United States. Congress. House. Select committee o.

Baltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) online

. (page 37 of 75)
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They arrested them, and nobody can ask where the men disappear to.

Mr. K>>rsten. How do you know about that ?

General Cernius. Well, I know. I know many people who had

Mr. Kersten. You were there at the time, in Lithuania ?

General Cernius. I was in Lithuania at tliat time.

Mr. Kersten. This is just another one of the metliods of their pre-
paring for free elections, simihir to what young Banionis told us
about the Russian troops taking the ballot box out to the people to


see to it that they voted pro-Communist, under the pressure of Rus-
sian bavonets ; is that right ?

General Cernius. In some places, yes; but sometimes they also have
Communist Party members. But, Mr. Chairman, they put only Com-
munist Party candidates on the ballot.

Mr. Kersten. One list?

General Cernius. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. If the people of Lithuania could have made a free
choice at that time, in your estimation, ^vhat percent would have voted
to keep the Soviets out ?

General Cernius. I doubt that they could have 1 percent pro-Soviet.

Mr. Kersit^n. And all the time up to now, how do you think the
people feel about that, even yet?

General Cernius. All of the people in all enslaved nations, they are
anti -Communist to date,

Mr. Kersten. Thank you, General. You have made a fine con-
tribution to our hearings here.

We will adjourn at this time until 2 : 30, in this room.

(Wliereupon, at 1 : 10 p. m., a recess was taken, to reconvene at
2 : 30 p. m. the same day.)


(The committee reconvened at 2 : 40 p. m.)

Mr. Kersten. The hearing will come to order.

Mr. Counsel, you have a witness, as I observe, whose identitfy has
been protected, and the witness desires to remain anonymous. Steps
have been taken to give her the protection of anonymity. We wish, in
every way, to protect the witness from any possible danger or possible
reprisal on the part of the Soviet Union, or Communists, against any-
bodv behind the Iron Curtain, Is that correct ?

Mr. McTigue. That is correct, Mr. Chairman.

This is a witness, Mr. Chairman, who insisted on this procedure. Of
course, we like to have our witnesses appear in public. In this case, we
requested that the witness be masked, but the witness insisted she be
put behind a screen where she couldn't be seen.

We are abiding by her wishes in this respect.

Mr. Kersten. That being the case, the committee will accept those
conditions. I will swear the witness.

Just raise you right hand, please : You do solemly swear that you will
tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God ?


Tlie Witness (through interpreter). I do.

Mr. McTiGUE. Now, Miss Interpreter, Avill you speak up as loudly
as you possibly can, please, so that we might all hear you ?

Mr. Kersten. Miss Interpreter, will you please stand up and raise
your right hand.

You do solemnly swear that you will truly interpret from such for-
eign language as is related to you into English, so help you God?


Mr. McTiGUE. Madam Witness, why are you afraid to testify iu.
Detroit, in the heart of America, on the events that hapjiencd to you
while you were in Communist-occupied Estonia?


The Witness. I am afraid to testify because I still have my father
and my mother and my brothers in Estonia. And also, when you look
at the map, you can see that Detroit is close to Canada, and Canada is
close to Alaska, which is right next to the U. S. S. R., so I am still

Mr. McTiGUE. JNIadam Witness, were you born in Estonia ?

The Witness. Yes ; I was born in Estonia.

Mr. McTiGUE. Do you recall the night of July 1. 1941 ?

The Witness. Yes. The morning.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you arrested ?

The Witness. Yes ; I was.

Mr. McTiGUE. By wdiom?

The Witness. By six men. Four of them were Russians and two
were Estonians, from the Estonian-Russian border.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you married at the time. Madam Witness ?

The Witness. Yes ; I was.

Mr. McTiGUE. What was your husband's occupation ?

The Witness. He was a minister.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you have any children?

The Witness. Yes ; I had two sons.

Mr, McTigue. Was your husband a clergyman, a minister of the
gospel ?

The Witness. Yes.

]Mr. McTigue. Did you live on an island off the Estonian mainland,
Madam Witness ?

The Witness. Yes ; I did.

Mr. McTigue. After you and your husband and your children were
arrested by the Soviet, where were you taken ?

The Witness. To a forced-labor camp, Harku.

Mr. McTigue, Were you taken by ship ?

The Witness. I was taken by bus to Romassaare and from there by
ship to Haapsalu, and from there by train to Harku.

Mr. McTigue. How many women and children, approximately, were
taken to this camp ?

The Witness. Eight hundred women and children, approximately.

Mr. McTigue. Were men also taken?

The Witness. During the night the train was taken apart and cars
with men — all boys about 13 years old — were taken away.

Mr. McTigue. Were you separated from your husband at that time,
Madam Witness ?

The Witness. That was done on the ship, already.

Mr. McTigue. They were separated aboard ship?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. INIcTiGUE. Have you ever seen your husband since that time?

The Witness. Never after that.

Mr. McTigue. When you arrived at the prison camp, what hap-
pened ?

The Witness. When we arrived at the camp, it was 4 o'clock in the
afternoon. We were not given anything to eat and as the children
were very hungry, the forced laborers who were there before gave away
their rations for our children.

Then we were taken to a barracks which were surrounded with wire
nets, fenced, and they didn't have any furinture in there; no beds,


Mr. McTiGUE. Where did the women and children sleep?

The Witness. There were just women and children.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where did they sleep?

The Witness. On the floor. I didn't finish, yet.

We didn't have anything ourselves because we all had children, and
the clothes that we could pack in the 20 minutes they gave us for
packing, were with our husbands, who were taken awa}' from us.

Mr. McTiGUE. What did these women and children have to eat ?

The Witness. In the morning at 6 o'clock they got tea, and about an
inch-thick piece of bread. That was for the whole day, as far as
bread was concerned. The children got cereals. For lunch we had
soup made out of cabbage leaves — the outer leaves, because the in-
sides were taken to the market.

At night we got tea, again, and the children got cereal.

Mr. McTiGUE. Madam Witness, what kind of work did yon and
the other w^omen who w^ere confined in this Soviet prison camp
have to do ?

The Witness. We had to work in a swamp cutting peat.

Mr. McTiGUE. How long, every day ?

The Witness. From 6 o'clock every day in the morning until 1
o'clock in the afternoon, and then from 2 o'clock until 5 o'clock at

Mr. McTiGUE. How long. Madam Witness, were you and the other
women in this prison camp ?

The Witness. They were taken there in July. They had to be
readj^ to go every day, because w^e were supposed to be taken to
Russia. Finally, we were taken away in the middle of September,
but I have forgotten the exact date.

Mr. McTiGUE. How long were you and the other women in the
camp before you were freed, or before you escaped ?

The Witness. Just about 2i/^ months.

Mr. McTiGii:. Were you freed by the advancing German Army?

The Witness. Our escape was influenced by the advance of the
German Army. In nearby Tallinn they were fighting already, so
they couldn't take us on the boat that was supposed to take us to
Russia, so they took us back to Saaremaa.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were your children sick at this time, at the time
they were in the camp ?

The Witness. At the time my children ^^■ere very sick. They were
passing blood. The weaker of the tM'in boys I have couldn't walk any

Mr. McTiGUE. When you were returned to the island of Saaremaa,
where you home was, what did you find in the headquarters of the
rectory where you once lived with your husband ?

The Witness. In my home they had installed the Red corner. Do
I have to enlarge on that ?

Mr. McTigue. What do you mean by the Red corner?

The Witness. This is a Red club where they have Red slogans on
the walls and pictures of their leaders and the youth are supposed to
come there to learn their doctrines; also, they had installed an execu-
tive committee of the Communist Party in my home.

Mi-. McTigue. Did they refuse to permit you to enter your former


The Witness. The afternoon T was brouglit back I went in there
and sta^yed overnight, but the next morning the Red militia came in
and chased me out, saying that "For such as you, enemies of our state,
we don't have place here."

Mr. McTiGUE. What did you do then. Madam Witness?

The Witness. I took my children by the hand and walked along
the road and didn't know^ where to go because I was afraid to go to the
younger members of my husband's community. I was afraid to harm
them. Finally, I went to an elderly couple who lived in an old house
and they gave me shelter.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did there come a day when the Communists fled the

The Witness. The night the Germans came in they knocked at my
door and it was a gi^eat relief for me because they were nice to me and
they caressed my children, because they had children back home them-
selves, and they told me we had a right to live again and I could go
back to my home, although I couldn't keep all of it because the German
Army had to use part of it.

Mr. McTiGUE. Madam Witness, do you recall the occasion soon
after the Communists fled when more than 80 bodies or corpses were
found in the basement of the NKVD headquarters?

The Witness. The German colonel who lived in my home, the head
of the unit w^ho came into town, took me to the basement of Hoffman.

Mr. McTigue. What is that ?

The Witness. The house belonged to a Dr. Hoffman who had fled
and the Russians had used it as a headquarters for the NKVD.

Mr. McTiGiTE. Were you asked to help identify some of these Bodies ?

The Witness. Yes ; I was.

Mr. McTiGUE. HoW' many bodies were found ?

The Witness. There was more than 80 found, but I can't say exactly
how many.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you identify any of those bodies?

The Witness. I recognized the secretary of the community of

Mr. McTiGUE. Could you identify or did you identify any women ?

Mr. Kersten. Now, Miss Interpreter, as I understand the question,
the question is only whether she could identify the sex of the individ-
ual; not any names. Could she identify the sex of the individual,
men or women ?

Miss NoRTMAN. She recognized one women. She had one breast cut

Mr. McTiGUE. Madam Witness, can you describe generally the
condition in which you found the remaining bodies ?

The Witness. I could tell that they all had their hands tied behind
their backs with wire and their faces looked like they were boiled or
burned in hot water, but I didn't see any bullet wounds, and I can't
tell their exact condition because they had started to deteriorate. It
veas very hard ; very horrible.

Mr. McTiGUE. Are you a resident of Detroit ?

The Witness. Yes, I am.

Mr. McTiGUE. Those are all the questions I have.

Mr. Kersten. Are there any questions, gentlemen?

Mv. MxVCHROwicz. Madam IVitness, do you have any idea why you
were selected among others to be sent to this deportation camp ?


The Witness. I think because my husband was a clergyman.

Mr. INIachrowicz. Is it true, then, that those who were selected for
the labor camps were mainly families of the clergy, the professors
and teachers?

The Witness. In our group there were several families of clergy-
men, also doctors' wives. One of them had a baby 6 days old and
she was taken away from the hospital. But there were also farmers'
families and artisans, because if they belonged to the National Guard,
that was supposed to be a very grave error against the Russian State.

Mr. Machrowicz. Do I understand one woman who was still in the
hospital with a child 6 days old was taken out of the hospital with a
child and removed to this labor camp, is that correct ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. Machrowicz. AVliat happened to your children ?

The Witness. After we got back home, my children were at the
hospital for a while and now they stay with me.

]Mr. Machrowicz. They escaped with you?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Bentley?

Mr. Bentley. I just want one question.

In this camp to which the vritness was taken, were there only
Estonians, or people from other countries?

The Witness. There were some Swedish nationals from the island
Ruhnu in this camp, but they were Estonian citizens.

Mr. Bentley. It was just a camp for Estonians, then?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. Bentley. That is all.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Madden?

]VIr. ]\Iadden. I have no questions.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Bonin?

Mr. BoNiN. No questions.

Mr. Kersten. That is all. Counsel?

Mr. McTigue. That is all, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kersten. I want to state that anybody who in any way at-
tempts to uncover the identity of this individual in the vicinity of this
courtroom or hearing room, I, for one, as chairman of this committee,
will wish to recommend to the committee the possibility of contempt
of Congress for an^'body who violates this order.

I will swear our next witness.

Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, so help you God ?


The Witness. I do,

Mr. McTiGUE. Do you live in Detroit, Mich. ?

The Witness. Yes ; I do.

Mr. McTiGUE. Why are you afraid to testify in the open at these
hearings ?

The Witness. I am afraid because T have some relatives in Latvia
and that is why I would not like to be known.

Mr. McTiGUE. You have relatives in Latvia?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTigue. Is your husband in Latvia?


The Witness. No.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you in Latvia on June 13 and June 14, 1941 ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr, McTeague. When the deportation began ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where were you in Latvia ?

The Witness. I was in Riga.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were your brother and sister arrested for deporta-
tion on June 14?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. How did you find out about their arrest ?

The Witness. These people living in one house, they came to us
and said our brother was taken to Siberia. They were arrested.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you then go looking for your brother, Madam
Witness ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where did you go looking for him ?

The Witness. First I went to the railroad station in Riga. It
was announced the trains would not go out from the passenger sta-
tion, but from the flag station. I started to look around, but one
day we couldn't find them. On June 1.5, I went again to the station,
and on the steps I saw already many people looking around. There
were many Chekas around, and they didn't let the people inside of the
fence in the station.

Mr. McTiGUE. How did you get inside the fence ?

The Witness. There were difficulties. First I asked them and then
I started to lie to them. My brother really had two children and I
said I didn't know what to do with the children because the children
were also supposed to go away. Finally, the Chekas said they would
let me go inside.

I got inside the fence in the station.

Mr. McTiGUE. You fooled the NKVD agent to letting you into
the freight yard where the cattle cars were being loaded with men for
deportation to Siberia?

The Witness. Yes.

There were hundreds of cattle cars and thousands of people there.
There were women, men, and children crowded in these cars.

Mr. McTigue. The year is June 14, 1941.

Were the children being separated from their mothers and the hus-
bands from their wives in the freight yard? Were they being put
onto separate trains ?

The Witness. They were separated already in the cattle cars. The
men were in one car and the women in other cars. I saw some chil-
dren together with the women, but separated children I didn't see.
Some said that the children were taken away, but the children's cars
were not in the yards, but I couldn't see the children's cars separately.
I saw women who said that their children were taken away. In some
cars, together with the mothers, I saw some children, too.

Mr. McTigue. Did you finally find your brother's cattle car ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. ]\IcTiGUE. Or the one in which he was put ?

The Witness. Yes. After about a half hour. I was looking and
going along the track. I was calling in each train my brother's name
and the people inside, they called back.


After a long time looking, at last I found my brother.

Mr. McTiGUE. Yon went from boxcar to boxcar?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Yelling out your brother's name?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTigue. Finally you came to the boxcar where he was ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Was he able to speak to you ?

The Witness. He came up in a little while. I saw the car was over-
crowded and he didn't get easily to the window. The windows were
barbed wire and they were small. Wlien my brother came to the
window I said, "How is it?" He said it was awful inside because it
was awful hot. It was summertime and there were about 70 or 80
people in this car and he said to get some air the people took turns,
each for a little while under a small window to not get suffocated.

Mr. McTiGUE. These 70 men

The Witness. I can only say that approximately. The big cars
were overcrowded, with 70 people.

Mr. McTiGUE. The car was so small that the men had to take turns
breathing at one small window ?

The Witness. Yes. Wlien I asked how he felt he said he only
worried about his family. He said that the children were out of the
town with their grandmother.

So my brother's worry w^as first for them not to get the children.

Mr. AlcTiGUE. He wanted to be sure that the children would find
shelter and a home before he was taken away. Is that what you are

The Witness. Excuse me. I didn't understand.

Mr. McTiGUE. He wanted to be sure that the children would have
some kind of a home ?

The Witness. Yes. He wanted not that we give the children out
for the Chekas. He said first we would have to keep them somewhere
out of the town and not to give them to the Chekas.

Mr. McTiGTJE. Did you stay there talking to your brother until the
train started to roll?

The Witness. No. He said then I have to go to his wife. His wife
was separated in another car and now I started again on the women's
cars and I went along again and I asked for the name. I saw many
women who were crying and asking for water and bread and they were
throwing out some papers and letters that I couldn't take because the
Cheka was near me and I couldn't take any of the letters and papers.
They shouted out some numbers I could call. I only saw the miserable
people in the cars.

At last I found my sister-in-law in one car, also overcrowded with
women, and the window, as I recall now, had two small boys and one
little girl, and they were crying out, "Please, water."

I had with me when I came to the station some food, but the Cheka
didn't allow me to take it in. I had only a small package with me
and I gave them that in the car and then came my sister-in-law to the
window and she was just broken down and she put her hands through
the wire and she asked me to take care of her children.

Mr. Kersten. Were her children in the car ?

The Witness. No ; her children were at home because they were not


Mr. Kersten, She was separated from her children?

The Witness. Yes.

Then in this same car I saw a woman whose children were taken
away. She was crying and asking, "Oh, God, help me to get back
my children." She was just in a nervous breakdown and she was
crying. That was the one woman who I knew her children were
taken. I remembered the children were ill or something, and they
were taken to another car so as not to be together. In many cases, we
know later that the children were taken away. That is one case
where I know they were taken away from the parents.

Mr. McTiGUE. Is this the last you saw of your brother and sister-

The Witness. Yes. That was the last time.

Mr. McTiGUE. Have you ever heard of what finally happened to

The Witness. I only heard about my brother. It was in the year
1947. I don't know how she came home, but she said to our relatives
still in Latvia that she met our brother in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

Mr. McTiGUE. Was she in a Soviet prison camp there ?

The Witness. I don't know — my sister-in-law she said she hoped
they would be together then, because when they were arrested they
thought that only underway they would be separated, but later they
would be together.

My brother saw one letter while he was on the border of our country.
It w^as a letter some people mailed ns. He said he didn't meet his
wife, that the train with the women was sent away one day before in
another direction and now they will go in a different direction, so he
didn't know anything about his wife any more,

Mr. McTiGUE. Those are all the questions I have.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Bentley.

Mr. Bentley. I have no questions except I would like to comment
that I think the fact that we have had to take these precautions for
these last two witnesses shows how far-reaching the arm of Soviet
communism can be, even in this country.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Bonin ?

Mr. Bonin. No questions, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Madden ?

Mr. Madden. No questions, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Kersten. I have just this question: How many people were
involved in this mass deportation, as near as you can tell us?

The Witness. We lost in the year 1941 about 40,000 people, but in
this one night they took maybe 15,000 or 18,000.

Mr. Kersten. About 15,000?

The Witness. Yes, or more.

Mr. Kersten. Among all the people that you knew and saw there,
will you state whether or not they were all good people or were they
criminals ?

The Witness. None of them were criminals. They took not only
the educated and the rich peope, but also workers. I know one worker
family was taken who .had nothing to do with politics, and poor
people who had nothing to do with politics. This was just one de-
portation, the biggest.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, these were all good Latvian people?

The Witness. Yes.


Mr. Madden. These children who were in the cattle cars, do you
know what became of them when they reached the prison camps, or
reached Siberia? Were they separated from their mothers or did
they remain with their motliers when they got up in Siberia ?

The Witness. That is different, how they come. I read a letter
which came to Germany — I don't know which way — to my friend, and
I read it myself, and her mother was taken and she had three brothers,
and when she wrote the letters she said, "I am alone only with Mia."
That was the youngest child of hers. She was alone with one child.
I have heard many things, but that is what I read myself.

Then 1 would like to tell, after the Russians let up, after the big
deportation, on the 13th and 14th, and the Russians had to leave
our country the 1st of July, after 2 weeks, when the Russians were out,
it was fine. One cattle car of dead children was at the station. I
didn't see it, but I spoke to people who saw it.

Mr. Madden. Saw a cattle car with dead children in it ?

The Witness. Yes. That car was somewhere pushed away and
when they had to go out they forgot it or something, so they had
about 20 dead children in there, all small, from 2 years and so on.

Mr. Madden. That is all.

Mr. Kj:rsten. Just this one further question. Madam Witness : As
I understand it, you were able to get into the freight yard and get
next to these cars and you saw your relatives, is that right ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. Now, how did you get out of there ?

The Witness. First, I went again to the Cheka, the chief. I went
back and said, "Can I not take some water back to the people?"

He said, "No ; you can't. You go quickly out."

So he didn't allow me to speak, and the Chekas pushed me out of
the yard.

Mr. Kersten. He pushed you out, then ?

The Witness. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, when you were requesting some
water for the cars, and he refused you, then he pushed you away from

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Select committee oBaltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) → online text (page 37 of 75)