740.00116 European War 1939/1198: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

2275. Embassy’s 2243, December 16, 1 p.m.69 The press for December 19 reported that the four accused in the Kharkov trial had [Page 849] been sentenced to death by hanging.70 Pravda for December 20 reports that the sentences were carried out on December 19.

Since the opening of the trials practically half of each issue of the newspapers has been devoted to an account of the proceedings.71

  1. Not printed, but see telegram No. 2244, supra.
  2. The Kharkov trial was held under authority of a ukaz of April 19, 1943, which had not been published, and the Department had been unsuccessful in its efforts to obtain the text of it. On March 27, 1944, Ambassador Harriman reported in his telegram No. 1059, that it was still impossible to obtain a copy of this decree from the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. An article about the Kharkov trial which had appeared in Freies Deutschland of December 19, 3943, included this statement: “Death by hanging was first introduced in the Soviet Union through a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet dated April 19, 1943.” The first executions imposed under this decree were those sentenced to hang at the Krasnodar trial. (740.00116 European War 1939/1371) The famous Soviet jurist Aron Naumovich Trainin, in an article on “The Criminal Responsibility of the Hitlerite Criminals” in War and the Working Class, No. 1 (January 1, 1944), asserted that one of the purposes of this decree was to give “to Soviet courts an appropriate weapon for the immediate struggle with the Hitlerite criminals”. (740.00116 European War 1939/1245)
  3. The Russian text of the proceedings of the Kharkov trial, printed in issues 308–312 of Pravda, December 16–20, 1943, and an English text in three issues of the Moscow News, were sent to the Department by the Ambassador in the Soviet Union as indicated in his despatches No. 104, December 22, and No. 110, December 23; neither printed.