The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials


Besides general conversations about terror, the transmission of “instructions”, all sorts of “terrorist” conceptions, etc., a few concrete attacks are nevertheless mentioned. Let us take them one by one.

1.The Berman-Yurin—Fritz David Team
The Attack on Stalin

Having arrived in Moscow in March 1933, [49] Berman-Yurin and Fritz David decided to organize an attempt on Stalin at the XIIIth Plenum of the Comintern in December 1933. According to Berman-Yurin “the plan fell through,” because Fritz David had not been able to get a pass for Berman-Yurin “who was supposed to fire at Stalin.” Fritz David gives another version: “These projects failed because Stalin did not attend the XIIIth Plenum.” This is a bit like the story of the borrowed pot. First, he says, I returned the pot to him intact, second, it was already cracked, third, I didn’t borrow anything from him at all. The third part seems to be missing here, but in fact it is here too. There was no pass, there was no Stalin and ... there was no attempt to organize an attack.

But Fritz David and Berman-Yurin were not depressed by this failure. In fact, “they had already elaborated two concrete (!) plans for attacks on Stalin.” There remained the second plan: to carry out an attack on Stalin at the VIIth Congress of the Comintern.

Without a doubt, this plan was brilliant; furthermore it corresponded to Trotsky’s “directives,” which were not simply to kill Stalin, but to do it without fail to the accompaniment of music and ovations, “before an international forum,” according to the statement made by Berman-Yurin. But from our Point of view, this plan still contained a serious drawback. The last previous Congress of the Comintern (the VIth) was held in 1928. From 1928 to 1933, more than five years had already passed, and there was absolutely no mention of a new congress. Violating the statutes of the Comintern, Stalin pushed it back from year to year, with the intention, if possible, of never convening it again. In the propaganda of the Left Opposition abroad during those years, the question of the failure to convene the Congress of the Comintern played a great role. Here is what Trotsky wrote, for example, in December 1934 (one can find dozens of similar quotations): “The ruling Stalinist group, basically, has long since waved good-bye to the Comintern. One of the most obvious proofs of this is Stalin’s refusal to convene an International Congress.” (Bulletin of the Opposition, No. 41)

Berman-Yurin and Fritz David were sent by Trotsky, by the same Trotsky who thought that the Congress would not be convened, and at the same time, as Berman-Yurin testifies, who proposed to the latter “to organize an attack at the Congress.” And so, instead of acting, our “terrorists” wait ... for the Congress. They wait one year, they wait two years, and finally two and a half years later, their patience is rewarded. After a break of seven years, from 1928 to 1935, the VIIth Congress is at last convened. One may retort: perhaps they waited a long time, but on the other hand they had prepared the attack well and “elaborated a concrete plan.” Let the court record speak: “At the Congress of the Comintern, only Fritz David was able to get in, since they could not obtain a pass for Berman-Yurin. Fritz David, according to his own words, was not able to carry out his terrorist act because it was impossible for him to get close to Stalin ... He, Fritz David, sat in the loge, there were too many people in the loge and shooting was out of the question.”

Obviously Fritz David had thought that he would be seated at the Praesidium and “there would not be many people” ... at the Congress.

Thus the story ends. But how, one asks, did the GPU learn of all that? Or did these “terrorists” go to the GPU on their own and tell them about their failures? And if they had not made that mistake, they would very probably not only be alive and well today, they would have prepared, no less successfully, a new attack on Stalin, scheduled to take place, let us say, at the VIIIth Congress of the Comintern (1940? 1945?).

And this is the only “concrete” attempt at an attack on Stalin! Furthermore it seems that the court itself did not take this GPU story very seriously, since it does not even mention it in its verdict.

2. The Terrorist Olberg Attacks Stalin

Just like Berman-Yurin and Fritz David, Olberg “received instructions” from Trotsky concerning terrorist activity. Trotsky had never laid eyes on Olberg any more than he had Berman-Yurin and Fritz David (although in contrast to the other two, he had heard of him, it is true, only in a negative vein (see page 33).

Olberg made three trips to the USSR. After receiving “terrorist instructions” in 1932, he left at the end of March (!) 1933 for the Soviet Union and stayed there until July 1933; he “hid,” for some reason, for a month and a half in Moscow, then he left for Stalinbad, where he settled down as a history teacher. Stalinbad, which is some distance from Moscow, and therefore also from all the top leaders, some 4000 km. at least, was evidently chosen by Olberg as the most favorable location for his terrorist activity. But soon Olberg had to return to Prague, because “his military papers were not in order.” Olberg went to the USSR for the second time in March 1935, but he only spent several days there, since he had a tourist visa. In July 1935, Olberg went to the USSR for the third time. Olberg had made his last two trips with the famous passport from the Republic of Honduras (the only material proof officially mentioned in the case). “After spending a short time in Minsk, [Olberg] left for Corky, linked up with Yelin and Fedotov, and obtained work at the Gorky Pedagogical Institute where he remained until the day of his arrest.”

In reading this unbelievable story, one might think there was no GPU in the USSR! Vyshinsky shows great curiosity toward Olberg’s Honduras passport: weren’t his parents in Honduras, or perhaps his grandmother? One wonders why the GPU had not shown the same interest at the time of Olberg’s trips! Whoever has any understanding of the conditions under which visas are given for the USSR and the strict manner in which the GPU watches even the “respectable” foreigners who arrive, will see how unbelievable this story is. A man arrives (and not for the first time) with an exotic and unreliable passport from the Republic of Honduras, does not speak a word of the American languages, but speaks ... Russian. It is hard to imagine a more suspicious foreigner. Nevertheless, Olberg not only enters the USSR unhindered, leaves and enters the USSR again, but he even obtains an official teaching position at a State Pedagogical Institute! Let us state as categorically as possible: Olberg was able to receive a visa for the USSR, to go there and obtain work only with the assistance of the Soviet authorities, the GPU included.

But let us return to the “terrorist” activity of Olberg. Three years — from 1932 to 1935—went by without our hearing a word of this activity. But having arrived in Gorky in July 1935, “Olberg learned from Fedotov that terrorist combat groups had been organized before his arrival. Olberg simply had to elaborate the actual plan of the attack.”

Let us note that neither Yelin nor Fedotov (who is none other than the director of the pedagogical Institute where Olberg taught!) was called to trial, neither as accused nor as a witness. Let us also note that if terrorist “combat groups” organized by Fedotov had really existed in Gorky, then it is simply incomprehensible why Fedotov needed Olberg. A young man, with neither kith nor kin, having no notion of terrorist activity or of conspiratorial activity in general, must lead — “elaborate a plan!”—a terrorist organization already started by much more experienced people. But what exactly did this notorious plan consist of? “The terrorist act was to be carried out on May 1, 1936, in Moscow”; this is all that we learn from the court records. By whom? Where? How? Not a word about any of that. “What prevented this plan from being carried out?” asks Vyshinsky. “The arrest,” answers Olberg.

Such is the story of this “attack.” This, furthermore, does not prevent a venal scribbler from Pravda, (L. Rovinsky, August 22) from informing us that “Olberg’s terrorist and spy activity was coming to a head ...” Not only was he “organizing terrorist espionage groups,” but he was even “teaching the terrorists marksmanship and bomb throwing.” In the court transcripts there was never any question of marksmanship or throwing bombs. We doubt very much that the student of political science, V. Olberg, had ever seen a bomb, except for the “bomb” which Stalin prepared for him.

3. The Attack by Lurie No.1 and Lurie No.2 on Voroshilov in particular and on Others “in General”

N. Lurie confirms that he had engaged in Trotskyist activity since 1927, that is, for about nine years. Unfortunately, no one knew anything about it. No Trotskyist from any country, either in 1927, or later, ever met N. Lurie. In all our attempts get information about N. Lurie, we received the same answer from everyone: unknown. Unfortunately, the GPU is not among our correspondents. It could certainly give interesting information and tell us, in particular, when, in 1927 or any other year, N. Lurie’s “activity” began.

N. Lurie describes the beginning of this terrorist activity in the following way: “In the early part of 1932 Moishe Lurie told me that it was time [!] to leave for the USSR and to carry out terrorist work there.”

This free and easy tone is admirable in itself! We have played billiards long enough, “It is time” to eat dinner ..., that is, to take up “terrorism.” In Moscow, Lurie met with a certain Konstant and a certain Lipshitz, whom he calls “German Trotskyists,” but who, once again, are strangers to any true Trotskyist. (Let it be said in passing, that neither Konstant, nor Lipshitz are brought to trial or summoned as witnesses. That is the custom at this “model” trial!)

Lurie told Konstant about the “terrorist directives.” In the same carefree tone, Konstant answers Lurie “that this is nothing new to him.” (He undoubtedly knew about “this” since childhood.)

In August 1932, the N. Lurie group receives from a certain Franz Weiss (a fascist secret agent, according to the court transcript) the assignment to carry out an attack on Voroshilov. At the time of the preliminary investigation, N. Lurie declared that the preparation of this attack (in Moscow) had lasted “from the fall of 1932 to the end of 1933.” But at the interrogation the same Lurie indicated that already in July 1933 he left for Cheliabinsk. If N. Lurie moved in July 1933 to Cheliabinsk, one wonders how he could have been preparing an attack in Moscow until the end of 1933. Probably in order to “liquidate this hitch,” at the trial, N. Lurie gives a new version: “We were occupied with it [with the preparation of the attack against Voroshilov] from September 1932 until the spring of 1933.”

Until the spring or until the end of 1933?! The court naturally passes over this contradiction in silence.

But what did the actual preparation of the attack consist of? The troika—N. Lurie, Konstant, Lipshitz—which, for reasons unknown, is represented at the trial only by Lurie, watched when Voroshilov would leave, but the car “went too fast. It is hopeless to fire at a swiftly moving car,” (the testimony of N. Lurie). Having convinced themselves that the car was travelling too fast, these unfortunate terrorists ceased any further surveillance of Voroshilov’s departures. When the trial chairman asks them what they did next, N. Lurie replies that they directed their attention toward the acquisition of explosives in order to accomplish the terrorist act by means of a bomb. The court makes no attempt to bring to light whether they procured any explosives, where, how, whether a bomb was made, etc. With this, the case is closed. In July 1933, N. Lurie leaves for Cheliabinsk to work as a physician. But even in faraway “Cheliabinsk Lurie didn’t halt his terrorist activity.” He waits, don’t you see, for some leader, Kaganovich or Ordzhonikidze, to come to Cheliabinsk. But neither Kaganovich nor Ordzhonikidze, as if on purpose, comes to Cheliabinsk; in any case, N. Lurie does not meet any of them there and does not commit, of course, any attack.[50]

This does not prevent Moishe Lurie from pointing out “how he organized [!] the attack on Comrade Ordzhonikidze ... To this end, M. Lurie proposed that N. Lurie, who was leaving for the tractor factory in Cheliabinsk, use the eventual arrival of Ordzhonikidze at the factory for the realization of the terrorist act!”

N. Lurie remains two and a half years in Cheliabinsk fruitlessly awaiting Ordzhonikidze or Kaganovich. But as the proverb says, if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. N. Lurie leaves for Leningrad. Passing through Moscow, Moishe Lurie orders him in January 1936 to “shoot Zhdanov during the May 1st demonstration in Leningrad.” (Why it was necessary to assassinate Zhdonov, is impossible to figure out.) During the May 1st demonstration, N. Lurie marches in the column of demonstrators, but does not try to shoot. When the trial chairman asks him why, he answers: “We passed too far away.” And this rubbish is served up at the trial as attacks!

4. One More Attack on Voroshilov

During the trial, there is mentioned the preparation of one more terrorist act against Voroshilov, which supposedly was to be carried out by two important soldiers, both famous heroes of the Civil War: D. Schmidt and Kuzmichev. Obviously, no proof is introduced. Neither Schmidt, nor Kuzmichev, nor any other soldier accused of terrorist activity—Putna, Esterman, Gaevsky—was brought to trial. Three defendants do mention the “terrorist” activity of Schmidt-Kuzmichev. Reingold testifies that “he learned from Mrachkovsky and Dreitzer that in the summer of 1933 there was organized ... a Trotskyist military group consisting of Schmidt, commander of one of the Red Army brigades, Kuzmichev, staff commander of one of the military units, and a number [!] of others.” Mrachkovsky testifies that things took place a year later. “In the middle of 1934, Dreitzer reported to me that he was simultaneously preparing Voroshilov’s assassination, for which Schmidt Dmitrii would have to be prepared ...” Dreitzer himself testified during the prosecutor’s cross-examination that, “I enlisted the services of Esterman and Gaevsky for the terrorist act, and added Schmidt and Kuzmichev in 1935. The latter ones took up the task of killing Voroshilov.”

Thus all three testimonies (and there is no other testimony about this matter) radically contradict one another: 1933, 1931, 1936—they therefore have to be discarded as crude lies.[51]

During the trial, other attempted attacks are also mentioned; but these last have not even a shadow of proof. Thus, for example, Zinoviev testifies that “he knew about two attempts on Stalin’s life in which Reingold, Dreitzer and Pikel took part.” Neither Dreitzer nor Reingold mentions these “attempts.” Pikel testifies “that in the autumn of 1933 Bogdan had made a new [?] attempt at an attack on Stalin’s life.” He also testifies “about the preparation of a terrorist act against Stalin in 1934”; while his participation “was limited to having put Bakaev in touch with Radin” (the latter is also not brought to trial). Bakaev also makes it known that “in October 1934, under the leadership of Kamenev, Evdokimov and himself (Bakaev), an attack against Stalin was prepared in Moscow ... This attack did not succeed.” And that is all.

The court accepts all these declarations indifferently, does not at all try to clarify the circumstances, the character, the time, the place, etc. of these “attacks.” The absence of any facts about these attacks does not permit us to examine them in greater detail.

Let us note in conclusion that the verdict says: “the Trotskyist-Zinovievist Unified Center prepared a series of terrorist groups and a series of terrorist acts against Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Kirov, Ordzhonikidze, Zhdanov Kossior, Postyshev and others.” [52]

We have tried above to assiduously select and systematically examine all the facts about the attacks which are scattered throughout the court transcripts. If one considers N. Lurie’s trip to Cheliabinsk an “attack on Ordzhonikidze and Kaganovich” and his trip to Leningrad an “attack on Zhdanov,” then there still remain nonetheless “Postyshev, Kossior and others ...” In the whole trial not one word is said about attacks against them. This does not prevent the court from placing the following paragraph in the verdict: “The court investigation has also established that the Trotskyist-Zinovievist terrorist center ... prepared terrorist acts against comrades Kossior and Postyshev, through a Ukrainian terrorist group which acted under the leadership of the Trotskyist Mukhin.”

The Ukrainian terrorist group and the very name of its leader Mukhin are mentioned at the trial for the first time in the verdict! The story of Mukhin and his group was obviously improvised at the last moment so that Postyshev and Kossior would not be offended.

Let us draw up the balance sheet on the basis of the trial evidence itself. There was not a single attack, there was not even a single attempt at an attach. The prosecutor Vyshinsky nonetheless considers that “the guilt is so clearly established that he can free himself from the obligation to analyze the materials gathered by the court investigation.” He even adds: “What is essential in this trial, is that they (the accused) transformed their counter-revolutionary thoughts into counter-revolutionary deeds, their counter-revolutionary theory into terrorist practice: not only do they talk of shooting, but they shoot; they shoot and they kill!”

So they shoot?! At the trial it was not, in any case, mentioned that any of the defendants had fired a shot. There were “instructions,” “conversations,” “preparations,” “attempts,” “people were picked out,” now the terrorist activity was “speeded up,” now it was “halted,” — there was all that in words, but not a shot was fired. Not one attack, not one real attempt at an attack was established in court. Sometimes it turned out, as if on purpose, that it was too far to shoot, or that the terrorist marched by too far away, or that the car was moving too fast, or that the terrorist happened to be in Stalinblad or Cheliabinsk, while Stalin, as if by chance, was in Moscow.

Nonetheless, these “terrorists” were placed in exceptionally favorable conditions. The usual difficulties of terrorists—belonging to different social layers ... or lacking information about the targets, or being unable to penetrate into their milieu—here all this was completely absent.

After breaking from the Opposition, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, Mrachkovsky, Bakaev and others moved in the circles of the apparatus. They were well received at the Kremlin, in all the institutions, some even in Stalin’s secretariat. Mrachkovsky, for example, was given a personal reception by Stalin; [53] it would not have taken much for him to discharge his revolver into Stalin. The terrorist opportunities of the majority of those shot, famous Bolsheviks, were almost unlimited. In addition, they were helped from abroad by Trotsky, and in the USSR, by dozens, if not hundreds, of people; they got support from an organization as powerful as the Gestapo! And the results? Zero! Zero! If there were no assassinations, it is only because none of the people who were shot or mentioned in the case had prepared any assassinations, none of them had had the idea of searching along the road of terror for a way out from the Stalinist dead end.

Without Kirov’s assassination, Stalin would never have decided to start circulating all these wild lies about “terror.” This is why he artificially combined reality—Kirov’s assassination by Nikolaev, an assassination with which none of the defendants in the trial had any connection—with all the other inventions, This artificial concoction is the content of the central police combination of the Moscow trial. The reality of Kirov’s assassination was to give the appearance of reality to other attacks—which did not take place.


[49] It is highly characteristic that all the terrorists “sent” by Trotsky, i.e., Berman-Yurin, Fritz David, Moishe Lurie and others, all left for the USSR in March, 1933. Is this not explained by the fact that they were in reality “sent” to the USSR, not by Trotsky, but by Hitler, who had just taken power in Germany with the help of Stalin and all his Berman-Yurins? While the German revolutionary workers were dispatched to concentration camps, the Stalinist functionaries, including Berman-Yurin, Fritz David and all the others, left for Moscow. (L.S.)

[50] Nevertheless the verdict says that “N. Lurie tried (?) to carry out an attack on the life of Cdes. Kaganovich and Ordkzonikidze.” The same Nathan Lurie is accused in the verdict of preparing an attack on Stalin as well. In the court transcripts regarding the attack of N. Lurie on Stalin there is not one word! (L.S.)

[51] The presiding judge makes no attempt in the course of the trial to clear up the contradictions, to bring to trial the people mentioned in this case, etc. But he suddenly shows a great interest in the exact type of revolver N. Lurie had: a Browning? what kind! medium caliber? What pathetic play-acting! (L.S.)

[52] We will lay aside one, completely anecdotal incident. “The terrorist” Yakovlev, who, along with Safonova were the sole witnesses at the trial (why witnesses and not defendants is inexplicabe), testified that Kamenev ordered him to organize a terrorist group ... at the Academy of Sciences. (L.S.)

[53] Safonova testified about this reception, saying that “Mrachkovsky told us (Safonova and I.N. Smirnov) about the conversation with Stalin ... and said that the only answer was to kill Stalin.” If all of this is not made up from beginning to end (I.N. Smirnov flatly denied the Safonova story), then probably this is what happened: upon returning from the reception with Stalin, Mrachkovsky was greatly disappointed — there is nothing surprising about that—and sharply attacked Stalin. Hence Safonova, freely moving back the date, “laid the basis” for the terror charges. Of course, this is only a hypothesis. (L.S.)

Last updated on: 13.2.2005