Chapter 3        Arrested at Dawn
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The case was taken over by Investigating Attorney Fenenko. He began to visit our neighborhood frequently. He measured the distances from the cave where Yustchinsky’s body had been found to both the factory and to Tchebiriak’s house. In this manner, he investigated the murder for several months.

As the pogromists’ newspapers continued whitewashing the gang of thieves and throwing accusations at the Jewish people, Russian detectives began to visit our factory. They asked my children if they had known the Yustchinsky boy and if they used to play with him. One of the detectives took up residence in the house opposite ours and watched wherever I went and whatever I did. I was informed that the detectives, seeing that their investigation had not been productive, began to  treat the Russian children to sweets to make them say that Andriusha used to visit us and that my children had played with him.

After a while, a detective named Polishtchuk began to visit me rather frequently. He once told me that there was a feeling that the crime had been committed on the factory premises and that, furthermore, I must have been involved. On the morning following my conversation with Polishtchuk, a squad of about ten persons appeared at the factory, accompanied by Fenenko, the Investigating Attorney. Fenenko appeared in the best of moods when he began to question me.

“You are the manager of this factory?”


“Since when?”

“For about fifteen years.”

“Are there any other Jews here besides you?”

“No. I am here alone.”

“You are a Jew, are you not? Where do you go to pray? Is there a synagogue here?”

“I am a Jew, but there is no synagogue here. One can pray at home as well.”

“Do you observe the Sabbath?”

“The factory is kept running on Saturdays, so I do not leave the grounds.”

“Have you a cow?” he suddenly asked. “Do you sell any milk?”

“I have a cow,” I replied. “But I do not sell milk. We need all of it for our family.”

“And let us say, a good friend of yours comes to you, do you sell him a glass of milk?”

“When a good friend of mine comes to me, I give him food and drink, including milk, but I never sell it.”

I simply could not understand the necessity of these questions about my piety and as to whether I went to a synagogue. Had the authorities become so pious that they could not tolerate my praying without an official minyan, a group of ten men required by Jewish law?  And what was the purpose of all these questions about the cow and the milk?

Fenenko and his confreres seemed quite satisfied and bid me a cordial good-bye. As they were leaving, I noticed that one of them photographed me. Evidently, they were quite meticulous about their work. This incident occurred on Thursday, July 21, 1911, on the 9th of Av, a day of fasting for the Jews, when we bewail our great misfortunes, the destruction of the Temple and our exile from our homeland, from Zion. This date marks the anniversary of our sufferings in exile.

At dawn, on Friday, July 22, when everyone was still fast asleep, I heard a great commotion involving many horses and men. Before I had a chance to look out, there was a loud banging on the door. Naturally, I was quite alarmed. What could have happened at this time of the morning? In all the fifteen years I had lived at the factory, I had never heard such noise. In the meantime, the knocking grew louder.

My first thought was that a fire had broken out at the factory. I rushed to the window, and although it was quite dark, I could recognize the familiar uniforms of the gendarmes. What could gendarmes be doing here at night? Why all that knocking at the door? Everything turned dark before my eyes. My head swam. I nearly swooned with fright. The incessant knocking, however, made me realize that this was no time for reflection, and I rushed to open the door.

A large squad of gendarmes burst in, led by Colonel Kuliabko, the notorious chief of the Okhrana, the secret political police. After placing a guard at the door, Colonel Kuliabko walked right up to me. 

“Are you Beilis?” he snarled.


“In the name of His Majesty, you are arrested,” thundered his diabolical voice. “Get dressed.”

In the meantime, my wife and children awoke and began to wail. The children were frightened by the uniforms and the swords, and they were tugging with all their might for me to protect them. The poor children did not understand that their father was helpless and himself in need of protection.

I was forcibly jerked away from my family and no one was allowed to come near me. I was not even permitted to utter a word to my wife. In silence, restraining my tears, I dressed myself, and without being allowed to reassure my children or kiss them good-bye, I was taken away by the police.

I was taken to the headquarters of the Okhrana, but the colonel remained behind to search my home. As I was taken into the street outside, I met many of the workers going toward the factory. I felt ashamed and asked the police to let me walk on the sidewalk instead of in the street, which was the custom when police escorted arrested persons. They refused.

I later learned that ironically, precisely at the time of my incarceration, Vera Tchebiriak and her gang of thieves, along with Madame Yushtchinsky, were released from prison as wrongly suspected, innocent persons. I  wondered what would become of me.

Picture Picture
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