Written: 24 August 1938.
First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 37, 10 September 1938, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
Once again Leon Trotsky turns a probing searchlight on the circumstances which led to the death of his son, Leon Sedoff, in a Paris hospital. Persistent demands of Trotsky supported by friends and comrades in France compelled an investigation into the causes of the strange death of Sedoff. As documents and testimony pile up before the court, all possible doubt must vanish on the score that Sedoff was foully murdered, or that his assassins were the G.P.U., instructed and paid by Stalin to commit this act of personal and political vengeance against Leon Trotsky. The French police are shielding the assassins, who stalk the streets of France maiming and murdering revolutionists. In the adjoining columns, Trotsky rips aside the curtain of protection to make the truth known to the working class.
Supplementing my statement of July 19, I have the honor to add the following considerations:
(1) I have consulted competent physicians. None of them, naturally, would venture to counterpose their opinion from afar to the opinion of the highly qualified French specialists who performed the autopsy. But the physicians whom I have consulted agree unanimously that the course of the illness and the causes of death were not established by the investigation with the necessary fullness demanded by the extraordinary circumstances of this case.
(2) The incompleteness of the investigation is most clearly confirmed by the attitude of the surgeon, Mr. Talheimer, himself. He refused to give explanations, appealing to “professional secrecy.” The law grants a physician this right. But the law does not obligate a physician to make use of this right. In the given case the physician must have had some special reason for hiding behind professional secrecy. What is Mr. Talheimer’s reason? There cannot be any question at all in the given case of safeguarding the secrets of the patient or of his relatives. It is therefore a question of safeguarding the secret of the physician himself. What does this secret consist of? I have no reasons whatever to suspect Mr. Talheimer of criminal actions. But it is quite evident that had the death of Sedoff followed naturally and inevitably from the nature of his illness, that the surgeon would not have the least interest or psychological inclination for refusing to give the necessary explanations. In hiding behind professional secrecy Mr. Talheimer says that there are particular circumstances in the course of the illness and the causes of death, the clarification of which he does not wish to assist. It is impossible to give any other interpretation to Mr. Talheimer’s attitude. Reasoning in a purely logical manner, we can only come
to the conclusion in the given circumstances that the physician could invoke professional secrecy in one of the three cases:
The provoking silence of Mr. Talheimer should in itself have indicated the course of the investigation. It is necessary by all means to uncover the circumstances which motivated the surgeon to hide behind “professional secrecy.”
(3) The testimony of the owner of the clinic, Mr. Simkoff, is unclear, scanty, and partly contradictory. Did he or did he not know who his patient was? This question is not clarified at all. Sedoff was admitted to the clinic under the name “Marten, French engineer.” But in the clinic Dr. Simkoff conversed with Sedoff in Russian. It is precisely thanks to this that the nurse Eismont, according to h er own words, learned that “Marten” was a Russian or knew Russian. As the investigating documents themselves point out, Sedoff was registered under a different name for purposes of security. Was Dr. Simkoff aware of these purposes? And if he was why did he address the patient in Russian in the presence of the nurse Eismont? If it was through carelessness, did not he reveal the same carelessness in other cases as well?
(4) According to police information Dr. Jirmunsky, the director of the clinic, was considered a “Bolshevik sympathizer.” Nowadays this is a very definite characterization. It signifies a friend of the Kremlin bureaucracy and of its agencies. Jirmunsky declared that he learned the real identity of the patient only on the eve of his death from Mrs. Molinier. If these words are to be taken on faith, we should have to conclude that Mr. Simkoff, who informed Jirmunsky in advance over the telephone of the arrival of the patient, concealed from his closest collaborator the real identity of the “French engineer, Marten.” Is this likely? In the presence of the nurse Eismont, Simkoff (as has already been pointed out) spoke with the patient in Russian. Jirmunsky knows the Russian language. Or did Simkoff have special reasons to beware of Jirmunsky? What reasons precisely?
(5) A “Bolshevik sympathizer” – this is a definite characterization. Here the investigation clearly stops mid-way. Under the conditions of Russian emigration this “sympathy” does not remain nowadays a platonic one. Generally the “sympathizer” assumes a hostile attitude with regard to White emigration. From what circles does Mr. Jirmunsky draw his clients? Does he mix with the circles of the Soviet embassy, of the trade representation, etc.? If so, then without any doubt the most important agents of the G.P.U. enter among his clients.
(6) Somehow nothing is said in the documents about the political sympathies of the owner of the clinic, Mr. Simkoff. This is a grave omission. The close collaboration between Mr. Simkoff and Jirmunsky impels us to suppose that Mr. Simkoff too was not hostile to Soviet circles and possibly had connections in these spheres.
(7) Dr. Simkoff is a contributor to the medical periodical Oeuvre Chirurgique Franco-Russe. What character does this publication bear – is it a product of a bloc of French physicians with the Soviet government, or, on the contrary, do White emigres appear in the name of Russian medicine? This question remains entirely unclarified. Moreover, not only the police but even infants know that under cover of all kinds of medical, juridical, literary, pacifists and other organizations and publications, the G.P.U. creates bases of support which serve it, especially in France, for committing crimes with impunity.
(8) We cannot proceed without mentioning one exceptionally significant circumstance which I permit myself, Mr. Judge, to bring to your special attention. As is known, Mr. Simkoff had the misfortune this year to lose two sons, victims of a landslide. During the time when the real fate of the boys still remained unknown, Mr. Simkoff declared in an interview given by him to the French press, that if his sons were kidnapped this could only be done by “Trotskyites” in revenge for Sedoff’s death. At the time this struck me by its monstrosity. I must say frankly that such a supposition could only enter the mind of a person whose conscience was not altogether clean, or to a person who mixed in political circles deadly hostile to me and Sedoff, where agents of the G.P.U. could direct the thought of the unfortunate father to this fantastic and revolting conjecture. But if Mr. Simkoff is on friendly terms with circles which preoccupy themselves with systematic physical extermination of “Trotskyites,”it is also not difficult to suppose that these friendly relations could have, even without the knowledge of Mr. Simkoff, been utilized for a crime against Sedoff.
(9) With regard to the personnel of the clinic, beginning with Mr. Jirmunsky, the police investigation invariably repeats the formula of the “non-participation” of these people in active political life, apparently considering that this circumstance frees them from the necessity of further investigation. This view is absolutely false. It is not a question of open political activity but of carrying out the most clandestine and criminal assignments of the G.P.U. Agents of this kind, like military spies, naturally, cannot compromise themselves by participation in agitation, etc. On the contrary, in the interests of conspiracy, they lead an extremely peaceful existence. Monotonous references to “non-participation” of all the interrogated in active political struggle would testify to the extreme naivete of the police, if the wish to avoid an earnest investigation were not concealed behind it.
(10) But, Mr. Judge, without an earnest, intensive, and courageous investigation the crimes of the G.P.U. cannot be uncovered. To give an approximate idea of the mores and methods of this institution I am obliged to quote from the officious Soviet magazine October of March 3 of this year. The article is devoted to the show trial which resulted in the shooting of the former head of the G.P.U., Yagoda. “When he used to remain in his study,” the Soviet magazine says of Yagoda, “alone or with his henchman Bulanoff, he threw off his mask. He moved to the darkest corner of the room and opened up his treasured closet. Poisons. He contemplated them. This beast in human image admired the flasks in the light, apportioning them among his future victims.” Yagoda is the one who organized my own, my wife’s, and our son’s deportation; the Bulanoff mentioned in the quotation accompanied us from Central Asia to Turkey as the representative of the authorities. I do not enter into a discussion of whether Yagoda and Bulanoff were guilty of the crimes of which it was deemed necessary to accuse them. I call attention to the quotation simply to characterize in the words of the officious publication the environment, atmosphere and methods of Stalin’s secret agency. The present head of the G.P.U., Yeshov, the attorney Vyshinsky and their foreign agents of course are not whit better than Yagoda and Bulanoff.
(11) Yagoda drove one of my daughters to untimely death, the other – to suicide. He imprisoned my two sons-in-law who subsequently disappeared without a trace. The G.P.U. arrested my youngest son, Serge, on a preposterous charge of poisoning workers, after which he disappeared. By its persecutions the G.P.U. drove to suicide two of my secretaries, Glazman and Butov, who preferred death to ignominious testimony under Yagoda’s dictation. Two others of my Russian secretaries, Posnanski and Sermuks, disappeared in Siberia without leaving a trace. In Spain the agency of the G.P.U. arrested my former secretary, a Czechoslovakian citizen, Erwin Wolfe, who disappeared without a trace. Just very recently the G.P.U. kidnapped in France another of my former secretaries, Rudolf Klement. Will the French police find him? Will they care to make any effort to search for him? I permit myself to doubt this. The above-mentioned list of victims embraces only the people closest to me. I do not speak of the thousands and tens of thousands of those who perished in the U.S.S.R. at the hands of the G.P.U. as “Trotskyites.”
(12) Among the enemies of the G.P.U. and its marked victims, Leon Sedoff ranked first with me. The G.P.U. did not take its eyes off him. During two years at least the gangsters of the G.P.U. tracked Sedoff like game. These facts are irrefutably established in connection with the murder case of I. Reiss. Can we suppose even for a moment that the G.P.U. lost sight of Sedoff during his stay at the clinic and passed up such an exceptionally favorable moment? The investigating authorities have no right to such suppositions.
(13) Mr. Judge, one cannot read without indignation the report of the police signed by Hauret and Boilet. Regarding the preparation of a series of attempts on Sedoff’s life the report states: “Apparently, his political activity really was the subject of sufficiently close observation on the part of his adversaries.” This phrase alone gives the police away completely! Where it is a question of preparing the murder of Sedoff in France the French police speak of “sufficiently close observation” on the part of anonymous “adversaries,” and adds the word “apparently.” Mr. Judge! The police do not want to uncover the truth as they did not uncover it in the theft of my archives, as they uncovered nothing in the case of the murder of I. Reiss, as they do not intend to uncover anything in the matter of the kidnapping of Rudolf Klement. In the French police and in their higher-ups the G.P.U. has powerful accomplices. Millions of chervontzi are expended only to safeguard the impunity of the Stalinist mafia in France. To this must be added considerations of a “patriotic” and “diplomatic” nature which are conveniently utilized by the murderers in Stalin’s service who operate in Paris as if in their own home. That is why the investigation in the case of Sedoff’s death bears a ficticious character.
Coyoacan, D.F., August 24, 1938
Last updated on: 12 September 2015