That next Sunday, I again received a food package. The other prisoners were just as pleased as I was when it was brought in. One of them offered to take charge of it for safekeeping, but I could see right away that he was an unsavory sort of person who could demolish my package in the twinkling of an eye. I thanked him for his gracious offer but refused, explaining that I felt I could take care of it myself.
A little while later, three new prisoners were brought in. One was a Jew, and the other two were Russians. The Jew cried to me that he could not eat the food and he had no sugar for his tea. I offered him some challah and sugar, which he gratefully accepted.
He wanted to know what crime I had committed. Since I wanted to avoid the usual condolences and expressions of sympathy that people voiced upon hearing who I was, I told him I was in prison for stealing a horse. I asked him what he was charged with. He told me he had paid for a purchase with five hundred rubles he had received. The money turned out to be counterfeit, so he was arrested.
Once, while I was out on the promenade, one of the other prisoners called out my name. This young Jew turned around in amazement.
“You are Beilis?” he shrieked in astonishment. “Why didn’t you tell me that in the beginning? Why did you conceal your name? I am honored to be in the same cell with you. Do not grieve, for God will help you.”
I was warned that the time was fast approaching when the prisoners were going to “analyze” me. Since I wasn’t yet familiar with the prisoners’ lingo, I didn’t know what this term meant. I soon found out.
When several prisoners are implicated in the same case, it is important for all of them to get together and agree on what they are going to say at the trial. If there is a stranger in the cell, he might overhear their discussions and report to the authorities. It is, therefore, necessary to subject this other prisoner to an “analysis.” First, they give him a preliminary beating. If he doesn’t report this beating to the authorities and turn the culprits in, then the other prisoners know that this prisoner can be trusted; they feel that they can speak safely and freely in his presence.
Now I began to understand the reason for their friendliness. They pretended to become close with me so that they could pick a quarrel with me and perform the “analysis.” It seemed, however, that not all the prisoners were in favor of analyzing me. The one who was angry because of my refusal to make him the guardian of my package undertook the mission. He also had it in for Jews in general, because it was a Jew who had accused him of theft. I knew that this particular prisoner was out to get me, but there was nothing I could do about it.
This is how it happened. I wasn’t allowed to wear my own shoes. Instead, I had to wear the prison sabots, which were shoes held together with nails. At times, I was so distraught I could only relieve my anxiety by pacing back and forth. In the process, my feet had been torn to shreds by the nails in the shoes. One time, when it was just too painful to continue walking, I sat down on a chair. Seeing an opportunity to provoke a fight, this prisoner came running over and asked me to let him sit down on the chair. Before I could even answer, he hit me so hard that my blood started gushing. Everyone was watching me to see how I would react. The sight of the blood frightened them somewhat, and they brought me some water to wash it off. When I refused to take the water, one of them began shouting.
“Stab him! Do away with him! You can see he is going to squeal.”
My young Jewish friend came over to me and begged me to be reasonable. “Wash the blood off,” he pleaded. “Soon you’ll be transferred to another room, and I’ll have to remain here. Then they’ll take out their vengeance on me. If you wash yourself off, they’ll be appeased. You’d better do it for both of us.”
I decided to do as he asked and proceeded to wash myself off. Upon seeing this, some of the other prisoners who had opposed “analyzing” me to begin with turned to the prisoner who had beaten me and began to berate him.
“Jews,” they said, “must be tested in another way.”
The next morning, when I was out on the promenade, the peasant who had hit me and another Russian were standing next to me. The prison guard saw my swollen eye and asked who had done it. Before I had time to answer, the Russian pointed to the peasant. The nadsiratiel, the guard, promptly grabbed hold of the peasant’s collar and escorted us to the office. On the way to the prison office, we had to pass several guards. Each of them questioned us as to what had happened, and when they were told, they also gave the peasant a hearty blow. When the last guard we passed was told that the peasant was the culprit, he grabbed him by the collar and threw him down a flight of stairs. I was afraid his head was broken.
When we reached the office, one of the officials asked him, “Why did you hit Beilis?”
“I asked him as a comrade to let me sit on his chair,” the shaken peasant responded. “He didn’t let me, so I hit him.”
“Is that the way to treat your comrade?” the official inquired harshly.
“But he takes our children and drinks their blood,” the peasant blurted out defiantly.
“Have you yourself seen him kill children?” the official asked.
“No, but I’m told that he does.”
“Well then, take this and this!” he said, accompanying his words with a slap. The official then gave the peasant another good beating.
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