Young ill-disciplined comrades

There are two historical riddles from Romania’s history between the two world wars that I wanted to throw some light on…

A nice house in front of the King’s Palace

Just in front of the king’s palace, a well-to-do and respected citizen built a nice house. The idea was that, in such a neighborhood, there is no fear that the police will crush in unexpected in the middle of the night. At most, they might come and knock politely on the door.

The house was specially planned and built to contain a secret room, with no visible door. For years this was the refuge of the general secretary of the Romanian Communist party. Even the kids that grew up in the house didn’t know they had another dweller.

I met one of these kids in the seventies in Haifa and heard the story from him. So, if the “Siguranța”, the fearsome secret police of that period, is still looking, they may better close this file.

Some background

In the days after the First World War, the Soviet revolution was still new and aroused great

Massacre of striking workers - Romania 1919

Massacre of striking workers – Romania 1919

hopes for a future of freedom and equality among poor workers and oppressed people all over the world. In May 1921, as the congress of Romania’s “Socialist-Communist Party” decided to join the Comintern (The Third, Communist, International, based in Moscow), 271 of the delegates were arrested. Some of them were executed without trial. Others were tortured and sentenced for “terrorism”.

In 1924 “Mârzescu Law” officially banned the communist party and assigned the death penalty for “communist propaganda”. At the time people were taking their commitment to communism deadly seriously. I heard of comrades that were hiding their party membership card in their houses, knowing what will be the consequence if they were exposed.

Mobilization

The respected citizen from the nice house near the palace didn’t tell his sons about his party affiliation, but he cared for them to find the right path. My friend was a member of a local chess club. One day a member of the club suggested on him “to meet someone” that was interested to know him.

He didn’t know the name of the comrade that came to see him. In the first meeting all that the guy told him was that it was very dangerous to be a communist in Romania. He suggested on him to take care and not get involved. But in case that he was really interested and insisting to put his life in danger, he can put him in contact with some activists. The young man was stubborn and insisted.

Organization and education

The young activists that formed the party cell were from different neighborhoods of Bucharest. They were not allowed to know each other’s real names, so that they will not be able to give up names under interrogation and torture.

They were engaged in the deadly crime of communist propaganda. For example, they would go to football games and at the moment that the local team scored a goal and everybody jumped in joy, they threw out party leaflets, hoping that nobody will notice who did it.

To make them more conscious of what may happen, they were taken to meet a comrade that was released from prison after suffering hellish torture. He told them his story in detail.

Breach of discipline

My friend and another young comrade decided to act for themselves, disobeying party discipline.

There was one “Siguranța” interrogator that was most famous for his sadistic cruelty in torturing the comrades. They followed him and learned his regular path from work to his home. One night they killed him.

They couldn’t even tell the other comrades, as such acts were strictly forbidden.

Sad end

Bad discipline didn’t end there. The young comrades were not following the strict instructions that forbade them from knowing each other’s names and addresses. My

Romanian_Poster_The_struggle_continue

Romanian Poster: The struggle continues!

friend told me of such incidents, for example, when he wanted to get a book from another comrade. Instead of waiting for the next meeting to get the book, he would accompany the comrade to his house, coming to know his address.

After some years of activity, one of the comrades was caught. Subsequently most of them were caught and killed.

My friend went to the mountains and didn’t come back to the city until Romania was freed at the last stages of the second world war.

 

My November 7 Story: The Incident of Officer Stoller

My November 7 Story: The incident of Officer Stoller

First a small question to tease your friends with: When did the great October Revolution happen? The answer is, of course, November 7.

As a devoted Socialist I see November 7, 1917, as the most important date in the calendar. It was the first time in history that the poor masses did not only revolt against exploitation and tyranny (as they did for thousands of years) but actually took control of the state apparatus in order to create a new type of political and social order. As we all keep trying till this day, November 7 may be defined as the beginning of modern history, of the period when the toiling masses are not only the subject matter of history, but a first class active and independent player.

But here I don’t write to repeat what you all may know, but to add a small historical fact that may have slipped off the pages of history.

First I have to explain how I came across it.

When I was young and became a Socialist in the Seventies, it opened the door for some old people to tell me stories that they kept deep in their hearts in the Zionist desert.

My grandmother, Fania Marek, used to live in Moscow before and during the Russian revolution. As the 18 years old daughter of an established Publisher, she was one of the first “victims” of Bolshevik dictates. There was a law against “parasites” that forced everybody to work or study. So, in 1918, as everybody was fighting the civil war, my grandmother enrolled to study arts in the Moscow University. She told me it was the most beautiful days in her life, as the revolution was all about “Sbovoda” – Freedom.

Her sister was engaged to a tall bearded Jewish officer in the Tsar’s Army named Stoller. When I knew him, some fifty years later, he was still a very impressive person, living in a Kibutz near the Sea of Galilee. When he heard that I’m a Socialist, he had a story to tell.

He told me that in the heydays of the revolution he was stationed in Moscow and joined the Bolsheviks with his soldiers. On November 7, 1917, he entered with his soldiers to the Winter Palace in the act that symbolized the seizure of power by the proletariat.

Then he told me what happened next. He said that his soldiers were mostly interested in the wine in the palace’s cellars. When he tried to stop them from drinking the Socialist Peoples’ wine, one soldier tried to shoot him. The next day he was a deserter from the Red Army.

I don’t see any special lesson from this story. I tell it just because it is what I heard.

It didn’t convince me to desert my position in the Socialist struggle, as uncle Stoller might have wished to do. Maybe it was good for me to see, from the beginning, how in the heights of the revolution the most heroic, the horrible and the ridiculous may meet and mix.