The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Henderson ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1850

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 195, August 27, 1936, relating to the trial and execution of Zinoviev, Kamenev, and their alleged co-conspirators, I have the honor to inform the Department that a despatch setting forth the personal impressions obtained by myself at the trial and submitting summaries of evidence not published in the Soviet press is in course of preparation and will be forwarded to the Department at a later date.28

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As stated in my telegram under reference, I have not been convinced from what I saw at the trial or from a careful study of the evidence presented that the accused were really implicated in a specific plot to kill Stalin, Kirov, or other prominent Soviet leaders, that Trotski ever gave instructions to his adherents to assassinate Stalin, or that the German police had connections with any of the defendants. In this connection it may be pointed out that the various defendants who allege that they had any connections in Germany with the German police were Jews of a pronouncedly eastern European type and that it is difficult to imagine that there should have been any relations between them and officials of the German Fascist Government. It may be added that eleven of the sixteen defendants were Jews and that all of the accused spoke Russian so well that if not of Russian origin they must at least have lived in Russia many years. The views expressed by myself are those of all the foreign diplomats present at the trial, as well as of the other Secretaries of this Mission and of the foreign journalists whom I consider to be most competent to judge matters pertaining to the Soviet Union. The Minister of Norway,29 who attended [Page 303] certain sessions of the trial and whose opinion is of particular interest since he is the representative of the country in which Trotski is now residing, has informed me that he considers the trial to be a farce and that in his opinion the charges that Trotski had participated in a plot to kill Soviet leaders had not been substantiated.

From such contacts as the Embassy has among the Russian population, it would appear that many Soviet citizens are also inclined to look upon the trial with skepticism. They are, naturally, careful not to reveal their true feelings except to persons in whom they have explicit confidence and at places where they are sure that they will not be overheard.

It is reported to the Embassy from sources believed to be reliable that hundreds of persons have been arrested on charges of disloyalty to Stalin and the Party and that some of them are being tried in secret at the present time. The announcement of the execution of all sixteen of the condemned men within 24 hours of the passing of the sentence i has made a profound impression, and a wave of fear, almost equal to that noticeable following the assassination of Kirov in December 1934, is said to be sweeping over the country. It is understood that members and former members of the Communist Party who at some time may have been on friendly terms with persons now branded as adherents of Trotski or with any of the persons accused or mentioned in the trial are now terror-stricken. The effect upon that section of Soviet officialdom charged with dealing with foreigners is particularly marked. Foreigners have noted that many Soviet officials who a few weeks ago spoke to them with an air of self-confidence are now most diffident and are apparently afraid to come to any decisions without protracted consultations with their superiors.

Respectfully yours,

Loy W. Henderson
  1. Not printed.
  2. Dr. Andreas Urbye.