1930s >> 1937 >> no-397-september-1937

More Light on the Russian Confessions

The widespread disbelief in the genuineness of the “confessions” made by prisoners of the Russian dictatorship has had the good effect of bringing more information to light. The International Review, which has published much valuable material during its short existence (published in New York. P.O. Box 44, Sta. O, New York City. 15 cents a month, 1 dollar 75 cents a year) reproduces in its August issue extracts from a statement made before an unofficial committee of inquiry in Prague by a German Communist named Wolf, who lived for considerable periods in Russia. Through casual contact with another Communist who fell foul of the Russian police, Wolf suddenly found himself arrested and urged to plead guilty to Trotskyite and Nazi activities. Here is a typical passage describing how “confessions” were extracted from him: –

    “At 11 o’clock in the night, he was suddenly undressed, examined, transferred to a cell. Sleep? The light remains there day and night. Every several minutes a soldier, in the service of the G.P.U., looked through the hole in the door. Wolf had hardly fallen asleep when the door suddenly opened, and he was subjected to an interrogation that lasted from 11.30 p.m. to 5 a.m., and started again at 6.30. He was permitted to sit down on a small, narrow, backless iron seat, before a small table. This continued for weeks. He raved, crying for sleep. Every interrogation terminated with his signing a stenographic report in Russian, which he could hardly make out.”

He describes convincingly how his questioners twisted and distorted every harmless detail of his past activities. He had lodged in the house of a Trotskyite: therefore he must be a Trotskyite. He had once suggested that the Russian lumbermen’s paper should get its own radio station: he therefore must have wanted to establish communication with the Nazis with it. His father was in a Nazi concentration camp: Ah, that was just a trick of the Nazis to fool the Russian police.

On the advice of the Russian Communist Party he had written reports to a German Liberal newspaper favourably commenting on industrial development in Russia: that “proved” his contact with the Nazis, although the paper was anti-Nazi and the reports were written before Hitler came to power.

So it goes on, until the police have their “confession.” Luckily for Wolf his German citizenship deterred the Russian police eventually.

All that can be said about the police procedure used in Russia is that there are lots of other countries which use the same procedure.

A correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, who has just left Russia after many years’ residence there, claims to have interviewed 98 people arrested between 1928 and 1932, about half of whom alleged that they “were subjected to actual torture” in Russian jails. The article dealing with this was published by the Manchester Guardian on August 19th, 1937. The correspondent (whose name is not given) points out that only a fraction of the Russian trials are held in public and the witnesses or defendants who “confess” are only a selected few of the much larger number arrested and held by the police.

In conclusion, for the benefit of those who still believe that “confession” means guilt, consider the report from Rebel Spain about the bombing of the British ship, “British Corporal,” outside Algiers. The Rebel authorities at Majorca admitted it was their doing, an unfortunate mistake! General Franco, nominally in supreme command over the Majorca authorities, denied this. He had “proof” that the bombing was done by Russian airmen in the pay of the Spanish Republican Government. What was the proof? What else than a “confession” by a Russian airman captured in Rebel territory. And here is the comment of Mr. Philip Jordan, of the News Chronicle (August 12th, 1937): –

    “If indeed such an airman exists, it is possible that he has said such a thing. When in Spain I was able to authenticate the case of a Russian pilot brought down in rebel territory with three bullet wounds, one of them in his head. For three days and three nights he was not allowed to sleep or to receive medical attention. At the end of that time he was ready to make any statement demanded from him.”

What price confessions?

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