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Labor Action, 10 January 1949


A German Officer Tells New Story

Did Gestapo Help Stalin Frame-up Generals?


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A new contribution toward unraveling the inside story of the Moscow Trial frame-ups has turned up recently in the German press. While in the nature of the subject the story cannot be expected to supply definitive proof, the main facts jibe with known information.

Directly involved is the purge trial of the Red Army generals, led by Marshal Tukhachevsky, who were run through the frame-up mill in 1937. The accusation of the Stalinist bloodhounds was that these military leaders were in collaboration with the German general staff. It was widely pointed out at the time that this particular charge was no doubt selected out of the many inventions possible because of the fact that BEFORE Hitler came to power in Germany there was indeed such a collaboration – a collaboration, however, not between the republican German government and individual Russians but between both GOVERNMENTS and their military staffs.

The Big Lie of the Moscow purges could, of course, have been exposed if the Allied powers had been interested in doing so during the Nuremberg war-criminal trials of the former Nazi leaders. As our readers know, this was not done – a fact itself which speaks volumes.

Now a former high-ranking German officer has spilled one aspect of the plot with which he was personally acquainted. The article appeared recently in Die Neue Zeitung, an official U.S. zone newspaper in Germany put out under the American occupation authorities, and summarized in the December 25 issue of the New Leader, social-democratic paper published in New York, under the by-line of Melvin Lasky. Lasky is at present editor of Der Monat, a magazine also published by the Americans in Berlin.

The article in Die Neue Zeitung was written by Horst Falkenhagen, the penname of the German officer mentioned, who went into hiding after the 1943–44 anti-Hitler opposition was wiped up. He is at present engaged, according to Lasky, who interviewed him, in gathering material for a history of those years. Falkenhagen goes into some detail with regard to the military collaboration between Russia and Germany up to the Nazis’ assumption of power. While the fact of such extensive collaboration on the technical-military plane has always been well known, Falkenhagen’s story adds details. It was this pre-Hitler general-staff collaboration which is the background for the Tukhachevsky frame-up. According to Falkenhagen:

Toward the end of 1936, Heydrich (the real power in the Gestapo) set out to obtain and did obtain specimens of the handwriting of Tukhachevsky, Hammerstein, Von Seekt and a number of German generals. The leak in this story comes from Admiral Canaris, head of the German Abwehr, to whom Heydrich applied for the documents and for Abwehr handwriting experts. At the same same Canaris also learned that the request was connected with the fact that the Gestapo held in custody four GPU agents in their Berlin headquarters.

Canaris (Falkenhagen says) refused to take a hand in the business, but later learned that Heydrich had managed to obtain what he wanted from the Reichswehr. When the news of Tukhachevsky’s arrest became known, Canaris told some of his close coworkers that Heydrich had boasted to him how he had managed to eliminate the entire leadership of the Red Army. A series of letters purporting to have passed between Tukhachevsky’s group and the general staff of Hitler’s Reichswehr had been forged and routed into the hands of Stalin and Yezhov through GPU agents and the Czech general staff. Canaris also revealed at the same time that Heydrich had said: “The idea came from the Fuehrer himself.”

Other Evidence

No necessary conclusion need be drawn, of course, that the forgeries deceived Stalin or at least that the latter was unsuspicious of them. “The idea from the Fuehrer” had cropped up to the first place because of the knowledge of the Nazi leaders that Stalin and his GPU were as ready to snap up their served-up forgeries as they were to forge evidence themselves against the old Bolsheviks. Such is the Falkenhagen story.

There have also been pieces of evidence cropping out before this that the Tukhachevsky frame-up had involved German and Czech channels. These have come from Churchill and Benes themselves. In his book, The Gathering Storm, Churchill writes that Benes in 1936 “became aware that communications were passing through the Soviet embassy in Prague between important personages in Russia and the German government. This was a part of the so-called military and Old-Guard Communist conspiracy to overthrow Stalin and introduce a new regime based on a pro-German policy.” Thus Churchill retails the Heydrich-GPU version of the affair – “naively,” says a note in the New Leader story. (Churchill’s “naiveté” is rather suspect in view of his recorded opinion, also in his book, that the Moscow Trials blood-letting was “merciless, but perhaps not needless”; in addition, few people have accused Churchill of being stupid.)

It goes without saying – and Lasky indicates this also – that it is quite impossible either to accept or reject out of hand the authenticity of Falkenhagen’s account. It is to be hoped, and even expected, that there still are alive further sources for digging into the truth.

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