The Red Book

On the Moscow Trials


Copenhagen plays a major role at the trial. It’s there that Trotsky’s “meetings” with the terrorists are supposed to have taken place, from there supposedly came Trotsky’s “instructions” for terror. The Trotskyists would have turned the peaceful capital of Denmark, if one believes the court transcripts, into a sort of foreign “terrorist center.” This question therefore requires a detailed examination.

In the fall of 1932, the Danish Social-Democratic Student Organization invited Comrade Trotsky to give a lecture in Copenhagen on the Russian Revolution. Judging it difficult, it seems, to refuse the students, the Danish government gave L. Trotsky a visa for Denmark, good for eight days. Having left Istanbul on November 14, 1932, L. Trotsky (after a circuitous journey through France) arrived in Denmark on November 23. Trotsky stayed in Copenhagen for eight days; he left this city on the morning of December 2, in order to return to Istanbul, once again by way of France.

The formal charges and the verdict say that Trotsky carried out terrorist activities for about five years (from 1931 to 1936). During these five years Trotsky spent a total of eight days in Copenhagen. But, by some strange coincidence all the “terrorists” who supposedly met with Trotsky (Holtzman, Berman-Yurin, Fritz David) chose — completely independently of each other!—precisely Copenhagen as the location for their meeting with Trotsky, during the very same week, from November 23 to December 2, 1932. No other meeting in any other city was mentioned during the trial.

Only one week of “terrorist” activity during five years! This fact alone has to evoke disbelief. The explanation is simple. Copenhagen was chosen by the GPU investigators for reasons of personal convenience. The city is close to Berlin, it’s easy to go there, and above all, the exact dates and circumstances of Trotsky’s stay in Copenhagen were in all the papers. That gave the GPU investigators the necessary “material.” Meetings in Istanbul or in the secluded villages of France, where Trotsky lived during those years, were an exercise which was really too dangerous for the GPU. The lack of “material” added to the risk of failure.

Having chosen Copenhagen, the GPU sent not only the “terrorists” Holtzman, Berman-Yurin, and Fritz David, but also Sedov. Here is Holtzman’s account of his trip to Copenhagen:

Sedov told me ... that it would be good if you came with me to Copenhagen [to see Trotsky] ... I agreed, but I told him that it would be impossible to travel together out of considerations of secrecy. I arranged with Sedov that I would arrive in Copenhagen in two or three days; that I would stop at the Hotel Bristol and that we would meet there. From the station I went straight to the hotel where I met Sedov in the foyer. [54]

We are greatly won over by this account with all its factual evidence which so rarely appears at this trial. In particular, it even names the Hotel Bristol where Holtzman and Sedov supposedly met in the foyer. The only trouble is that there is no Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen. Such a hotel did exist but it was closed in 1917 and the building itself was destroyed. [55]

Perhaps Holtzman or one of his investigators had gone to Copenhagen before the Revolution and had stayed at the Hotel Bristol. Perhaps the investigators simply decided that there is no major city in Europe without a Hotel Bristol. Everything is possible ... But the incompetent and lazy investigators would have done better to take the trouble to first make the necessary inquiry. Now there’s some “sabotage” for you! And after this. what else remains of the testimony, so rich in detail, given by Holtzman, the most important witness for the prosecution? Doesn’t this fact alone shed a bright light on the whole trial?

Sedov’s Trip to Copenhagen

But that’s not all. As we have seen, they forced Holtzman to say that he didn’t go to Copenhagen alone,—that by agreement with him, Sedov also went to Copenhagen. In describing the conditions of his conversation with Trotsky, Holtzman gives us interesting new details: “very frequently Trotsky’s son Sedov would enter the room and then leave it.” A new act of sabotage! Never in his life was Sedov in Copenhagen. This sounds unbelievable, but nevertheless it’s true. In order for Sedov to be able to travel to Copenhagen from Berlin, his home at that time, he had to obtain a visa from the Berlin Police Headquarters to leave and re-enter Germany (a so-called “Sichtvermerk”). The obtaining of such a visa ordinarily brings with it great difficulties for a Heimatloser (stateless person).

When it became clear that L.D. Trotsky would go to Copenhagen, Sedov immediately began efforts—through his lawyer, the late Oscar Cohn — to obtain permission to leave and return to Germany, hoping after this, to obtain a visa to Denmark without any difficulty. Since it was originally supposed that Trotsky’s visa to Denmark would be extended a few weeks for medical treatment, the delay at the Berlin Police Headquarters at first did not worry Sedov or his parents. It was quite unexpected when, after the eight days had gone by, the Danish government in a very sharp manner ordered Trotsky to leave Danish soil. By now Sedov had no possibility of meeting with his parents in Copenhagen. A last attempt was made to see each other, even though it would only be for the short time which Trotsky had to spend in France on his way from Copenhagen to Istanbul (Dunkirk—Marseilles via Paris). N.I. Trotsky sent a detailed telegram to Edouard Herriot, the French prime minister at that time, asking him to give her son, Sedov, permission to travel in France for a few days in order to meet with him·after being separated for several years. This telegram can undoubtedly be found in the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sedov, on his part, with the help of Oscar Cohn, managed finally to obtain permission from the Berlin Police Headquarters for the return trip to Germany, without which he could not have received a French visa. On December 3 [56] , 1932, Sedov received the necessary permission from the German Police and on the same day the French consulate in Berlin received a telegram with instructions to give Sedov a French visa for five days. On the morning of December 4, Sedov left for Paris and arrived in the evening; at 10 AM on December 6 he met with Trotsky in Paris, at the Gare du Nord, in a railroad car. His father was travelling from Dunkirk to Marseilles without stopping in Paris.

Everything said above on be verified by certain documents: 1) Sedov’s passport with the corresponding visas and stamps for going both ways across the Franco-German border; 2) Natalia Trotsky’s telegram to Herriot, asking him to give a visa to her son, whom she was unable to see in Copenhagen; 3) a certificate from the Danish authorities stating that Sedov never asked for and never received a Danish visa. But, they can say,—perhaps Sedov travelled to Denmark “illegally”? Let us assume so. But why then, we must ask, was Sedov—after meeting with his parents illegally in Copenhagen, travelling a few days later to another meeting with them in France, a trip which was accompanied by such difficulties and trouble (a telegram to Herriot, etc.)?

But we have at our disposal irrefutable proof that while Trotsky was staying in Copenhagen, Sedov remained in Berlin without interruption:

1. Over the course of these eight days Trotsky or his wife talked with Sedov on the phone every day, sometimes twice a day, by calling Sedov’s Berlin apartment from Copenhagen. This can—and will be established by the central telephone office in Copenhagen.

2. Since Trotsky’s journey from Istanbul to Copenhagen brought on the burning hatred of world reaction, a number of Trotsky’s friends and co-thinkers set out hurriedly for Copenhagen. There were more than 20 people. All of them will swear under oath that L. Sedov was never in Copenhagen. Let us allow ourselves to take up one of these statements. Its author is E. Bauer, whom we have already quoted, now in the leadership of the SAP (Socialist Workers Party of Germany), formerly a member of the German Left Opposition. In September 1934, following serious political disagreements, E. Bauer broke with the organization of the Bolshevik-Leninists; this split was accompanied by very sharp polemics. Since then, E. Bauer has had no connection, either political or personal, with the membership of the Trotskyist organization. “This is why” as he writes in his deposition, “there can be no question in my case of any partiality toward the Trotskyists.” Then he writes: “From the first day of Trotsky’ s stay in Copenhagen, I spoke daily with Sedov in Berlin either directly or by telephone, since I was preparing to travel to Copenhagen. On the evening of December 1, 1932, I left for Copenhagen. Sedov accompanied me to the station and ... remained in Berlin. On the morning of December 2, we [Bauer and another person] arrived in Copenhagen ... and two hours later, between 10 and 11 o’clock in the morning, I was leaving Copenhagen by car with Trotsky and his wife; Sedov was not with us, since his trip had been impossible for technical reasons.”

We have at our disposal ten similar depositions and we will have still more. We are ready to submit all this material immediately to a responsible commission or a tribunal which would undertake an investigation of this case.

That’s how things stand with the testimony of the chief witness Holtzman who was, in spite of everything, an old Bolshevik. After this, is it necessary to dwell on the statements of scoundrels and Stalinist agents such as Berman-Yurin and Fritz David? Neither Trotsky nor Sedov — we repeat once more—had ever laid eyes on these people, whether in Copenhagen or elsewhere; they learned of their existence for the first time through the reports from the Moscow trial.

We have already noted above that at the time of Trotsky’s stay in Copenhagen, several dozen friends and comrades were also there. Fearing possible incidents, these comrades organized a very serious guard around Trotsky. It was impossible to enter L. Trotsky’s study without first passing through another room, where there were always four or five comrades. Access to the small villa occupied by Trotsky in Copenhagen was only allowed to a few close friends. [57] Neither Berman-Yurin, nor Fritz David, nor anyone else could have reached Trotsky unless comrades on guard in the front room knew about it.

By the preliminary, yet absolutely precise, investigations carried out by the comrades who were in Copenhagen, it has been possible to establish that Trotsky received only one Russian-speaking person in Copenhagen. This is a certain Abraham Senin (Sobolevich), who was then a Lithuanian citizen and a member of the Berlin organization of the Opposition. He came to see Cde. Trotsky on the last day of his stay in Copenhagen (at the same time as E. Bauer) and spoke no more than one hour with Trotsky, under conditions of extreme haste before the sudden departure. Senin’s trip to Copenhagen was made at the insistence of some of Trotsky’s Berlin friends; they had wanted to make a last effort to save Senin from capitulation to the Stalinists, to whom he was drawing nearer and nearer. The attempt was not crowned with success; a few weeks later, Senin, with three or four friends, went over to the Stalinists. This event was reported in both the Stalinist and Oppositionist press. By the very character of L.D. Trotsky’s meeting with the semi-capitulator Senin, it is quite obvious that Trotsky could not have maintained any confidence in Senin and could no longer look upon him as a cothinker.

In conclusion, we must once more turn our attention toward part of the testimony given by Olberg which deals with Copenhagen. “It was my intention” says Olberg “to go to Copenhagen with Sedov to see Trotsky. Our trip did not succeed and it was Sedov’s wife, Suzanne, who left for Copenhagen. Upon her return, she brought a letter [58] from Trotsky addressed to Sedov, in which Trotsky agreed to my trip to the USSR, etc.” This must be noted above all: in affirming that his trip to Copenhagen with Sedov did not take place. Olberg contradicts Holtzman. Because if one were to admit that Sedov went to Copenhagen without Olberg, why then would Trotsky have given a letter for Sedov to his companion, as Olberg contends?

No one, of course, has to know the name of Sedov’s wife, but Olberg, who claims to be on intimate terms with Sedov (“we [Sedov and I] met almost weekly, and sometimes we met twice a week in a cafe ... or I visited him at his apartment,” testifies Olberg), should have known that Sedov’s wife is not named Suzanne. Furthermore, Olberg, as we have just seen, affirms that this same Suzanne “upon her return [from Copenhagen to Berlin] brought a letter from Trotsky.” Sedov’s wife really was in Copenhagen, [59] but she left there not for Berlin, but directly for Paris, where she remained for a rather long time. This fact can be established with absolute precision on the basis of the passport belonging to Sedov’s wife. It is completely obvious that Trotsky could not give Sedov’s wife, who was leaving for Paris, a letter for Sedov who was in Berlin, But, one might object once again, perhaps Sedov’s wife nevertheless went “illegally” to Berlin. “Illegal trips” are not romanticism, they are a sad necessity for those who do not have papers. But why would a person who has a good legal passport for travelling in every country, the majority of which do not even require her to have a visa, travel illegally? This is simply not serious!

There we have the “foreign terrorist center” of Copenhagen, the only European city mentioned in the trial. The baseness of it aside, what poverty of invention! What a pitiful and hopeless failure!


[54] It must be noted that Holtzman was a Soviet citizen and as such, getting a visa for any country, including Demark, was fraught with nearly insurmountable difficulties, if the request was not backed by the Soviet Embassy, and it goes without saying that in this case there can be no talk of the embassy’s support. Thus Holtzman could only go to Copenhagen illegally. It is strange that the court was not interested in these circumstances and did not explain what papers Holtzman used to go to Denmark, where he got these papers, etc. (L.S.)

[55] For further details, see the Sozial Demokraten of Copenhagen on September 1, 1936; also Baedeker.

The work of falsification went full speed ahead even after the trial. In the English language edition of the court transcripts, which appeared somewhat later than the others, the Hotel Bristol is not even mentioned! (L.S.)

[56] Trotsky left Copenhagen, as we already said, on December 2. (L.S.)

[57] We take this opportunity to correct an imprecision which slipped into the Russian edition of this work. It was said in this passage that some journalists had visited Trotsky in this villa. This was incorrect and was immediately rectified by comrades present in Copenhagen. In reality, no journalist any more than anyone else, outside of the immediate friends who stood guard, was able to enter the villa. (L.S.)

[58] The contents of the “letter” by Trotsky about Olberg, with whom the reader is already sufficiently familiar are very amusing. In order to puff himself up, it seems, Olberg declares that in this letter Trotsky was in “full agreement” with Olberg’s candidacy for the trip to the USSR. Trotsky considered Olberg “an absolutely (!!) appropriate (??) man in whom one could have complete confidence (!!)” The whole letter is nothing but a dithyramb to Olberg! (L.S.)

[59] The GPU could have obtained information about this in its own manner, for example, by way of the above-mentioned Senin, who later was to play a somewhat suspicious role. (L.S.) See also note 73.

Last updated on: 13.2.2005