Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Karl Marx 1853
During the sitting on October 23, the Presiding judge announced: “Police Superintendent Stieber has indicated to me that he has to make important new depositions” and for that purpose he called this witness back into the box. Up jumped Stieber and the performance began.
Hitherto Stieber had described the activities of the Willich-Schapper party, or more briefly, the Cherval party, activities that took place both before and after the arrest of the accused in Cologne. He said nothing about the accused themselves either before or after their arrest. The Cherval plot took place after their arrest and Stieber now declared:
“In my earlier testimony I described the development of the Communist League and the activities of its members only up to the time when the men now accused were arrested.”
Thus he admitted that the Cherval plot had nothing to do with “the development of the Communist League and the activities of its members”. He confessed to the nullity of his previous testimony. Indeed, he was so complacent about his statements on October 18 that he regarded it as quite superfluous to continue to identify Cherval with the “Marx party”.
“Firstly,” he said, “the Willich group still exists and of its members hitherto only Cherval in Paris has been seized, etc.”
Aha! So the ringleader Cherval is a leader of the Willich group.
But now Stieber wished to make some most important announcements, not merely the very latest announcements that is, but the most important ones. The very latest and most important ones! These most important announcements would lose some of their significance if the insignificance of his earlier announcements were not emphasised. Up to now, Stieber declared, I have not really said anything, but now the time has come. Pay attention! Hitherto I have talked about the Cherval party, which is hostile to the accused, and strictly speaking, none of that has been in place here. But now I shall discuss the “Marx party”, and this trial is concerned exclusively with the Marx party. But Stieber could not put the matter as plainly as this. So he says:
“Up to now I have described the Communist League before the arrest of the accused; I shall now describe the League after their arrest.”
With characteristic virtuosity he manages to convert even mere rhetorical phrases into perjury.
After the arrest of the accused in Cologne Marx formed a new central authority.
“This emerges from the statement of a police agent whom the late Chief of Police Schulz had managed to smuggle unrecognised into the London League and into the immediate proximity of Marx.”
The new central authority kept a minute-book and this, the “original minute-book”, was now in Stieber’s possession. Horrifying machinations in the Rhine provinces, in Cologne and even in the courtroom itself, all this is proved by the original minute-book. It contains, proof that the accused had maintained an uninterrupted correspondence with Marx through the very walls of the prison. In a word, if the Dietz archive was the Old Testament, the original minute-book is the New Testament. The Old Testament was wrapped in stout oil-cloth, but the New Testament is bound in a sinister red morocco leather. Now the red morocco is indeed a demonstratio ad oculos, but people today are even more sceptical than in Thomas’ time; they do not even believe what they see with their own eyes. Who still believes in Testaments, let them be Old or New, now that the religion of the Mormons has been invented? But Stieber, who is not wholly unsympathetic to Mormonism, has foreseen even this.
“It might be objected,” Stieber the Mormon observed, “that these are nothing but the tales of contemptible police agents but,” Stieber swore, “I have complete proofs of the veracity and reliability of their reports.”
Just listen to that! Proofs of their veracity and proofs of their reliability? and complete proofs at that. Complete proofs! And what are these proofs?
Stieber had long known
“that a secret correspondence existed between Marx and the accused men in the gaol, but had been unable to track it down. Then on the previous Sunday a special courier from London arrived bringing me the news that we had finally managed to discover the secret address from which the correspondence had been conducted. It was the address of D. Kothes, a businessman in the Old Market here. The same courier brought me the original minute-book used by the London Central Authority which had been procured from a member of the League for money.”
Stieber then communicated with Chief of Police Geiger and the postal authorities.
“The necessary precautionary measures were taken and after no more than two days the evening post from London brought with it a letter addressed to Kothes. On the instructions of the Chief Public Prosecutor the letter was detained and opened and in it was found a seven-page-long briefing for Schneider II, the Counsel for the Defence, in Marx’s own handwriting. It indicated the method of defence that Counsel should adopt.... On the reverse side of the letter there was a large Latin B. The letter was copied and an easily detachable piece of the original was retained together with the original envelope. The letter was then put into a new envelope, sealed and given to a police officer from another town with the order that he should go to Kothes, and introduce himself as an emissary from Marx,” etc.
Stieber then narrated the rest of the disgusting farce enacted by the police, about how the police officer from another town had pretended to be an emissary from Marx, etc. Kothes was arrested on October 18 and after 24 hours he declared that the B on the inside of the letter stood for Bermbach. On October 19 Bermbach was arrested and his house searched. On October 21 Kothes and Bermbach were released.
Stieber gave this evidence on Saturday, October 23. “The previous Sunday”, that is Sunday, October 17, was allegedly the day the special courier arrived with Kothes’ address and the original minute-book and two days after the courier, the letter arrived for Kothes, that is on October 19. But Kothes had already been arrested on October 18 because of the letter the police officer from another town had brought him on October 17. The letter to Kothes, therefore, arrived two days before the courier with Kothes’ address, that is Kothes was arrested on October 18 for a letter that he did not receive until October 19. A chronological miracle?
Later, having been worried by Counsel, Stieber declared that the courier with Kothes’ address and the original minute-book arrived on October 10. Why on October 10? Because October 10 happened to be likewise a Sunday and on October 23 it too would be a “previous” Sunday and in this way the original statement about the previous Sunday could be sustained and to this extent the perjury could be concealed. In that event, however, the letter did not arrive two days but a whole week after the courier. The perjury now fell on the letter rather than on the courier. Stieber’s oath is like Luther’s peasant. If you help him to mount the horse from one side he falls down on the other.
And finally during the sitting of November 3 Police Lieutenant Goldheim of Berlin declared that Police Lieutenant Greif of London had delivered the minute-book to Stieber on October 11, that is to say on a Monday, in his presence and that of Chief of Police Wermuth. Goldheim’s statement therefore makes Stieber guilty of perjury twice over.
As the original envelope with the London postmark shows, Marx posted the letter to Kothes on Thursday, October 14. So the letter should have arrived on Friday evening, October 15. For a courier to deliver Kothes’ address and the original minute-book two days before the letter arrived, he must have come on Wednesday, October 13. He could not arrive on October 17th, nor on the 10th nor on the 11th.
Greif, in his role of courier, did indeed bring Stieber his original minute-book from London. Stieber was as well aware as his crony Greif of the real significance of this book. He hesitated therefore to produce it in court for this time it was not a matter of statements taken behind prison bars in Mazas. Then came the letter from Marx. It was a godsend for Stieber. Kothes is a mere address, for the contents of the letter were not intended for Kothes but for the Latin B on the back of the enclosed sealed letter. Kothes is therefore nothing but an address. Let us suppose he is a secret address. Let us suppose further he is the secret address through which Marx communicates with the accused in Cologne. Let us suppose lastly that our London agents had sent by the same courier at the same time both the original minute-book and this secret address but that the letter arrived two days after the courier, the address and the minute-book. In this way we kill two birds with one stone. Firstly we have proof of the secret correspondence with Marx and secondly we prove that the original minute-book is authentic. The authenticity of the minute-book is shown by the correctness of the address, the correctness of the address is shown by the letter. The veracity and reliability of our agents is shown by the address and the letter, the authenticity of the minute-book is shown by the veracity and reliability of our agents. Quod erat demonstrandum. Then comes the merry comedy with the police official from another town and then come the mysterious arrests. Public, jurymen and even the accused, all stand thunderstruck.
But why did not Stieber let his special courier arrive on October 13, which would have been quite easy for him? Because in that case he would not have been special, because, as we have seen, chronology was not his strong point and the common calendar is beneath the dignity of a Prussian police superintendent. Moreover, he kept the original envelope; so who would be able to unravel the affair?
But giving his evidence, Stieber compromised himself from the outset by the omission of one fact. If his agents knew of Kothes’ address they would also know to whom the mysterious B referred on the reverse of the inside letter. Stieber was so little initiated into the mysteries of the Latin B that on October 17 he had Becker searched in gaol in the hope of finding the letter from Marx on him. He only learnt from Kothes’ statement that the B stood for Bermbach.
But how did Marx’s letter fall into the hands of the Prussian government? Very simply. The Prussian government regularly opens the letters entrusted to its postal service and during the trial in Cologne it did this with particular assiduity. In Aachen and Frankfurt am Main they could tell some pretty stories about it. It was a pure chance whether a letter would slip through or not.
When the story about the original courier collapsed, the one about the original minute-book had to share its fate. Naturally, Stieber did not yet suspect this in the sitting on October 23 when he triumphantly revealed the contents of the New Testament, that is the red book. The immediate effect of his statement was the re-arrest of Bermbach, who was present at the trial as a witness.
Why was Bermbach re-arrested?
Because of the papers found on him? No, for after his house had been searched he was released again. He was arrested 24 hours after Kothes. Therefore if he had had incriminating documents they would certainly have disappeared by then. Why then was witness Bermbach arrested, when the witnesses Hentze, Hätzel, Steingens, who had been shown to be accomplices or members of the league, still sat unmolested on the witness bench?
Bermbach had received a letter from Marx which contained a mere criticism of the indictment and nothing else besides. This Stieber admitted since the letter was there for the jury to see. But he couched the admission in his hyperbolic policeman’s manner thus: “Marx himself exercises an uninterrupted influence on the present case from London.” And the jury might well ask themselves, as Guizot asked his voters: Est-ce que vous vous sentez corrompus? What then was the reason for Bermbach’s arrest? From the beginning of the inquiry the Prussian Government as a matter of principle strove consistently to deprive the accused of all means of defence. In direct contradiction to the law, defence counsel, as they announced in open court, were refused access to the accused even after presentation of the bill of indictment. On his own testimony Stieber had been in possession of the Dietz archive ever since August 5, 1851. But the Dietz archive was not appended to the indictment. Not until October 18, 1852, was it produced in the middle of a public hearing — and only so much of it was produced as Stieber thought politic. The jury, the accused and the public were all to be caught off their guard and taken by surprise; defence counsel were to stand by helplessly in the face of the surprise prepared by the police.
And even more so after the presentation of the original minute-book! The Prussian Government trembled at the thought of revelations. Bermbach however had received material for the defence from Marx and it could be foreseen that he would receive information about the minute-book. His arrest denoted the proclamation of a new crime, that of corresponding with Marx, and the punishment for this crime was imprisonment. That was intended to deter every Prussian citizen from permitting his address to be used. A bon entendeur demi mot. Bermbach was locked up so that evidence for the defence might be locked out. And Bermbach remained in gaol for five weeks. For if they had released him immediately after the case was concluded the Prussian courts would have publicly proclaimed their docile subservience to the Prussian police. So Bermbach remained in gaol, ad majorem gloriam of the Prussian judiciary.
Stieber swore on oath that
“after the arrest of the accused in Cologne, Marx joined together the ruins of his party in London and formed a new central authority with about eighteen people,” etc.
The ruins had never come apart for they were so joined together that they had formed a private society ever since September 1850. But at a word from Stieber they promptly vanished only to be revived by another command from Stieber after the arrest of the accused in Cologne and this time they appear in the form of a new central authority.
On Monday, October 25, the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with an account of Stieber’s testimony of October 23.
The “Marx party” had neither formed a new central authority nor kept minutes of its meetings. They guessed at once who had been the chief manufacturer of the New Testament — Wilhelm Hirsch from Hamburg.
Early in December 1851 Hirsch appeared at the “Marx society” saying he was a communist refugee. Simultaneously, letters arrived from Hamburg denouncing him as a spy. But it was decided to allow him to remain in the society for the time being and watch him with a view to procuring proof of his innocence or guilt. At the meeting on January 15, 1852, a letter from Cologne was read aloud in which a friend of Marx referred to another postponement of the trial and to the difficulty experienced even by relatives in gaining access to the accused. On this occasion mention was made of Frau Dr. Daniels. People were struck by the fact that Hirsch was not seen again after this meeting either in anyone’s “immediate proximity” or at a distance. On February 2, 1852, Marx was notified from Cologne that Frau Dr. Daniels’ house had been searched as the result of a police denunciation which claimed that a letter from Frau Daniels to Marx had been read out in the communist society in London and that Marx had been instructed to write back to her telling her that he was busy reorganising the League in Germany, etc. This denunciation literally fills the first page of the original minute-book.
Marx replied by return of post that as Frau Daniels had never written to him he could not possibly have read out a letter from her; the whole denunciation had been invented by a certain Hirsch, a dissolute young man who had no objection to supplying the Prussian police with as many lies as they had a mind to pay for in cash.
Since January 15 Hirsch had disappeared from the meetings; he was now formally expelled from the society. At the same time it was resolved to change the time and place of the meetings. Hitherto, meetings had taken place on Thursdays on premises belonging to J. W. Masters, Markethouse, in Farringdon Street, City. From now on it was agreed that the society would meet on Wednesdays in the Rose and Crown Tavern, Crown Street, Soho. Hirsch, whom “Chief of Police Schulz had managed to smuggle unrecognised into the immediate proximity of Marx”, despite his “proximity” was unaware even eight months later of the place and day of the meetings. Both before and after February he persisted in manufacturing his “original minute-book” on a Thursday and dating the meetings on Thursdays. If the Kölnische Zeitung is consulted the following can be found: Minutes of January 15 (Thursday), likewise January 29 (Thursday), and March 4 (Thursday), and May 13 (Thursday), and May 20 (Thursday), and July 22 (Thursday), and July 29 (Thursday), and September 23 (Thursday), and September 30 (Thursday).
The landlord of the Rose and Crown Tavern made a declaration before the magistrate in Marlborough Street to the effect that “Dr. Marx’s circle” had met in his tavern every Wednesday since February 1852. Liebknecht and Rings, whom Hirsch had named as the secretaries for his original minute-book, had their signatures witnessed by the same magistrate. And finally, the minutes Hirsch had kept in Stechan’s Workers’ Society were obtained so that his handwriting might be compared with that in the original minute-book.
In this way the spurious nature of the original minute-book was demonstrated without it being necessary to embark upon a criticism of the contents which their own contradictions caused to disintegrate.
The real difficulty was how to send these documents to Counsel. The Prussian Post was merely an outpost, situated between the Prussian frontier and Cologne, and designed to frustrate the passage of munitions to the defence.
It was necessary to use roundabout ways and so the first documents, despatched on October 25, arrived in Cologne only on October 30.
Counsel were at first forced to make do with the very meagre resources that lay at hand in Cologne. The first blow against Stieber came from a direction he had not foreseen. Frau Dr. Daniels’ father Müller, a King’s Counsel and a man in high repute as a legal expert and well known for his conservative views, declared in the Könische Zeitung on October 26 that his daughter had never corresponded with Marx and that Stieber’s original book was a piece of “mystification”. The letter Marx had sent to Cologne on February 3, 1852, in which Hirsch was alluded to as a spy and a manufacturer of false police notices, was found by chance and put at the disposal of the defence. In the “Marx party’s” notice of resignation from the Great Windmill Street Society which was included in the Dietz archive, a genuine specimen of W. Liebknecht’s handwriting was discovered. Lastly, Schneider II, Counsel for the Defence, obtained some genuine letters by Liebknecht from Birnbaum, the secretary of the Council for Poor-Relief in Cologne, and genuine letters by Rings from a private secretary called Schmitz. At the offices of the court Counsel compared the minute-book with Liebknecht’s handwriting in the notice of resignation and also with letters by Rings and Liebknecht.
Stieber, who was already alarmed by the declaration of Müller, King’s Counsel, now heard of these ominous handwriting investigations. To forestall the imminent blow he again leaped up in court during the sitting on October 27, and declared that
“the fact that Liebknecht’s signature in the minute-book differed greatly from a signature that already was in the dossier had seemed very suspicious to him. He had therefore made further inquiries and had learnt that the signatory in the minute-book in question was H. Liebknecht whereas the name in the dossier was preceded by the initial W.”
When Counsel, Schneider II, asked him: “Who informed you that an H. Liebknecht also exists?”, Stieber refused to answer. Schneider II then asked for further information about Rings and Ulmer who appear together with Liebknecht as secretaries in the minute-book. Stieber smelt a new trap. He ignored the question three times, and tried to conceal his embarrassment and to regain his composure by recounting three times and for no reason how the minute-book had come into his possession. At last he stammered: The names Rings and Ulmer are probably not real names at all but only “League names”. Stieber explained the frequent mention in the minute-book of Frau Dr. Daniels as a correspondent of Marx by surmising that perhaps the young notary Bermbach was really meant, when the book said Frau Dr. Daniels. Counsel, von Hontheim, questioned him about Hirsch.
“He did not know this man Hirsch either,” Stieber swore. “Contrary to rumour however it is obvious that he is not a Prussian agent if only because the Prussian police are on the lookout for him.”
At a signal from Stieber Goldheim buzzed into view and said that
“in October 1851 he was sent to Hamburg in order to apprehend Hirsch”.
We shall see how the very same Goldheim was sent to London on the following day to apprehend the very same Hirsch. So the very same Stieber who claimed that he had bought the Dietz archive and the original minute-book from refugees for cash, that same Stieber now asserts that Hirsch cannot be a Prussian agent because he is a refugee! You have only to be a refugee and Stieber will guarantee your absolute venality or absolute incorruptibility, just as it suits his book. And is not Fleury likewise a political refugee, the same Fleury whom Stieber denounced as a police agent in the sitting on November 3?
When the defences of his original minute-book had been breached on every side, Stieber summed up the situation on October 27 with a classical display of impudence, stating that
“his belief in the authenticity of the minute-book is firmer than ever”.
At the sitting of October 29 an expert compared the letters of Liebknecht and Rings, which had been submitted by Birnbaum and Schmitz, with the minute-book and declared the signatures in the latter to be false.
The Chief Public Prosecutor, Seckendorf, said in his speech:
“The information contained in the minute-book coincides with facts derived from other sources. But the prosecution is quite unable to prove the book’s authenticity.”
The book is authentic, but its authenticity cannot be proved. The New Testament! Seckendorf continued:
“But the defence has itself shown that at least the book contains much that is true, for example it gives us information about the activities of Rings, who is mentioned there, activities about which no one knew anything before.”
If no one knew anything about Rings’ activities before, the minute-book does not provide any information about it either. Therefore the statements about Rings’ activities could not confirm the truth of the minute-book’s contents and as regards its form they demonstrated that the signature of a member of the “Marx party” was in truth false, and had been forged. They proved then, according to Seckendorf, that “at least the book contains much that is true” — i.e. a true forgery. The Chief Public Prosecutors (Saedt-Seckendorf) and the postal authorities had together with Stieber opened the letter to Kothes. Therefore they knew the date of its arrival. Therefore they knew that Stieber committed perjury when he caused the courier to arrive at first on October 17 and, later, on the 10th, and the letter first on October 19 and then on the 12th. They were his accomplices.
At the sitting on October 27 Stieber tried in vain to preserve a calm appearance. He feared that any day the incriminating documents might arrive from London. Stieber felt ill at ease and the Prussian state, incarnate in him, felt ill at ease too. The public exposure had reached a dangerous stage. So Police Lieutenant Goldheim was sent to London on October 28 to save the fatherland. What did Goldheim do in London? Aided by Greif and Fleury, he attempted to persuade Hirsch to go to Cologne and, under the name of H. Liebknecht, to swear to the authenticity of the minute-book. Hirsch was offered a real state pension, but Hirsch’s policeman’s instincts were as good as Goldheim’s. Hirsch knew that he was neither Public Prosecutor nor Police Lieutenant, nor Police Superintendent, and therefore had not the privilege of committing perjury with impunity. His instincts told him that he would be dropped as soon as things began to go wrong. Hirsch did not want to become a goat, and least of all a scapegoat. Hirsch flatly refused. But the Christian-Germanic government of Prussia won lasting fame for having attempted to bribe a man to bear false witness in the course of criminal proceedings in which the heads of its own citizens were at stake.
Goldheim thus returned to Cologne without having achieved his object.
In the sitting on November 3, when the prosecutor had concluded his address and before Counsel for the defence could commence his, Stieber, caught between the two, leaped once again into the breach swearing that
“he had now ordered further research into the minute-book. He had sent Police Lieutenant Goldheim from Cologne to London to pursue the inquiry there. Goldheim left on October 28 and returned on November 2. Here is Goldheim.”
At a signal from his master Goldheim buzzed into view and swore that
“on arriving in London he went first to Police Lieutenant Greif who took him to police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington for it was Fleury from whom Greif had obtained the book. Fleury admitted as much to him, the witness Goldheim, and asserted that he had really received the book from a member of the Marx party called H. Liebknecht. Fleury definitely recognised the receipt H. Liebknecht had given him for the money he had received for the book. Goldheim was not able to catch hold of Liebknecht himself in London because he was, according to Fleury, afraid to appear in public. During his stay in London witness became convinced that, a few errors apart, the content of the book was entirely genuine. Reliable agents who had been present at Marx’s meetings had confirmed this to him. The book itself however was not the original minute-book but only a notebook on the proceedings at Marx’s meetings. There are only two possible explanations for the admittedly still rather obscure origin of the book. Either, as the agent insists, it really emanates from Liebknecht, who has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting in order that there should be no proof of his treachery; or the agent Fleury obtained the notes for the book from Dronke and Imandt, two other émigré friends of Marx, and put them in the form of an original minute-book in order to increase the value of his commodity. Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.... The witness Goldheim asserts his stay in London has convinced him that everything that had been said previously about secret meetings in Marx’s home, about the contacts between London and Cologne and about the secret correspondence, etc., was true in every particular. As evidence of how well informed the Prussian agents in London were even today, he would inform the Court that a completely secret meeting took place in Marx’s house on October 27 to discuss what steps should be taken to counteract the minute-book and above all the activities of Police Superintendent Stieber, who was a thorn in the side of the London Party. The relevant decisions and documents were sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II. In particular, among the papers sent to Schneider II was a private letter that Stieber himself wrote to Marx in Cologne in 1848 and that Marx had hitherto kept very secret in the hope that it might be used to compromise the witness Stieber.”
Witness Stieber leaped up and declared that he had written to Marx about an infamous slander, and had threatened to sue him, etc.
“No one but Marx and he could know this and this was indeed the strongest proof of the accuracy of the information from London.”
So according to Goldheim the original minute-book is “entirely genuine”, apart from the false parts. What convinced him of its authenticity is in particular the circumstance that the original minute-book is no original minute-book but only a “notebook”. And Stieber? Stieber was by no means thunderstruck; on the contrary a great weight had been lifted from his mind. At the very last moment, when the sound of the prosecutor’s last words had hardly faded away and before the first word of the defence had been uttered, Stieber managed with the aid of his Goldheim quickly to transform the original minute-book into a notebook. When two policemen accuse each other of lying, does that not prove that they are both addicted to telling the truth? Through Goldheim Stieber was able to cover his retreat.
Goldheim testified that “on arriving in London he went first to Police Lieutenant Greif,who took him to police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington”. Now who would not swear on oath that poor Goldheim and Police Lieutenant Greif must have worn themselves out walking or driving to Fleury’s house in the remote borough of Kensington? But Police Lieutenant Greif lives in the same house as police agent Fleury, in fact he lives on the top floor of Fleury’s house, so that in reality it was not Greif who took Goldheim to Fleury, but Fleury who took Goldheim to Greif.
“Police agent Fleury in the borough of Kensington!” What precision! Can you still doubt the truthfulness of a Prussian government that denounces its own spies, gives their name and address and every detail, body and soul? If the minute-book is false you can still rely on “police agent Fleury in Kensington”. Yes, indeed. On private secretary Pierre in the 13th arrondissement. If you wish to specify a person you must give his Christian name as well as his surname. Not Fleury but Charles Fleury. And you must also name the profession that he practises in public, and not his clandestine activities. So it is Charles Fleury, a businessman not Fleury, the police agent. And when you state his address you do not merely name a London borough, a town in itself, but you give the borough, the street and the number of the house. So it is not police agent Fleury in Kensington but Charles Fleury, a businessman, 17 Victoria Road, Kensington.
But “Police Lieutenant Greif”, that at any rate is frankly spoken! But when Police Lieutenant Greif attaches himself to the embassy in London and the Lieutenant turns into an attaché that of course is an attachment of no concern to the courts. The heart’s desire is the voice of fate.
So Police Lieutenant Goldheim asserts that police agent Fleury asserted that he had the book from a man who really asserted that he was H. Liebknecht and who had even given a receipt to Fleury. The only drawback is that Goldheim was unable “to catch hold of” the said H. Liebknecht in London. So Goldheim could have stayed quietly in Cologne for Police Superintendent Stieber’s assertion does not look any healthier for the fact that it appears as an assertion of Police Lieutenant Goldheim’s, which had been asserted by Police Lieutenant Greif, for whom in his turn police agent Fleury had done the favour of agreeing to assert his assertion.
Goldheim’s London experiences were hardly encouraging but, undeterred and with the aid of his considerable faculty for convincing himself (which in his case must do duty for the faculty of reasoning), he convinced himself “completely” that “everything” that Stieber had affirmed on oath concerning the “Marx party”, about its contacts in Cologne, etc., was “all true in every particular”. And now that Goldheim, his junior official, has issued him with a testimonium paupertatis, surely Police Superintendent Stieber is fully covered now? Stieber’s method of swearing has at least one achievement to its credit: he has turned the whole Prussian hierarchy upside down. You don’t believe the Police Superintendent? Very well. He has compromised himself. But surely you will believe the Police Lieutenant? You don’t believe him either? Better still. Then you have no other choice than to believe at least the police agent alias mouchardus vulgaris. Such is the heretical conceptual confusion that our swearing Stieber has created.
Goldheim proved that in London he had established the non-existence of the original minute-book, and as for the existence of H. Liebknecht that he was unable “to catch hold” of it in London, and it was precisely this that convinced him that “all” Stieber’s statements about the “Marx party” “were true in every particular”. In addition to these negative proofs, which in Seckendorf’s view contained “much that was true”, he had in the end to produce the positive proof of “how well informed the Prussian agents in London were even today”. As evidence of this he mentions that on October 27 there had been a “completely secret meeting in Marx’s house”. In this completely secret meeting steps were discussed to counteract the minute-book and Police Superintendent Stieber, that “thorn in their side”. The relevant orders and decisions were “sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II”.
Although the Prussian agents were present at these meetings the route taken by these letters remained so “completely secret” that all the efforts of the postal authorities to intercept them were in vain. Listen to the cricket chirping sadly from among the ageing and venerable ruins: “The relevant letters and documents were sent in complete secrecy to the lawyer, Schneider II.” Completely secret for Goldheim’s secret agents.
The imaginary decisions about the minute-book cannot have been made at the completely secret meeting in Marx’s house on October 27 for already on October 25 Marx had sent the chief reports about the spurious nature of the minute-book not indeed to Schneider II, but to Herr von Hontheim.
It was not merely the bad conscience of the police that gave them the idea that documents had been sent to Cologne. On October 29 Goldheim arrived in London. On October 30 Goldheim found a statement signed by Engels, Freiligrath, Marx and Wolff in The Morning Advertiser, The Spectator, The Examiner, The Leader and The People’s Paper in which the attention of the English public was drawn to the revelations that the defence would make of forgery, perjury, the falsification of documents in short of all the infamies perpetrated by the Prussian police. The sending of the documents was veiled in such “complete secrecy” that the “Marx party” openly informed the English public about this, though not until October 30 by which time Goldheim had arrived in London and the documents in Cologne.
However, on October 27 documents were also sent to Cologne. How did the omniscient Prussian police learn of this?
The Prussian police did not pursue their activities with quite such “complete secrecy” as the “Marx party”. On the contrary, for weeks they had openly posted two of their spies in front of Marx’s house and from the street they watched him du soir jusqu'au matin and du matin jusqu'au soir and dogged his every step. Now the absolutely secret documents, containing the genuine specimens of Liebknecht’s and Rings’ handwriting together with the statement of the landlord of the Crown Tavern concerning the days of the society’s meetings, these absolutely secret documents Marx had officially witnessed in the absolutely public police court in Marlborough Street in the presence of reporters from the English daily press on October 27. His Prussian guardian angels followed him from his house to Marlborough Street and from Marlhorough Street back to his house and from his house to the post office. They did not in fact disappear until Marx had gone in absolute secrecy to the local magistrate in order to obtain a warrant for the arrest of his two “followers”.
Moreover, yet another way lay open to the Prussian government. For Marx sent the documents that were dated October 27 and had been witnessed on October 27 directly to Cologne through the post in order to ensure that the talons of the Prussian eagle would not seize the duplicates that had been sent in absolute secrecy. Both postal authorities and the police in Cologne knew then that documents dated October 27 had been forwarded by Marx and there was no need for Goldheim to make the journey to London in order to unravel the mystery.
Goldheim felt that after all he ought “in particular” to reveal something “particular” that the “absolutely secret meeting on October 27” had resolved to send to Schneider II, he therefore mentioned the letter written by Stieber to Marx. Unfortunately Marx had sent this letter not on October 27 but on October 25 and it was sent not to Schneider II but to Herr von Hontheim. But how did the police know that Marx still had Stieber’s letter in his possession and that he intended to send it to the defence? Let us however permit Stieber to leap up once more.
Stieber hoped to forestall Schneider II and thus prevent him from reading aloud in court what was for him a very “unpleasant letter”. Stieber calculated: If Goldheim says that Schneider II has my letter and that he has it thanks to his “criminal contact with Marx”, then Schneider II will suppress the letter so as to prove that Goldheim’s agents were misinformed and that he himself does not maintain any criminal contact with Marx. So Stieber leaped up, gave a false account of the content of the letter and concluded with the astonishing declaration that “no one but himself and Marx could know this and this was indeed the strongest proof of the reliability of the information from London”.
Stieber has a strange method of keeping secret facts that he finds unpalatable. If he remains silent, the whole world must keep silence. Hence “no one can know” apart from him and a certain elderly lady that he once lived near Weimar as an homme entretenu. But if Stieber had every reason to make sure that no one but Marx should know of the letter, Marx had every reason to let everyone apart from Stieber know about it. We now know the strongest proof of the information from London. What does Stieber’s weakest proof look like?
But once again Stieber knowingly commits perjury when he says “no one but myself and Marx could know this”. He knew that it was not Marx but another editor of the Rheinische Zeitung who had answered his letter. So there had been at least “one man other than Marx and himself”. In order that even more people may learn of it we print the letter here:
“No. 177 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung contains a news item from your correspondent in Frankfurt am Main dated December 21 in which a base lie is reported to the effect that being a police spy I went to Frankfurt to try, while pretending to hold democratic views, to discover the murderers of Prince Lichnowski and General Auerswald. I was in fact in Frankfurt on the 21st but stayed only one day and as you can see from the accompanying certificate I was engaged in purely private business on behalf of a lady from here, Frau von Schwezler. I have long since returned to Berlin and resumed my work as defence counsel. I would refer you moreover to the official correction in this matter that has already appeared in No. 338 of the Frankfurter Oberpostamts-Zeitung of December 21 and in No. 248 of the Berlin National-Zeitung. I believe that I may expect from your respect for the truth that you will print the enclosed correction in your paper without delay and that you will also give me the name of your slanderous informant in accordance with your legal obligations, for I cannot possibly permit such a libel to go unpunished, otherwise I shall regretfully be compelled to proceed against your editorial board.
“I believe that in recent times democracy is indebted to no one more than myself. It was I who rescued hundreds of democrats who had been charged from the nets of the criminal courts. It was I who even while a state of siege was proclaimed here persistently and fearlessly challenged the authorities (and do so to this very day), while all the cowardly and contemptible fellows (the so-called democrats) had long since fled the field. When democratic organs treat me in this fashion it is scarcely an encouragement to me to make further efforts.
“The real joke, however, in the present case lies in the clumsiness of the organs of democracy. The rumour that I went to Frankfurt as a police agent was spread first by that notorious organ of reaction, the Neue Prussische Zeitung in order to undermine my activities as defence counsel that gave that paper such offence. The other Berlin papers have long since corrected this report. But the democratic papers are so inept that they parrot this stupid lie. If I had wished to go to Frankfurt as a spy it would certainly not be announced beforehand in every newspaper. And how could Prussia send a police official to Frankfurt which has enough competent officials of its own? Stupidity has always been the failing of the democrats and their opponents’ cunning has always brought them to victory.
“It is likewise a contemptible lie to say that years ago I was a police spy in Silesia. At that time I was openly employed as a police officer and as such I did my duty. Contemptible lies have been circulated about me. If anyone can prove that I insinuated my way into his favour let him come forth and do so. Anyone can make assertions and tell lies. I think of you as an honest, decent man and so I expect from you a satisfactory answer by return of post. The democratic papers are generally in disrepute here because of the many lies they publish. I hope that you are a man of a different stamp.
“Berlin, December 26, 1848
Stieber, Doctor at Law, etc.,
Berlin, Ritterstrasse 65.”
How then did Stieber know that on October 27 Marx had sent this letter to Schneider II? But it was not sent on October 27 but on October 25, and it was not sent to Schneider II but to von Hontheim. Stieber therefore knew only that the letter still existed and he suspected that Marx would put it in the hands of some defence counsel or other. Whence this suspicion? When the Kölnische Zeitung brought Stieber’s testimony on October 18 about Cherval, etc., to London, Marx sent a statement dated October 21 to the Kölnische Zeitung, the Berlin National-Zeitung and the Frankfurter Journal and at the end of this statement Stieber was threatened with his still existing letter. In order to keep this letter “completely secret” Marx himself announced it in the newspapers. He failed, because of the cowardice of the daily press in Germany, but the Prussian post was now informed and with the Prussian post, its — Stieber.
What then was the message Goldheim chirruped back from London?
That Hirsch has not committed perjury, that H. Liebknecht has no “tangible” existence, that the original minute-book is no original minute-book and that the all-knowing London agents know all that the “Marx party” has published in the London press. To save the honour of the Prussian agents Goldheim placed in their mouths the few titbits of information that Stieber ‘discovered’ in letters he had opened or purloined.
In the sitting on November 4 after Schneider II had annihilated Stieber and his minute-book and shown him to be guilty of forgery and perjury, Stieber leaped into the breach for the last time and gave vent to his moral indignation. They even dare, he cried out, his Soul mortally wounded, they even dare to accuse Herr Wermuth, Chief of Police Wermuth, of perjury! Stieber thereby returned to the orthodox hierarchy, to the rising scale. Earlier he had moved on the heterodox, descending scale. If he, a police superintendent, could not be trusted, well then surely his police lieutenant could be; and if not the police lieutenant, then surely his police agent; and if not agent Fleury, then surely subagent Hirsch. But now it is in reverse. He, the police superintendent, can perhaps commit perjury, but Wermuth, a Chief of Police? Unbelievable! In his rage he praised Wermuth with mounting bitterness, he served Wermuth up to the public neat, Wermuth as a human being, Wermuth as a lawyer, Wermuth as paterfamilias, Wermuth as a Chief of Police, Wermuth for ever. Even now, during the public hearing, Stieber did not stop trying to isolate the accused and to erect a barrier between the defence and the defence materials. He accused Schneider II of “criminal contact” with Marx. In attacking him Schneider was impugning the highest authorities of Prussia. Even Göbel, the Presiding judge of the court, even a Göbel felt overwhelmed by Stieber’s onslaught. He could not overlook it and even though in a timorous and servile way he did lash Stieber with a few rebukes. But Stieber was in the right for all that. It was not merely he as a person that stood exposed to public view: it was the prosecution, the courts, the postal authorities, the government, the police headquarters in Berlin, it was the ministries and the Prussian embassy in London, in short it was the whole Prussian state that stood in the pillory with him, original minute-book in hand.
Herr Stieber is herewith granted permission to print the answer the Neue Rheinische Zeitung returned to his letter.
Let us now return once more to London with Goldheim.
Just as Stieber is still ignorant of Cherval’s whereabouts and true identity so too, according to Goldheim’s testimony (in the sitting on November 3), the origin of the minute-book is an enigma that is still not fully resolved. To resolve it Goldheim put forward two hypotheses.
“There are only two possible explanations,” he said, “for the still rather obscure origin of the book. Either, as the agent insists, it really emanates from Liebknecht, who has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting in order that there should be no proof of his treachery.”
W. Liebknecht is well known as a member of the “Marx party”. But it is no less well known that the signature in the minute-book does not belong to W. Liebknecht. In the sitting on October 27 Stieber therefore swore that the signature was not that of W. Liebknecht but of another Liebknecht, an H. Liebknecht. He had learnt of the existence of this double without being able however to disclose the source of his discovery. Goldheim swore: “Fleury asserted that he had really received the book from a member of the ‘Marx party’ called H. Liebknecht.” Goldheim swore further: “I was not able to catch hold of the said H. Liebknecht in London.” Up to now, therefore, what signs of life has the H. Liebknecht that Stieber has discovered given to the world in general and to Police Lieutenant Goldheim in particular? No sign of life other than his handwriting in the original minute-book; but now Goldheim declares: “Liebknecht has refused to give a specimen of his handwriting.”
Up to the present H. Liebknecht existed only as a signature. Now nothing remains of H. Liebknecht at all, not even a signature, not even the dot on the i. How Goldheim could possibly know that H. Liebknecht’s handwriting differs from the handwriting in the minute-book, when the handwriting in the minute-book is his only proof of H. Liebknecht’s existence, that is Goldheim’s secret. If Stieber has his miracles, why should not Goldheim have his miracles too?
Goldheim forgot that his superior, Stieber, had sworn to H. Liebknecht’s existence before him, and that he too had just sworn to it. In the same breath in which he swears to H. Liebknecht he recollects that H. Liebknecht is nothing but a makeshift, invented by Stieber, a necessary fib and necessity knows no law. He remembers that there is but one genuine Liebknecht, W. Liebknecht, but that if W. Liebknecht is genuine then the signature in the minute-book is a forgery. He cannot confess that Fleury’s subagent had manufactured the false signature along with the false minute-book. Accordingly he invents the hypothesis: “Liebknecht has refused to give a specimen signature.” Let us likewise construct a hypothesis. Goldheim once forged banknotes. He is brought before the courts; it is proved that the signature on the banknote is not that of the bank director. Don’t take offence, gentlemen, Goldheim will say, don’t take offence. The banknote is genuine. It comes from the bank director himself. If his name appears signed by someone other than him what does that matter? “He merely refused to give a specimen of his handwriting.”
Or, Goldheim continues, if the hypothesis with Liebknecht turns out to he false: “Or the agent Fleury obtained the notes for the book from Dronke and Imandt, two other émigré friends of Marx, and then put them in the form of an original minute-book in order to increase the value of his commodity. Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.”
Or? How so, or? If a book like the original minute-book signed by three people, Liebknecht, Rings and Ulmer, no deduce that “it emanates either from Liebknecht” — or from Dronke and Imandt, but: It emanates either from Liebknecht or from Rings and from Ulmer. Should our unfortunate Goldheim, now that he has climbed to the dizzy heights of a disjunction — either-or — should he now repeat: “Rings and Ulmer have refused to give specimens of their handwriting"? Even Goldheim realises the need for new tactics.
If the original minute-book does not emanate from Liebknecht, as the agent Fleury claimed, then it must have been manufactured by Fleury himself, but the notes for it were provided by Dronke and Imandt of whom Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that they frequently consorted with Fleury.
“To increase the value of his commodity,” says Goldheim, Fleury put the notes in the form of an original minute-book. He not only commits a fraud, he also forges signatures and all this to “increase the value of his commodity”. So scrupulous a man as this Prussian agent, who for profit manufactures forged minutes and forged signatures, is obviously incapable of manufacturing forged notes. Such is Goldheim’s inference.
Dronke and Imandt did not come to London until April 1852, after they had been expelled by the Swiss authorities. However, one-third of the original minute-book consists of entries for the months of January, February and March 1852. Fleury therefore manufactured one-third of the original minute-book without Dronke and Imandt although Goldheim had sworn that the minute-book was written either by Liebknecht — or else by Fleury, following, however, the notes of Dronke and Imandt. Goldheim swore to it, and Goldheim it is true is no Brutus, but he is Goldheim.
But the possibility still remains that Dronke and Imandt furnished Fleury with notes from April onwards for, Goldheim swore: “Police Lieutenant Greif has officially stated that Dronke and Imandt frequently consorted with Fleury.”
Let us examine this association.
As we have noted above Fleury was known in London not as a Prussian police agent but as a businessman in the City, and indeed as a democratic businessman. Born in Altenburg he had come to London as a political refugee, had later married an English woman from a wealthy and respected family and apparently enjoyed a quiet life with his wife and his father-in-law, an old Quaker industrialist. On October 8 or 9 Imandt began to “consort frequently” with Fleury, in the capacity, that is, of tutor. But according to the improved version of Stieber’s evidence the original minute-book arrived in Cologne on October 10 — according to Goldheim’s final statement on the 11th. By the time that Imandt, whom he had never set eyes on till then, had given him his first French lesson, Fleury had not only had the original minute-book bound in red morocco leather, he had already entrusted it to the special courier who brought it to Cologne. So heavily did Fleury rely on Imandt’s notes when writing the original minute-book. As for Dronke, Fleury only saw him once and by chance with Imandt, and this was on October 30 by which time the original minute-book had long since dissolved into its original nothingness.
Thus the Christian-Germanic government is not content with breaking into desks, stealing papers, obtaining false testimony by underhand means, creating false plots, forging false documents, swearing false oaths, and attempting to suborn witnesses — all this to bring about the condemnation of the Cologne defendants. The government attempts also to cast suspicion on the London friends of the accused so as to conceal the activities of their Hirsch now that Stieber has sworn that he does not know him and Goldheim has sworn that he is no spy.
On Friday, November 5, the Kölnische Zeitung arrived in London with the report of the court sitting on November 3 and Goldheim’s evidence. Inquiries about Greif were made at once and the very same day it was learnt that he lived in Fleury’s house. At the same time Dronke and Imandt paid Fleury a visit taking with them a copy of the Kölnische Zeitung. They gave him Goldheim’s testimony to read. He went pale, tried to regain his composure, pretended to be utterly astonished and declared himself perfectly willing to make a statement against Goldheim before an English magistrate. But he said he must consult his solicitor first. They agreed to meet the following afternoon, Saturday, November 6. Fleury promised to have his statement officially witnessed and said he would bring it to the meeting. Of course, he did not appear. Imandt and Dronke then went to his house on Saturday evening and found there the following note addressed to Imandt:
“With the solicitor’s help everything has been arranged; further steps can be taken as soon as the person in question has been found. The solicitor sent the relevant documents off today. Business commitments have made it imperative for me to go to the City. If you would like to visit me tomorrow I shall be at home the whole afternoon until 5 o'clock. Fl.”
On the other side of the note there was the following postscript:
“I have just arrived home but had to go out again with Herr Werner and my wife- I can prove this to you tomorrow, Leave me a note saying when you would like to come.”
Imandt left the following reply:
“I am extremely surprised not to find you at home now, especially as you did not come to meet us this afternoon as arranged. I must confess that in the circumstances my opinion of you is already fixed. If you wish me to revise it you will visit me by tomorrow morning at the latest for I cannot guarantee that your activities as a Prussian police spy might not find their way into the English newspapers. Imandt.”
Fleury did not appear on Sunday morning either, so in the evening Dronke and Imandt went to his house once again in order to obtain his statement by making it appear as if their confidence in him had only at first been shaken. Finally, after all sorts of procrastinations and doubts the statement was formulated. Fleury hesitated most when it was pointed out to him that he must sign with his Christian name as well as his surname. The statement went literally as follows:
“To the editors of the Kölnische Zeitung
“The undersigned declares that he has known Herr Imandt for about a month during which time the latter gave him tuition in the French language and that he met Herr Dronke for the first time on Saturday, October 30 of this year.
“He declares further that neither of them gave him any information in connection with the minute-book mentioned in the Cologne trial.
“That he does not know of any person by the name of Liebknecht nor has he ever been in contact with anyone of that name.
“Kensington, London, November 8, 1852.
Dronke and Imandt were, of course, quite sure that Fleury would instruct the Kölnische Zeitung not to print any statement signed by him. Accordingly they sent his statement not to the Kölnische Zeitung but to Schneider II, the lawyer, who however received it when the case was too far advanced for him to make use of it.
Fleury is not indeed the Fleur de Marie of the police prostitutes, but he is a flower and he will bear blossom, albeit only fleurs-de-lys.* But the story of the minute-book is not yet finished.
Fleurs-de-lys [lilies] is the French colloquial name of the letters T. F. (travaux forcés [forced labour]), the brand-mark of criminals. The accuracy of Marx’s judgment is demonstrated in the Postscript (VIII, 1). [Note by Engels to the edition of 1885]
On Saturday, November 6, W. Hirsch of Hamburg made an affidavit before the magistrate at Bow Street, London, to the effect that under the direction of Greif and Fleury he himself had fabricated the original minute-book that figured in the Cologne communist trial.
Thus, it had at first been the original minute-book of the “Marx party” — after that it was the notebook of the police spy Fleury — and lastly it became the manufacture of the Prussian police, a simple police manufacture, a police manufacture sans phrase.
On the same day that Hirsch revealed the secret of the original minute-book to the English magistrate at Bow Street another representative of the Prussian state was busy packing at Fleury’s house in Kensington, and this time the things he was packing in stout oil-cloth were neither stolen nor forged nor even documents at all, but his own personal belongings. And this bird was none other than Greif whom we remember from Paris, the special courier to Cologne, the chief of the Prussian police agents in London, the official director of mystifications, the Police Lieutenant attached to the Prussian Embassy. Greif had received instructions from the Prussian government to leave London at once. There was no time to be wasted.
Just as at the end of spectacular operas the rising amphitheatrical set in the background that had previously been obscured by curtains now suddenly flares up in a blaze of Bengal light dazzling all eyes, so too at the end of this Prussian police tragicomedy the hidden amphitheatrical workshop was revealed in which the original minute-book was forged. On the lowest level could be seen the wretched spy Hirsch working at piece rates; a little higher up was the respectably situated spy and agent provocateur, the City businessman Fleury; higher still the diplomatic Police Lieutenant Greif and highest of all the Prussian Embassy itself to which he was attached. For 6-8 months Hirsch had laboured week by week to forge the original minute-book in Fleury’s study and under his watchful eyes. But one floor above Fleury dwelt the Prussian Police Lieutenant Greif, who supervised and inspired him. However, Greif himself regularly spent a part of his day in the Prussian Embassy, where he in his turn was supervised and inspired. Thus the Prussian Embassy was the real hothouse where the original minute-book grew and flowered. Hence Greif had to disappear. He disappeared on November 6, 1852.
The authenticity of the original minute-book could not he sustained any longer, not even as a notebook. The Public Prosecutor, Saedt, buried it in the address he gave in reply to the concluding speeches by Counsel for the Defence.
The trial had now reached the point at which the Indictment Board of the Court of Appeal had begun when it ordered a new investigation because “there was no factual evidence of an indictable offence”.