Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Joseph Scholmer

“During the afternoon a fat little Russian with a pale, puffy face appeared in my apartment in the centre of Berlin, accompanied by a woman interpreter. ‘The officer says, will you come along with him, please; he would like to have a talk with you.’” Scholmer was taken to a prison in Berlin. “My clothes were very thoroughly searched and then I was allowed to dress again. Wallet, identity card, photographs and letters were taken away from me. Then the guard took me down to a cell. The door was bolted. I found myself alone, and began an inspection of my new home. The cell measured fifteen feet by fifteen. It was empty except for a wooden bunk. No window, no palliasse, no blankets. A ventilation hole protected by two iron bars led to the outside. An electric light bulb was burning brightly over the door.”


In the following excerpt from Stolen Years, several prisoners recall the farcical justice of a Soviet trial.

Movie Transcription

Paulina Myasnikova – This is how the trial went. They asked us our name, last name, patronymic, date of birth and whether or not we admitted our guilt. And then they left the room. Five minutes later they reappeared back in the room with the sentence all typed up, and you would get a 10-year prison sentence. Nikolai Getman – The trial lasted no more than 5 or 7 minutes. There was no need to prove any of the evidence. Everything had been determined in advance. Simeon Vilensky – My sentence was announced to me at the Butyrki prison. It was in a little cigarette paper-size document—tiny piece of paper. I was supposed to sign it, and confirm that I had heard the sentence, and received the document. I refused to sign it, but that didn’t make any difference. That’s all there was to the trial.