Secret History of Stalin’s Purge (111)

The Central Supervisory Committee asked each member of the party to write his autobiography, with the names of two party members as attesters. Vyshinsky also handed in his biography, which stated that he had spent a year in prison for participating in a strike during the Tsarist era.

The district party committee called us in one by one, asked some questions, and then returned the party cards that had been taken away earlier. For the old Bolsheviks of the Supreme Court, this procedure did not present any problems, and in fact no questions were even put to them. It was all just a short meeting with the old comrades who were working in the Supervisory Commission. A few of us younger comrades did not leave in a hurry after the examination and stayed behind, wanting to leave together when the examination was all over. It was Wisinski’s turn, and it was a severe test for him, because he had been expelled from the party the last Time, in 1921, and it took him a year of hard work to get his membership back.

After half an hour, another hour, two hours, another half an hour, Wisinski never came out. Someone had gotten tired of waiting and left. Finally, Wisinski finally scurried out, looking alarmed and red in the face. It turned out that the committee had not given him back his party card. This meant expulsion from the party. Wisinski did not tell us what happened behind the closed door of the room during those three hours or so. He hid in the farthest corner of the reception room and turned around in fear and anxiety.

On the way out the door, Wisinski caught up with us. Indignantly, he shouted.

“How outrageous! This is an insult! I will not stop here. I’ll go to the Party Center and throw my Party card in their faces!”

I don’t know how he was going to throw his Party card, which had been taken away from him. We advised him not to do anything stupid, but to talk to Krylenko or Solz. Solts was the chairman of the Judicial Committee of the Supreme Court and also the head of the Central Supervisory Commission, which was responsible for presiding over the national purge of the party.

When we had already walked several blocks, we suddenly heard the sound of sharp feet walking behind us. It was Vyshinsky, who had caught up with us again. After regulating his breathing, he strongly requested us not to pass on to anyone what he had just said about the Party Central Committee. We agreed.

The next day, the young secretary ran into the conference hall in a panic and said that Wisinski was bawling hysterically in Solz’s office. Frightened, the old man rushed out of his office to pour boiling water for him.

Still at the end of the last century, Allan Solz had become a revolutionary. Although he suffered numerous arrests and spent many years in Tsarist prisons and exile, his heart did not become cold and heartless as a result. He was always a kind-hearted and compassionate man.

As a member of the Party, Soltz had to adhere firmly to the principle of “political necessity” in his actions. This principle was always used by Stalin’s Politburo to justify all its actions. However, Soltz never learned to ignore injustice in his old age. It was only in the last years of his Life, under the pressure of a wave of terror from which no one was immune, that he had to repeat Stalin’s false accusations against Trotsky. But in the end he had the courage to speak the truth to Stalin’s face, after all, and this action led to his death.

Soltz’s friends called him the “conscience of the Party,” partly because he headed the Central Supervisory Committee, the Party’s highest national court. For several years, one of the tasks given to me by the party was to report to this committee on the situation of party members who had been opened for investigation. I was often impressed by the humane and non-bureaucratic attitude that Soltz displayed in dealing with such cases.

It was this kindness and compassion of Solz that saved Wisinski. He brought the issue to the Central Committee for discussion. Only after this was Vyshinsky’s party card returned. A few days later, Solz stopped by our “conference room”. We were having tea inside. Saw Solz. His old friend Galkin immediately scolded him for not talking about it. Soltz smiled apologetically and said: “What can you ask of him? A comrade, working hard …… give him a chance to perform. Bolsheviks are not born, Bolsheviks grow up gradually. If he is in breach of trust – we can fire him at any time.”

I was so busy that I could hardly attend the regular meetings of the Judicial Committee because of the increasing number of appeals from all sides to the Appeals Review Committee. But once I had time to go, I saw Wisinski giving a presentation entitled “Prosecution in Political Cases. I can’t deny that his presentation was logical, and he was able to speak Russian well, using his oratory skills. Executive Chairman Solz nodded happily and did not hide his appreciation.

At that time, I did not like the over-the-top performance and passion of Vyshinsky. But in general, one thing was clear to me: this was an extremely capable and well-trained genius of a prosecutor. I even began to think that we, the party members, had been too unfair to Wisinski and hoped that we would all change our attitude toward him in the future.