Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Gustav Herling

“The first accusation in my indictment was based on two points of evidence. First the high leather boots which I wore supposedly proved that I was a Major of the Polish Army. Secondly, my name, when transcribed into Russian, became Gerling and this supposedly made me the relative of a well-known Field-Marshall of the German Air Force. The accusation therefore read: ‘Polish officer in the pay of the enemy.’ But fortunately it did not take me long to convince the interrogator that these accusations were quite without foundation. There remained one undisputed fact-when arrested I have been trying to cross the frontier between the Soviet Union and Lithuania.”


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.