Joseph Hansen

Kremlin Prosecutors at Nuremburg
Come to Court with Unclean Hands

(8 June 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. X No. 23, 8 June 1946, p. 7.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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(Third of a series of articles)

Among the shocking atrocities charged against the Nazi prisoners at Nuremburg [sic!] is the levelling of Lidice. This tiny Czechoslovakian village, claimed the Nazis, “gave shelter and assisted” the underground fighters who had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, one of Hitler’s brutal lieutenants. In retaliation, the Nazis murdered all the men, sentenced the women to the unspeakable horrors of the concentration camps, and then razed the town.

The Nuremburg [sic!] prosecutors and judges, however, do not come to the trial with clean hands. Stalin’s lieutenants, for instance, are guilty of countless bloody crimes against the Russian people. One crime in particular resembles the Nazi atrocity at Lidice, differing only In its far greater ramifications and number of victims. That crime was Stalin’s retaliation for the assassination of Kirov.

Before December 1, 1934, Kirov had gained notoriety in the Soviet Union as one of the bureaucrats lifted overnight from obscurity to high office by the dictator in the Kremlin. Kirov’s territory was the Leningrad area, just as Heydrich’s territory at a later date included Lidice. But outside the Soviet Union he was completely unknown.

Kirov Killed

On December 1, 1934, somewhere in the Communist Party headquarters in Leningrad, a young Communist named Nicolayev levelled a gun on Kirov and killed him. The name of the unknown bureaucrat leaped into world prominence.

The circumstances surrounding this terrorist act remain obscured in the heavy murk of Stalinist censorship. A persistent rumor claims that Stalin himself rushed to Leningrad to direct the questioning of the unfortunate youth as he writhed day after day under frightful torture.

Moscow’s first official proclamation laid the blame for the assassination on “White Guards” – followers of the former Czarist regime – who were alleged to have eluded the border patrols and entered the USSR from Poland, Rumania and other border states. During the next two weeks the Moscow press revealed that 104 such “White Guards” had been summarily executed. The real identity of these victims has been kept a top secret by the Kremlin bureaucracy to this day. Their part in the assassination – if any – was never explained. They were never given a trial nor permitted to defend themselves. It is only known that they had been placed under arrest some time before, were in prison at the time of the assassination of Kirov, and were dragged from their cells to face the firing squads.

Secret Trial

On December 28–29, 1934, the trial of Nikolayev and 13 other unknown youths accused with him, was held in air-tight secrecy. The press was barred from the trial. A diary kept by Nikolayev for two years was destroyed or filed away in Stalin’s secret archives. The letter found on Nikolayev by the GPU, setting down the motives of his act, was likewise kept from the public.

According to one report, which the Kremlin never attempted to refute, “Almost all the accused denied the crimes with which they were charged; denied, too, the evidence attributed to them, and spoke of the pressure brought to bear upon them during the investigation.” Nevertheless all of them were shot within an hour after the close of the “trial”.

The real causes of Nikolayev’s act remained a somber mystery. One hypothesis held that Kirov had seduced Nikolayev’s beautiful young wife. A more plausible explanation pointed to terrorists moods growing among the Soviet youth because of the stifling totalitarian atmosphere. The exact identity of Nlkolayev was never made clear. Was he part of Kirov’s bodyguard?

Even the details of the shooting were kept hidden. Small wonder suspicion grew that Nikolayev was a pawn in some perfidious GPU plot. What was Stalin trying to hide? Did Stalin himself set in motion the mechanism that ended in Kirov’s death?

Frame-up ‘Confession’

Among the extracts of the indictment released by Moscow on December 28, 1934, it was alleged Nikolayev had “confessed” be was paid 5,000 rubles by an unnamed consul for “expenses”. Nikolayev was alleged to have added: “He told me that be can establish contact with Trotsky, if I give him a letter to Trotsky from the group.”

On the basis of this press release, Leon Trotsky from his exile in France charged bn December 30, 1934, that “the GPU itself, through the medium of an actual or fake consul, was financing Nikolayev and was attempting to link him up with Trotsky.”

Trotsky’s charge received swift confirmation. A trial even more secret than the one given Nikolayev was staged on January 23, 1935, for the 12 leading GPU functionaries In Leningrad. The indictment admitted that the chief, Medved, and his collaborators had advance “information about the preparation of the assassination, of Kirov.” The verdict declared that they “took no measures for the timely exposure and prevention” of the work of the terrorist group, “although they had every possibility of so doing.” These admissions proved organization of a frame-up against Trotsky – a frame-up that required a terrorist attempt on Kirov. Nikolayev, however, had departed from plan in killing Kirov, thus throwing a wrench in the frame-up machinery.

All the accused Leningrad GPU agents were condemned to from two to ten years at hard labor. Stalin thus took revenge for a bungled job and at the same time removed these witnesses from the scene of the crime. They never showed up again.

There was one more witness – the unnamed consul. The entire diplomatic corps protested the foul cloud of suspicion hanging over them and thus Stalin was forced to name the consul. On January 10, 1935, Rundschau, official organ of the Comintern, announced:

“The Lettish government is also one of the most active initiators of the assassination of our comrade Kirov. It has been proved that the Lettish Consul in Leningrad, Bisseneck, was in contact with the assassin Nikolayev and aided him in preparing the assassination with 5,000 rubles. Bisseneck also took over the letter-writing contact of the Nikolayev people with Trotsky.”

Never Produced

These alleged letters, naturally, were never produced. They couldn’t be, for they were never written. Bisseneck was recalled to Latvia and disappeared without a trace. Trotsky labelled him “an obvious agent of the GPU.”

All these contradictory versions of the moving force behind the assassination together with the growing mound of corpses only served to cast a more glaring light on the sinister role of Stalin in Kirov’s death. But this did not deter the Kremlin monster from advancing still another version and standing more victims against the wall. Like the assassinated Heydrich, Kirov’s blood demanded vengeance!

Stalin ordered the arrest of the leaders of the former Zinoviev faction. On December 22, 1934, Tass agency admitted there was not “sufficient basis for turning over to the court” the seven leading members. But less prominent members, under threat of death, denounced Zinoviev, Kamenev and others for “counter-revolutionary activity.” By that they meant, criticism, dissatisfaction, grumbling over Stalin’s policies.

In the light of this denunciation, Zinoviev, Kamenev and the others made an utterly fantastic “confession” of “moral” responsibility for the terrorist act.

“At this price,” declared Trotsky, “Zinoviev and Kamenev (temporarily!) bought themselves off from the charge of direct participation in the assassination of Kirov.”

Thousands Arrested

On January 18, 1935, these men, former comrades of Lenin, were sentenced together with many of their friends to terms ranging from five to ten years imprisonment. Between 2,000 and 3,000 of their former followers throughout the Soviet Union were arrested and hundreds sent to concentration camps or deported.

On top of this, hundreds of genuine Trotskyists who had suffered since 1928 in Stalin’s foul prisons, were again sentenced without trial to five year terms.

But monstrous as were these crimes of Stalin. They were only the beginning. Kirov’s death proved the pretext for the most frightful purges in all history.

Victor Serge, a revolutionary who escaped from the Soviet Union, gives an account of how after the Kirov assassination “thirty, fifty, perhaps a hundred thousand” persons were deported from Leningrad:

“Citizens who are not the object of a single charge are sent to the concentration camps by the thousands. The decrees of the GPU simply say: ‘... is considered socially dangerous and is interned for three (or five) years.’ ... As a rule, they are not former servitors of the old regime, but engineers, scholars, artists, functionaries, workers, in a word, collaborators of the new regime. Whole families leave, with the sick, the invalids, the pregnant woman, the dying. The dying die on the railroads, the pregnant women give birth in the stations.”

An eye witness of Stalin’s retaliatory measures in Leningrad is quoted by Serge:

“Last March and April (1935), I witnessed the arrest in Leningrad, followed by deportations en masse; the total number of the deported, counting their families, must have come close to a hundred thousand ... The railroad stations were bottled up for two weeks.”

Eye Witness Story

These tragic scenes were duplicated throughout the Soviet Union as Stalin carried forward his monstrous retaliation for the death of Kirov. The horror of Hitler’s reprisal at Lidice for the death of Heydrich sinks into insignificance compared to the horror Stalin unleashed upon all of Soviet Russia.

(To be continued)


Last updated on: 22 December 2018