Moscow (Apr. 4)
The great event here to-day is the opening of the trial of Judah Stern, a young Jew, 20 years of age, on the charge of firing on March 5th. at the automobile of the German Embassy, and shooting Dr. Twardowski, Counsellor to the Embassy.
Stern, who is the son of a shoemaker now dead, and is himself a shoemaker, was at one time a member of the Young Communist Party, from which he was expelled in 1923.
The trial is being held in the Supreme Military Court. Admission to the court is by ticket only and is limited to about 100 people, including many foreign diplomats. M. Litvinov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, is among those present in the Court. The court building is heavily guarded.
I did it on my own initiative, and was not inspired by anyone and had no accomplices, Stern declared after the Court had concluded reading the act of indictment.
He was interrupted three times by the President of the Court, M. Ulrich, for addressing himself to the audience, instead of to the Court.
According to the act of indictment, a Polish minor official named Lubarski, who was in Moscow some time ago, tried to organise a terrorist organisation among the Soviet youth, and got into touch with Sergei Vasiliev, a non-Jewish book-keeper, who is standing trial together with Stern as his accomplice. Vasiliev is said to have incited Stern to kill the German Ambassador in order to complicate German-Soviet relations.
Vasilev, who is on the accused bench together with Stern, admits his connection with the Polish official mentioned, and acknowledges his guilt, in direct contradiction to Stern’s stubborn statement that he acted on his own initiative, without any accomplices.
The entire afternoon session to-day was taken up by the cross-examination conducted by M. Krylenko, the Chief Soviet Public Prosecutor. Stern repeated his statement made this morning that he had committed his act for political reasons, explaining that he had wanted to draw the attention of the outside world to the inner conditions in the Soviet Union.
I did not intend to kill, he said, but I had definitely decided in December to fire shots at any foreign diplomat here, in order to express a protest against the present Soviet regime. I picked out the German representative, because I knew his motor car, and it was therefore more convenient to fire at it, but I would have fired at any diplomat from any other country just the same.
Vasiliev, speaking in a very proud and daring tone, contradicted Stern, declaring that it was really he who had plotted to involve the Soviet in international complications, because he was and still is an enemy to the Soviets.
So the two went on contradicting each other, Stern immediately after denying what Vasiliev had said, insisting that he had never discussed such matters with him and that he had acted without any accomplices and taking all the responsibility for his action upon himself.
Stern appears from his behaviour in court to be feeble-minded, and neurotic.
In the evening he withdrew the evidence which he had given during the morning, declaring that he had not known what he was doing when he fired at the German Embassy automobile, although he had previously said that he had planned it since December.
In contradiction also to his statement this morning, he declared himself this evening as having always been a friend of the Soviet, and always having considered the Soviet regime a good one.
Vasiliev, on the other hand, told the court he had always been an enemy of the Soviet, and that his views coincided all the time with Stern’s in this respect, adding that he had influenced Stern to commit the act for which he is now standing trial.
A pathetic scene took place late this evening when Stern’s sister Maria, a woman of 31 and the mother of three children, appeared in court to give evidence against her own brother.
She broke down immediately she entered the court-room on seeing her brother, and she was permitted to be seated while giving her evidence. Tears ran down her cheeks as she told the court that Stern had always been the bad boy of the family, had always been discontented with everything, including the Soviet regime. He had been discontented even with their father, and when the father had died he did not attend the funeral.
The sister broke down after a time, and had to be led out of the court.