The Presiding Judge apparently tired of listening to so much favorable testimony on my behalf. The evidence so far clearly indicated that Vera Tchebiriak had committed the murder in her own house. Whether it was Vissimirsky or the sisters Dyakonova or the ten-year-old boy or Mrs. Malitskaya, they all implicated Vera Tchebiriak. In order to offset the impression that had been made on the jury, the court began to assemble the witnesses for the prosecution.
A deacon was announced first. The prosecution felt that since he was like a priest, the peasants on the jury would be positively influenced. The witness began to speak quietly and at length, and I could see that his words were having the desired effect. The Presiding Judge began asking him the usual questions.
“Do you know anything about the murder?”
“I know a great deal,” he replied smugly.
“Exactly what do you know?”
“I know that Andriusha Yustchinsky was a dear, almost saintly little boy. He wanted to become a priest when he grew up, so I was helping him prepare for seminary. When I once asked him why he wanted to become a priest, he confided that he liked the vestments very much. When I heard that he had been murdered, I was devastated. His mother asked me to participate in the funeral since I knew him so well. When the casket was about to be lowered into the grave, I saw pogromists handing printed circulars to the public. As soon as I read those circulars, I knew that the Jews had nothing to do with Andriusha’s death. I realized that this tragic death was going to be used to cause pogroms against the Jews.”
There was considerable movement and grumbling in the courtroom. The judge threatened to clear the hall if order was not maintained.
The next witness was a monk. He was also asked, “What do you know about the murder?”
“I am over sixty years old,” he sniveled. “And I am more concerned with life in the world to come than with this life. So I must tell you the truth, and I tell you, my dear brothers, if the earth could give up its dead, then you would see how many Christian children have been murdered by the Jews.”
It was obvious that the monk was about to embark on a diatribe against the Jews for the benefit of the prosecution. As a stir rippled through the hall, the Presiding Judge quickly stepped in with a question.
“Have you yourself ever witnessed such a murder, or have you just heard about it?” he asked sternly.
“No, I’ve just heard about it,” the monk stammered.
“Well, then, sit down,” the judge said, somewhat exasperated.
The monk angrily sat down. I understand that the Presiding Judge was severely reprimanded by his superiors, and he was told that he would lose his post if he did not allow the prosecution to carry out its task.
It turned out that these witnesses were called back for cross-examination. The monk had felt it was his duty to come and defend the honor of the Russian justice system. And then to be insulted by the judge? One could know the truth, he asserted, without seeing it himself. When the monk was on the stand, it was Gruzenberg’s turn to handle the cross-examination. Tact demanded, however, that a Russian lawyer and not a Jewish one should handle the task. Gruzenberg, therefore, wrote a note to Karabchevsky, and Karabchevsky proceeded with the questioning.
“Dear Father,” Mr. Karabchevsky began, “I beg your forgiveness for asking you this question, but I must. Tell me, please, are you not yourself a Jew by birth?”
The monk was definitely disconcerted. He had not expected the question, and he did not like the idea of revealing his former Jewish status to the Russian people at large. Yet he had to give an answer.
“Yes,” he muttered. “I had been a Jew for fifteen years.”
“Did you ever hear in your father’s house that the Jews used Christian blood for Passover?”
“No,” he admitted. “I never heard about it in my father’s house, but I learned about these things when I became a Christian.”
At this point, Mr. Karabchevsky turned to speak to the jury.
“Gentlemen,” he pointed out, “the Father himself says that he had no knowledge of such things when he grew up at home as a Jew. He only learned about it after he converted to Christianity. We all know that there are Christians who invent wild stories about the Jews, and his new co-religionists must have told him this story to make him hate the Jews.”
The cross-examination of the monk was thus concluded, and he was not interrogated any further. This witness also brought the day’s session to a close. It was quite late in the evening, and everyone was tired. They all went to their respective homes, and I was sent back to jail.
The next morning, the first person called to the witness stand was a college student named Golubov who was one of the leaders of the Black Hundreds in Kiev. He was dark-complexioned and looked like a real-life desperado. His appearance created somewhat of a sensation, because the prosecution had touted him as a star witness. He was expected to put on a wonderful performance.
The Assistant Prosecutor, Mr. Vipper, the Presiding Judge and the lawyers for the prosecution all greeted him with an overt display of friendliness and respect. As he walked to the stand, all eyes were riveted on his. For some reason, he was extremely nervous and kept getting more and more pale. The Presiding Judge formally asked him what he knew about the case and the murder, yet he remained silent. This alone caused a great disappointment. He was then asked whether he felt well and was told to try and compose himself. A chair was quickly brought in for him, and no sooner had he sat down than he fell off in a swoon.
The “expert” professors who had come at the behest of the Black Hundreds, Kosortov and Sikorsy, were also in the courtroom at this time. They turned to the famous Professor Pavlov, who was the personal physician of the Czar and who was also there as a witness. They pleaded with him to help Golubov regain consciousness.
“Well don’t just sit there,” Dr. Pavlov replied. “He’s your witness, so you do something.”
Finally, attendants came and carried Golubov out, half dead and incapable of testifying. He had not been able to articulate one word. Was it pangs of conscience? No one knew what had happened to him, but my best guess is that he was afraid to face my galaxy of lawyers. He knew he would have been cross-examined by the greatest legal talents in Russia, and he may not have remembered all he had been told to say by the Prosecuting Attorney. Of course, had he told the truth, there was nothing to fear.
I feel compelled to say that Golubov’s father was a very fine and noble person. He was a professor at the University of Kiev and possessed an impeccable reputation. When Golubov’s father was once asked why he had permitted his son to be involved with such a nefarious group, he had reportedly replied, “What do you want from my son? You know that he spent some time in the insane asylum of Vinnitza. It was after they sent him back home that he joined the Black Hundreds. It wasn’t hard for them to lead him astray. They even made him a secretary of the Double-Headed Eagles. Would you believe that he is their leader? He is a poor, misled, unbalanced misfit. Just leave him alone, and don’t mention his name to me again.”
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