Communist Secret Police: NKVD

Communist Secret Police: NKVD

In 1933, the Government Political Administration (GPU) became known as the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). However, they also sent agents to work abroad. The United States was its main target. Valentine Markin, a senior NKVD official based in New York City sent a cable to Moscow in March 1934 that stated: "In world politics, the U.S. is the determining factor. There are no problems, even those 'purely' European, in whose solution America does not take part because of its economic and financial strength. It plays a special role in the solution of the Far Eastern problem. That is why America must be well informed in European and Far Eastern matters, and its intelligence service is likely to play an active role. This situation raises the following extremely important problems for our intelligence in the U.S... It is necessary that the agents we now have or intend to recruit provide us with documents and verified materials clarifying the U.S. position in the matters mentioned above and, especially, the U.S. position on the Far Eastern problem."

Over the next few years the NKVD had several important agents based in the United States. Vsevolod Merkulov and Pavel Fitin were put in charge of the operation. Agents based in America included Gaik Ovakimyan, Semyon Semyonov, Boris Bykov, Vassili Zarubin, Alexander Feklissov, Leonid Kvasnikov, Anatoly Gorsky, Iskhak Akhmerov, Boris Bazarov, Peter Gutzeit, Gerhart Eisler, Elizabeth Zarubina and Vassili Mironov.

Agents recruited in the United States included Cedric Belfrage, Elizabeth Bentley, Marion Bachrach, Joel Barr, Abraham Brothman, Earl Browder, Karl Hermann Brunck, Louis Budenz, Whittaker Chambers, Frank Coe, Henry Hill Collins, Lauchlin Currie, Hope Hale Davis, Samuel Dickstein, Martha Dodd, Laurence Duggan, Gerhart Eisler, Noel Field, Harold Glasser, Vivian Glassman, Jacob Golos, Theodore Hall, Alger Hiss, Donald Hiss, Joseph Katz, Charles Kramer, Duncan Chaplin Lee, Harvey Matusow, Hede Massing, Paul Massing, Boris Morros, William Perl, Victor Perlo, Lee Pressman, Joszef Peter, Mary Price, William Remington, Alfred Sarant, Abraham George Silverman, Helen Silvermaster, Nathan Silvermaster, Alfred Stern, William Ludwig Ullmann, Julian Wadleigh, Harold Ware, William Weisband, Nathaniel Weyl, Donald Niven Wheeler, Harry Dexter White, Nathan Witt and Mark Zborowski.

Genrikh Yagoda, was appointed as the head of the NKVD. One of his first tasks was to remove Stalin's main rival for the leadership of the party. Sergy Kirov had been a loyal supporter of Stalin but he grew jealous of his popularity. As Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "In sharp contrast to Stalin, Kirov was a much younger man and an eloquent speaker, who was able to sway his listeners; above all, he possessed a charismatic personality. Unlike Stalin who was a Georgian, Kirov was also an ethnic Russian, which stood in his favour." According to Orlov, who had been told this by Yagoda, Stalin decided that Kirov had to die.

Yagoda assigned the task to Vania Zaporozhets, one of his trusted lieutenants in the NKVD. He selected a young man, Leonid Nikolayev, as a possible candidate. Nikolayev had recently been expelled from the Communist Party and had vowed his revenge by claiming that he intended to assassinate a leading government figure. Zaporozhets met Nikolayev and when he discovered he was of low intelligence and appeared to be a person who could be easily manipulated, he decided that he was the ideal candidate as assassin.

Zaporozhets provided him with a pistol and gave him instructions to kill Kirov in the Smolny Institute in Leningrad. However, soon after entering the building he was arrested. Zaporozhets had to use his influence to get him released. On 1st December, 1934, Nikolayev, got past the guards and was able to shoot Kirov dead. Nikolayev was immediately arrested and after being tortured by Yagoda he signed a statement saying that Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev had been the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Kirov.

According to Alexander Orlov, a senior figure in the NKVD: "Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov". Victor Kravchenko has pointed out: "Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Hundreds of others, dragged from prison cells where they had been confined for years, were executed in a gesture of official vengeance against the Party's enemies. The first accounts of Kirov's death said that the assassin had acted as a tool of dastardly foreigners - Estonian, Polish, German and finally British. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks."

Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001), claims that Orlov later admitted: "In the months preceding the trial, the two men were subjected to every conceivable form of interrogation: subtle pressure, then periods of enormous pressure, starvation, open and veiled threats, promises, as well as physical and mental torture. Neither man would succumb to the ordeal they faced." Stalin was frustrated by Stalin's lack of success and brought in Nikolai Yezhov to carry out the interrogations.

Orlov claims that. "Towards the end of their ordeal, Zinoviev became sick and exhausted. Yezhov took advantage of the situation in a desperate attempt to get a confession. Yezhov warned that Zinoviev must affirm at a public trial that he had plotted the assassination of Stalin and other members of the Politburo. Zinoviev declined the demand. Yezhov then relayed Stalin's offer; that if he co-operated at an open trial, his life would be spared; if he did not, he would be tried in a closed military court and executed, along with all of the opposition. Zinoviev vehemently rejected Stalin's offer. Yezhov then tried the same tactics on Kamenev and again was rebuffed."

In July 1936 Yezhov told Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev that their children would be charged with being part of the conspiracy and would face execution if found guilty. The two men now agreed to co-operate at the trial if Stalin promised to spare their lives. At a meeting with Stalin, Kamenev told him that they would agree to co-operate on the condition that none of the old-line Bolsheviks who were considered the opposition and charged at the new trial would be executed, that their families would not be persecuted, and that in the future none of the former members of the opposition would be subjected to the death penalty. Stalin replied: "That goes without saying!"

The trial opened on 19th August 1936. Five of the sixteen defendants were actually NKVD plants, whose confessional testimony was expected to solidify the state's case by exposing Zinoviev, Kamenev and the other defendants as their fellow conspirators. The presiding judge was Vasily Ulrikh, a member of the secret police. The prosecutor was Andrei Vyshinsky, who was to become well-known during the Show Trials over the next few years.

Yuri Piatakov accepted the post of chief witness "with all my heart." Max Shachtman pointed out: "The official indictment charges a widespread assassination conspiracy, carried on these five years or more, directed against the head of the Communist party and the government, organized with the direct connivance of the Hitler regime, and aimed at the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in Russia. And who are included in these stupefying charges, either as direct participants or, what would be no less reprehensible, as persons with knowledge of the conspiracy who failed to disclose it?"

The men made confessions of their guilt. Lev Kamenev said: "I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organised and guided this conspiracy. My motives? I had become convinced that the party's - Stalin's policy - was successful and victorious. We, the opposition, had banked on a split in the party; but this hope proved groundless. We could no longer count on any serious domestic difficulties to allow us to overthrow. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power."

Gregory Zinoviev also confessed: "I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. I am guilty of having been the organizer, second only to Trotsky, of that block whose chosen task was the killing of Stalin. I was the principal organizer of Kirov's assassination. The party saw where we were going, and warned us; Stalin warned as scores of times; but we did not heed these warnings. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky."

Kamenev's final words in the trial concerned the plight of his children: "I should like to say a few words to my children. I have two children, one is an army pilot, the other a Young Pioneer. Whatever my sentence may be, I consider it just... Together with the people, follow where Stalin leads." This was a reference to the promise that Stalin made about his sons.

On 24th August, 1936, Vasily Ulrikh entered the courtroom and began reading the long and dull summation leading up to the verdict. Ulrikh announced that all sixteen defendants were sentenced to death by shooting. Edward P. Gazur has pointed out: "Those in attendance fully expected the customary addendum which was used in political trials that stipulated that the sentence was commuted by reason of a defendant's contribution to the Revolution. These words never came, and it was apparent that the death sentence was final when Ulrikh placed the summation on his desk and left the court-room."

The following day Soviet newspapers carried the announcement that all sixteen defendants had been put to death. This included the NKVD agents who had provided false confessions. Joseph Stalin could not afford for any witnesses to the conspiracy to remain alive. Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996), has pointed out that Stalin did not even keep his promise to Kamenev's sons and later both men were shot.

Joseph Stalin became angry with Genrikh Yagoda when he failed to obtain enough evidence to convict Nickolai Bukharin. In September, 1936, Nikolai Yezhov replaced Yagoda as head of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Yezhov quickly arranged the arrest of all the leading political figures in the Soviet Union who were critical of Stalin. Boris Nicolaevsky was one of Stalin's opponents who managed to escape from the Soviet Union. He later recalled: "In the whole of my long life, I have never met a more repellent personality than Yezhov's. When I look at him I am reminded irresistibly of the wicked urchins of the courts in Rasterayeva Street, whose favorite occupation was to tie a piece of paper dipped in kerosene to a cat's tail, set fire to it, and then watch with delight how the terrified animal would tear down the street, trying desperately but in vain to escape the approaching flames. I do not doubt that in his childhood Yezhov amused himself in just such a manner and that he is now continuing to do so in different forms."

According to Edvard Radzinsky, the author of Stalin (1996): "Yezhov was typical of those who rose from nowhere to high positions in this period: semiliterate, obedient, and hardworking. His dubious past made him particularly eager to shine. Most important of all - he had made his career after the overthrow of the October leaders. Yagoda now served Stalin, but until recently had been the servant of the Party. Yezhov had served no-one but Stalin. He was the man to implement the second half of Stalin's scheme. For him there were no taboos. At the height of the Terror Yezhov would be portrayed on thousands of posters as a giant in whose hands enemies of the people writhed and breathed their last... Yezhov was merely a pseudonym for Stalin himself, a pathetic puppet, there simply to carry out orders. All the thinking was done, all the decisions were made, by the Boss himself."

Nadezhda Khazina and her husband, Osip Mandelstam, met him after his appointment: "In the period of the Yezhov terror - the mass arrests came in waves of varying intensity - there must sometimes have been no more room in the jails, and to those of us still free it looked as though the highest wave had passed and the terror was abating... We first met Yezhov in the 1930s when Mandelstam and I were staying in a Government villa in Sukhumi. It is hard to credit that we sat at the same table, eating, drinking and exchanging small talk with this man who was to be one of the great killers of our time, and who totally exposed - not in theory but in practice - all the assumptions on which our humanism rested.... Yezhov was a modest and rather agreeable person. He was not yet used to being driven about in an automobile and did not therefore regard it as an exclusive privilege to which no ordinary mortal could lay claim. We sometimes asked him to get him to get a lift into town, and he never refused."

Eugene Lyons worked as a journalist in Moscow. He wrote about his experiences in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "One need not be guilty of an overt act to have his house searched, himself stuck away in a foul cell, his family terrorized. An anonymous denunciation by someone who coveted his room or his job might do it, or the fact that he had been seen playing chess with someone else who was denounced. Perhaps his name was listed in the address book of a suspected person, or a second cousin by marriage, in the course of interrogation, had mentioned the relationship... I knew dozens of men and women who lived in a state of chronic terror, their little suitcases always packed, though they worked diligently and avoided even facial expressions which might cast doubt on their loyalty. To awaken in their own beds in the morning was a daily miracle for such people. The sound of a doorbell at an unusual hour left them limp and trembling."

In August 1936 Alexander Orlov was appointed by the Soviet Politburo as adviser to the Popular Front government in Spain. Orlov was given considerable authority by the Republican administration during the Spanish Civil War. Orlov supervised a large-scale guerrilla operation behind Nationalist lines. He later claimed that around 14,000 people had been trained for this work by 1938. Orlov also used NKVD agents to deal with left-wing opponents of the Communist Party (PCE) in Republican held areas. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the Worker's Party (POUM), National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).

In December 1936, Nikolai Yezhov established a new section of the NKVD named the Administration of Special Tasks (AST). It contained about 300 of his own trusted men from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Yezhov's intention was complete control of the NKVD by using men who could be expected to carry out sensitive assignments without any reservations. The new AST operatives would have no allegiance to any members of the old NKVD and would therefore have no reason not to carry out an assignment against any of one of them. The AST was used to remove all those who had knowledge of the conspiracy to destroy Stalin's rivals. One of the first to be arrested was Genrikh Yagoda, the former head of the NKVD.

Within the administration of the ADT, a clandestine unit called the Mobile Groups had been created to deal with the ever increasing problem of possible NKVD defectors, as officers serving abroad were beginning to see that the arrest of people like Yagoda, their former chief, would mean that they might be next in line. By the summer of 1937, an alarming number of intelligence agents serving abroad were summoned back to the Soviet Union. Most of those, including Theodore Mally, were executed.

Ignaz Reiss was an NKVD agent serving in Belgium when he was summoned back to the Soviet Union. Reiss had the advantage of having his wife and daughter with him when he decided to defect to France. In July 1937 he sent a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Paris explaining his decision to break with the Soviet Union because he no longer supported the views of Stalin's counter-revolution and wanted to return to the freedom and teachings of Lenin. Orlov learnt of this letter from a close contact in France.

According to Edward P. Gazur, the author of Alexander Orlov: The FBI's KGB General (2001): "On learning that Reiss had disobeyed the order to return and intended to defect, an enraged Stalin ordered that an example be made of his case so as to warn other KGB officers against taking steps in the same direction. Stalin reasoned that any betrayal by KGB officers would not only expose the entire operation, but would succeed in placing the most dangerous secrets of the KGB's spy networks in the hands of the enemy's intelligence services. Stalin ordered Yezhov to dispatch a Mobile Group to find and assassinate Reiss and his family in a manner that would be sure to send an unmistakable message to any KGB officer considering Reiss's route."

Reiss was found hiding in a village near Lausanne, Switzerland. It was claimed by Alexander Orlov that a trusted Reiss family friend, Gertrude Schildback, lured Reiss to a rendezvous, where the Mobile Group killed Reiss with machine-gun fire on the evening of 4th September 1937. Schildback was arrested by the local police and at the hotel was a box of chocolates containing strychnine. It is believed these were intended for Reiss's wife and daughter.

By the beginning of 1938, most of the intelligence officers serving abroad had been targeted for elimination had already returned to Moscow. Joseph Stalin now decided to remove another witness to his crimes, Abram Slutsky. On 17th February 1938, Slutsky was summoned to the office of Mikhail Frinovsky, one of those who worked closely with Nikolai Yezhov, the head of ADT. According to Mikhail Shpiegelglass he was called to Frinovsky's office and found him dead from a heart attack.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, the author of Stalin: The Count of the Red Tsar (2004): "Yezhov was called upon to kill his own NKVD appointees whom he had protected. In early 1938, Stalin and Yezhov decided to liquidate the veteran Chekist, Abram Slutsky, but since he headed the Foreign Department, they devised a plan so as not to scare their foreign agents. On 17 February, Frinovsky invited Slutsky to his office where another of Yezhov's deputies came up behind him and drew a mask of chloroform over his face. He was then injected with poison and died right there in the office. It was officially announced that he had died of a heart attack." Two months later Slutsky was posthumously stripped of his CPSU membership and declared an enemy of the people.

Under Nikolai Yezhov, the Great Purge increased in intensity. In 1937 Yezhov arranged the arrest of Genrikh Yagoda, the former head of the NKVD. He was charged with Nickolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Nikolai Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky of being involved with Leon Trotsky in a plot against Joseph Stalin. They were all found guilty and were eventually executed. It is estimated that over the next year it is estimated that 1.3 million were arrested and 681,692 were shot for "crimes against the state". According to the historian, Emil Draitser, "during 1937 and 1938, 681,692 prisoners (353,074 and 328,618, respectively) received death sentences (nearly 1,000 per day)."

Stalin became convinced that the leaders of the Red Army were involved in a plot to overthrow him. In June, 1937, Mikhail Tukhachevsky and seven other top commanders were charged with conspiracy with Germany. William Stephenson, head of the British Security Coordination (BSC), who was aware of what was going on later pointed out: "Late in 1936, Heydrich had thirty-two documents forged to play on Stalin's sick suspicions and make him decapitate his own armed forces. The Nazi forgeries were incredibly successful. More than half the Russian officer corps, some 35,000 experienced men, were executed or banished. The Soviet chief of Staff, Marshal Tukhachevsky, was depicted as having been in regular correspondence with German military commanders. All the letters were Nazi forgeries. But Stalin took them as proof that even Tukhachevsky was spying for Germany. It was a most devastating and clever end to the Russo-German military agreement, and it left the Soviet Union in absolutely no condition to fight a major war with Hitler." Tukhachevsky was found guilty and executed on 11th June, 1937. It is estimated that 30,000 members of the armed forces were killed. This included fifty per cent of all army officers.

Joseph Stalin told Yezhov that he needed some help in running the NKVD and asked him to choose someone. Yezhov requested Georgy Malenkov but Stalin wanted to keep him in the Central Committee and sent him Lavrenty Beria instead. Simon Sebag Montefiore commented: "Stalin may have wanted a Caucasian, perhaps convinced that the cut-throat traditions of the mountains - blood feuds, vendettas and secret murders - suited the position. Beria was a natural, the only First Secretary who personally tortured his victims. The blackjack - the zhgtrti - and the truncheon - the dubenka - were his favourite toys. He was hated by many of the Old Bolsheviks and family members around the leader. With the whispering, plotting and vengeful Beria at his side, Stalin felt able to destroy his own polluted, intimate world."

Robert Service, the author of Stalin: A Biography (2004) has argued: "Yezhov understood the danger he was in and his daily routine became hectic; he knew that the slightest mistake could prove fatal. Somehow, though, he had to show himself to Stalin as indispensable. Meanwhile he also had to cope with the appointment of a new NKVD Deputy Commissar, the ambitious Lavrenti Beria, from July 1938. Beria had until then been First Secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia; he was widely feared in the south Caucasus as a devious plotter against any rival - and almost certainly he had poisoned one of them, the Abkhazian communist leader Nestor Lakoba, in December 1936. If Yezhov tripped, Beria was ready to take his place; indeed Beria would be more than happy to trip Yezhov up. Daily collaboration with Beria was like being tied in a sack with a wild beast. The strain on Yezhov became intolerable. He took to drinking heavily and turned for solace to one-night stands with women he came across; and when this failed to satiate his needs, he pushed himself upon men he encountered in the office or at home. In so far as he was able to secure his future position, he started to gather compromising material on Stalin himself.... On 17 November the Politburo decided that enemies of the people had infiltrated the NKVD. Such measures spelled doom for Yezhov. He drank more heavily. He turned to more boyfriends for sexual gratification."

On 23rd November 1938, Lavrenty Beria replaced Yezhov as head of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Yezhov was arrested on 10th April, 1939. It is claimed by the authors of Stalin's Loyal Executioner (2002) that Yezhov quickly confessed under torture to being an "enemy of the people". This included a confession that he was an homosexual.

Of the 1,966 delegates that attended the Communist Party Congress in 1934, 1,108 were arrested over the next five years. Only seventy people were tried in public. The rest were tried in secret before being executed. Official figures suggest that between January 1935 and June 1941, 19.8 million people were arrested by the NKVD. An estimated seven million of these prisoners were executed.

With the murder of Leon Trotsky in 20th August, 1940, all the leading figures involved in the Russian Revolution were dead except for Joseph Stalin. Of the fifteen members of the original Bolshevik government, ten had been executed and four had died (sometimes in mysterious circumstances). The armed forces suffered at the hands of Beria and the NKVD. It has been estimated that a third of all officers were arrested. Three out of five marshals and fourteen out of sixteen army commanders were executed.

After the Second World War the Communist Secret Police was renamed the Committee for State Security (KGB).

It was a prison of noiseless, cell-divided secrecy, built barely into a block that had once been occupied by insurance company offices. Each floor formed a prison on its own, sealed off from the others, with its individual entrance and reception-kiosk; coloured electric light-signals operated on all landings and corridors to mark the various comings and goings, so that prisoners could never meet one another. A mysterious hotel-corridor, whose red carpet silenced the slight sound of footsteps; and then a cell, bare, with an inlaid floor, a passable bed, a table and a chair, all spick and span.

Here, in absolute secrecy, with no communication with any person whatsoever, with no reading-matter whatsoever, with no paper, not even one sheet, with no occupation of any kind, with no open-air exercise in the yard, I spent about eighty days. It was a severe test for the nerves, in which I acquitted myself pretty well. I was weary with my years of nervous tension, and felt an immense physical need for rest. I slept as much as I could, at least twelve hours a day. The rest of the time, I set myself to work assiduously. I gave myself courses in history, political economy - and even in natural science! I mentally wrote a play, short stories, poems.

One need not be guilty of an overt act to have his house searched, himself stuck away in a foul cell, his family terrorized. Perhaps his name was listed in the address book of a suspected person, or a second cousin by marriage, in the course of interrogation, had mentioned the relationship. Worst of all, the German machines he had helped buy or install, after being manhandled by peasants accustomed only to managing wooden plows, had broken down mysteriously.

Those who remember the war-time atmosphere, in which everyone detected spies in his neighbors and the intelligence divisions in all countries were deluged with denunciations, can appreciate the ordeal of the technical and managerial forces in the Russia of the Piatiletka. The engineer or administrator was the obvious scapegoat for promises that could not be kept, for plans that went askew. He was punished for "underestimating (or overestimating) the possibilities" of his particular enterprise, for risking (or shirking) a crucial technical decision.

The G.P.U. agent, reckoning his usefulness by the number of "confessions" he extracted, was hardly fitted to trace the tenuous borderline where inefficiency or sheer carelessness ended and sabotage began. The arrested intellectual himself was no longer able to locate that border-line after being held incommunicado for months, aware that his relatives were in danger, confronted with "confessions" by colleagues implicating him, and conscious also of his deeper inner disapproval of the Bolshevik ideology. One can understand how men signed "confessions" filled with impossible detail. The hysteria sucked accusers and accused alike into the maelstrom of its lunacy.

I knew dozens of men and women who lived in a state of chronic terror, their little suitcases always packed, though they worked diligently and avoided even facial expressions which might cast doubt on their loyalty. The sound of a doorbell at an unusual hour left them limp and trembling.

The roster of scientists, historians, Academicians, famous engineers, technical administrators, statisticians arrested at this time reads like an encyclopedia of contemporary Russian culture. Many of them were held for months, for years, without so much as discovering the mysterious crimes charged against them. In addition to almost unlimited raw labor, the G.P.U. now had an unlimited supply of technical brains at its disposal.

The revolt against intelligence, signalized in the new personnel of the Politburo, held true in the whole life of the USSR. Distrust of the educated man or woman was magnified endlessly by the disappointments, the despairs, the bitterness of a hundred and sixty million individuals.

I can see that you are an unwavering enemy. You are bent on destroying yourself. Years of jail are in store for you. You are the ringleader of the Trotskyite conspiracy. We know everything. I want to try and save you in spite of yourself. This is the last time that we try. So, I'm making one last attempt to save you.

I don't expect very much from you - I know you too well. I am going to acquaint you with the complete confessions that have been made by your sister-in-law and secretary, Anita Russakova. All you have to do it say, "I admit that it is true", and sign it. I won't ask you any more questions, the investigation will be closed, your whole position will be improved, and I shall make every effort to get the Collegium to be lenient to you.

Stalin decided to arrange for the assassination of Kirov and to lay the crime at the door of the former leaders of the opposition and thus with one blow do away with Lenin's former comrades. Stalin came to the conclusion that, if he could prove that Zinoviev and Kamenev and other leaders of the opposition had shed the blood of Kirov, "the beloved son of the party", a member of the Politburo, he then would be justified in demanding blood for blood.

Up to last Sunday 117 persons had been executed in Soviet Russia as the direct result of the Kirov assassination. To what extent are Zinoviev and Kamenev implicated in the plot. The hysteria of Karl Radek's and Nikolai Bukharin's charges against them in Pravda and Izvestia fails to carry conviction.

Russia's right to crush Nazi-White Guard conspiracies or other plots of murder and arson no one questions; few have anything but approval for it. What is in question is the guilt of particular persons who have not been tried in an open court of law.

Hundreds of suspects in Leningrad were rounded up and shot summarily, without trial. Then came a series of official reports vaguely linking Nikolayev with present and past followers of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other dissident old Bolsheviks. Almost hourly the circle of those supposedly implicated, directly or "morally", was widened until it embraced anyone and everyone who had ever raised a doubt about any Stalinist policy.

I would like to repeat that I am fully and utterly guilty. We entered into an alliance with Trotsky.

I Kamenev, together with Zinoviev and Trotsky, organized and guided this conspiracy. Stalin's leadership we were actuated by boundless hatred and by lust of power.

Some commentators, writing at a long distance from the scene, profess doubt that the executed men (Zinoviev and Kamenev) were guilty. It is suggested that they may have participated in a piece of stage play for the sake of friends or members of their families, held by the Soviet government as hostages and to be set free in exchange for this sacrifice. We see no reason to accept any of these laboured hypotheses, or to take the trial in other than its face value. Foreign correspondents present at the trial pointed out that the stories of these sixteen defendants, covering a series of complicated happenings over nearly five years, corroborated each other to an extent that would be quite impossible if they were not substantially true. The defendants gave no evidence of having been coached, parroting confessions painfully memorized in advance, or of being under any sort of duress.

Very likely there was a plot. We complain because, in the absence of independent witnesses, there is no way of knowing. It is their (Zinoviev and Kamenev) confession and decision to demand the death sentence for themselves that constitutes the mystery. If they had a hope of acquittal, why confess? If they were guilty of trying to murder Stalin and knew they would be shot in any case, why cringe and crawl instead of defiantly justifying their plot on revolutionary grounds? We would be glad to hear the explanation.

And on 14 August, like a thunderbolt, came the announcement of the Trial of the Sixteen, concluded on the 25th - eleven days later - by the execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Ivan Smirnov, and all their fellow-defendants. I understood, and wrote at once, that this marked the beginning of the extermination of all the old revolutionary generation. It was impossible to murder only some, and allow the others to live, their brothers, impotent witnesses maybe, but witnesses who understood what was going on.

I do not recognize that I am guilty. I am not a Trotskyite. I was never a member of the "right-winger and Trotskyite bloc", which I did not know to exist. Nor have I committed a single one of the crimes imputed to me, personally; and in particular I am not guilty of having maintained relations with the German Secret Service.

Yesterday, a passing but sharp impulse of false shame, created by these surroundings and by the fact that I am on trial, and also by the harsh impression made by the list of charges and by my state of health, prevented me from telling the truth, from saying that I was guilty. And instead of saying "Yes, I am guilty", I replied, almost by reflex, "No I am not guilty."

The basic mechanism and chief reliance of the extortion artists were physical torture. In every city the Valuta Department might develop its own sadistic specialties, but apparently several basic techniques were common to them all.

The parilka, or sweat room, has been described to me so often that I feel as though I had seen it with my own eyes. I can see it now with my mind's eye. Several hundred men and women, standing close-packed in a small room where all ventilation has been shut off, in heat that chokes and suffocates, in stink that asphyxiates, one small bulb shedding a dim light on the purgatory. Many of them have stood thus for a day, for two days. Most of them have ripped their clothes off in fighting the heat and the sweat and the swarming lice that feed upon them. Their feet are swollen, their bodies numbed and aching. They are not allowed to sit down or to squat. They lean against one another for support, sway with one rhythm and groan with one voice. Every now and then the door is opened and a newcomer is squeezed in. Every now and then those who have fainted are dragged out into the corridor, revived and thrown back into the sweat room ... sometimes they cannot be revived.

The so-called "conveyor" has been graphically described by Professor Tchernavin in his book, I Speak for the Silent. His description coincides substantially with the accounts I have heard myself from victims who had been through the torture. Examiners sit at desks in a long series of rooms, strung out along corridors, up and down stairways, back to the starting point: a sort of circle of G.P.U. agents. The victims run at a trot from one desk to the next, cursed, threatened, insulted, bullied, questioned by each agent in turn, round and round, hour after hour. They weep and plead and deny and keep running... If they fall they are kicked and beaten on their shins, stagger to their feet and resume the hellish relay. The agents, relieved at frequent intervals, are always fresh and keen, while the victims grow weaker, more terrorized, more degraded.

From the parilka to the conveyor, from the conveyor to the parilka, then periods in ugly cells when uncertainty and fear for one's loved ones outside demoralize the prisoner ...weeks of this while the "hidden valuta resources" are being "mobilized" by the G.P.U. in a thousand cities of the socialist fatherland. I am aware of my impotence to translate more than a hint of the Gehenna into words. One must hear it from the mouth of a haggard, feverish victim fresh from the ordeal to grasp the hellishness of it.

If physical torture failed to break down someone... members of his family were brought in and tortured under his eyes. I heard the detailed story of a former merchant who insisted for weeks that he had nothing, absolutely nothing left. Only when one of his children, a little boy, was thrown into the Parilka with him and kept there for three days did he remind himself that he did have a box of jewels buried in his back yard. Then another child was brought for torture, and he admitted to more valuta in another hiding place. His whole family was on the rack before he was stripped clean of his surreptitious wealth.

A Russian-American businessman came as a tourist to visit his aged parents in Kiev. For years he had been sending them a monthly remittance, which was their only support. Completely distressed by the squalid poverty in which his father and mother lived, he tried in vain to arrange for them to leave the country; this was before the valuta ransom racket was inaugurated. He did the next best thing and found them a better room to live in by paying American dollars to the trust which controlled the tenement house. He outfitted them at Torgsin and paid for large stocks of food. And before departing he left them four or five hundred dollars in cash.

That gift was tantamount to a sentence of torture for the father. No sooner had his son left than the old man was dragged away to the torture chambers. He immediately relinquished the few hundred dollars. The very alacrity with which he did it convinced the a(rents that it could not be all, that he must have more than he admitted. (Seasoned victims knew the danger of yielding too soon and thereby exciting the doubts and cupidity of their tormentors; one victim warned another to take the medicine of torture before capitulatina if he wanted to be believed.) So he was taken in custody at regular intervals for another installment of "persuasion."

A routine practice was to force Soviet citizens to write to relatives abroad begging for large sums of money. The letters, dictated by the G.P.U., usually made frantic appeals for specified amounts, explaining vaguely that it was "a matter of life and death." When the money arrived, it was, of course, instantly "contributed" to the Five Year Plan. Jews in particular were subjected to this racket on the theory that blood ties are strong in Jewish families and a tragic plea for cash would not be ignored by well-off American sons and uncles.

(a) He impeded harvesting operations and thus created conditions for the loss of grain. Pursuing the destruction of the kolkhoz livestock he artificially reduced the fodder base by ploughing up meadows which resulted in kolkhoz cattle starving;

(b) He obstructed the progress of the Stakhanovite movement in the kolkhoz by repressing Stakhanovites. On the basis of the facts stated heretofore he is charged with anti-Soviet activities: being an enemy of the CPSU (B) and of the Soviet system and having established ties with the members of an abolished anti-Soviet right-wing Trotskyist organization, he carried out their instructions of subversive acts at the 'Red October' kolkhoz which were aimed at undermining the economic well-being of the kolkhoz.

"You have been arrested on the charge of being a member of a counter-revolutionary right-wing Trotskyist organization. Do you plead guilty?"

"I do not plead guilty. I have never been a member of a counterrevolutionary organization."

"You're not telling the truth. The prosecution has at its disposal precise information about your membership of a counterrevolutionary right-wing Trotskyist organization. Give us truthful evidence in the case."

"I repeat, I have not been a member of a counterrevolutionary organization."

"You are lying. A number of people charged in this case testified against you, corroborating your counterrevolutionary activity. The prosecution insists on obtaining truthful evidence."

"I deny the accusations categorically. I don't know of any counterrevolutionary organization."

Axis History Forum

This is an apolitical forum for discussions on the Axis nations and related topics hosted by the Axis History Factbook in cooperation with Christian Ankerstjerne’s Panzerworld and Christoph Awender's WW2 day by day.
Founded in 1999.

Post by Schmauser » 21 Aug 2002, 01:39

I'm looking for information regarding the NKVD Secret Police. I can't find much on it's organisation and member's. Can anyon help?

Post by AirborneAllTheWay » 21 Aug 2002, 03:12

In 1934, the Government Political Administration (GPU) became known as the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Later that year the new head of the NKVD, Genrikh Yagoda, arrested Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Ivan Smirnov, and thirteen others and accused them of being involved with Leon Trotsky in a plot to murder Joseph Stalin and other party leaders. All of these men were found guilty and were executed on 25th August, 1936.

After the failure of Genrikh Yagoda to obtain enough evidence to convict Nickolai Bukharin, he was sacked and Joseph Stalin appointed Nikolai Yezhov as head of the NKVD. Yezhov quickly arranged the arrest of all the leading political figures in the Soviet Union who were critical of Stalin.

The NKVD broke prisoners down by intense interrogation. This included the threat to arrest and execute members of the prisoner's family if they did not confess. The interrogation went on for several days and nights and eventually they became so exhausted and disoriented that they signed confessions agreeing that they had been attempting to overthrow the government.

In 1936 Nickolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Krestinsky and Christian Rakovsky were arrested and accused of being involved with Leon Trotsky in a plot against Joseph Stalin. They were all found guilty and were eventually executed.

In August 1936 Alexander Orlov was appointed by the Soviet Politburo as adviser to the Popular Front government in Spain. Orlov was given considerable authority by the Republican administration during the Spanish Civil War. Orlov supervised a large-scale guerrilla operation behind Nationalist lines. He later claimed that around 14,000 people had been trained for this work by 1938.

Orlov also used NKVD agents to deal with left-wing opponents of the Communist Party (PCE) in Republican held areas. This included the arrest and execution of leaders of the Worker's Party (POUM), National Confederation of Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI).

In July 1938 Alexander Orlov was ordered back to the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin. Aware of the Great Purge that was going on, Orlov fled to France with his family before making his way to the United States.

The Soviet purges continued and with the murder of Leon Trotsky in 20th August, 1940, all the leading figures involved in the Russian Revolution were dead except for Joseph Stalin. Of the fifteen members of the original Bolshevik government, ten had been executed and four had died (sometimes in mysterious circumstances).

Of the 1,966 delegates that attended the Communist Party Congress in 1934, 1,108 were arrested over the next five years. Only seventy people were tried in public. The rest were tried in secret before being executed. Official figures suggest that between January 1935 and June 1941, 19.8 million people were arrested by the NKVD. An estimated seven million of these prisoners were executed.

The armed forces suffered at the hands of the NKVD. It has been estimated that between 1936 and 1941 a third of all officers were arrested. Three out of five marshals and fourteen out of sixteen army commanders were executed.

Members of the NKVD were also purged by Joseph Stalin. The first three heads of the NKVD were all executed: Genrikh Yagoda (1934-36), Nikolai Yezhov (1936-39) and Lavrenti Beria (1939-53).

After the Second World War the Communist Secret Police was renamed the Committee for State Security (KGB).

"Communist secret police in SCW, photos?" Topic

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Areas of Interest

Featured Hobby News Article

King Michael's Panzers Ride Again

Featured Link

T-26 Tank

Featured Ruleset

War Games Rules: Infantry Actions

Featured Showcase Article

Microscale LCT(5) from Image Studios

Thinking to invade German-held Europe? Then you'll need some of these.

Featured Profile Article

Dung Gate

For the time being, the last in our series of articles on the gates of Old Jerusalem.

Featured Movie Review

Man Made Monster

1,056 hits since 30 Dec 2019
�-2021 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Hi all, any one ever see photos of the uniforms, or other general information useful for painting, on the communist secret police in Spain circa '36? Looks like Orlov of the NKVD was already in Spain setting up secret prisons, influencing the government, and pushing for communist control of the security forces in September 1936. By November the communists, which had little following before Russian involvement, took over many aspects of the government as well as police and security forces. Im most interested in the Servicios Especiales, the Ministry of the Interior's intelligence department. Id love to see a photo or graphic of their uniforms. Apparently they operated as an arm of the KKVD. Any leads? My source for most of this is (accessed online): The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counter Revolution. By Bolloten.

? IF they were secret police, would they have uniforms?

They are in the modern Spanish/Basque film Guernica and a nasty bunch they are. If they are secret police would they not be in mufti? They are in the film albeit with ominous raincoats.

Why not? Those in the Soviet Union did.

Ya i found some photos of the soviets, in Russia (i wonder if theyd wear the same in Spain) but i did have that same thought, as well as this one: if they were secret they would probably avoid photos. But i figured it was worth a shot!

Some of those photos of NKVD officers I mentioned in the previous post

plus an artistic rendering and below it a model, for some color reference

I have long treasured that Avram Davidson "Doctor Eszterhazy" reference to the secret police showing up in their new summer uniform. But a lot of what we term "secret police" are more formally or officially security police or some such, and might very well have an official uniform--though of course, like plainclothes policemen, might seldom wear it.

For gaming purposes, though, they'd at least have fashions or expectations. The US civil service (and the associated contractors) may not have a uniform either--but try to find one of any rank without a dark blue or charcoal suit or a black topcoat. Early Chekists go heavy on leather jackets, but I'm not sure it was true as late as the mid-thirties.

The NKVD is the "People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs". In a more familiar language &ndash the Ministry of the Interior.

This structure included many different services:
- State security (protection of the first persons of the state, protection of state secrets, the fight against espionage and sabotage)
- Border Guards
- Foreign intelligence
- Management and security of places of detention
- Protection of public order and property (normal police functions)
- Fire service

Soviet instructors and volunteers were not officially present in Spain, and therefore did not have the right to use their uniforms. Most likely, they had a uniform of the corresponding Spanish services.

In the figures you have given, the characters have shoulder straps on their shoulders. Until 1943, epaulettes in the USSR were not used and were considered a symbol of the overthrown tsarist regime.

Forgot to mention the NKVD troops (Internal troops &ndash an analogue of the National Guard)

Contact Cacique Caribe on LFA. His Grandparents and Parents lived through the SCW and he has a large oral history of the conflict.

The Republican Military intelligence, the SIM, wore standard uniforms

Thanks all! Stone Mtn, Cacique Caribe sounds really interesting. Through google search I figured out LFA refers to a Land of the Lost Forum Anonymous? I dont believe I'm a member there -). Major B, thats really good to know. Ive begun my search for the SIM uniforms, nothing yet coming up, do you know of any, or a description of them?

Thanks again all. I may just end up turning these few extra officer minis into more Asaltos. Less fun, but probably a lot more useful

See the Guide to the Harry Randall XV BDE Collection, ALBA PHOTO 11, Photo Unit Series B, Item: 11-0190#: B457, Lieutenant Ivan Rujevic, Servicio de Inteligencia Militar, 15th International Brigade. [real name John Gerlach]

In this photo "Ivan" is shown wearing an officer's uniform. In other photos in the collection he is shown in a beret and soft brimmed cap. There was no specific uniform for the SIM.

The Randall collection is an excellent source to see what the men of the XV BDE wore in the field.

Hungarian Secret Police

The AVO (Allamvedelmi Osztaly) was Hungary’s State Security Agency a much hated and much feared secret police. The work of the AVO was one of the main causes of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. During this uprising, men known to be in the AVO were publicly lynched in Budapest in front of large crowds and money stuffed into their mouths. The work of the AVO created a constant climate of fear and by November 1956 this, along with the economic climate that existed in Hungary, spilled over into outright rebellion.

The headquarters of the AVO was at 60, Andrassy Place in Budapest. This address is now a museum and known as ‘Terror House’. The choice of this building could not have been a coincidence – it had been the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross movement during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War Two. It already had torture chambers within it when the AVO moved in after Stalin imposed a communist government on the people of Hungary. The role of the AVO was very simple – to hunt out anyone who was even vaguely against the rule of Moscow over Hungary. When it is considered that in the 1945 election, the Hungarian Communist Party received just 17% of votes cast and the popular Smallholders Party 57%, it is safe to assume that there were many in Hungary who opposed to the imposed communist rule. The AVO originally had Soviet masters but is first leader was a Hungarian called Gábor Péter. He had been trained by the NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB) and he set about accusing the leaders of the Smallholders Party of collaboration with the Nazis – and then set about finding the ‘evidence’. Péter used torture to get what he wanted. However, even this did not help the Hungarian Communists who only gained 24% of the vote in the 1947 election. Ironically, this electoral failure almost certainly spurred on Péter to commit further acts of barbarity to ensure communist supremacy in Hungary.

The methods Péter was prepared to used are best seen in the case of László Rajk, Hungary’s Minister of the Interior and therefore Péter’s boss. Rajk was charged with plotting with the West and Marshall Tito in planning to overthrow the Hungarian Communist government, which had been imposed on Hungary in January 1948. He was arrested by the AVO on May 30 th 1948 and brutally tortured in an effort to get a confession to ‘prove’ the charge against him. Péter even told Rajk that he would involve his family threatening them with punishment if he did not confess. There was nothing new about this as the Gestapo had used the same tactics during the wartime occupation. However, this had been Nazi occupier against occupied Hungarians. Now, Péter was using the same tactic as a Hungarian against a fellow Hungarian. Rajk held out until June 11 th – twelve days after being arrested – when he confessed in an attempt to save his family. At the conclusion of his ‘trial’, Rajk was sentenced to death and his entire extended family was also killed. There is now little doubt that the Soviet MGB (Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti) was involved – the Soviet State Security Service and it was they who provided the most damning ‘evidence’ against Rajk.

The fear of the AVO was such that in 1952, the new Minister of the Interior, Sándor Zöld, killed his entire family and then himself when he found out that he was about to be purged by the Hungarian Communist Party.

Not even Péter was safe. He was accused of plotting to kill Stalin and leaders of the Hungarian Communist Party. He was arrested and after either torture or the threat of torture, he confessed that he was “an agent of the British and Zionist Intelligence agencies”. Péter was not executed but sent to prison and released in 1959 when he was given a low government position.

In 1956, there was a belief that the Cold War was changing. Nikita Khrushchev denounced the rule of Stalin and for some the thaw began. The AVO changed its name to the AVH (Allamvedelmi Hatosag). However, a change of title could not distract the Hungarians and to them the hated organisation was still the AVO. In the lead up to the 1956 Uprising, the hatred against this organisation spilled over and on October 29 th there was a general outpouring of anger and hatred in Budapest where known members of the AVO were arrested and publicly hanged from lampposts with money stuffed into their mouths. On the same day Imre Nagy announced that the AVO/AVH had been disbanded.

The Hungarian Uprising was soon put down by the Russians and with much bloodshed. However, even the political masters in Moscow realised that the AVO had been a major source of anger and while it continued in the immediate aftermath of the uprising hunting out rebels, a decision was taken in Moscow that the AVO would never resurface. Even as the Cold War continued, Hungary as a nation never had another secret police force.

In 1989, a lieutenant colonel in the AVO/AVH, Vladimir Farkas, described the work that he did with others in the AVO. Farkas admitted that the AVO pulled out fingernails during torture in an effort to get a confession and that when the AVO failed in what it set out to achieve, the Soviet MGB (State Security Police) was called in to achieve what the AVO had failed to do. Farkas admitted that men died as a result of torture including Istvan Ries, a member of the Social Democrat Party in Hungary. Farkas claimed that the motto of the AVO was “whatever it takes to make them confess”. In his statement, Farkas claimed that this included immersing a suspect in a vat of hydrochloric acid.

Interview: A behind-the-scenes look at the former Eastern bloc’s secret police under communism

With the fall of the Iron Curtain at the end of 1989 came the collapse of the communist regimes of the Eastern bloc and of their institutions. Among them, the ‘secret’ political police of socialist republics under communism were probably the most well-known, including in the West. East-Germany’s Stasi, Romania’s Securitate, Czechoslovakia’s StB, Poland’s SB or Hungary’s ÁVH have been the subject of many myths and common preconceptions, sometimes reinforced by fiction.

Interview with Emmanuel Droit. Historian, professor at the Institute of Political Sciences of Strasbourg, France, Emmanuel Droit has just published a book that thoroughly examines the issue of the Eastern bloc’s secret police, from 1955 to 1989.

Secret political police were not invented by communism. They already existed, for instance, in a number of previous authoritarian regimes like Tsarist Russia, interwar Central and Eastern European monarchies, Nazi Germany or Italy under fascism. In what way do the communist regimes’ secret police stand out from the ones that came before them?

That’s an excellent question. You’re right to remind that these secret police have a long history and have emerged in the continuity of what we could call “policing”, in the context of the construction and modernization of nation-states that started in the second half of the 19 th century. Regardless of their nature – whether democratic or authoritarian – they all sought to maintain their control over their population, including foreigners.

I would argue that the main aspect in which communist secret police stand out from the others is their ability, not merely to enforce a form of surveillance and violence, but primarily to disintegrate social bonds and divide society. By fostering a climate of fear, they make all social and personal relationships difficult, instilling distrust between citizens. This is one of the reasons to explain the stability of communist regimes: they didn’t only rely on the strength of their firepower or the threat of Soviet tanks, but were also based on these police’s ability to nip, in a preventive way, any type of resistance or opposition in the bud.

Your study starts in 1955, rather than 1945. Why is that?

This choice is directly linked to the object of my study. In Central and Eastern European socialist republics, secret police were progressively put in place by the USSR after the end of the Second World War. I chose to begin my study in 1955 because that’s when all the secret police in Central and Eastern Europe started working together in a horizontal way.

I was primarily interested to see how – always under the authority and supervision of the Soviet hegemon – these police got to get to know one another and work together. That’s why 1955 is such an important date: that year was held the first major multilateral conference attended by representatives from all the Eastern bloc’s secret police. Before the death of Stalin, this type of multilateral meetings didn’t exist because the Soviet leader exclusively worked in a bilateral way and refused any type of horizontal ties between its satellite states’ political police.

How were they created, and how were their first members recruited?

All this happened in a very short time between 1946 and, officially, 1950, year of the creation of the Stasi after the founding of the GDR. But an embryonic secret police service already existed as early as 1946. We could say that in around two years’ time, members of the Soviet secret police – the NKVD – managed to put together similar structures in all the Central and Eastern European countries that had fallen under the control of the USSR.

They mostly relied on two types of agents and operatives. Firstly, former members of the communist resistance movements, who had either fought at home or arrived in the footsteps of the Red Army after having spent some time in exile in Moscow and survived the Stalinist purges of the second half of the 1930s. Secondly, the young recruits recruited from the ranks of ordinary police services, often badly trained and with just a basic level of education. All, however, were recruited based on two main criteria: loyalty and ideological reliability. communism secret police

What role did they play in the communist takeover of Central and Eastern European states from 1947 to 1949?

They played a crucial role by contributing to spread, disseminate and strengthen the threat of ‘the enemy from within’. They were initially created to uncover and hunt the former collaborators or supporters of the fascist regimes. Then, their scope of action was extended to include liberals, democrats in other words, all those who were considered and labelled as enemies of the people. In that regard, they became a truly bureaucratic terror apparatus meant to silence and smother and kind of opposition or resistance.

Political police also played a prominent role in crushing many uprisings and revolts, like in East Germany in 1953, in Poland and Hungary in 1956…

Yes and no. In Eastern Germany – and that actually caused a deep trauma for generations of GDR secret police members – the Stasi was not able to crack down on the unrest. Its agents didn’t see anything coming and were completely overwhelmed, while its buildings were even attacked by the protesters. The 1953 uprising was only suppressed due to the intervention of the Soviet army. communism secret police

In Poland, things happened differently. Poland’s political police service was created in 1944 and was, in many aspects, more organized and better equipped. They were therefore able, albeit with the help of the army, to crush the Poznań insurrection of June 1956.

Could we argue that secret communist police constituted a sort of ‘state within a state’?

Rather than a ‘state within a state’, the communist secret police are the extension of the party’s armed branch. Political leaders have always been distrustful of their state’s secret police and were consistently careful to maintain their control over them, including by appointing and placing people they could trust. These police obeyed the demands and followed the instructions of the political leadership. This also explains why strategies were often ill-defined, indecision prevailed or even, in some cases, complete inconsistencies and U-turns in surveillance or repression policies.

Secret police are often associated to the myth of the ‘state within a state’. The same phenomenon applies to Nazi Germany’s secret police, even though in that case – Johan Chapoutot showed it eloquently – the Führerprinzip pushed the security apparatus’ leaders to anticipate Hitler’s orders and agenda. But in the communist regimes, the system was very hierarchic, vertical, top-down. From this point of view, the communist party pretty much maintained control.

Your study covering several decades, some changes and evolution probably occurred. Did the “Detente” between the Western and Eastern blocs in the second half of the 1960s push the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe to adopt a more moderate approach to surveillance, control and repression?

Yes, the Detente undeniably did bring about a change. As soon as these communist regimes sought some type of international recognition and attempted to become a part of the international community, they became very eager to improve their image. communism secret police

We have to remember that, during their first decade of existence, the Eastern bloc’s secret police were created in the aftermath and in the continuity of the Stalinist era and the Second World War. The security and repressive apparatus therefore functioned motivated by a blind, and often arbitrary, violence. In the 1960s, and even more so in the 1970s, mere control was favoured. Yuri Andropov, who became head of the KGB in 1967, described the approach as ‘prophylaxis’, meaning that secret police should focus more on prevention and less on reaction. That’s why they developed, around that time, a whole system of surveillance technology (microphones, cameras, etc.).

Given that there are some nuances between the different communist regimes of the former Eastern bloc, could we say that relations between their secret police services also differed?

That’s what really struck me in my research. According to the official position, secret police were all “sister-institutions”. It’s true that they all find their roots in the USSR and that their agents and operatives are supposed to share the same values. But before being communist, these secret police are first part of a specific domestic context. That’s why, for instance, the tensions between Poland and the GDR had a repercussion in the bad relations between their secret police. This widespread mistrust, particularly acute in the years directly following the end of the war, rendered all transnational cooperation difficult and problematic.

What’s most striking is how little the different secret police knew about their counterparts. During multilateral meetings, a lot of time was spent explaining who does what, given that these services were not always strictly similar. There was a whole and lengthy process of intercultural learning to better understand the others. It’s only at the end of the 1970s – including due to the generational change among their members – that these secret police started cooperating and working together in a more efficient way. communism secret police

Even still, tensions were always there. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and the KGB took center stage in implementing the first economic reforms, the most radical Communists, at the helm of the secret police in Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia for instance, were up in arms and presented themselves as the last guardians of communism. This paved the way for heightened tensions with Moscow at the end of the 1980s.

In your study, you examine the ‘professional ethos’ of these secret police members you describe with the generic term of ‘Chekists’. Does the German movie The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) give a realistic and truthful depiction of these people?

Captain Wiesler, the character of The Lives of Others, does indeed convey a rather truthful image of these ‘Chekists’. The agents of the secret police saw themselves as an elite part of the avant-garde organization that was the communist party. Their professional ethos was largely based on discipline – this military aspect of their professional culture shouldn’t be understated – loyalty, ideological purity, engagement, abnegation and discretion. Furthermore, their view of society remained largely paternalist. They believed they worked for the common and greater good, that they were political educators. American historian Charles S. Maier went so far as to use the term of “social workers” to describe how they saw their role. That’s how we could define the typical transnational ‘Chekist’.

How did these secret police disappear in the early 1990s?

In the case of the East-German secret police, its disappearance is directly linked to Germany’s reunification process. But in most other cases throughout the Eastern bloc, transformation would be a more appropriate term. There was this prevalent idea that secret political police – we’re coming back to your first question – can survive any regime change since their primary purpose is to defend the state’s interests. But underneath this claim, pretext or ‘trick’, lies the fundamental goal not to dismantle services that sit on such a massive pile of information, nor to lose some much-too-precious agents and operatives.

The secret police were therefore not thoroughly ‘de-communized’ in the 1990s, including in countries like Poland or Hungary where the transition was soft and negotiated. In Poland, the Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak did let non-Communists take over but also took care of destroying the most compromising archives and tried to keep some of its former agents from standing trial. In the end, Central and Eastern European secret police succeeded rather well in finding their place in the new democratic arena by sticking by the rules of constitutional protection.

What remains today of these secret police in Central and Eastern European countries?

What remains is a highly negative memorial culture inscribed in the national identity of these countries. The post-socialist democracies of the region were built on these foundations and went through a process of ideological decolonization, rejection of communism and all its avatars, including the political police. Today, the emphasis is put on the victims while there simultaneously remains the lingering issue of former informants and collaborators. All of this puts the spotlight on how compromised and involved certain parts of society are, an issue very well expressed through literature and cinema. Evidently, Germany is today the most advanced of the former Eastern bloc nations in addressing these issues through the cultural medium.

This article was originally published in French by our partners Le Courrier d’Europe centrale. Interview conducted by Matthieu Boisdron, PhD student at Sorbonne University in Paris, professor at Nantes University and founder of the Codex publishing house.

List Of Communist Jews…! (Photos)


NOTE: Numerous Jews who joined the communist governments of the newly-formed Eastern Block in late 1940’s had their birth names changed at this time (as can be seen below) to help them “blend in” and to hide their identity. The book The Generation: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Communists of Poland,acknowledges the name change, among many other things.

Karl Marx – the father of communism. In 1846, Marx founded the Communist League . In 1848 he wrote the Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels, after which he was expelled from Belgium. He moved to France where he anticipated a socialist revolution, but was deported from France as well. Prussia (his birth country) refused to receive him back. He moved to UK, who refused to give him citizenship but tolerated his presence. He couldnt make a living and was supported by Friedrich Engels.

In 1867 he published Das Kapital, an anti-capitalist work. He died in poverty and anonymity in London, his work being published by Engel.

After Communism finally caught shape in troubled Russia in 1919, the ideology of communism was spread throughout Europe by activists who were usually Jewish, e.g. Karl Radek in Germany, Bela Kun in Hungary and Ana Pauker in Romania. It was always implemented in circumstances of war/ revolution .

Moses Hess – philosopher and socialist, one of the founders of Zionism. Supporter of Communism, conceived Marxist slogans.

Ferdinand Lassalle – jurist, philosopher, activist, member of the Communist League and associate of Karl Marx.

Eduard Bernstein – social democratic politician and the founder of evolutionary socialism and revisionism (Marxism). He is also one of the first socialists to deal sympathetically with the issue of homosexuality.

Leon Trotsky – helped ignite the Russian Revolution of 1917. One of the most prominent Soviet politicians, the founder and first leader of the Red Army. He was suppose to be Lenin’s successor, but Stalin proved to be more ambitious.

Israel Epstein – born in Poland, he moved to China where he worked as journalist and author. Member of the Communist Party of China, he became minister of appropriations in the communist government.

Genrikh Yagoda, or “the Jewish Hitler” – Soviet secret police official who served as director of the NKVD (the structure which took care of the “dirty job”). He organized the infamous Gulag system.

Maurice Levitas – Irish academic and communist. In 1931 and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain. He participated in the Spanish Civil war, as did many communist activists who saw war as tool to create a revolution and implement their ideology. His brother Max Levitas was communist councilor for 15 years in Stepney in London.

Phil Piratin – member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and member of the British Parliament. His fellow communist members were expelled from Parliament for crypto-communist views. Piratin was defeated on second tour of elections. He was manager at the Morning Star , newspaper created by Communist Party in 1930.

Matyas Rákosi (born Rosenfeld) – de-facto ruler of Communist Hungary. He was part of Bela Kun’s government in 1919 fled to Russia after Soviet Hungary’s collapse. Became Comiterm leader. Returned to Hungary as ruler enforced by Joseph Stalin when Hungary fell under communism after WW2.

Abraham Léon (born Wejnstok) Belgian activist who adopted Marxist ideas and tried to incite Belgium workers to fight both against Nazis and Churchill in Leninist fashion. He incited at civil war (in same manner that Alexander Parvus conceived to create civil war in Russia after WW1, which lead to Bolshevism). He wrote “The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation“. For his attempts to ignite civil war, he was deported to Auschwitz where he died.

Lou Kenton– British communist activist, member of the Communist Party of Great Britain since 1929.

Iosif Ştefan Koller – returned to Romania after Soviet takeover. Became head of the Directorate General of Prisons , Colonies and work units : deputy manager of General Labor Camps and colonies , commander of Aiud prison and Văcăreşti prison (both were political prisons) .

Aleksandr Orlov (born Leiba Feldbin) – General in the Soviet secret police and NKVD during the Spanish Civil war. Worked closely with Genrik Yagoda. He secretlytransported the entire gold reserve of the Spanish Republic to the USSR. Just like theRomanian National Treasure, the Gold was never returned. Fearing for his family’s well-being during the Great Purge of Stalin, Orlov fled to US where he published The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes after Stalin’s death.

Gheorghe Stoica (born Moscu Cohn) – one of the founders of the Romanian Communist party. He participated in the Spanish civil war (as did many communist activists).

Sidney Rittenberg – American journalist and scholar who worked closely with leader Mao and statesmen of Communist China. As a prominent media leader in China, being the head of the Broadcast Administration, he promoted the Cultural Revolutionin China (pro-communist movement).

Artur London – Czech communist politician, part of the first communist government as foreign prime-minister in late 1940’s.

Lev Kamenev – Bolshevik revolutionary and a prominent Soviet politician. Served as Russia’s premier under Vladimir Lenin’s rule.

Sigi Beiner (Sigismund Bayner) – investigator and regional deputy at Securitate (Romanian communist secret police). During 1940 Soviet invasion of eastern Romania (Bessarabia), he was accused of participating in attacks on Romanian civilians and military who were retreating into unoccupied Romania. This gained him NKVD agent status, who resent him to Romania after the communist takeover.

Martin Gray – NKVD officer who later pretended to be a Holocaust survivor. He wrote acontroversial book about his Holocaust experience, whose authenticity is questioned. His activity as an NKVD officer is overlooked and excused, despite the fact that it was a tool for mass murder and serious human rights abuses.

Max Goldstein – communist activist and terrorist in Romania, supported by Soviet Cheka. In 1920, together with 2 other Jewish communists – Leon Lichtblau and Saul Ozias, he committed 2 bomb attacks against Romanian government officials who were opposing communism. The first attack failed, the second one killed the minister of justice and 2 senators.

Max Goldstein

Leon Lichtblau

Adolf Joffe – Communist revolutionary, a Bolshevik politician and a Soviet diplomat.

Lazar Kaganovich(Kogan) – Soviet secret police (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD) high functionary, as follows: chief of the Gulag , deputy chief of the Gulag, deputy Narkom of Forest Industry.

Olga Kameneva (Bronstein) – sister of Leon Trotsky, wife of Lev Kamenev. She was an Officer in the Cheka Secret Police and Chairwoman of the Soviet Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

Ernest Gero – a member of Comintern in France in 1930’s First Secretary of the Communist Party in Hungary.

Salvador Allende Gossens – senator, deputy and cabinet minister and eventually president of Chile (South American ) in 1970’s. He applied Marxist policies (nationalization, collectivization) which proved to be unpopular among Chileans. He was removed from presidency through a coup d’etat, after which he committed suicide.

Ilya Ehrenburg – one of the most prolific authors of the Soviet Union Soviet cultural activist and journalist. He was accused of “promoting hate campaign” against Germans during World War II.

Quote from his 1942 leaflet called “Kill”: The Germans are not human beings. From now on, the word “German” is the worst possible curse-word to us. […] We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German in a day, you have wasted that day. If you don’t kill the German, the German will kill you. He will abduct your relatives and bring them back to his accursed Germany where he will torture them.

Avram Bunaciu (born Abraham Gutman) – Romanian minister of Justice and Foreign minister in the new communist government formed after World War 2.

Isaac Steinberg – lawyer, revolutionary, politician, People’s Commissar (Narkom) of Justice in Vladimir Lenin’s coalition. After the war, he resigned in protest of the peace treaty between Russia and European powers. He fled to London and became leader of the Jewish Territorialist movement his requests to buy land in order to resettle Jews in Australia and Suriname were refused.

Karl Pauker – NKVD officer, head of Joseph Stalin’s personal security and chief of the GPU Operations Department .

Vladimir Herzog – emigrated from Europe to Brazil. A jo urnalist and Communist activist, he was active in the civil resistance movement against the government of Brazil in 1970’s. He was member of the Brazilian communist party, which was deemed illegal.

V. Volodarsky – a Marxist revolutionary in the Baltics and Poland, later a Soviet politician. He was assassinated in 1918.

Gabor Peter (born Benjamin Auschpitz) – head of the Hungarian secret police (AVH), which was notorious for its brutality even by Soviet standards.

Gheorghe Gaston-Marin (born Grossman) – Romanian ministry of Energy and minister of Economy in post-war communist Romania.

Idel Jakobson – NKVD investigator in Estonia. According to the official reports of the Estonian Internal Security Servic e, Jakobson sentenced 1.200 people to death and persecuted 2.000 people. Arrested for subversive activities directed against Estonia in 1931, he returned when communists took power after the end of WW2.

Grigori Voitinsky – member of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he took part in the pro-Communist revolution in Siberia and the Far East. As a Comiterm official, he was sent to China as an adviser and he helped the formation of the Communist party of China.

Rudolf Slánský – Czech Communist politician who lead teh creation of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Was General Secretary of the Communist Party after World War II.

Albert E. Kahn – American journalist and secret member of the Communist Party of the United States , author, co-editor of the anti-Nazi bulletin The Hour. In 1946 Elizabeth Bentley stated in her deposition to the FBI that Kahn had furnished to Russia information on immigrant Ukrainians hostile to the Soviet Union. Kahn is referenced as code name “Fighter” in the Venona project . (more here)

Isaac Babel – propaganda chief, journalist, playwright and short story writer for the Soviet Union. He also wrote extensively on the Jews in Russia, and portrayed in movies by the likes of Sergei Eisenstein (Soviet-Jewish filmmaker).

Nikolai Yezhov – Soviet secret police official, head of the NKVD during the most severe period of Stalin’s Great Purge.

Mihály Farkas (born Loewy ) – Hungarian politician, converted to communism in 1930’s, fought in the Spanish Civil war, lived in Soviet Union. Arrived in Hungary in 1944 as a secretary the Hungarian Communist Party later became Minister of National Defense.

Alexander Parvus – Marxist revolutionary, wealthy banker who planned and financed the revolution. Together with Leon Trostky, he developed the concept of using a foreign war to provoke an internal revolt this resulted in the planning of the Bolshevik revolution. He tried (but failed) to induce financial collapse in Russia.

Bedřich Reicin (born Reinzinger) – Czechoslovak army officer and communist activist. In February 1948, he organized mass purges of officers who were felt to not be loyal enough to the new communist regime.

Alexandru Nicolschi (born Boris Grunberg) – Romanian communist activist, Soviet officer, NKVD spy, and Securitate chief (Romanian Communist secret police). When sent as spy in Romania during the war, he was arrested he was liberated by the Red Army and became the head of the most violent structures in communist Romania.

Jacob Havinson (Yakov Khavinson) – Director of Soviet Information Bureau and head of Pravda (the newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party).

Michael Farkas (born Wolf) – Hungarian defense minister in the first communist government formed after World War 2.

Lev Mekhlis – Soviet statesman , m ember of the Communist Party since 1918 chief of the Press Section of the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) minister of state control of the USSR.

Boleslaw Bierut – Polish Communist leader, NKVD agent and President of Stalinist Poland after the end of World War II.

Sidney Shapiro – American author, he was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Council (political advisory body in Communist China).

Lavrentiy Beria – Soviet politician, Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, chief of NKVD during World War II, and Deputy Premier in 1946–53.

Salomon Morel – commander of NKVD set-up Polish concentration camp after the end of WW2 colonel in Poland’s political police commander of Katowice prison. In 1994, Poland indicted him for crimes against humanity. Morel fled to Israel, who refused to extradite him despite repeated requests by Poland.

Ghiță Moscu (born Gelber Moscovici) – Romanian communist activist, one of the early leaders of the Romanian Communist Party and its permanent delegate toCommunist International (Comiterm). Member of Bolshevik party since 1924.

Nikolai Bukharin – Bolshevik revolutionary, Soviet politician. Editor of Communist newspaper Pravda. He was considered one of the principal theoreticians of the Bolshevik Party – wrote “The ABCs of Communism“.

Joseph Revai – one of the founders of the Communist Party of Hungary in 1918. Became minister of propaganda in the first Hungarian communist government formed after World War 2.

Silviu Brucan (Saul Brukner) – Romanian communist politician, international ambassador and general secretary of pro-Soviet Scinteia magazine. He admitted that the 1989 Romanian revolution lead by him and other communist members was not anti-communist, but anti-Ceausescu and claimed that the banning of communism was a mistake.

Yakov Sverdlov – leader in the Bolshevik party and chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee – the highest legislative and administrative body of Soviet Russia.

Angelica Balabanova – communist and social democratic activist secretary of theComintern ( Communist International) .

Grigory Zinoviev – Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet Communist politician. He was the longtime head of the Communist International.

Solomon Mogilevsky – head of the Soviet foreign intelligence service involved in the suppression of Georgia’s uprising against Soviet rule. Died in a plane crash.

Karl Radek – Marxist activist in Poland and Germany’s social movements (when he had direct connections with Lenin), and international Communist leader in the Soviet Union.

Rosa Luxemburg – Polish Marxist theorist, economist and revolutionary she co-founded “Spartacus League” which eventually became the Communist Party of Germany after she became a German citizen, she became a member of the party .

Jenő Hamburger – Hungarian politician, People’s Commissar of Agriculture during the short-lived 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic.

Hilary Minc – communist politician in Stalinist Poland and pro-Soviet Marxist economist.

Mikhail Koltsov – Bolshevik revolutionary, worked for NKVD. A key figure of the Soviet intellectual elite and one of the most famous journalists in the USSR. He was executed during Stalin’s Great Purge.

Iosif Chişinevschi(born Jakob Broitman, took wife’s name) – Romanian politician, propagandist for Communist party, vicepresident in the Council of Ministers.

Leon Lichtblau – Romanian communist militant in prewar Romania assisted Max Goldstein in the 1920 terrorist attack on the Romanian Senate he fled Romania and became Head of the Central Statistical Directorate of USSR.

Yakov Yurovsky – Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist during the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, he executed the imperial Romanov family.

David Zaslavsky – prominent Soviet journalist and writer, director at Pravda (newspaper of the Communist Party).

József Pogány (known as John Pepper) – Hungarian Communist politician and propagandist, active in the radical movements of both Hungary and the United States.

Ana Pauker(born Hannah Rabinsohn) – Communist activist in pre-war Romania, she was arrested for being an agitator. Ran from the country and returned with the Soviet tanks in 1945. Became communist leader and foreign minister. In 1948, Time Magazine named her the most powerful woman alive and dedicated its magazine cover to her.

Romanians nicknamed her “Stalin with a skirt”.

Ana Toma (born Grossman) – Romanian communist activist, close advisor to Ana Pauker. Deputy minister in the Ministry of foreign affairs and the Minister of Commerce.

Eugen Levine – communist revolutionary and leader of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic (in Germany).

Bela Kun (Cohen) – communist revolutionary who led the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. The Romanian Army removed him from the government in the same year.

Rozalia Zemlyachka (born Rozalia Zalkind) – party secretary of the Kremlin and vice-chairman of the Council of People’s Commissaries. She was part of the Ukrainian Cheka and acted in Crimea in 1920 against “anarchist forces” (through summary executions).

Mihail Florescu (born Iacobi Iancu) – Romanian minister of Oil and Industries in post-war communist Romania.

Tibor Szamuely – Hungarian Communist leader in the short-lived Soviet Hungary of 1919.

Fred Rose – Communist politician in Canada, Member of the Canadian Parliament. He was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union after WW2.

Grigori Sokolnikov – Russian old Bolshevik revolutionary, economist, and Soviet politician.

Abram Slutsky – head of the Soviet foreign intelligence service, part of the NKVD . He engaged in industrial espionage later, he also engaged in tracking down and eliminating the opponents of Stalin’s regime.

Israel Leplevsky – joined the Bolshevik party in 1917 became head of Soviet secret service in Ukraine.

Osip Piatnitsky (born Iosif Tarshis) – Bolshevik revolutionary, head of the International Department of the Communist International for over a decade.

Rezső Nyers – Hungarian politician, Minister of Finance in the 1960’s. His son became the head of the Hungarian National Bank.

Mikhail Borodin (born Mikhail Gruzenberg) – a prominent Comintern (Communist International) agent, and later a Chinese government adviser of Communist leader Mao. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1903 and became an associate of Vladimir Lenin. He worked in Mexico, the United States and the United Kingdom as a Comintern agent.

Ghizela Vass (born Gisella Vass) – Romanian Communist, was an activist and high-ranking politician of the Romanian Communist Party. She was awarded for her communist activity. In 2007, the Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania identified her as a communist agent involved in pre-war Romania’s foreign affairs.

Jakob Berman – prominent communist in prewar Poland member of the Soviet-formed Polish United Workers’ Party. Leader of the State Security Services Urząd Bezpieczeństwa – the largest secret police in Polish history. He was considered Stalin’s right hand in Poland.

Simion Bughici – Romanian ambassador to Moscow in post-war period, and later a Foreign minister.

Filipp Goloshchekin – Soviet statesman (war commissar, member of the Central Committee, soviet regional secretary). T ook part in the struggle to consolidate Soviet power in the Urals and Siberia. He was involved in the execution of the Romanov family (Russian royal family) and all their relatives.

Solomon Lozovsky – prominent Bolshevik revolutionary, Presidium member of the All-Union Central Council of Soviet Trade Unions, a Central Committee member of the Communist Party, a member of the Supreme Soviet, the head of the Soviet Information Bureau.

Maxim Litvinov – Bolshevik revolutionary and prominent Soviet diplomat. During the British blockade imposed (response to Lenin’s brutal abuses), Litvinov was responsible for the efforts that ended the economic blockade of the Soviet Union.

Julia Brystiger – Polish Communist activist and member of the security apparatus inStalinist Poland. She was notorious for her cruel methods of interrogation.

Jenő Landler – people’s commissar of interior affairs in the government of short-livedSoviet Hungary in 1919 commander of the Hungarian Red Army. After the Romanian army removed the Soviet government, Landler ran to Austria. He died in 1928 and his ashes were buried in Kremlin Wall in Moscow.

Roman Zambrowski – communist activist in prewar Poland, chief organizer of the Polish Communists Central Bureau, head of the Political and Educational Management of the Polish Army in the Soviet Union deputy of State National Council, secretary of the Central Committee, vice-president of the Supreme Chamber of Control .

Andrei Loukanov – the last communist prime minister of Bulgaria. His family moved from Moscow to Bulgaria after the 1944 communist takeover.

Moisei Uritsky – Bolshevik revolutionary leader in Russia.

Béla Biszku – Hungarian communist politician and Minister of the Interior from 1957 to 1961.

Yemelyan Yaroslavsky – Bolshevik revolutionary, Soviet politician, communist party organizer, communist activist, journalist, and historian.

Karl Herbst – one of the founders of the Zionist movement in Bulgaria. Served as senior Bulgarian government official.

Moisey Gubelman – Soviet party leader member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the People’s Revolutionary Army of the Far East Secretary of Central Control Commission , chairman of Central Executive Committee of Workers’.

Nahum Eitingon – Soviet intelligence officer, he organized the suppression (terror) system.

Bela Brainer – communist activist in both Hungary and Romania. He joined the Communist Party of Romania in 1921. He was jailed twice for being an agitator. He was the head of the illegal communist newspaper Scinteia in Romania.

Jozef Rozanski – communist in prewar Poland, member of the Soviet NKVD, colonel of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security of Poland interrogator with the Polish communist security police.

Leonte Răutu (Lev Oigenstein) – Romanian chief of Propaganda and Culture for the Communist Party. He was highly-awarded for his work.

Isaac Mintz – Soviet historian and academician. Re-wrote history and books according to Soviet principles.

Mihail Roller – Romanian head of Institute of history of Communist party one of the authors who re-wrote Romanian history to fit Communist agenda.

Anatol Fejgin – communist in prewar Poland, commander of the Stalinist political police at the Ministry of Public Security of Poland, in charge of its notorious Special Bureau.

Iosif Grigulevich – Soviet spy who assassinated those who were not loyal to Stalin. He was preparing to assassinate Joseph Tito, leader of Yugoslavia who had diverted from Soviet politics, but Stalin’s death saved Tito. Iosif used false identities (pretended to be Costa Rican diplomat).

György Lukács – commissar of the Hungarian Red Army. In 1919, he was the Hungarian Minister of Culture of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic. After its collapse, he fled to Austria. Traveled to Soviet Union and, after WW2, when communism returned to Hungary, he helped create its communist government. After1957 revolution, he tried to minimize his guilt in communism by claiming he was forced by the Soviet authorities.

Dulgeru Mihai (born Dulbergher Mihai) – State security colonel, inspector of all communist prisons in Romania. Together with Alexandru Nicolschi (born Grunberg),they sent tens of thousands of political prisoners to hard-labor camps. In the 1980’s he emigrated to Israel with family.

Felix Dzerzhinsky – Soviet statesman and a prominent communist revolutionary in Poland and Russia. He established and developed the Soviet secret police forces in various countries.

The leader of the Bolshevik revolution and crucial figure, but NOT a Jew. In fact, he did not associate himself with anything. Given his mixed ancestry (Kalmyk, C huvash , German, Swedish and Jewish ) , Lenin had no consideration for ethnic or cultural ties, and viewed Russians with contempt: “An intelligent Russian is almost always a Jew or someone with Jewish blood in his veins.”

Ukraine – as part of the Soviet Union, it was under the control of Moscow. Ukrainian Cheka was a Soviet security agency organized during the 1917 revolution by Felix Dzerzhinsky (see above) . The Cheka soon became notorious for mass summary executions. It was made up mostly of Jews, a fact acknowledged by historians. (extracted from the Institute for Historical Review).

The Atlantic, Sept. 1991, p. 14.
In 1919, three-quarters of the Cheka staff in Kiev were Jews, who were careful to spare fellow Jews. By order, the Cheka took few Jewish hostages.

R. Pipes, The Russian Revolution (1990), p. 824. Israeli historian Louis Rapoport also confirms the dominant role played by Jews in the Soviet secret police throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

L. Rapoport, Stalin’s War Against the Jews (New York: 1990), pp. 30-31, 43-45, 49-50.

Bulgaria’s Jews after 1945

Pre-war Jewish population in Bulgaria numbered 50.000 (less than 1%). After the war, from which most Bulgarian Jews had been spared – most left for Israel, leaving around 5.000 Jews in Bulgaria.

A Central Israelite Religious Council headed by chief rabbi was established in capital city Sofia. Jewish Cultural Club, founded in 1949 in Sofia, organized political and cultural meetings celebrating Stalin, the Red Army and the Bulgarian communist party also commemorated the Holocaust.

The “Fatherland Front” (party responsible for establishment of pro-Soviet government in Bulgaria) called itself the Jewish Fatherland Front up until early 1950’s.

In 1948, “Jewish People reading rooms” were established in Bulgaria and became popular. In Sofia, the Jews established an arts circle, a chorus, an orchestra, a drama company, a literary circle, a night school, a Jewish scientific institute, a Jewish craftsmen’s cooperative. 6 of the 8 Jewish newspapers in Bulgaria had links with international Zionist political parties, and “Evreiski Vesti” was a Communist weekly Jewish magazine.

In 1952, the Jewish institute became the Hebraic section of the Academy of sciences it had 13.000 books from 16-17 century and 3.300 manuscripts. The remaining Jews enjoyed good education and some rose to high ranks, like Andrei Loukanov (see above), who was the last communist prim-minister of Bulgaria.

In American History

More recently, however, with the release of formerly unavailable U.S. intelligence documents and files from the Soviet Union, some historians and commentators have begun to reassess the accusations of atomic spying, arguing that the case has finally been proven others remain convinced that the original charges were exaggerated or fabricated.

The beginning of the story dates back to late 1940, when Leonid Kvasnikov of the scientific and intelligence section of the NKVD (the Communist secret police) noted a flurry of publications in Western scientific journals dealing with atomic energy following the German chemist Otto Hahn’s successful splitting of the uranium atom. Kvasnikov instructed NKVD agents abroad to keep a watch for developments in that area.

The most important response came in September 1941—most likely from John Cairncross, then private secretary to the British government’s top scientific adviser and one of the “Cambridge Five” recruited as Soviet spies in the 1930s—telling of British plans to develop an atomic bomb. Further details about these plans were supplied by a German Communist émigré scientist working in Britain named Klaus Fuchs. The upshot was that Kvasnikov was sent to New York at the end of 1942 to head up atomic spying in the United States.

Lax (or worse) British security procedures that failed to follow up reports about Fuchs’s Communist ties allowed him to be transferred to the Manhattan Project’s atom bomb building program at Los Alamos in New Mexico.

Fuchs was probably the most important source supplying the Soviets information about how to overcome the technical problems of producing the plutonium bomb. Although he provided data about the proposed hydrogen bomb, his contribution to the Soviets in that area was not as significant.

Keep secret announcement

Fuchs was not the only Soviet spy at Los Alamos, but U.S. security officials made the mistake of dealing quietly via dismissal or transfer with those suspected of passing on information. The public at large remained ignorant of the problem until the defection in September 1945 of Igor Gouzenko, a code clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, Canada.

The data turned over by Gouzenko revealed a Soviet espionage network headed by the two top leaders of the Canadian Communist Party that included Alan Nunn May, a British physicist working for the Canadian atomic research program.

Despite the Gouzenko revelations, the search for atomic spies did not move into high gear until after the explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb in August 1949. U.S. investigators focused their attention on Fuchs, who had by this time returned to Britain.

Under questioning, Fuchs confessed in early 1950 to his own spying—but with one exception refused to name others involved. And even regarding that one exception—his contact in the United States, Harry Gold—Fuchs did not take the initiative but simply confirmed his identity after Gold had become suspect from other sources.

The reputation of British counterintelligence was further tarnished when the Italian-born physicist Bruno Pontecorvo and his wife defected to the Soviets in August-September 1950. An even more devastating blow was the flight behind the Iron Curtain in May 1951 of two of the “Cambridge Five”—diplomats Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. Maclean was the bigger Soviet prize because he had been the representative of the British embassy in Washington, D.C., dealing with the political aspects of atomic energy.

By this time, the major focus of action had shifted to the United States, with the arrest on 23 May 1950 of Harry Gold. Gold’s confession implicated David Greenglass, who had worked as a mechanic at Los Alamos, and his wife Ruth. They implicated David’s sister, Ethel Rosenberg, and her husband Julius. The trial and execution (19 June 1953) of the Rosenbergs remains controversial because of complaints about the bias of the presiding judge, prejudicial actions by the prosecution, and the excessiveness of the penalty.

Many on the Left have argued (and continue to argue) that the Rosenbergs were the victims of a deliberate government conspiracy to frame them (or, in a lesser charge, that the government succumbed to the public hysteria in pushing for the death penalty), but in the eyes of most historians there now remains no question about Julius Rosenberg’s guilt. More doubtful is how active a role had been played by his wife.

She appears to have been included in the prosecution as a lever to pressure Rosenberg into naming others, and the Greenglasses—who were the government’s major witnesses—changed their testimony about her involvement only on the eve of the trial. On the other hand, Julius could have saved his life and hers by cooperating with the government had he not put his loyalty to the Stalinist regime first.

An even more valuable Soviet informant was Theodore A. (Ted) Hall, who had come to Los Alamos in 1944 as a nineteen-year-old scientific prodigy. At least as Hall would later tell the story, he had not been recruited, but had approached the Soviets on his own initiative because he felt that a United States monopoly of the atomic bomb would be a threat to the world.

Although Hall came under suspicion, the Federal Bureau of Investigation lacked sufficient hard evidence for an arrest before he and his wife left for Britain. There he built a successful career as a scientist. His definitive exposure would not come until the 1990s.

The one major actor accused of spying whose guilt remains open to question is J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had headed the Los Alamos project. Oppenheimer’s opposition to building the hydrogen bomb reinforced suspicions about his loyalty growing out of his close personal ties with Communists and fellows travelers.

Hearings in 1954 resulted in the revocation of his security clearance. Although Oppenheimer’s defenders charge that he was the victim of a baseless witch-hunt, new evidence shows that at a minimum, he had been guilty of failing to inform security officials fully about Soviet infiltration efforts of which he had knowledge.

One of the difficulties in countering Soviet atomic espionage was that the culprits were ideologically motivated rather than spies-for-hire. Thus, few would cooperate even when caught and even fewer would express any regret.

Although Fuchs pretended to do so, he left for East Germany after his release, announced that he was still a loyal Marxist, and went on to become director of the East German Central Institute for Nuclear Physics.

Estimates of the contribution made by espionage to speeding up the building of the Soviet atomic bomb range from a minimum of eighteen months to a maximum of five years. And except for the Rosenbergs none of the guilty suffered punishment commensurate with the enormity of their crimes.

Even those imprisoned—such as May, Fuchs, David Greenglass, and Gold—served no more than part of their sentences before release. Ruth Greenglass avoided prosecution because of a deal struck by her husband in return for his testimony.

At least two of Julius Rosenberg’s accomplices—Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant—fled the country and successfully disappeared. None of the “Cambridge Five” spent a day of prison time. Worst, Anatoly Yatskov, Kvasnikov’s successor as top Soviet atomic spy master in the United States, would boast that at most half of his spy network had been uncovered.

The Katyn Massacre History

In the 1930s Poland’s foreign policy was based on maintaining balanced relations with its two large neighbours, Germany and the Soviet Union. Peace with the USSR was to be guaranteed by the Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact signed on 25 July 1932. Likewise a declaration of non-aggression was signed with the German Reich on 26 January 1934. These international agreements did not protect Poland against its two neighbours’ imperial ambitions.

The Treaty of Non-Aggression and secret protocol signed on 23 August 1939 in Moscow by German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart Molotov divided Europe into spheres of influence and challenged the independence of sovereign states. For Poland this meant a fourth partition.

On 31 August 1939 Poland declared general mobilisation in the event of war with Germany. On 1 September 1939 German troops attacked Poland, and Britain and France declared war on the Third Reich. The Polish-German conflict started the Second World War.

During the first two weeks of fighting the Soviet Union maintained an appearance of neutrality, but early on 17 September the Red Army invaded Poland along its entire eastern border as anticipated by the Hitler/Stalin treaty.

Waging war on two fronts was impossible. Poland’s defence against the Germans collapsed. The surprise attacks and an order from the commander-in-chief Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz to avoid fighting the Bolsheviks by evacuating to Hungary and Romania led to large numbers of Polish soldiers and officers being captured.

By the end of September 1939 some 250,000 Polish soldiers (including 8,600 officers) and members of other uniformed services (border guards, policemen, prison guards and so on) had been taken prisoner by the USSR. It was unmanageable to detain such a large number of POWs, so privates and non-commissioned officers of Belarusian and Ukrainian origins were released. Those remaining were transferred to ten POW camps set up for this purpose and supervised by the USSR’s People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD).

These camps were still overcrowded. In October/November 1939 the Soviet authorities released most the privates and non-commissioned officers of Polish origin from areas occupied by the USSR. Under a POW exchange agreement, people from the territories occupied by the Germans were handed over to the Third Reich, while Germany handed over captured Polish soldiers (mainly of Ukrainian and Belarusian nationality) from territories annexed by the USSR.

About 26,000 Polish privates and non-commissioned officers remained in Soviet captivity. They were sent to the Rovensky, Krivorozhsky, Yeleno-Karakubsky and Zaporozhsky prison camps in Russia and Ukraine. About 6,500 policemen, gendarmes, prison guards, soldiers of the Border Guard Corps and Border Guard, government officials, military settlers, identified intelligence agents and counterintelligence officers were gathered in a camp at Ostashkov in the Kalinin region (now the Tver region in Russia).

Meanwhile extensive Soviet repression began in captured Polish territory. Political arrests mainly affected Polish public officials (army officers and police officers who had not been taken prisoner), intellectuals, members of political parties and social organisations, industrialists, landowners, traders, cultural activists and artists, foresters, people arrested while crossing the border and other “enemies of the Soviet authorities”.

As many as 112,000 people were arrested, while some 25,600 others died or were murdered, including victims of the Katyn Massacre detained in prisons in western Ukraine and western Belarus. Four deportation campaigns were carried out in occupied areas: 320,000 Poles were exiled deep in the USSR.

Poles as POWs in Kozelsk

In 1923, the Soviet authorities closed the monastery down. They arranged a sawmill in the main church (one of six) and converted the hermitage into an NKVD holiday home. Polish prisoners of war arrived there after the USSR captured the eastern territories of Poland. The first prisoner transports were sent to Kozelsk on 20 September 1939. The camp governor was Soviet army captain Vasily Korolov.

As of 1 December 1939, a total of 4,594 people were detained in the half-ruined monastery buildings in Kozelsk, including Rear Admiral Ksawery Czernicki, four generals: Bronislaw Bohaterewicz (Bohatyrewicz), Henryk Minkiewicz, Mieczyslaw Smorawinski and survivor Jerzy Wolkowicki, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant-colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 3,420 other officers and 7 army chaplains. Seventy percent of the POWs were reserve officers from the Polish intelligentsia: professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, journalists and many others. The only woman murdered in the Katyn Forest was also held in Kozelsk: the pilot and second lieutenant in the reserve forces, Janina Lewandowska, the daughter of General Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki.

Like the other camps for Polish prisoners of war, the Kozelsk camp was not prepared to accommodate such a large number of people. The poorly heated rooms were overcrowded. Due to an insufficient supply of water and hygiene products, bedbugs and lice were common. The number of sanitary facilities was insufficient and, worse still, they were not cleaned or disinfected. The prisoners slept in crowded units, on bunk beds, often without mattresses or pillows. Over time, they started to give funny names to each unit. The generals lived in “Bristol”, the majors in “Old Folks’ Home”. The former Orthodox church became “Indian Tomb”, there was also “Lice Hotel” on “Misery Square”, “Circus”, “Philharmonic Hall”, “Shanghai”, and “Monkey Grove”.

The daily food ration per prisoner-of-war included 800g of bread, 30g of sugar, a portion of groats for breakfast and soup for dinner. Meat, fish and vegetables were distributed irregularly. Once a week, officers received a ration of tea, cheap tobacco, matches and soap. Due to poor living conditions in the camp, prisoners developed diseases of the lungs and digestive tract, rheumatism, and vitamin deficiencies. The health care in the camp was provided by educated physicians from amongst the POWs themselves.

Polish officers detained in the camp had to obey rules that prohibited them, for instance, from leaving the camp without permission or staying in a unit other than their own. It was prohibited to leave the barracks after dark, and lamps had to be lit throughout the night. It was also strictly forbidden to express any religious or patriotic feelings, organise meetings, or play cards. Persons on duty were selected from among the prisoners to be responsible for cleanliness and order. A senior camp officer was also appointed this function was performed by Colonel Ryszard Malinowski. Starting from November 1939, the POWs were allowed to send and receive letters, but they were, however, subject to censorship.

The special NKVD unit operating in the camp was tasked with keeping operational records and a network of agents and informers among the POWs. The Major of State Security, Vasily Zarubin was sent to the camp. Cultured, well-read and fluent in various languages with many years’ experience of working abroad, he defied the image of the uneducated and primitive NKVD officers working in the camp. Zarubin was the only member of the camp staff saluted by the POWs. Despite his efforts, e.g. offering access to books from his small library, he managed to recruit only several dozen prisoners from among the several thousand held in Kozelsk. It was probably his report that helped Beria make the decision to execute the Poles held in camps in Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk.

Political and educational work in the spirit of communist propaganda, glorifying the achievements of the Soviet Union, was also carried out in the camps. Radio programmes from Moscow were broadcast through loudspeakers and talks and lectures were organised. The POWs had access to the Soviet press and could also use the library of the former NKVD holiday home. The club screened Soviet films such as “Alexander Nevsky”, “Volga, Volga”, “Mother” and “Chapaev”.

As noted by Lieutenant Stanislaw Swianiewicz, a Kozelsk survivor, prominent Sovietologist and a professor of economics and law in his civilian life: “Kozelsk can therefore be described as a kind of institution for studying the mentality and characteristics of different types of people, whom the Soviet Union managed to capture in 1939 thanks to its alliance with Hitler.”

The operational and political work undertaken by the NKVD in the camp failed to bring about the expected results. According to NKVD reports, the Polish POWs harboured hostile feelings towards the Soviet Union and declared their willingness to fight and liberate their homeland from the hands of both aggressors. They flooded the camp headquarters with applications and petitions, demanding to be sent back to Poland or to a neutral state. Few declared their readiness to cooperate with the Soviet authorities.

The prisoners boycotted the camp rules, treating them as an element of Soviet indoctrination. Official Polish holidays and religious feasts were celebrated contrary to the ban. Clergymen held secret religious services. There were also Orthodox Christians, Jews and Protestants in the camp, and participation in ceremonies held by other faiths was practiced. When Christmas celebrations were banned and Catholic priests and other clergymen were deported from the camp on 23 December 1939, this caused widespread indignation. Only one priest remained in Kozelsk, namely Major Jan Ziolkowski, who was kept in solitary confinement at the time.

The POWs engaged in self-education. They organised illegal lectures and talks, given by eminent specialists being held in the camp. They covered a wide spectrum of topics, from Greek theogony to Stefan Zeromski’s literary works to the embalming of corpses. Foreign language courses were taught. Kozelsk also had a library, which the soldiers created with the books they had taken with them to war. The “Monitor” and “Merkuriusz” newspapers were illegally published. The daily “spoken news reports”, prepared based on news and articles, became a specific social phenomenon in the camp.

The POWs set up choirs, musical ensembles and theatrical groups, with the performances of the famous Poznan satirist, second lieutenant Tadeusz Hernes enjoying great popularity. In their free time, POWs played chess and cards or even organised spiritual séances.

The liquidation of the Kozelsk POW camp began on 3 April 1940. On that day, the first transport of 74 Polish officers set off for Gnezdovo, and from there to the Katyn Forest. Throughout April, transports departed almost every day. The last POW was sent from the camp on 20 May. POWs were escorted to Smolensk and Gnezdovo by the 136th Independent Battalion of the NKVD Transport Troops stationed in Smolensk.

The Katyn Massacre

On 5 March 1940 the Political Bureau of the USSR Communist Party Central Committee took a decision to execute the Polish POWs. This was based on a recommendation from People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs Lavrentyi Beria to Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin:

They are all declared enemies of the Soviet authorities, not showing any prospects for improvement.

The decision agreed that the 14,700 prisoners held in the POW camps in Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov and 11,000 detainees held in prisons in the western regions of Ukraine and Belarus should be processed under a special procedure:

[W]ithout summoning those arrested and without pressing charges, or presenting the decision to close the investigation and the indictment … and with the highest penalty against them all: execution by firing squad.

The document recording this decision bears four handwritten signatures of Politburo members voting “For” (Joseph Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Anastas Mikoyan) with notes that Mikhail Kalinin and Lazar Kaganovich also agreed

A USSR NKVD “troika” was set up to implement the decision: Vsevolod Merkulov (first deputy People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs) Bakhcho Kobulov (deputy People’s Commissioner for Internal Affairs) and Leonid Bashtakov (head of the 1st Special Department).

125 NKVD officers were appointed to carry out the killings. On 26 October 1940 by secret order No. 001365 the officers were rewarded by Lavrentyi Beria “for successful execution of special tasks” and received an equivalent of a monthly salary or 800 roubles.

The prisoners were dealt with on the basis of transport lists (in fact death lists) sent from Moscow. The first three documents with the names of 343 people reached Ostashkov camp on 1 April 1940.

The lack of full access to the key documents stored in Russia’s archives means that final numbers and names of the victims are still not publicly known. However, researchers know that the Soviet leadership’s genocidal decision led to the murder of 4,415 POWs held in Kozelsk (buried in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, 2 km from Gnezdovo station) 6,295 POWs in Ostashkov (shot in Kalinin in the NKVD headquarters basement and buried in the forest in Mednoe) and 3,820 POWs from the camp in Starobelsk (shot in Kharkiv in the NKVD headquarters basement and buried near the village of Pyatikhatki).

Likewise it remains unknown how many Polish POWs from Kozelsk were murdered in the NKVD villa on the site or in the NKVD prison in Smolensk. Diaries found in the death pits show that others were murdered in the Katyn Forest itself: Adam Solski’s journal (quoted elsewhere here) and Stanislaw Swianiewicz’s account.

394 people survived the mass killings in the three camps, mostly those whose return had been requested by the German embassy and the Lithuanian mission in Moscow as a result of their families’ efforts in occupied Poland. Some survivors were recruited as secret agents, or had expressed a readiness to fight alongside the USSR, or had knowledge considered useful. Other officers taken from the camps to Moscow’s Lubyanka NKVD prison also survived.

A further 7,305 people were murdered in prisons in eastern Poland annexed by the USSR. The “Ukrainian list” handed over in 1994 by the Ukrainian Security Service includes names of 3,435 prisoners transported to Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson and murdered there. The Polish authorities still do not know the names of 3,870 prisoners from the so-called “Belarusian list” murdered in Minsk after being sent there from Brest, Pinsk, Baranavichy and Vileyka.

These 1940 killings of Polish POWs and other prisoners were accompanied by decisions to deport victims’ families to Kazakhstan for 10 years.


After March 1940 the relatives and loved ones of the Polish POWs in Kozelsk, Starobelsk and Ostashkov stopped receiving their letters. For many years the families of the POWs awaited their return, thinking they had gone missing somewhere in the East.

After Germany attacked the Soviet Union, the Polish government in exile resumed diplomatic relations with the USSR and effectively withdrew from the position that the countries were at war. An agreement on 30 July 1941 to normalise relations (the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement) provided for the release of Polish citizens who had been imprisoned and deported and announced formation of a Polish army in the USSR.

People eager to join the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR began to gather from remote prisons, gulag camps and places of exile. General Wladyslaw Anders was released from Moscow’s Lubyanka prison and took command. The absence of officers among all the incoming Polish volunteers raised concerns. The plenipotentiary for missing persons was writer and painter Jozef Czapski a cavalry captain, and survivor from the Starobelsk POW camp who collected information about Poles in the USSR. When Prime Minister Sikorski and General Anders raised the issue of missing Polish officers in a face-to-face conversation with Stalin on 3 December 1941, they were told that the officers “had fled to Manchuria”.

The Graves are Revealed

On 13 April 1943 Radio Berlin announced discovery of mass graves of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest. Facing defeat on the eastern front, Germany used this crime for propaganda purposes to try to break up the anti-German coalition and win international support for fighting the Soviet Union.

Professor Gerhard Buhtz, Director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine and Forensic Science at the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw), led the exhumations. Polish-language newspapers published by the Germans in occupied Poland began to print lists of names of identified victims, and propaganda posters appeared.

Stalin and Polish communists under his control denounced this ‘provocation’. On 28 April 1943 in the Izvestia newspaper Wanda Wasilewska accused the Third Reich of perpetrating the crime. A few days later Polish communist leaders did the same.

To bring to international attention the murder of the Polish POWs, the Germans invited the International Red Cross (IRC) to carry out exhumations and investigate the killings. The Polish government in exile also asked the IRC to investigate. Stalin accused the free Polish authorities of cooperation with the Third Reich and “terminated relations with the Polish government”. Moscow refused to participate in the IRC’s work.

The Germans invited forensic experts from all over Europe to investigate the crime in the Katyn Forest. These experts confirmed beyond doubt that the killings had been carried out by the Soviets. With the consent of the Polish government in exile, the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross (PRC) operated in Katyn. The Commission identified 2,733 out of more than 4,243 exhumed bodies. A first makeshift cemetery consisting of six collective graves was established. Generals Bronislaw Bohaterewicz and Mieczyslaw Smorawinski were buried in individual graves.

The Fight for Truth Begins

Despite knowing about the Soviet murders of the Polish officers in Katyn, the governments of the United States and United Kingdom chose not to give the issue widespread publicity: their alliance with Stalin against Hitler was more important than the fates of POWs from an allied army.

After the Soviet annexation of the Smolensk region, an NKGB-NKVD team in the Katyn Forest fabricated evidence and prepared ‘witnesses’ to promote a new false Soviet version that the Germans had committed the killings in 1941. In January 1944 the witnesses were brought before an ad hoc Soviet committee headed by Nikolai Burdenko and foreign journalists.

Two symbolic graves were built to replace the previous site. On 30 January 1944 with participation of soldiers from the 1st Corps of the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR under the command of General Zygmunt Berling (previously a POW at the Starobelsk camp who had agreed to cooperate with the Soviets), ceremonies were held at the graves to remember Polish officers allegedly murdered by the Germans. Military chaplain Father Wilhelm Kubsz celebrated a Holy Mass for the souls of the deceased.

This section of the Katyn Forest was separated by a tall wooden fence. A small obelisk with inscriptions in Russian and Polish (the Polish version had errors) was erected at the site of the Massacre:

In Blessed Memory. Here lie the enslaved officers of the Polish Army horrifically murdered by the German-Nazi occupying forces in the autumn of 1941

In the 1970s the obelisk was replaced by a plaque with a new inscription:

To the victims of fascism - Polish officers, executed by the Nazis in 1941

In 1946 the Soviet Union tried to include the alleged murder of the Polish officers in Katyn in September 1941 in the indictment against the top German war criminals in Nuremberg. There were unconvincing witness testimonies and numerous errors/inaccuracies in the Soviet prosecution case: the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg did not indict the Germans for killing the Polish officers.

The Katyn Massacre issue returned during the Cold War. In 1951 the United States House of Representatives established a committee to investigate the Katyn Forest Massacre chaired by Ray John Madden (the Madden Committee). The final report drawn up in 1952 held the Soviet Union responsible.

Nevertheless for decades the USSR promoted official lies about German responsibility, as did the subordinate communist authorities of the Polish People’s Republic. Death certificates passed to the families had false dates such as the date of end of the Second World War. The families of victims were subjected to harassment: widows were dismissed from work, and children faced difficulties enrolling at university. The communist authorities oppressed those who fought for the truth. Among others Father Tadeusz Rusek and Father Leon Musielak (a Kozelsk prisoner) were sent to prison from three to five years.

In the 1970s the Soviet Union began to publicise a war-crime against civilians in the Belarusian village of Khatyn which had been burned down by the Germans in 1943. Khatyn was chosen from among many locations affected by war-time atrocities as its pronunciation resembled Katyn. A complex of monuments marking the crime in Khatyn was built where the village had stood foreign heads of state visiting the USSR including the US President Richard Nixon were invited to lay flowers there. This manipulation was supposed to erase the memory of the Katyn killings and link any similar massacre to the Germans.

By contrast the memory of victims of the Katyn Massacre was preserved by Polish émigrés and the Polish government in exile. In the early 1950s the Polish community in the United States supported the world’s first Katyn monument at St Adalbert’s Church in Detroit. Monuments and plaques were erected in London, Paris, Toronto, Rome, Melbourne and Johannesburg. In the West the writings of such authors as Janusz K. Zawodny, Jozef Mackiewicz, Zdzislaw Stahl and Jozef Czapski reminded the world of the murdered POWs and demanded the truth.

In Poland the “official” memory was challenged by the “unofficial” version. Plaques dedicated to the victims of the Katyn Massacre were placed in churches. Names of those murdered were engraved on family tombs.

Memory of Katyn motivated the democratic opposition in communist Poland. Despite harassment by the communist secret police, the opposition distributed books, calendars, leaflets, brochures, posters, stamps and postcards commemorating the victims. In 1978 a group of independent researchers including Adam Macedonski, Andrzej Kostrzewski and Stanislaw Tor established an underground Katyn Institute in Krakow it published the Katyn Bulletin and other literature on the Massacre.

In one especially tragic act of protest at the communist authorities’ silencing of the facts of the Katyn Massacre, on Krakow square on 21 March 1980 former Home Army soldier and retired baker Walenty Badylak set himself alight and died.

On the initiative of Father Stefan Niedzielak, Stefan Melak, Andrzej Szomanski and Marian Jeznach and the leading historian specialising in the Katyn affair, Professor Jerzy Lojek, a monument - the Katyn Cross - was erected on 31 July 1981 at the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw. It bore the date of the Massacre: 1940. Repeatedly destroyed by the Security Service and re-built, the monument symbolised Poland’s fight for the truth. Father Niedzielak, chaplain of the Katyn Families, was murdered on the night of 19/20 January 1989. His killers have not been identified.

In October 1989 a group of researchers on the Katyn Massacre (Andrzej Chmielarz, Jerzy Jackl, Stanislaw Maria Jankowski, Andrzej Kunert, Bozena Lojek, Adam Macedonski, Marek Tarczynski, Jacek Trznadel, Jedrzej Tucholski and Wojciech Ziembinski) established the Historical Committee for the Investigation of the Katyn Massacre in Poland. The Committee and the Polish Katyn Foundation has published the Katyn Notebooks containing scholarly articles and source material on the Massacre.

Diaries and memoirs found during the German exhumations in the Katyn Forest are invaluable sources on Polish prisoners of war in Kozelsk. All entries end abruptly in late April and early May 1940, evidence that confirms the killings were carried out by the Soviets. Equally valuable are memoirs of prisoners of war who survived Kozelsk, including Professor Stanislaw Swianiewicz and Professor Zdzislaw Peszkowski.

The Truth At Last

The decline of the Soviet Union opened an opportunity for Moscow to reveal the truth about the Katyn Massacre.

On 13 April 1990 in Moscow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev handed over selected documents on the Katyn Massacre to Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski. The TASS press agency issued a statement that responsibility for the Katyn Massacre lay with “Beria, Merkulov and their helpers” and that “the Soviet side, expressing its regret over the Katyn tragedy, declaring it to be one of the grave crimes of Stalinism.”

The USSR Supreme Military Prosecutor’s Office revealed the burial ground of the Starobelsk POWs in Kharkiv (Pyatikhatki) and the Ostashkov POWs in Mednoe. In 1991 first Polish-Soviet exhumation works were carried out at those sites, uncovering remains of Polish officers and policemen murdered by the NKVD in 1940.

After the USSR dissolved, the Polish side continued to press Moscow to declassify and publish all documents concerning Katyn.

On 14 October 1992 special envoy of Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin and head of the Russian Archives Professor Rudolf Pikhoya handed photocopied documents from the so-called “closed package no. 1” to President Lech Walesa in Warsaw. The package contained documents recording the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dated 5 March 1940 to execute the Polish POWs and prisoners from Western Ukraine and Western Belarus, and its implementation under orders issued by NKVD head Beria. During his visit to Poland in 1993, Boris Yeltsin laid flowers at the Katyn Cross at the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw.

On 5 May 1994 General Andriy Khomich (Deputy Head of the Ukraine Security Service), handed the Polish authorities a list of prisoners murdered on the territory of Soviet Ukraine as part of the Katyn Massacre (the “Ukrainian list”).

Subsequent agreements signed with the authorities of Russia and Ukraine enabled further exhumations in Katyn and Mednoe (1994/95), and Kharkiv (1994/96).

The names of prisoners murdered in Soviet Belarus have still not been made public. These Polish citizens were probably murdered in Minsk and buried in the Kuropaty nature reserve.

As soon as the truth about the Katyn Massacre was officially revealed, planning began for a dignified memorial to the victims. The Katyn families themselves shaped Poland’s work to build Polish war cemeteries at the sites of the massacres and organise proper burials of the victims’ bodies.

As a result of drilling and excavation in the Katyn Forest, all the graves constructed in 1943 by the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross were found and all the death pits were uncovered. These works proved beyond doubt that the bodies buried near the Katyn Memorial were the remains of Polish officers murdered by the NKVD in the spring of 1940.

On 31 August 1995 bone remains from the death pits were buried in the Polish Red Cross cemetery. In the presence of family members of General Smorawinski, Father Zdzislaw Peszkowski, a delegation from the Katyn Families and the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (ROPWiM), a second funeral of the Katyn generals took place on 7 September.

Since individual graves in Katyn, Mednoe and Kharkiv were impossible, a decision was made to build military necropolises with collective graves. The only exceptions were the graves of two generals from Katyn: Mieczyslaw Smorawinski and Bronislaw Bohaterewicz.

ROPWiM and its Secretary General Andrzej Przewoznik played a key role in establishing the Katyn cemeteries and preserving the memory of the Katyn Massacre. Following a competition for a design of the memorial area, the proposal submitted by sculptors Zdzislaw Pidek and Andrzej Solyga was selected

Sixty years after the Massacre in 2000, three Katyn cemeteries were consecrated at the burial sites in Kharkiv, Katyn and Mednoe.

On 21 September 2012 a fourth Polish War Cemetery was opened in Kyiv-Bykovnia after it was proved that this was the burial place for bodies of Katyn Massacre victims on the “Ukrainian list” who had been murdered in different prisons.

Since November 2004 Poland’s investigation into the Katyn Massacre has been conducted by the Institute of National Remembrance. The Institute treats the killings as a war crime and a crime against humanity that are not subject to statutory limitation.

On 14 November 2007 the Polish Parliament established 13 April as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Katyn Massacre.

Based on: Katyn. In the Footsteps of the Crime: Kozelsk — Smolensk — Gnezdovo — Katyn Forest by J. Rogoża and M. Wyrwa, Centrum Polsko-Rosyjskiego Dialogu i Porozumienia, Warszawa 2019.

Of Russian origin: Stalin's Purges

Repressed people in construction of White Sea Canal

Stalin's purges could otherwise be translated as "Stalin's Terror". They grew from his paranoia and his desire to be absolute autocrat, and were enforced via the NKVD (Communist Secret police) and public 'show trials'. They helped develop a centrally-enforced 'cult of Stalin-worship', and a terrifying system of labor camps - the gulag.

Several reasons could be named for Joseph Stalin's terror. First of all, he believed that the country had to be united - with him as leader - if it was to be strong. Secondly, Stalin calculated that the Soviet Union only had 10 years to catch up with the Western world in terms of industrial growth before Germany invaded, which was highly plausible. The Soviet heavy industry was weak and in the decline, obviously lacking the capacity to produce enough metal and heavy machinery for the imminent war. So, “tightening the screws” and exploiting thousands of gulag prisoners at construction sites and at plants became a part of his sinister industrialization scheme.

In addition to that, the leader became increasingly paranoid (seeing plots everywhere) and power-mad (he demanded continuous praise and applause). And, above all, in 1935, his wife killed herself.

Stalin's "Apparatus of Terror" relied mostly on the NKVD. Stalin's first purges date back to 1930–33 and were aimed at extermination of those who opposed industrialization and the kulaks (well-off farmers and entrepreneurs, who opposed collectivization).

JOseph Stalin gives speech at Communist Party Congress

The worst nation to suffer from Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union were not the Russians - this is historians' main argument against equating Stalinism and Hitler's fascism. Hitler's machine of extermination had been targeted at non-Germans. Fascists sought to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity in which individuals are bound together by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood. However, although Stalin did enforce "russification" of the Soviet Union, his main enemies were his political opponents and their followers.

His most ferocious acts of terror - The Great Purges - took place between 1934 and 1939.
In 1934 Sergey Kirov, a rival to Stalin, was murdered. Although Stalin is believed to have been behind the assassination, he used it as a pretext to arrest thousands of his opponents, who, in his words, might have been responsible for Kirov's murder. The years after saw Stalin’s political opponents put on ‘show trials’, where they pleaded guilty to impossible charges of treason (e.g. Zinovyev and Kamenev in 1936, Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov in 1938).

In 1937, the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army and 7 leading generals were shot. In 1938–39, all the admirals and half the Army’s officers were executed or imprisoned. In the same period of time thousands of religious leaders were imprisoned while churches were closed.

The purges affected not only those who openly opposed Stalin, but ordinary people too. During Stalin's rule of the country over 20 million people were sent to labor camps, where nearly half of them died.

GULAG prisoners

The cult of Stalin replaced churches with its icons. Censorship of anything that might reflect badly on Stalin was enacted. Propaganda was everywhere - pictures, statues, continuous praise and applause for the leader. Mothers taught their children that Stalin was ‘the wisest man of the age’. History textbooks and photographs were changed to make him the hero of the Revolution, and obliterate the names of purged people.

To assure themselves of an endless supply of "traitors” the NKVD interrogators concentrated on two questions: "Who recruited you?" and "Who did you recruit?" The "confessions" often doomed casual acquaintances, friends, and even family. Even at a time when the threat of war in Europe was rising, much of the military leadership - the only remaining base of potential opposition - was executed. It was at this point that Stalin's method began to show definite signs of madness.

An indication of the vast scope of the Great Purge was the discovery, during the Second World War, in Vinnytsia (Ukraine) of a mass grave containing 10,000 bodies of residents of the region who were shot between 1937 and 1938. Given the lack of complete data, it is difficult to establish the total loss of life brought about by the Stalinist terror. An average estimate is that in the Soviet Union as a whole, about 500,000 were executed in 1937-39 and somewhere between 3 and 12 million were sent to labor camps.

With the start of the Second World War, Stalin's terror transformed into the extermination of war prisoners and "traitors". The largest of several simultaneous executions of prisoners of war - the infamous Katyn massacre - took place in April and May 1940 in the Smolensk region. It was a mass execution of Polish nationals, prompted by Lavrenty Beria's proposal to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps. This official document was approved and signed by the Soviet Politburo, including its leader, Joseph Stalin. The number of victims of Katyn is estimated at about 22,000. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, with the rest being Polish intelligentsia arrested for allegedly being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers and priests."

After Stalin's death all of the victims of the purges (or as they were called, “enemies of the people”) were gradually rehabilitated.

SPY WEEK Famous Polish Spies - Ministry of Public Security of Poland

Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego (MBP) was a Polish communist secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage service which gripped Poland in a state of terror from 1945 to 1954. Under the directorship Jakub Berman of the Politburo, the Ministry's objective was to eradicate anti-communist organizations in Poland, the socio-political base of the Polish Secret Underground State, persecute soldiers of Armia Krajowa Home Army, and the Freedom and Independence (WiN) movement which was active during World War II.

The MPB was infamous, and known by its regional offices of Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego or UBP (Office of Public Security, official name) and Urząd Bezpieczeństwa or UB (Office, or Department of Security).

In July 1944 the Soviets installed a provisional (puppet) government in Poland called the Polish Committee of National Liberation Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego or PKWN. It was formed in
Chelm by Polish communists with the aim of taking control over Polish territories captured from Nazi Germany.

Stalin proclaimed the PKWN as "the only legitimate Polish government" by which he could wield complete political control over Poland. The PKWN's internal structure was based on thirteen departments called Resorty one of which was the Department of Public Security (Resort Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego) or RBP, headed by Stanislaw Radkiewicz. The RBP was the precursor of the Polish communist secret police.

By December of the same year, the PKWN expanded to include several members of the London-based Polish government in exile, among them Stanisław Mikolajczyk.. He was later driven out of the country. PKWN was then transformed into Provisional Government of Republic of Poland (Polish: Rząd Tymczasowy Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej or RTRP ). Hence all departments formerly named the Department of Public Security became the Ministry of Public Security (Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego) or MBP.

From the end of the 1940s to 1954, the MBP was among the largest and most powerf ul institutions in post-war People's Republic of Poland. It dealt with internal and foreign intelligence, counter intelligence, monitored anti-Soviet activity in Poland and around the world, monitored government and civilian communications, supervised local governments, maintained a militsiya, managed prisons, fire services, rescue service, and border patrol, as well as a number of concentration camps established by the NKVD, such as the Zgoda labour camp.

In July 1947, the MBP absorbed Section II of the General Staff of the Polish People's Army, the Polish Military Intelligence. Military intelligence merged with its civilian counterpart to become Department VII of Ministry of Public Security.

By the 1950s the Ministry of Public Security had approximately 32,000 people working within its departments. The MBP commanded over 41,000 soldiers and officers of the Internal Security Corps (Korpus Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego), 57,000 officers in the Civil Militia (Milicja Obywatelska), 32,000 officers and soldiers in the Border guard (Wojska Ochrony Pogranicza), 10,000 prison officers (Straż Więzienna), and 125,000 members of Volunteer Reserves of the Citizens Militia (Ochotnicza Rezerwa Milicji Obywatelskiej ORMO), a paramilitary police used for special actions.

Jakub Berman, from the Politburo of the Polish United Worker's Party, controlled all political and administrative matters of the Ministry. From January 1945, the structure and organization of the Ministry was under constant change to accomodate its bureaucratic expansion. Its departments were divided into several sections each, and appointed with different duties. The largest and most important department in MBP was called Department One, headed by General Roman Romkowski (nee Natan Grinszpan-Kikiel). Its focus was on counter-espionage and the elimination of anti-state activities. Department I was divided into Sections as follows:

In January 1945, two new departments were added to existing departments created for the Resort Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego organization (RBP). On September 6, 1945, Department II was expanded with additional departments: Department IV commanded by Aleksander Wolski-Dyszko, Department V commanded by Julia Brystygier, and Department VI headed by Teodor Duda. Further changes were implemented in July 1946 where MBP was divided into eight (8) additional departments, as follows:
Dep 1– Counter-espionage Dep 2– Technical operations and technology Dep 3– Fighting underground resistance Dep 4– Protection of economy Dep 5– Counteraction of hostile penetration and church influences The Secret Office was established in June 1948 to deal with internal counter-intelligence. Its main operation was to conduct surveillance on members of the MPB itself. On March 2, 1949, the Special Bureau was established, renamed in 1951 simply as Department 10 whose activities centered on the surveillance of high ranking members of the Polish United Workers' Party and anybody associated with them.

Ministry of Public Security (1951 and 1953)

Minister of Public Security – Gen. Stanislaw Radkiewicz
1st vice-minister– Gen. Roman Romkowski
2nd vice-minister– Mieczysław Mietkowski
3rd vice-minister – Konrad Swietlik
4th vice-minister– Waclaw Lewikowski

Department ICounter-intelligence – headed by col. Stefan Antosiewicz
Department IIOperative Technology and records – headed by col. Leon Rubinstein
Department IIIFighting bandits – headed by col. Jozef Czaplicki
Department IVProtection of economy – headed by col. Jozef Kratko
Department VReligious political and social organizations – headed by col. Julia Brystiger
Department VIPrisons – headed by col. Władyslaw Pisło
Department VIIIntelligence – headed by col. Witold Sieniewicz
Department of Investigations– headed by col. Jozef Rozanski
Department for Training– headed by mjr. Zdzisław Szymaczak
Department of Staff– headed by col. Mikolaj Orechwa
Department for Government Protection– headed by col. Faustym Grzybowski
Department of Transport– headed by col. Czeslaw Radzicki
Department of Communications– headed by col. Feliks Suczek
Special Bureau– headed by col. Anatol Fejgin
Bureau for control– headed by ?
Bureau of foreign passports– headed by lt. col. Wladyslaw (Spychaj) Sobczynski
Bureau of Budget and Finances– headed by lt./lt. col. Szymon Ela Tenenbaum
Bureau A (Observation of suspicious element) [suspect]– headed by ?
Bureau B (Central archives)– headed by col. Zygmunt Okret (Izrael Nachemiasz)

The Ministry of Public Security had regional offices throughout Poland, one, or more MBP offices There was at least one MBP office established in each voivodeship, called the Voivode Office of Public Security (Wojewódzki Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, or WUBP). Each WUBP had 308 full-time MBP officers and employees on staff.

In addition there were also City Offices of Public Security (Miejski Urząd Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego or MUBP) with 148 MPB officers and employees District Offices of Public Security (Powiatowy Urząd Bezpieczemstwa Publicznego or PUBP), with 51 officers and employees and finally, the Communal Offices of Public Security (Gminny Urząd Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego, or GUBP), which were located at local militia precincts (MO) each with 3 UBP security officers on staff.

In 1953 there were 17 Voivode Offices of Public Security (WUBP), 2 Regional Offices of Public Security on the order of WUBP, 268 District Offices of Public Security (PUBP),5 City Offices of Public Security (MUBP), which operated as District Offices of Public Security (PUBP). Altogether, they employed 33,200 permanent officers, 7,500 of which were stationed in their Warsaw headquarters.

According to Professor Andrzej Paczkowski there was one MBP (or UB) officer for every 800 Polish citizens. Never again, in the 45-year-old history of the People's Republic of Poland, were its special services' formations so large in numbers.

Soviet control and political repressions

The establishment of Soviet military and civilian bureaucracy, and its perpetual change and expansion guaranteed the Soviets political power and virtual omnipotence over Poland during the Cold War. The structure and command of its institutions was visibly and wholly dependent on the USSR

The MPB was controlled by highly experienced and well-grained officers in intelligence and counter intelligence activity from services such as NKGB, NKVD, GRU and SMERSH. (Subsequently, MGB, MVD and KGB.) The first Soviet chief advisor to the MPB was Major General Ivan Serov. His first posting was in 1939 to the position of deputy commander, then commander of Soviet militsiya of the NKVD. Subsequently he was nominated chief of the Secret Political Department (SPO) of the GUGB/NKVD, then People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. From 1941 to 1945 he was appointed the First Deputy People's Commissar of the State Security and later – Deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR. In March 1945, he became the main advisor to the MBP in
and oversaw the apprehension 16 leaders of the Polish underground resistance. The Ministry of Public Security was infamous for its repression and brutality and played a key role in the Trial of the Sixteen.

During the German occupation of Poland, the NKBG and NKVD agents had infiltrated the ranks of Armia Krajowa, with the assistance of members of the People's Guard (Gwardia Ludowa) - later renamed the People's Army (Armia Ludowa). When the Red Army occupied Polish territory, the new Ministry of Public Security, supported by the Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army conducted a flurry of arrests of members of the Polish resistance, in short, anybody opposed to Communist ideology. Dissident members of the Armia Krajowa were imprisoned, deported to Soviet gulags, or executed.

"[. ] The interrogations were conducted by two NKVD officers in uniforms, and by [Boleslaw] Halewski. During interrogations he would say that the UB functionaries were learning interrogation methods from the Russians. Halewski tortured me in the presence of the Russians. He was hitting me on the face, and several times kicked me in the groin. After being kicked I felt down from the pain, and the guards had to carry me out of the interrogation room, and then tossed me into the cell. In the cell, I saw from a close distance how Boleslaw Halewski, before the eyes of all prisoners, was kicking one of the prisoners in the groin area. After [the prisoner] fell, he first jumped on his chest, and then he was smashing his face with the heal of his boot. I saw this from the distance of about two meters. I thought then, that this prisoner, whose name I didn't know, died then [. ] *

Soviet chief advisors to the Ministry of Public Security from 1945�

1945– Ivan Serov (Major General)

1945-1946– Nikolai Selvanovsky (Major General)
1946-1950– Semyon Davydov (Colonel)
1950-1953– Mikhail Bezborodov (Colonel)
1953– Nikolai Kovalshuk (Lieutenant General)
1953-1954– Serafim Lialin

In November 1953, First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party Boleslaw Bierut asked Politburo member Jakub Berman to send MBP Lieutenant Colonel Jozef Swiatlo on an important mission to East Berlin. Swiatlo, deputy head of MBP Department 10, accompanied by Colonel Anatol Fejgin, were sent on a mission to consult with the Erich Mielke, from the East German Ministry for State Security's to discuss plans for the elimination of Wanda Bronska.

They traveled to Berlin and spoke with Mielke on December 4, 1953. The next day Swiatlo defected to the United States through their military mission in West Berlin. American military authorities transported Swiatlo to Frankfurt and by December, Swiatlo had been flown to Washington D.C, where he underwent an extensive debriefing.

Swiatlo's defection received wide press coverage in the United States and Europe as well as in Poland via Radio Free Europe. The latter causing much embarassment to communist authorities in Warsaw. Swiatlo had intimate knowledge of the internal politics of the Polish government, in particular that of the activities of the various secret services. In the following months, American newspapers and Radio Free Europe reported extensively on political repression in Poland based on Swiatlo reports, including that of torture of prisoners, and politically motivated executions. Swiatlo also provided details about struggles within the Polish United Workers' Party.

The communist authorities ordered Swiatlo to falsify evidence that was used to incriminate Władysław Gomułka, who he personally arrested. He had also falsified evidence and arrested Marian Spychalski, the future Minister of National Defence, who was at the time a leading politician and high ranking military officer.

Major changes were made in the Ministry of Public Security in late 1954 - the result of the highly publicized defection of Colonel Swiatlo as well as the general general hatred of the Ministry among the Polish public. By December of the same year, the Polish Council of State and the Council of Ministers decided to replace the Ministry with two distinct administrations: the Committee for Public Security (Komitet do Spraw Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego or KDSBP), headed by Wladysław Dworakowski, and (Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnetrznych or MSW), headed by Wladyslaw Wicha. In consequence the number of employees of the headquarters of Committee for Public Security was reduced by 30% and by 40󈞞% in local offices. The massive network of secret informers was also greatly reduced, followed by the arrest of many functionaries of the Ministry of Public Security. Also severely curtailed were activities in surveillance and repressive measures. In the majority of factories in Poland, the network of agents spying on workers was secretly disbanded.

The Committee for Public Security controlled intelligence and counter-espionage activities, government security and the secret police and from September 3, 1955 to November 28, 1956 it also controlled the Polish Army's Main Directorate of Information (Glowny Zarząd Informacji Wojska) - which ran the Military Police and counter espionage service. The Ministry of Internal Affairs was responsible for the supervision of local governments, the Milicja Obywatelska police force, correctional facilities, fire and rescue forces, and the border guard. In 1956 the Committee was dissolved although many of its functions were merely absorbed into the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The secret police was renamed to the 'Security Service.