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The Militant, 12 May 1945

Walter Held, Seized by GPU,
Disappears in Soviet Union

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 19, 12 May 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The shocking news that Heinz Epe is believed definitely a victim of Stalin’s GPU murder machine has just been received by The Militant from his friends in Sweden. Better known under the. pen-name of Walter Held, Epe was a prominent leader of the German section of the Fourth International, an indomitable fighter against all forms of reaction, who had been marked for assassination by the Gestapo since the rise of Hitler. Since his disappearance in the Soviet Union in 1941 while he was in transit from Sweden to the United States, all inquiries into his fate have ended in a blank wall of silence and evasion on the part of Stalinist officials.

Epe it is feared met the same horrible end as Erlich and Alter, prominent Polish anti-Nazi refugees killed by Stalin in December 1941. The announcement in February 1943 of their execution, it will be recalled, shocked the labor world, for they were well known figures of the Polish labor movement who had been forced to flee to the Soviet Union when the German army took Warsaw.

Before Erlich was killed, declares the Swedish report, he managed to send out news of the GPU’s detention of Epe. They shared the same cell at Saratov prison, Erlich told Lunde, the Norwegian representative at Kuibyshev.

Epe had long been persecuted by the Gestapo because of his prominence in the German Trotskyist organization, the only party which had fought militantly against Hitler’s rise and called on the Socialists and Communists to close ranks against the deadly danger of Nazism. After staying in Czechoslovakia, Epe sought refuge in France and then, Holland. Finally in 1935 he settled in Norway where he became a citizen. He married a Norwegian girl.

Upon the Nazi invasion of Norway, Epe was forced to again flee for his life. He managed to reach Sweden with his wife and three-year-old child.

His refuge endangered by the growing power of the Gestapo, Epe applied as early as 1938 for an immigration visa to the United States. Washington, however, did not grant a visa to this militant opponent of reaction until 1941. Epe attempted to reach the United States through Gotenburg or Petsamo, but was blocked because of Nazi control of shipping from these ports.

One route remained open – through the then neutral Soviet Union. The Norwegian Legation at Stockholm aided him in applying for a transit visa from the Soviet Union which was granted in March 1941.

On May 17, Epe with his wife and child left for Moscow by plane. From Moscow he was scheduled to reach Odessa within two days by train. He was routed to reach the United States via Turkey, Syria, Palestine and India. All his papers were in order. He carried in addition a press card as correspondent of the Stockholm Social Democrat.

He did not travel alone, being part of a group of several dozen which had been organized by Cook’s Travelling Agency and the Norwegian Legation. However when the group reached Turkey, the Epe family was no longer with them. They had disappeared either in Moscow or on the way to Odessa.

Cook’s immediately began an investigation, as did Martin Tranmel Norwegian Social-Democrat leader residing in Sweden. The Norwegian authorities likewise took up the case through Mme. Kollontai, representative of the USSR in Stockholm. The Stalinist officialdom informed both Martin Tranmel and the Norwegian authorities they had no knowledge of the fate of the Epe family.

Outside of Erlich’s report that Epe shared his cell at Saratov prison, no direct information has been received concerning them. According to a rumor which reached Sweden, Mrs. Epe and her child were finally permitted to proceed to the United States via Japan and were last seen somewhere en route in Siberia. This was before Pearl Harbor, however. Since that date it has been impossible to verify whether they actually reached Japan.

Towards the end of September 1941, the Norwegian diplomatic delegation to the USSR informed the Norwegian government in London and the Stalinist authorities that they had positive information Heinz Epe had been imprisoned at Saratov. They demanded his release. The Stalinists, however, refused to permit the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Antwuort, to visit Saratov to check this information.

In February 1942, the Norwegian Foreign Department at London made one more effort to ascertain Epe’s whereabouts, sending an official inquiry to the Soviet Foreign Department. On July 17, 1942, this department responded they could find no trace of Heinz Epe.

Epe won the venomous hatred of Stalin during the ill-famed Moscow Trials. In the August 1936 trial of Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc. Trotsky was interned by the Norwegian government to prevent him from answering the foul accusations of the GPU frame-up artists.

The GPU had used Copenhagen as the scene of the alleged plotting with Trotsky to which the defendants “confessed.” On September 30, 1936, Heinz Epe made the following remarkable prediction:

“Undoubtedly efforts will be made to shift Trotsky’s ‘terroristic base of operations’ from Copenhagen to Oslo ... The task of the new chief of the GPU therefore consists in producing an Oslo amalgam ... The art of the GPU will consist in digging up new Olbergs, Davids, Holtzmanns and Bermans, whose instructions will have come directly from Oslo or Honefoss” (Trotsky’s residence)

This prediction was borne out within a few months.

During the trial of Pyatakoff and others in January 1937, one of the main fabrications was the “confession” of Pyatakoff that he had flown from Berlin, Germany to Oslo, Norway where he claimed to have plotted with Trotsky against the Soviet Union. Epe secured declarations from the officials of the Kjeller airport, named by Pyatakoff as his landing place, that not one foreign plane had landed there during the month specified. This piece of evidence, reported by the world press proved Pyatakoff a liar.

One more heroic fighter for the socialist future of mankind has thus fallen victim to the insatiable monster in the Kremlin.

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