heads. It was better to take no chances. Moreover, a few victims in high places would serve to terrorise the Communist Parties of the satellite countries, forcibly demonstrate who was the real master and at the same time strengthen that mastery. The question of the guilt or innocence of the accused was of secondary importance. After the Tito affair it was absolutely imperative that some high-up Communist officials, the more prominent the better, be cut down pour décourager les autres.

This is not to say, of course, that none of those accused in these trials were guilty. One of the tricks of the Moscow Trial technique is to make an amalgam, throwing together disgraced Communists with avowed enemies of the regimes, adventurers and agents-provocateurs. It would not be difficult to discover in Eastern Europe plenty of people who by the nature of their former social position are bound to be inimical, if only in their thoughts, to the present regime. And where the most insignificant item relating to economy has become a state secret the limits within which a charge of ‘economic espionage’ can be laid against anyone might almost be stretched to include mentioning the passage of a cartload of turnips from field to market. The absence of any possibility of organising a legal opposition; the lack of any means, either within the ruling party or the country at large, through which dissenting opinion might find expression, necessarily tends to direct discontent with the regime into conspiratorial channels.

In this respect the new set-up differs from the old prewar set-up only in that it is more thoroughly totalitarian. The police methods employed are on a par with those of the prewar anti-democratic regimes, but more highly developed, more ‘refined’. However, it is here worth recalling two cases in proof of the fact that the less refined methods of torture have not been abandoned as a weapon of politics.

Wallace Harrison, an electrician, employed by the British Embassy in Budapest, was picked up on July 1949 by the Hungarian secret police and driven to an unknown destination, where he was subjected to a four-hour grilling in an effort to force him to produce a list of ‘traitors’. During the course of this grilling an Hungarian woman friend of his, a Mrs Torbagyi, was brought in in a fainting condition. Photographs of this friend of his, showing her in an ‘extremely distressed and exhausted condition’, were also put before him in an effort to influence him. He was released after being given a time limit in which to produce the required ‘evidence’ and warned that it would be the worse for his friend if he said anything about this outside.

From the statement (dated 29 November 1946) of Peter Koev, Bulgarian deputy detained by the secret police for more than ninety days without any official explanation being given, we quote the following:

For two days after my arrest I was confined to a small dark cell and given no food whatever. On the third day I was taken to the office of the Chief of the Department of State Security. There I met Ganev, the chief of Department and the militia inspector, Zeev... On the twenty-second day, a Saturday, at eight o’clock in the morning, I was taken up to the fourth floor for the second interrogation. It lasted without a break until eleven o’clock of the following Thursday morning... During all this time I was left standing, without any sleep, without any bread and, what is worse, without any water. I was handcuffed and was not allowed to lean either on the wall or on the table... On the fifth day I collapsed...

This statement was read out in the Bulgarian Parliament by Nicholas Petkov, the Agrarian leader, on 3 December 1946. Petkov was later put on trial, found guilty (although they could not make him plead guilty), and hanged. Koev was also tried and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.

These incidents – and there are other, similar cases – afford us a brief but illuminating glimpse into the means by which the so-called People’s Democracies are governed. And these countries are held up to the admiration of the world by the Communist Parties and their fellow-travellers. Every criticism of Yugoslavia’s lack of democracy, its police terror, etc, made by the satellite states, applies with double force to themselves. In Yugoslavia there at least exists the possibility of progress in the direction of an organic development of democratic ideas and ideals, but in the People’s Democracies the GPU is not merely a means to an end but an end in itself. Part and parcel of the bureaucratic dictatorship of the Soviet Union, of which it is the sword and the shield, the GPU well knows that its greatest enemy is a people independent, politically conscious, capable of organising itself and advancing its own leaders. On a vast scale, with all the resources of a powerful state at its disposal, utilising the juridical apparatus of the countries concerned, it today carries out the work of political assassination without let or hindrance in the newly acquired colonies of the Soviet Union. The trials in Eastern Europe are one with the Moscow Trials; the same mafia of international assassins who operated on a world scale before the war, continue their work today, though, for the time being, they perpetrate their kidnappings and murders only in Eastern Europe, Austria and Germany.


1. Up to the time of writing, Gomułka was still reported as not under arrest. It is hardly likely, however, that his ‘disgrace’ is not the first stage down the path to destruction. A public trial will depend on both his ‘cooperation’ and internal propaganda needs.

2. Those acquainted with the work of Stalinist-dominated refugee committees – particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland, where the Fields also worked – know how the Communists used their influence to hinder anti-Communist political refugees, even denouncing them as ‘Gestapo agents’.

3. What the Soviet Government today denounces as ‘cosmopolitanism’ is in reality the spirit of internationalism.