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

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TESTIMONY OF VERNERS VITINS, GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.

Mr, Vitins. Verners Vitins.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where do you live now ?

Mr. Vitins. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Mr. McTiGUE, By whom are you employed?

Mr. Vitins. Kent County Abstract Office.

Mr. McTiGUE. In wliat capacity ?

Mr. Vitins. Abstractor.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you born in Latvia?

Mr. Vitins. Yes, sir.

Mr. McTiGUE. When and where in Latvia ?

Mr. Vitins. My birthday is the 13th of January 1903, and in the
District of Liepaja.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you educated in the schools of Riga, Latvia ?

Mr. Vitins. Yes, sir. I finished at the University of Riga, with a
masters degree in law.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did there come a time when you were appointed
prosecuting attorney in Riga?

Mr. Vitins. Yes, sir.



354 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. McTiGUE. \Vliat year was that?

Mr. ViTiNS. From the year 1926 to 1929.

Mr. McTiGTJE. AVhile you were prosecuting attorney in Riga, did
you have occasion to investigate and prosecute Communists?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you tell us something about that, please ?

Mr. ViTiNS. According to Latvian criminal laws. Communists who
belonged to the Communist Party have been accepted as criminals.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you identify the year in which you were the
prosecuting attorney in Riga?

Mr. ViTiNS. Between 1926 and 1929.

Mr. McTiGUE. Now, you are going to tell us about the activities that
you engaged in as prosecuting attorney ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir.

According to Latvian criminal laws. Communists who belonged to
the Communist Party have been accepted as criminals because the
Communist Party was outlawed in Latvia. The reason was that those
people who belonged to the Communist Party, that belonged to the
Third Internationale, which was liquidated during the last war, and
replaced by the Cominform, in the Constitution of the Third Interna-
tionale, as far as I remember, I guess those are the points 713, it is said
that the aim of the Communist Party is to seize the power for the
proletariat in the whole world.

Mr. McTiGUE. Let me interrupt you, if I may.

During the period 1926 to 1920, did you prosecute certain Commu-
nists

Mr. ViTiNS. That is what I am telling.

Further in the constitution is it said that the duty of every one of
the Communists is to advocate or to help to overthrow the local gov-
ernment. So we accepted all the Communists — I would compare,
like here in the United States, a gang of gangsters, and we prosecuted
them, and we punished them and sent them to jail.

As a prosecuting attorney, I had to bring before the bench the evi-
dence that those people really belonged to the Communistic Party.

Mr. McTiGUE. During the period that you were prosecuting these
Communists, as you have just mentioned, can you tell us anything
about their methods of infiltration ?

Mr. ViTiNS. They have a strategy which has never been changed,
and they have tactics which are changed, depending on the circum-
stances under which they are working. In the infiltrations, they tried
to get key jobs.

There have been two kinds of Communists, one who obtains the job
himself — but the majority of them didn't do that. They just advocate.
Somebody else, usually a pretty stupid man, who was the doer, but
the counselors have been those.

Mr. MgTigue. Do you mean they operated through groups ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you in Riga, Latvia, in June 1940, when the
Soviet marched in?

Mr. ViTiNs. Yes, sir, I was.

Mr. McTiGUE. Do you remember Mr. Vyshinsky being present in
Riga, on or about that time?



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 355

Mr. ViTiNS. There came a man the next day, after the Soviet Army
arrived in Riga, named Vyshinsky, and he started right away with an
address to the population, from the Soviet Embassy.

In a compulsory way, we all had to go on the streets in a demon-
stration. I listened to his speech through the loudspeakers. He prom-
ised that no one would be touched, that he came to Latvia to protect
us — he did't say against whom — and that everybody personally would
be secure and protected, and their property as well.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you in the square, below, as Vyshinsky was ad-
dressing the Latvian Nation from a balcony above ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you identify the balcony ?

Mr. ViTiNS. From the Soviet Embassy. I can't remember the street
now, where it was, but it was a big, wide street. Now, the whole pro-
cession had to pass. It was a very long demonstration. When they
passed — when they came in from a certain factory, Vyshinsky himself
shouted out the slogans. He said, "Long live Free Latvia." "Long
live Latvia's House of Representatives," and so on. And suddenly
this same voice shouted in the Russian language, "Ubiraites svoloch."

Mr. McTiGUE. He shouted something in Russian ?

i\Ir. ViTiNS. Yes. He said it. If I said "scoundrel" it would be a
hundred times too mild.

Some people sat on the fence next door, and they started to cry, "We
would like to join the Soviet Union," and it appears to this day that
the slogan slioulcl be really very friendly. Those slogans which asked
for annexation appeared about a month later.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, there was somebody jumping the
gun ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes. That was not the correct day for those slogans.

Mr. Kersten. We had testimony in Washington from Mr. Berzins
about this same incident, after this remark made by somebody who
jumped the gun, and Vyshinsky remarked back something. Did you
hear that, too ?

Mr. ViTiNS. That is what Vyshinsky said. The same voice told that.
There are ladies here and I am afraid it is not quite a literal expres-
sion.

Mr. McTiGUE. We had a great deal of testimony also in Washington
and in New York concerning the deportations in Latvia.

Can you tell us anything about your experience

Mr. Kersten. Just one second. I think it should be made a matter
of record at this point — pardon me, Mr. Counsel — you have referred
to Vyshinsky as having come to Latvia and as having spoken from
the balcony of the Soviet Embassy.

Would you be able to identify Vyshinsky ?

Mr. ViTiNs. Yes, sir.

Mr. Kersten. Did you see him on this occasion, or hear his voice ?

Mr. ViTiNs. No, I didn't, but I saw his pictures in the papers.

Mr. Kersten. At that time?

Mr. ViTiNS. In Latvia I saw him when I passed the Soviet Embassy.

Mr. KJERSTEN. You did see Vyshinsky at that time ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir, I did.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, you saw Vyshinsky in the capital of
your country, Riga, in June of 1940 ?

Mr. Vitins. June 1940, yes.



356 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. Kersten. How did that Vyshinsky that you say in the flesh
compare with the pictures of any other Vyshinsky ?

Mr. ViTiNS. He is now the man who is persona grata in the United
Nations.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, the Vyshinsky who took over your
country, and who was followed by the events that have been testified
to, here, is the same one now being harbored in New York, in the
United Nations, is that right ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes. To each country was sent from Moscow a special
conductor who conducted the forced annexation to the Soviet Union.
In Latvia, Vyshinsky ; Lithuania, Dekanozow ; and Estonia, Zhdanov.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you present in Riga, Latvia, during the time
the mass deportations were inaugm-ated?

Mr. ViTiNs. Not when the mass deportations were. Then I was
hiding, myself, in the woods.

Mr. McTiGUE. Can you tell us how you happened to go to the
woods ?

Mr. ViTiNS. One morning the house mistress, who was a former
houseowner, came to my apartment and said, "Last night there have
been people from NKVD and checked very carefully all entries re-
garding you in the housebook." Each house had to have a special
housebook, where all the inhabitants should be in.

It was the sign to me that the time had come.

I said to my wife, "I am leaving." I ran away from Riga, about 100
miles south, and started to live in the woods.

The same night, they came to arrest me and didn't find me. Then
tJiey started mass deportations. Unfortunately, I did not take my
family, including my 3 -month-old baby.

Mr. McTiGUE. They took your wife and child ?

Mr. ViTiNS. And my mother, 70 years old.

Mr. McTiGUE. Have you ever heard from them ?

Mr. ViTiNS. No, sir.

Mr. Kersten. How old was your child ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Three months.

May I add to what I mentioned about Vishinsky : I want to point
out the action was very carefully planned what should be done every
day. The whole annexation. It was very carefully planned, and the
plans were already made in the Soviet Union and he came over only
as a conductor.

Mr. Kersten. What connection do you make between that Mr.
Vyshinsky and your wife and child ?

Mr. ViTiNS. He was responsible for all deportations. I would say,
if I had the power, I would accuse him right away for manslaughter.

Mr. Kersten. Would you repeat that?

Mr. ViTiNS. I would accuse him for manslaughtering.

Mr. Kersten. Slaughtering men ?

Mr. ViTiNs. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. You mean murder, don't you ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes. There are millions who have been killed. When
you stay, like me, in the woods and get the news that your family and
the people who are closest to you are deported, then you feel it not
only with your brains but with your whole body that something is
wrong. And you have no one who protects you. There are animals
who are protected. We haven't been protected. At that time we



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 357

cried to the League of Nations. All Baltic states had been members.
We didn't have any reply. I am sorry.

Mr. McTiGUE. Let me go back for a moment, if I may. You were
prosecuting attorney in Riga for the period 1926-29 ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir. 1 have been elected as a judge in Leipaja.

Mr. McTiGUE. What was your tenure as judge?

Mr. ViTixSo Between 1929 and 1939.

Mr. McTiGUE. And after 1939 in what capacity were you?

Mr. ViTiNS, I have been called back to Riga and obtained a new
job. I was Director of the Department of Courts. It would corre-
spond here — we didn't have just the same name of the job, but it
would be like Deputy Attorney General.

Mr. McTiGUE. It would correspond to Deputy Attorney General
of the United States ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. After the Russian seizure of Latvia what happened
to the judges '. What happened to the judicial system at Latvia ? We
haven't had any testimony on this score as yet. Can you develop
some testimony along those lines ?

Mr. ViTiNS. I shall try, sir.

First, they appointed a pup])et government. The goverimient was
made in the Soviet Embassy. I was told that the maker was Vyshin-
sky.

We had a man Avho took over as a Secretary of Justice. I have the
picture of him here.

The first deed that he did, together with the newly appointed Sec-
retary of the Interior, is that lie went to the two prisons which are in
Riga, opened the doors of the prisons and let out the criminals.

All together in Latvia we had about 17 prisons, not too many
imprisoned people.

He put the imprisoned people in key jobs. What was the reason?
They praised the Communist regime. They said, "Stalin is the man.
He picks the right people for the jobs. We are those. That is a
good regime."

Mr. McTiGUE. Are these what they call the people's judges?

Mr. ViTiNS No, not quite.

Mr. McTiGUE. I'm sorry. Excuse me.

Mr. ViTiNS. About 2 months after the elections, most of those people
had to go back to the prisons and have been replaced by people who
came straight from Moscow, but they did their jobs, they had done
their jobs, they had praised them and it was a help to Soviet
annexation.

Mr. Machro-\\t^cz. Yoii said they put in prisoners. Now, you had
a number of political prisoners. Would you say these were the
political prisoners or just ordinary criminals like thieves and bandits?

Mr. ViTiNS. I shall give you two examples : For instance, the presi-
dent of the circuit court in Riga, it was a pretty big court, they
appointed a man by the name of Franzmanis, who has been punished
by the Latvian courts, 4 years in the correction house, because he had
stolen horses. He had nothing to do with the policy.

Mr. Machrowicz. They put horse thieves in ?

Mr. ViTiNs. Yes.

52975 — 54 — pt. 1 24



358 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

I spoke with the next one. He was a sheriff from one city in the
eastern province. He had been punished in the Latvian courts as
a thief, with one and a half years in prison, and he was a sheriff.

Now, the next thing they did, they started to agitate for the elec-
tions. In each working place, they appointed a special committee.
It should have been elected by the Communist Party, but it wasn't,
so we had to assemble all the people who worked in the Department of
Justice. It was a big, new building, in Riga. We were surprised
when the chairman of the newly appointed communistic committee
was nobody else than the stoker of the building. He was a bad
stoker, but he was a stoker. He didn't have any idea how to run the
courts. Now, he was the chairman of the committee.

That I saw with my own eyes.

I was told that in many other places it was exactly the same.

Now the propaganda for the elections.

One day there came a newly appointed Secretary of the Interior,
Vilis Lacis, to the Ministry of Justice, and I had a talk with him.
He said, "I assure you that if you like, you can go to the Ministry of
the Interior and give as many lists of candidates as you will." Our
House of Eepresentatives had 100 members, and we were later sur-
prised when they admitted only one list, made up in the Soviet
Embassy. Many of them had Russian names, and I was told there
have been people who even haven't been Latvian citizens.

There was another group who gave in another list. Those people
have been arrested.

I shall show to you, if you have an interest, here is a picture of
the man who was the head, this attorney. He was an attorney at
law. He was the head of the second list which had been given
voluntarily in, in balancing the candidates for the elections. This
man is the first one who was arrested and nobody saw him again.

The activity of the group was immediately stopped, and so we
had only one list of candidates.

So if somebody says there were free elections, it is not true. There
were none.

Mr. Kersten. This book you refer to is what?

Mr. ViTiNS. It is a history of the Ministry of Justice and it is an
official education from the Ministry of Justice.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where did you get it ?

Mr. ViTiNS. I bought it in Germany, as a displaced person, from
a widow of a court commissioner.

Mr. Kersten. It was printed in Latvia ; was it ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes, sir.

Mr. Kersten. And you recognize it?

Mr. ViTiNS. It is an official edition from the Ministry of Justice.

Mr. Kersten. And the picture to which you referred has a name
under it. Which name is what?

Mr. ViTiNS. Atis Kenins.

Now, what they did next in the court. We had a nice courtroom
for the supreme court, and in the front of that there was an inscrip-
tion, "One justice, one law for everyone."

The first thing they did was to cover that. I shall show in the
picture where it is, and why, because I heard with my own ears, wlien
(he communistic prosecutor who came from Moscoav later said, "In



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 359

socialistic countries there is not 1 law, 1 equity, and 1 justice for
everybody. That is only for the people from factories and farms,
but not for anybody else. That is here. On this place there was
an inscription [indicating].

Mr. McTiGUE. That Avas obliterated ?

Mr. VrriNS. It was covered. It was covered with cement so no one
could read it any more.

Mr. Kersten. There was one law for the Communists and their
sympathizers

Mr. ViTiNs. And another law for all other people.

Probably a couple days after Vyshinsky's first speech about freedom
and security, one morning came to me one lady and she said, "My
husband last night is arrested." He w^as prosecuting attorney from
the appeals court. His picture is here.

Riglit away I called the newdy appointed Secretary of Justice and
tojd him. He said to me, in a very cold voice, "It is no business of
yours."

I said, "Yes, but his wife is here and she is crying and what can
we do, now ? Slie doesn't know where her husband is."

He said, "That is no business of yours and let her go where she
likes."

We tried to find out Avhere her husband would be. We didn't find
out.

Next was arrested another one, the president of the appeals court.

Here is the prosecuting attorney who had been arrested the first,
and here is the president who was arrested, second, from the Ministry
of Justice. That happened 2 days after Vyshinsky spoke about the
protection of freedom.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you tell us how many judges were arrested
and deported?

Mr. ViTixs. Including the mass deportations, there have been de-
ported from Latvia, killed and arrested, 157 judges. We had 291.

I shal] explain that according to our court system, at the same time
on the bench had to be three judges. We did not have any jury, but
three judges had to be on the bench at the same time. So the number
of judges, it may be a little too great for a small country, but you
must divide it by three.

All together it would be 54.1?> percent of the judges have been liqui-
dated during this 13 montlis of communistic regime.

Mr. McTiGUE. Deported ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Deported, arrested, or simply killed.

When I got the news my family was deported, I wanted to go and
report myself to the police. I tried to think as well as possible in
those conditions, and I changed my mind. When I came back from
the woods and the Germans had been there, then one colleague who
was in the same position, who reported himself, we found his body,
killed, in a prison yard.

Mr. McTiGUE, One of the judges?

Mr. ViTiNS. He was a prospector.

Now the elections. We had to participate. In my apartment
there came the agents three times in those days. They said, "Why
don't you go and vote?"

My wife said to me, "You must go. It is very dangerous to abstain."



360 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

I went. The election room was arranged in a way where there
was no secrecy. Everybody could see what you did. There was
but one list of candidates, and you couldn't do anything.

I am glad that my predecessor here at this table told about the
Tass article, where they told about the elections in Lithuania.

I heard about it at 12 o'clock at noon, the last day of the elections.
The results of the elections from all the Baltic States. They had
still about 12 hours to vote, but the results had been published.

Mr. Rersten. Where did this announcement come from?

Mr. ViTiNS. From Moscow, sir. From Tass. That means the
Soviet Telegraph Agency.

Mr. KJERSTEN. As I understand it, Moscow announced the elections
in the Baltic States on the noon of election day, long before the election
concluded ?

Mr. ViTiNS. On the last election day.

Mr. Kersten. On the noon of the last election day^ many hours
before the election was closed?

Mr. ViTiNS. It was 12 hours before.

They told about the elections in all the Baltic States. The per-
centage was very high, about 99, or something like that.

Mr. McTiGUE. Was there ever, incidentally, a card issued for your
arrest ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Not for mine; but I wanted to point out that the
whole action of occupation has been very carefully prepared.

I found a good friend of mine, living here in Detroit. I would
not like to mention his name, because the members of his family
are behind the Iron Curtain. And when the Germans have pushed
the Russians out, and one man from the German police who has
liquidated all the NKVD, he brought to him the card, the NKVD card.
The card is printed in the Soviet Union and not in Latvia, and the
card is signed on the 15th of July — that means not a full month
after Vishinsky said, "You are protected and secure," and he is put
on the list to be arrested.

And what is his crime ? That he is an officer in the home guards,
and that is all.

Mr. Kersten. Is that the card that you have in your hand ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. That is the original card ?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes.

Then when the Communists arrived, the first to arrive in the
Ministry of Justice, was among — I would say a boy, who took over
the whole prison business. Immediately they arranged one block
from the prison houses, and they started to guard it — the Soviet
soldiers started to guard it and they started to put in there those
people wdio had been in the night arrested.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you here when Professor Padalis testified on
what happened in the schools in Lithuania, particularly, as to the
spying by the students.

Mr. ViTiNS. I am sorry. I wasn't here, but I can tell you some-
thing.

Mr. McTiGUE. Have you any information about Avhat happened
to the schools?

Mr. ViTiNS. They first tried to ruin in the children the idea of
God, The teachers had to start doing that, even from kindergarten.



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 361

I am sorry I didn't take it witli nie, but I have a passage from an
•official order, hoAv to teach this to the children from kindergarten.^ It
is approximately in this way : "You have been told that there is a God.
There is no God. Now shut your eyes and pray, 'Dear God, give me
some candies.' Now open your eyes. Have you got it ? You didn't get
it. Now, close your eyes again and pray, 'Dear Uncle Stalin, give to
me some candies,' Now, open your eyes. Here you are. Every one
of you has some candv, and vou see there is no God, but there is Uncle
Stalin."

Now, that is an official extract from the orders, how to start to teach
this important thing in the schools.

When such a small boy or girl came home, he said to his mother,
"Mother, there is no God."

The mother understood immediately what was going on, and she
said, ""Wait a little. You will grow up. You will understand there is
God.'*

The next morning he comes back to the school, and he says, "My
mother says there is God."

And what hap])ened? In the next night the mother is going to be
arrested, and the boy never sees his mother any more.

That was the way it was.

Mr. McTiGUE. I have no further questions.

Mr. ViTiNS. If I could add something about the people's courts:
They appointed the people's courts after the annexation. They dis-
charged all judges, and now the whole jurisdiction was in the hands
of the people's judges. They should be elected, and they never have
been elected. Thev have been simplv appointed by the Communist
Party.

There was one case where a man was appointed as a people's judge,
-who couldn't sign his name.

Mr. Kersten. Do you remember his name?

Mr. ViTiNS. I am sorry, but I don't. He was from an eastern prov-
ince, and I can't remember.

Then, once the people's judges have been called for a meeting. I
happened to be there, and for a couple of hours I got in. Then the
prosecutor, a Comnmnist, said, "We shall never have the same equal-
ity and the same laws for everybody, only for the proletarians" — that
means for the peasants. "After the election we have no more prole-
tarians. We will have no more classes and now everybody is rich."
Actually, everybody becomes the beggar.

But they said everybody was rich because he is a partner, and every-
thing belongs to the states. The same rights have only the peasant and
the worker.

Mr. Bentley. Your testimony has been very interesting. We will
try not to hold you up too long, because I realize you have to get back
to Grand Rapids tonight, but I want to ask you this : "Wliile you were
prosecutor, and later judge, in the courts in Riga and, as such, w^ere
very much concerned with Communist activities in Latvia, where did
the Communists try to infiltrate ? Was it into your labor unions, your
professions, or what part of the country were they trying to concen-
trate on?

Mr. ViTiNS. As far as I could see, it was the trade unions, and espe-
cially factories, because according to the communistic teaching, com-



362 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

munism can be established only where there is industrial proletariat.
In agriculture, they tried to turn it into industry,

Mr. Bentlet. How much success did they have in this infiltration ?

Mr. ViTiNS. They did succeed. We really persecuted them, but they
were underground, as they are everywhere. "We couldn't prosecute
them when we didn't have the evidence. We knew them. Our police
knew, but we couldn't get evidence.

Mr. Bentlet. To a certain extent they did successfully infiltrate
your trade unions?

Mr. ViTiNS. Yes.



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