861.404/5–1645: Telegram

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

1601. Father Braun was summoned to appear before a Soviet court last evening where he was charged by one Knyazev, yardman at the French Embassy, with assault and battery alleged to have taken place on October 31, 1944, in the French Embassy.92 He was given a copy of the charge dated April 12 and deposition of the plaintiff dated November 2, 1944, and was instructed to appear before court on May 18 to stand trial.

I am seeing the French Ambassador93 today who is also interested in this case and will telegraph later concerning some of its implications and the question of what action, if any, the Embassy should take.94

  1. This incident had been reported to the Department in telegram 4437 of November 20, 1944, not printed. The Embassy had just learned that Father Braun had allegedly struck an employee of the French Embassy who was a Soviet citizen, and who had preferred charges in the People’s Court. No intercession by the American Embassy seemed necessary in the preliminary stages, as there was no sign that Father Braun was not being given due benefit of the law. (861.404/11–2044)
  2. Gen. Georges Catroux.
  3. The Embassy in Moscow did take interest in Father Braun’s case. It sought legal advice through the official collegium of lawyers “on the points of Soviet law and procedure applicable to the charges” preferred against him. (861.404/5–1645) Advice and recommendations for his conduct were given to him, although they were not always followed. Father Braun’s trial in the People’s Court was once postponed on May 18 because of illness of the judge, but was held on July 2, with a representative of the Embassy and of the French Embassy, as well as American correspondents, in attendance. After the hearing, Father Braun was found “guilty of assault and battery and of disturbance of the peace” and was fined 100 rubles, (861.404/7–245) At this time Father Braun declared that he did not wish to appeal, although he had the right, and expressed his readiness to pay the fine. Subsequently, however, he changed his mind, made an appeal, and on July 27 “was completely exonerated.” (861.404/8–1345)