Letter from K. F. Kurshner to Dimitrov requesting a review of his case.
To the General Secretary of the Executive Committee
of the Communist International,
Deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
From prisoner Kurshner, Karl Filippovich
Vetlag of the NKVD l/p No. 11.
On 10 September 1940, the Special Council [OSO] of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the USSR sentenced me to 8 years in a corrective labor camp for “participating in a right-Trotskyist c[ounter]r[evolutionary] organization.”
To which organization does it refer? Supposedly, the organization headed by the ECCI member, academician Eugen Varga.
You and everyone know that, in fact, Varga is not a counterrevolutionary, that he had never been arrested by NKVD organs, and that he is not now arrested. How could non-counter-revolutionary Varga have recruited me into a counter-revolutionary organization? What kind of counter-revolutionary am I, to which [counter-revolutionary] organization do I belong? The answer is as clear as the slanderous character of the accusation: E. Varga is not a counter-revolutionary, and I am not a counter-revolutionary. Neither Varga nor anybody else has ever recruited me into any counter-revolutionary organization anywhere, in particular, into a non-existing organization. Such are the facts. But it is also a fact that I am in the camp, that I am imprisoned for 8 years.
The explanation is that, for the investigating organ of the NKVD which did my case, papers proved to be more important than obvious, well-known facts. The charges are formally based on the testimony of Bela Vago[i] of 22. XII. 1938, and in part on the testimony of Bela Kun and A. Kreichi of Dec[ember] 1937 and January 1938. If there is a testimony, there should be indictment. But if the indictment contradicts facts, well, too bad for the facts: this is the position of the investigation in my case.
I was sentenced by the OSO in 1940, after the Procurator of the Moscow Military District [MVO] had closed my case in March 1940, and I was released after spending 26 months in prison.[ii]
After my release, I was already working as an editor of Hungarian broadcasts at the All-Union Radio Committee in Moscow, when, on 10 July 1940, I was again arrested, [and] the closed case was re-opened since the Procurator of the USSR, in his resolution of 5 June, overturned the decision of the MVO Procurator.
The new decision to arrest [me] reiterates the accusation related to the c[ounter]r[evolutionary] organization headed by E. Varga! (see case No. 1444 of the NKVD for the M[oscow] r[egion]). A special resolution of the investigations department confirms the re-opening of the old case. (Even the No. of the old case was brought back). In reality, since my second arrest, there has not been any investigation besides some formal procedures required by the Criminal Law Procedure Code of the RSFSR. The question arises once again: what is going on here? In March 1940, the Procurator of the MVO satisfied himself that the Varga’s c[ounter]r[evolutionary] organization was a myth. Has anything changed since then? Of course, not. What did take place was an obvious mistake on the part of the Procurator of the [Soviet] Union.
On what is this accusation in general based? [It is based] on the testimony by Bela Vago of 22-XII-1938. Members of the Hungarian Communist Party and you personally know well enough about the activities of B. Vago before his arrest: following Bela Kun’s political orders, for many years he slandered those members of the CP of Hungary who struggled against Bela Kun and his group. This is also known to E. Gere, the CPH representative in the ECCI. It is also known in the ECCI’s Cadres Department.
Even after his arrest, Bela Vago continued his anti-party activity aimed at destroying honest party cadres, [and] trying to mislead NKVD organs. Bela Kun and A. Kreichi acted in the same way. To evaluate their testimonies, it is sufficient to contrast them.
Bela Vago claims that he learned from Bela Kun (in another section [of the testimony] he, Vago, told it to Kun) that there existed a the c[ounter]-r[evolutionary] organization [led by] Varga, and that I was a member. Kun knows nothing about it, he connects me to some German organization, to be exact, he claims that I supposedly distributed Brandlerite flyers in Moscow (though not mentioning, to whom, when, and what kind [of flyers]). A. Kreichi, for his part, claims that I was a member of Bela Kun’s organization, about which Bela Kun again knows nothing.
Like Kun, people from Kun’s narrow circle, such as Vago, Kreich and Fodor[iii] slandered me, and only them! The reason for this slander is revealed by the ECCI document of 19 January 1940, which was sent to the NKVD on my behalf. In this ECCI document it was stressed that Bela Kun had badgered me for many years. My “case” is nothing else than a result of this badgering. The Soviet organs may not be well aware of the struggle that was going on within the CP of Hungary, therefore they might have easily committed a mistake. That is why I am asking that you intervene in my case. In support of my request [for a review], I am asking you to raise the question of a review of my case with the Procurator of the [Soviet] Union and before the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR. I also request you:
1) to give the ECCI member, academician E. Varga a chance to address the Procurator of the [Soviet] Union regarding this case;
2) to give members of the CP of Hungary, including E. Gere, Georg Lukacs,[iv] Zoltan Szanto, I. Revai, a chance to write a reference for me and send it to the Procurator of the [Soviet] Union.
I have not a slightest doubt that an unbiased, careful review of my case will clearly determine the obviously false [and] the slanderous character of the accusations that were cast on me, and will lead to my full rehabilitation.
Viatlag, 11 lagpunkt, 22 January 1941.
K. F. Kurshner.
RGASPI, f. 495, op. 73, d. 107, ll. 37-40.
Original in Russian. Typewritten.
[i] Bela Vago (1881-1939). A member of the Social Democratic Party of Hungary from 1900, he was one of the founders of the CPH and a member of its first CC (November 1918). On 21 March 1919, he was named People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. After the collapse of Soviet power in Hungary, he emigrated to Austria, and later to Germany. Between 1925 and 1928, he worked in the Soviet trade delegation in Berlin, and on the board of the Die Rote Fahne newspaper. In 1933, he emigrated to the USSR where he worked as head of the Hungarian section of the Foreign Workers Publishing House. In 1938, he was arrested; on 10 March 1939, the Military Board of the Supreme Court of the USSR sentenced him to be shot.
[ii] Kurshner stayed in Butyrskaia prison between 22 February 1938 and 14 March 1940. He was released after his case was closed.
[iii] Iogann Fodor (Pavel Rot). A CPH member from 1918 and again from 1923. After the collapse of Soviet power in Hungary, he worked underground. Between 1920 and 1922, he was a member of the CPG, and a member of the CPFr in 1922-1923. Between 1928 and 1929, he studied in the MLSh. After graduation, he was sent to conduct underground work. In 1930, he was expelled from CPH for factional activities. His repeated appeals to the ICC to readmit him to the party were declined (the last ICC decision was handed down on 29 September 1937). In 1933, he emigrated to the USSR, where he worked on the board of Deutsche Zentralzeitung. He was arrested and, on 17 May 1938, the OSO of the NKVD sentenced him to be shot. He was executed on 28 May 1938.
[iv] Georg Lukacs (1885-1971). He joined the CPH in 1918 and, during the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic, was a political commissar in the army's Fifth Division. Following the Republic's collapse, he fled to Vienna where he lived until 1929. As early as 1921, Lukacs opposed Kun during the CPH's factional struggles, yet was a CC member at various times in the 1920s. From 1929 to 1931, he worked at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. He lived in Berlin from 1931 to 1933, but returned to Moscow to do scientific work. In 1945, he returned to Hungary where he taught. A supporter of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he was expelled from the CPH and exiled to Rumania. He returned to Budapest in 1957 and was readmitted to the CPH in 1967.