March 25, 2017

New Evidence Concerning the “Hotel Bristol” Question in the First Moscow Trial of 1936 -Sven-Eric Holmström

Sven-Eric Holmström

1. Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to introduce new evidence regarding the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen, the existence of which was questioned after the First Moscow Trial of August, 1936. The issue of Hotel Bristol has perhaps been the most used “evidence” for the fraudulence of the Moscow Trials.

This essay examines the Hotel Bristol question as it was dealt with in the Dewey Commission hearings of 1937 in Mexico by carefully examining newly uncovered photographs and primary documents.
The essay concludes that
·        There was a Bristol located where the defendant in question said it was. This Bristol was in more than one way closely connected to a hotel.
·        Leon Trotsky lied deliberately to the Dewey Commission more than once.
·        Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov and one of Trotsky’s witnesses also lied.
·        The examination of the Hotel Bristol question made by the Dewey Commission can at the best be described as sloppy. This means that the credibility of the Dewey Commission must be seriously questioned.
·        The author Isaac Deutscher and Trotsky’s secretary, Jean Van Heijenoort, covered up Trotsky’s continuing contact with his supporters in the Soviet Union.
·        It was probably Deutscher and/or Van Heijenoort who purged the Harvard Trotsky Archives of incriminating evidence, a fact discovered by researchers during the early 1980s.
·        This is the strongest evidence so far that the testimony in the 1936 Moscow Trial was true, rather than a frame up. It is also in conformity with other evidence regarding the Moscow Trials recently uncovered by other researchers.1

2.   The Moscow Trials of 1936-1938

By “the Moscow Trials” we mean the series of three public trials that were held in Moscow during the years 1936-1938. All three of them attracted world attention.

The first trial took place on August 19-24, 1936. Sixteen defendants were accused of complicity in the formation of a united “Trotskyite-Zinovievite Bloc”2 with the purpose of overthrowing the Soviet government by violence; organizing a number of terrorist groups; and preparing to assassinate a number of important Communist Party and Soviet government officials. It was further charged that one of these groups murdered Sergei M. Kirov, First Secretary of the Communist Party, in Leningrad on December 1, 1934 through instructions and directives from the Bloc. The main defendants were Grigory Zinoviev, Kirov’s predecessor as Party leader in Leningrad and the former Chairman of the Comintern, and Lev Kamenev, former Assistant Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissariat. Among the other defendants was Eduard Solomonovich Gol’tsman, a former staff member of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade, the defendant who figures most prominently in this essay. All the defendants pleaded, to a varying degree, guilty as charged. Theprocurator Andrei Vyshinsky pleaded for the death penalty for all the defendants. The court granted his request in each case.3

The second trial took place five months later, on January 23-30, 1937.

Seventeen people stood trial for having organized a “Trotskyite Parallel Centre to the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Bloc.” This centre’s alleged goal was to undermine the Soviet government with espionage, sabotage (called “wrecking” in the English translation of the trial transcript), and terrorist activity and, in the event of their assumption of power, to turn over Soviet territory to foreign powers. The defendants were accused of having committed espionage in favor of foreign powers; having organized and carried out acts of sabotage against a number of companies and the railroad lines, which resulted in the loss of human lives; and of planning a number of terrorist acts against members of the Soviet government. The main defendants were the former Assistant People’s Commissar of the Heavy Industry, Yuri Piatakov, and the former member of the Editorial Board of the government newspaper Izvestia, Karl Radek.

Thirteen of the defendants were sentenced to death. The remaining four, among them Radek, were sentenced to between eight and ten years of imprisonment.4

The last trial took place March 2-13, 1938. It had the most defendants – 21 – and was arguably the most famous of the three. The defendants were accused of having organized, on the instruction of foreign powers, a bloc which the prosecution called the “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.” They were accused of having committed espionage on behalf of foreign powers; of committing espionage and terrorist activity; of asking for armed assistance from foreign powers in order to assume power; of planning the assassination of members of the Soviet government; and of committing a number of murders. The main defendants were Nikolai Bukharin, Zinoviev’s successor as Chairman of the Comintern and former Editor-in-Chief of Izvestia, and the former Chairman of the People’s Commissars, Alexei Rykov. Of the 21 defendants, 18 were sentenced to death; the remaining three were sentenced to 15-25 years imprisonment.5

The chief defendants in absentia in all these trials were former People’s Commissar of Defense, Leon Trotsky, and (in the case of the first two trials) his son Leon Sedov, both in exile abroad since 1929. In the decisions of the first two trials, the Court stated that Trotsky and Sedov were to be arrested if apprehended on Soviet territory.6

The trials were met with a mixed reception by members of the diplomatic corps and foreign journalists in Moscow and abroad. The trial transcripts were translated into many languages, including English.7 Voluminous pre-trial investigation materials of all three trials are still in existence but remain classified by the present Russian government.


1. The 1937 Dewey Commission

After the January 1937 trial Trotsky took measures to try and clear himself by means of a counter-trial. Trotsky’s followers in the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky (ACDLT) started to prepare the counter-trial in March 1937. On the proposal of Trotsky himself, expressed in a letter to the committee on March 17, 1937, a Preliminary Commission of Inquiry was to be organized and sent as soon as possible to Mexico, where Trotsky was living in exile. In his unpublished dissertation the late John Belton described it as follows:

It was decided in compliance with Trotsky’s suggestions, that a relatively small body, to be called the Preliminary Commission of Inquiry, should be organized and sent to Mexico with all possible haste. The basic plan was that this body would take Trotsky’s testimony and would later, along with several other sub commissions, report to the Commission of Inquiry.8

At length, the Commission assembled on April 10-17, 1937 in Trotsky’s residence in Coyoacan, Mexico. The chairman of the Commission was the famous philosopher and pedagogue John Dewey. Its secretary was feminist author Suzanne La Follette. The other members were Carleton Beals, author and specialist on Latin America; former German Social-Democratic Member of Parliament Otto Ruehle; and author and journalist Benjamin Stolberg. The judicial side was represented by Albert Goldman, who represented Trotsky, and by John F. Finerty, who had represented the defendants in the Sacco-Vanzetti Case.9 Dewey, La Follette, Stolberg and Goldman were members of the ACDLT.

In Mexico, the only witnesses that appeared were Trotsky himself and his former secretary Jan Frankel.10 An invitation was sent to the Soviet government through the Soviet embassy in Washington but the Soviet ambassador, Alexander Troyanovsky, publicly denounced the commission and refused to convey the invitation to the government in Moscow. Furthermore, he condemned Dewey, Stolberg and La Follette as being “ardent advocates to Trotsky.”11


Two subcommissions took testimony elsewhere. One assembled in Paris on May 12-June 22, 1937. Its purpose was to examine the accusations against Trotsky’s son Leon Sedov. The other met in New York on July 26-27, 1937, attended by those

Commission members present in New York at the time. A number of witnesses appeared during these hearings. Leon Sedov himself appeared in Paris.12

On September 21, 1937, the Commission issued its decision. Trotsky and Sedov were cleared on all charges in a statement 247 paragraphs in length.13 Later the same year the transcript of the hearings in Coyoacan was published in The Case of Leon Trotsky. The decision was published the following year in a book titled Not Guilty.14

1. Western scholars and the “Hotel Bristol” question

In all the historical works in which it has been raised, this “Hotel Bristol” question has been accepted as evidence that the trials were fraudulent and the defendants innocent. British scholar Robert Conquest, principal representative of the so-called “totalitarian school”15 in Soviet research, discusses it in his work The Great Terror,16 as does Robert Tucker in his study Stalin in Power.17 The British author Simon Sebag Montefiore also highlights this question in Stalin – The Court of the Red Tsar.18

This conclusion of fraud has never made any sense. It is common for people to misremember details of trips they took several years earlier. Such errors are not evidence that the trip never occurred or that they never met with the persons they claimed to have. But the question of the non-existent “Hotel Bristol” is indeed of great interest. A study of it discloses important conclusions about Trotsky, the Dewey Commission hearings, and the veracity of the testimony at the 1936 Moscow Trial itself.

Western scholars base their opinion of the case of the “Hotel Bristol” mainly on two sources. The first is the Dewey Commission hearings in Mexico in April 1937. The second source is a book which has been cited more often than any other single work concerning the Moscow Trials and the purges in the Soviet Union during the 1930s in general. This is NKVD defector Alexander Orlov’s book The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes published in 1953. However, the credibility of Orlov’s account suffered a blow when his KGB file was made public in the early 1990s.19

Furthermore, Orlov wrote his book long after Trotsky’s story had been established and therefore has no independent authority (that is, Orlov might have just copied and then elaborated the Dewey Commission account).

1. The “Hotel Bristol” issue as presented by the different actors

5.1. Gol’tsman’s testimony and the refuting article in Social-Demokraten
During the first Moscow Trial on August 21, 1936, defendant Eduard Gol’tsman (called “Holtzman” in the English-language report of the proceedings) testified that in November 1932 he had agreed with Sedov to go to Copenhagen and meet with Trotsky, who, invited by Danish Social Democrats, arrived there on November 23 for a visit of eight days from his exile on the Turkish island of Prinkipo.

In his affidavit before the Dewey Commission Trotsky himself confirmed that he really was in Copenhagen during this time.20
In Gol’tsman’s words:

. . . In November I again telephoned Sedov and we met once again. Sedov said to me: “As you are going to the U.S.S.R., it would be a good thing if you came with me to Copenhagen where my father is.”
Vyshinsky: That is to say? Holtzman: That is to say, Trotsky. Vyshinsky: Did you go?
Holtzman: I agreed, but I told him that we could not go together for reasons of secrecy.  I arranged with Sedov to be in Copenhagen within two or three days, to put up at the Hotel Bristol and meet him there.  I went to the hotel straight from the station and in the lounge met Sedov.
About 10 a.m. we went to Trotsky.21


A week after the death sentences had been carried out the credibility of this first Moscow Trial suffered a blow. A short article published on the front page of the Danish daily Social-Demokraten revealed that the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen had gone out of business in 1917 and had never opened again.22


5.1. The investigation made by the Danish Communists

On January 29, 1937 Arbejderbladet, organ of the Danish Communist Party, published an article by its editor Martin Nielsen criticizing Friedrich Adler’s pamphlet The Witchcraft Trial in Moscow.23 The article was also published as a foreword in the Danish edition of the British lawyer D. N. Pritt’s pamphlet about the Zinoviev- Kamenev Trial, The Zinoviev Trial.24 In the article Nielsen pointed out that there was a hotel – the Grand Hotel – close to the Copenhagen railway station. He further claimed that connected to the hotel in 1932 was the “Konditori Bristol,” or Bristol café.25 The Arbejderbladet article reproduced a diagram purporting to show that from 1929 to 1936 the Bristol café had an interior doorway connection directly with the Grand Hotel. A photo was also published showing the Bristol café as it appeared in January 1937 at the time of Nielsen’s article.
Nielsen concluded:
With the reference to these facts it is not difficult to conclude that at  least among the foreigners it had been the case that the café’s internationally known name “Bristol” has become synonymous with the name of the hotel, and I do not doubt at all that when the accused Gol’tsman at the interrogation said: “I went to the hotel straight from the station and in the lounge met Sedov,” it was in the lounge of Grand  Hotel that they met!26

In March 1937 the magazine Soviet Russia Today27 published the above- mentioned photo from 1937 with the following comment:

A great point has been made by the Trotskyists of the fact that a certain “Hotel Bristol” mentioned by Holzman in the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial as his meeting place with Sedov, does not exist.  Actually, however, there was in 1932 and is today, just across from the Copenhagen Central Station, a “Café Bristol.”  The Bristol is right beside the Grand Hotel and at the time of the meeting between Sedov and Holzman had a common entrance with it.28

We will discuss this passage from Soviet Russia Today in more detail later in this essay.

5.1. The “Hotel Bristol” question during the Dewey Commission hearings

 The “Hotel Bristol” question received a lot of attention during the Dewey Commission hearings in Mexico a month later. The article in Arbejderbladet was more or less ignored. But the photo in Soviet Russia Today was discussed in detail. The photo was introduced during the hearing by Trotsky’s American lawyer Albert Goldman.29 Goldman claimed that the photo had been tampered with in order to

create an impression that there really was a Hotel Bristol.30

Goldman also submitted a written affidavit from an American couple, Esther and B. J. Field. Both of them were close to Trotsky. When Jean Van Heijenoort arrived in Prinkipo to assume his duties as Trotsky’s secretary in October 1932, he found both of the Fields present. Trotsky would discuss economics with B. J. Field while Esther Field painted Trotsky’s portrait. Van Heijenoort described B. J. Field as one of only a small number of persons with whom Trotsky ever “contemplated a literary collaboration.”31

The Fields had accompanied Trotsky on the ship that brought him from Turkey to Marseilles before he continued the journey to Copenhagen in November 1932.32 They confirmed the contents of this affidavit in person during the hearing in

New York three months later. They claimed that during their sojourn in Copenhagen in November 1932 they had stayed at the Grand Hotel.33
Esther Field commented on the photo in Soviet Russia Today as follows:
Directly next to the entrance of the hotel, and what appears as a big black splotch in the photo, is actually the location of the café next to the Grand Hotel; and it is not the Konditori Bristol!  The Konditori Bristol is not next door, but actually several doors away, at quite a distance from the hotel, and was not a part of it in any way, and there was no door connecting the Konditori (“candy store” it would be called here) and the Grand Hotel!  Although there was such an entrance to the café which is blackened out in the photo, and which was not the Bristol.34
As can be seen, Esther Field confirmed that the name of the Konditori (café), or “candy store,” was “Bristol.” B. J. Field said that he could not remember the name of the store.35 Esther Field went on to describe the alleged connection between Bristol and the hotel:
As a matter of fact, we bought some candy once at the Konditori Bristol, and we can state definitely that it had no vestibule, lobby, or lounge in common with the Grand Hotel or any hotel, and it could not have been mistaken for a hotel in any way, and entrance to the hotel could not be obtained through it.36

Therefore according to the written affidavits of the Field couple regarding the location of Bristol we have the following situation: first we have the Grand Hotel,then some other café “next to the Grand Hotel,” then “several doors” (several enterprises), and finally the Konditori Bristol.

Questioned on this point by Benjamin Stolberg, Goldman was unable to name this alleged other café but directed the matter to the coming hearing in New York with the Field couple.37 However, during the hearing in New York no name of this alleged second café was given by them.38 We use the term “alleged” advisedly as will presently become clear.

The Dewey Commission also presented a letter and a written affidavit from A. Vikelsø Jensen who identified himself as a member of the Social Democratic student group that had invited Trotsky to Copenhagen:
. . . (d) Two photographs of the Konditori Bristol and the Grand Hotel, transmitted to the Commission by A. Vikelsø Jensen of Copenhagen, which show a newspaper kiosk and two shops between the confectionery and the hotel, where the photograph cited above shows black; also over the entrance to the hotel, a horizontal electric sign, “Grand Hotel,” and between two large windows an entrance to the café, which do not appear in the photograph from Soviet Russia Today. (Ibid., S II, Annex 7, b. c.)
These two photographs corroborate the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Field concerning the relation between the Grand Hotel and the Bristol Café or Confectionery.  However, Jensen writes us that in 1932 the Confectionery was, as he remembers it, situated where the two shops are today. [Emphasis added]
(e) . . . Jensen refers to a ground plan of the Bristol Confectionery and the Grand Hotel which appeared in Arbeiderbladet (organ of the Communist Party, Copenhagen) on January 29, 1937, and which, he says, entirely misrepresents the relation between the two.  He states that the entrance to the Confectionery was not immediately beside the newspaper kiosk shown between that entrance and the entrance to the hotel, but farther to the right, so that in order to reach the Confectionery it was necessary to go through shops at the right which were to be seen from the street.  There was at that time a door connecting the lobby of the hotel with the service-rooms of the Confectionery; but it was chiefly used by the personnel of the hotel, and only rarely by the guests.  According to the Hotel Inspector, he says, a normal person could never confuse the two concerns, and therefore no “Hotel Bristol” could result from such a confusion. In 1936, he states, the Confectionery was moved one house to the right, making room for three shops. (Ibid., S II, Annex 6)39  [Emphasis added]

In its decision in September 1937 the Dewey Commission commented upon the question of the Grand Hotel and the Bristol café as follows:

The fact that there was no Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen in 1932 is now a matter of common knowledge.  It would obviously, therefore, have been impossible for Holtzman to meet Sedov in the lobby of a Hotel Bristol.  Yet Holtzman clearly stated that he arranged to “put up” at the Hotel Bristol and to meet Sedov there; and that they met in the lounge
. . .  There are the following possible explanations: (1) Holtzman might have arranged to meet Sedov in some hotel which he mistakenly remembered as the Bristol.  (2) He might have arranged to meet him in the Bristol Confectionery.  But if the English version of the record is correct, he arranged to “put up” at the Hotel Bristol and one does not arrange to “put up” in a confectionery. Moreover, he stated that he met Sedov in the lounge . . .  (3) There is also the possibility that Holtzman confused the Grand Hotel with the Bristol Café.  But such a mistake must have been bewildering to Sedov, who had never been in Copenhagen. . . . Under such circumstances, as Trotsky correctly argues, Holtzman could have made such an error only before the meeting. After the meeting, the confusion would have been impressed
upon his mind and he could not, in the trial, have spoken of a meeting in the Bristol Hotel.40

This paragraph is an evasion. We shall see that there is at least one other explanation that fits the evidence better than these three.


6. Examination of the evidence

6.1. The articles in Social-Demokraten and Arbejderbladet

We begin our examination of the evidence from the beginning and we can establish that the short article in Social-Demokraten is correct. It is a fact that the old Hotel Bristol was formed in 1901-1902 at Raadhuspladsen in Copenhagen and did

indeed go out of business in 1917. The building was sold to an insurance company that converted the former hotel building into offices.41

The first substantive question we must investigate is this: Was there really a café named Bristol in close connection to Grand Hotel in 1932, as Martin Nielsen stated in his article in the Danish Communist paper Arbejderbladet? Or was the Bristol café located several doors away from Grand Hotel, and some other café connected to the Grand Hotel, as the Fields claimed?

6.2. The Copenhagen street directory and telephone directory

Fortunately we have several primary sources at our disposal. We consulted the street directory for Copenhagen, Kraks Vejviser. In the 1933 edition, printed at the end of 1932, the Grand Hotel and the Konditori Bristol were located at the same address – Vesterbrogade 9A (see Figure 1). No other stores or any other café were located at that address in 1932.

Figure 1. The residents of Vesterbrogade 9A and 9B in Copenhagen in 1932. Note that both Grand Hotel and Konditori Bristol are located at Vesterbrogade 9A.  Also note the location of the Citroën exhibition hall at Vesterbrogade 9B.

Source: Kraks Vejviser, del I: Adressebog for Danmark 1933, p. 604.42



By contrast, in the 1937 edition of Kraks Vejviser, printed at the end of 1936, Konditori Bristol is located at a different address – Vesterbrogade 9B (see Figure 2). According to Nielsen’s article that was because the Grand Hotel underwent reconstruction in 1936 which had the consequence that Bristol was moved further down the street towards Colbjørnsensgade.43 These facts are corroborated by the affidavits presented to the Dewey Commission.44 Kraks Vejviser for 1936, printed at the end of 1935, shows the Bristol at Vesterbrogade 9A at the end of 1935.45 By the end of 1936 the café had moved to Vesterbrogade 9B, as can be seen in the figure below. This corroborates Nielsen’s claim. Konditori Bristol remained at this address until it closed down in the late 1960s.46 At Vesterbrogade 9A there were, at the end of 1936, also three shops: a newspaper kiosk, a barber shop and a photo shop.

Figure 2. The residents at Vesterbrogade 9A and 9B in late 1936. Note that Bristol has now moved to Vesterbrogade 9B and to the same place as the Citroën exhibition hall was located in 1932. The image is partially edited due to a column break in the original document.


Source: Kraks Vejviser, del I: Adressebog for Danmark 1937, p. 640.

We also consulted the telephone directory for Copenhagen, Telefon Haandbog. In the 1933 edition printed in January 1933 two months after the alleged meeting between Trotsky and Gol’tsman it is also evident that the Konditori Bristol was located at Vesterbrogade 9A (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Konditori Bristol in the Copenhagen telephone directory for 1933. Note that the address of the café is exactly the same as in the street directory – Vesterbrogade 9A.



In the 1937 edition we can see that Bristol has now moved to Vesterbrogade 9B (see Figure 4). The telephone directory corroborates the street directory.

Figure 4. Konditori Bristol in the Copenhagen telephone directory for 1937. Note that also in this case the telephone directory corroborates the street directory which means that the address has changed to Vesterbrogade 9B.



There is a minor discrepancy between these two primary sources. In both the 1933 and 1937 editions of the telephone directory the address of the hotel is Vesterbrogade 9, rather than 9A as in Kraks Vejviser (see Figure 5 and 6).47

Figure 5. Grand Hotel in the telephone directory for 1933. Note the small discrepancy regarding the address compared to the street directory – Vesterbrogade 9 instead of Vesterbrogade 9A. Note that the telephone directory lists entries alphabetically, not by street address, so the “Konditori” listed below the Grand Hotel is on a different street and has no relationship to the Konditori Bristol.



Figure 6. Grand Hotel in the telephone directory for 1937. Note that the discrepancy from 1933 compared to the street directory is still there.





6.3. Photographic evidence and the diagram in Arbejderbladet

Fortunately we also have photographic evidence at our disposal. We have one photo from 1929, and a second from 1931 that was printed in the 1932 edition of Kraks Vejviser. We begin with a detailed view of a part of the 1929 photo (see Figure 7). It is from the collection of Københavns Bymuseum (the Museum of Copenhagen) and was taken in June 1929.48 There is no sign indicating the entrance to the Grand Hotel, which is beneath the arrow. Further inquiry has disclosed that at this time it was run as a pension – in American terms, a residential hotel.49 The Grand Hotel is mentioned in the 1931 edition of Kraks Vejviser but not in the 1930 edition.50 This reflects the fact that during 1930 the hotel was changed from a pension to a regular transient hotel.

Figure 7. Konditori Bristol as it looked from outside in 1932 at the time of Gol’tsman’s alleged visit. The photo is taken in June 1929. At that time Grand Hotel was run as a pension. The hotel entrance was located below the arrow. With some difficulty we can see the revolving door – the same kind of door that appears on the diagram in Arbejderbladet (see Figure 10). The well-known restaurant “Den Gamle Braeddehytte” can partially be seen to the far left of the photo.


Figure 8 shows the whole photograph of June 1929. To the right of the Konditori Bristol is a cigar shop that was there in 1930. By 1931 it had moved to Vesterbrogade 11A. To the right of the cigar shop is the exhibition hall for Citroën located at Vesterbrogade 9B.

Figure 8. The 1929 photo from a point near the railway station. The hotel sign in 1931 was located at the upper left part of the building below the arrow. The entrance to the Grand Hotel was located below the arrow in the middle where in 1937 there was also a sign for the hotel. This center arrow indicates the revolving door of the Grand Hotel. Next to it is the Konditori Bristol with its prominent sign reading “Bristol.” The third arrow at the farthest right indicates the location of the Konditori Bristol in 1937, at the time of the Dewey Commission hearing in Mexico. Facing the reader is the restaurant “Den Gamle Braeddehytte” at the corner of Reventlowsgade and Vesterbrogade.


Source: Københavns Bymuseum.

This photo thus corroborates the information in the street and telephone directories. Let us now move on and take a look at the 1931 photo printed in Kraks Vejviser 1932 (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Grand Hotel in 1931. To the upper left of the picture, below the arrow, we see a sign, the name of the hotel at the building. This was not present in the June 1929 photograph and was presumably erected in 1930, when the hotel was converted from a pension. The hotel entrance is beneath the arrow to the bottom right.




Source: Kraks Vejviser, del II: Handelskalender for Danmark 1932, p. 2867.

This photo shows the building from the other side of the street near the railway station.  As we can see there is no illuminated hotel sign on either one of the photos along Vesterbrogade as can be seen in the 1937 photo in Soviet Russia Today. We will return to this point below.
Figure 10 is the diagram published in Nielsen’s Arbejderbladet article.
Nielsen claimed that it showed how the hotel and the café were direct connected to each other by an interior door.

Figure 10. Konditori Bristol in relation to Grand Hotel during the years 1929-1936.  Note that the entrances (indgang) are right next to each other.  Note the revolving door to the left the same revolving door that we can see in the 1929 photo (see Figure 7) above.  Note also the internal door (dør) connecting Grand Hotel and Bristol in the middle of the diagram.
Source: Arbejderbladet January 29, 1937, p. 8.

That the Grand Hotel was connected to a café in 1932 was corroborated in the Dewey Commission hearings by both Esther Field and A. Vikelsø Jensen as we have seen.51  We have now established from primary sources that the only café connected to the Grand Hotel in 1932 was the Konditori Bristol. The primary sources corroborate Nielsen’s article in all essential respects.
We finish our examination of Nielsen’s article by examining the photo of the Konditori Bristol on page 7 of his article in Arbejderbladet (see Figure 11). This photo appears to be the same one as that published in Soviet Russia Today upon which  Albert Goldman and Esther Field commented during the Dewey Commission  hearings. Only the light-dark contrast in the two photos is different.

Figure 11. The photo in Arbejderbladet showing Konditori Bristol in 1937.



Source: Arbejderbladet January 29, 1937, p. 7.

The text beneath this photograph reads as follows:


This is what “Bristol” looks like today.  One notices to the left on the picture the Grand Hotel which at the time referred to during the trial was (accessible) through a door, the connection with “Konditori Bristol,” for which reason foreigners believed “Bristol” was a hotel.
This photo in Arbejderbladet was met with complete silence during the Dewey Commission hearings.  We will return to this matter later. We now move on to  discuss the same photo published in Soviet Russia Today (see Figure 12).

Figure 12. The photo in Soviet Russia Today showing the Konditori Bristol and Grand Hotel. To the upper left on the picture the hotel sign is visible.

Source: Soviet Russia Today, March 1937, p. 7.


We have quoted the text to the left of this photograph earlier in this essay. We can now see that this text is incorrect. Soviet Russia Today states that the photo shows the Grand Hotel and the Konditori Bristol as it looked in 1937 and also in 1932. In fact it shows the relationship between the hotel and Bristol in 1937, but not in 1932.

We now move on to compare the affidavits presented to the Dewey Commission with our primary sources.

It is clear that Esther Field’s affidavit is incorrect. Her claim that there was another café, but not the Bristol, connected with the hotel in 1932 is completely inconsistent with the facts. We can see from primary sources that no other café than the Bristol was connected to the Grand Hotel in 1932 when the Fields said they were there. In 1937 there was no café at all connected to the hotel. Esther Field is describing a situation that did not exist either in 1937 or in 1932.

This is basically true with respect to Vikelsø Jensen’s affidavit as well.

Vikelsø Jensen wrote that a newspaper kiosk and two shops stood between the hotel and Bristol. This is consistent with the situation that existed in 1937. The street directory shows us that in 1937 there were a kiosk, a barber shop and a photo shop at Vesterbrogade 9A (see Figure 2).
However, Gol’tsman claimed to have met Trotsky in 1932 – and in 1932 the situation was different. Vikelsø Jensen admits this in his affidavit. But later when he comments on the diagram in Arbejderbladet, he once again confuses the situation in 1932 with the situation in 1937. Vikelsø Jensen’s claim that the proprietor of the Grand Hotel was married to the proprietor of Bristol is corroborated by Kraks Vejviser where the owner of the Grand Hotel, Mr. Axel Andresen, is also mentioned
as owner of Bristol.52

6.4. Possible explanations for Gol’tsman’s statement about “Hotel Bristol”
 There are three hypotheses (possible explanations) for Gol’tsman’s statement about meeting Sedov at the “Hotel Bristol”:
·        The NKVD invented it and put the words into Gol’tsman’s mouth.
·        Gol’tsman himself invented it for some unknown reason.
·        Gol’tsman told the truth but misremembered the name of the Grand Hotel as the “Hotel Bristol.”

Let’s consider the first hypothesis. According to Alexander Orlov, the “Hotel Bristol” blunder happened because in fabricating the story the NKVD confused Oslo and Copenhagen, mistakenly believing that Hotel Bristol in Oslo was located in Copenhagen. We can now exclude this possibility.53

If the NKVD created this story and put it into Gol’tsman’s mouth it would mean that

1. The NKVD invented a fictitious hotel by the name Bristol.

2. They located it near the main railway station in Copenhagen where, by chance alone, the following situation obtained:

3. There was a real hotel that had a café

(a) Immediately next to it;

(b) That happened to be named the “Bristol”; and

(c) That had a large sign right beside and above the door with the word “BRISTOL” on it; while

(d) The hotel entrance right next door had no clearly visible sign. Furthermore,

(e) The hotel and the Bristol café also shared a common internal passageway; and

(f) Were owned by the same proprietor, so that any confusion of names between the hotel and café would cause no inconvenience to him.

This is too much of a coincidence. On these grounds alone we can dismiss the hypothesis that the NKVD fabricated this story.

Of course there never was any evidence that the NKVD fabricated Gol’tsman’s story. This “theory” was an invention of Alexander Orlov, who has been proven to have lied many times in his book. Likewise there is no evidence that Gol’tsman fabricated the story himself. In any case the same objections hold: it would have been just as great a coincidence for Gol’tsman to fabricate this story as for the NKVD to do so.

There remains for us to investigate the hypothesis that Gol’tsman told the truth. Since this is the only remaining possibility, we would be forced to reach this conclusion in any case. However, we can now support this conclusion on evidentiary grounds as well.

6.5.  The hotel signs indicating “Grand Hotel”

 Gol’tsman’s testimony regarding the circumstances in which he met Sedov means that he could only have arrived at Copenhagen from Berlin on the night train. This train, provided that it was on time, would have arrived in Copenhagen at 6.05 am.54  It would have been still dark outside; the sun does not rise in Copenhagen at this time of the year until 8 am.55  The main railway station in Copenhagen is located right across the street from the Grand Hotel.
We do not know whether the hotel’s sign high up on the building on the Reventlowsgade side was illuminated or not. Even if it were, it is quite possible that Gol’tsman either did not see the sign or that he did not remember it. The vital thing is this: the hotel sign did not indicate the entrance to the hotel.
By comparing the photos of the Bristol in 1937 with the earlier photos, we can see that in 1937 there was an illuminated hotel sign near the hotel entrance that was not there in the photos from 1929 and 1931. We already know that until 1936 the entrances to the Bristol café and the hotel were adjacent to each other. It’s unlikely that these two facts are unconnected.

The sign was probably set up when the Bristol café moved two doors away from the hotel. According to both Vikelsø Jensen, the witness for the Dewey Commission, and to Nielsen, author of the article in the Communist paper Arbejderbladet, this occurred in 1936;56 their statements are also consistent with the evidence we have adduced from Kraks Vejviser and the telephone directory. At that time it became necessary to erect the sign that protruded at a right angle or nearly so

from the wall of the Grand Hotel near the door, in order to inform potential guests where the hotel entrance was.

When the hotel was a pension, before 1930, there was no need for a sign by the door. The long-term residents of the pension knew where the entrance was just as any resident knows where his apartment building is without needing a sign. When the hotel and café were adjacent to each other anyone entering the Bristol café could easily pass through the interior door into the hotel lobby. No doubt not just Gol’tsman alone but other people too – something Nielsen notes in his article – regularly confused the entrance to the hotel with the entrance to the Bristol café. But that was no problem as long as the hotel and the café were connected with each other through this door, and owned by the same proprietor.

But once the café was moved so that it was no longer adjacent to the hotel in 1936, the large “Bristol” sign no longer stood beside the entrance to the Grand Hotel.
The need arose to indicate the hotel entrance by another means: a special sign. We can therefore hypothesize that the illuminated hotel sign was put up near the hotel entrance at the same time.

To sum up: After 1936, when the café had moved a few doors away from the hotel and the hotel had erected a sign beside its doorway, it was no longer possible to confuse the hotel entrance with the café entrance. But before this it had been easy and, in fact, natural to confuse them.57

The June 1929 photograph from the Museum of Copenhagen makes it clear that the large “Bristol” sign above and to the right of the entrance to the Konditori is by far the most prominent sign on the side of this building. It alone can be easily read from across the street by the train station, where the photographer stood in June 1929. In June 1929, the “Bristol” sign was the only landmark by which one could locate the entrance to the Grand Hotel. We have no evidence that the situation had changed by 1932 when Gol’tsman said he made his trip.

Sedov could have told Gol’tsman something like the following: “When you arrive to Copenhagen, leave the railway station through the entrance at Vesterbrogade. Then go to the left and across the street from the railway station. You will see a big sign with the name BRISTOL. To the left of that sign is a revolving door. That is the hotel entrance. I’ll wait for you there.” In our view Sedov must have done so. There was no other landmark near the hotel entrance, no other way of identifying that entrance except with reference to the only prominent feature on this building – the “Bristol” sign.

The most plausible theory is that Gol’tsman met Sedov at the revolving door near the sign. Four years later he remembered the hotel as – Hotel Bristol. This is the kind of mistake that anyone can make, especially after an all-night train ride, in darkness, and when in an excited or agitated mood because the trip is clandestine and illegal.

The evidence of the new sign present in the 1937 photographs discussed above suggests that many other travelers may have made this same confusion before and after Gol’tsman did. Nielsen’s argument that Gol’tsman confused the name of the hotel with the name of the café four years later must be regarded not only as plausible
it is the only plausible scenario. Therefore this is strong evidence that Gol’tsman told the truth.

6.6 The falsehoods by Trotsky and his witnesses concerning the “Hotel Bristol” issue

On February 9, 1937, Trotsky made the following statement in a speech that he gave by telephone to the New York Hippodrome Meeting:

Unlike the other defendants, Holtzman indicated the date: November 23-25, 1932                  58

In reality, Gol’tsman never indicated any date in his testimony. He only said that the meeting took place in November 1932.59 Even a cursory attempt to check what Trotsky said against the trial transcript reveals this error. Could Trotsky really have been so careless about a subject that was so vital to him? Was he so desperate for any refutation that he simply grasped at straws? Or did he correctly realize that the Dewey Commission and the mass media, eager to indict the Soviet Union, would not look too closely at Trotsky’s attempts to prove his innocence – as, in fact, turned out to be the case?

The facts we have uncovered from primary sources are incompatible with the statements made before the Dewey Commission. In his testimony on April 12, 1937 Trotsky denied having had any contact with Gol’tsman since 1927:

GOLDMAN: Have you in any way had any communications with any Holtzman since you left Russia?
TROTSKY: Never.
GOLDMAN: Directly or indirectly? 
TROTSKY: Never.60
Documents in the Harvard Trotsky Archive refute this.

Sometime in October [1932], E. S. Gol’tsman, a former Trotskyist and current Soviet official, met Sedov in Berlin and gave him a proposal from veteran Trotskyist Ivan Smirnov and other left oppositionists in the USSR for the formation of a united opposition bloc.
61

It is also refuted by Sedov in his The Red Book On the Moscow Trials.

These two facts, i.e., that meetings of Smirnov and Holtzman with Sedov actually took place, are the only drops of truth in the Moscow trial’s sea of lies.
62

Sedov mediated the discussions between Gol’tsman and Trotsky. This constitutes “indirect communications” with Gol’tsman. Therefore in denying any such communication between himself and Gol’tsman since 1927, Trotsky was lying. Evidently he simply forgot that his son had already conceded that he had had indirect communications with Gol’tsman, and the compilers of the Dewey Commission report neglected to realize this – or realized it and thought it best not to mention it!

Esther Field claimed that in 1932 there was another nameless café connected to the Grand Hotel, then some other stores and then Konditori Bristol. In fact this was partly the case in 1937. We have proven that this was not so in 1932. Esther Field claimed that at the time of her visit to Copenhagen in 1932, she bought candies at Konditori Bristol and it was not adjacent to the Grand Hotel. This is also demonstrably false.
These errors are of such a magnitude that we can rule out any “honest mistake” in her affidavit. If she bought the candies at the place she said she bought them         in 1932, it means that she bought them in the Citroën exhibition hall. The    probability of confusing a café with a car exhibition hall must be regarded as slim to say the least. The Fields simply lied to the Dewey Commission.  The most likely explanation is that, in creating their hoax, the Fields assumed that the relation between Grand Hotel and Bristol was the same in 1937 as in 1932.

It seems likely that they took advantage of the incorrect photo text in Soviet Russia Today. The journal stated that there the Grand Hotel was still adjacent to the Konditori Bristol in 1937. This was not so. This may have given the Fields – or more likely Trotsky, as we shall argue below – the chance to prove the Soviet-friendly magazine was lying about the fact that the hotel and the café were adjacent. But the Fields tacitly agreed with the magazine’s statement that the relative positions of hotel and café in 1937 were the same as they had been in 1932 – and this was not so.

The Dewey Commission also took exception to Gol’tsman’s testimony that he had agreed with Sedov to “ostanovitsia v gostinitse” (put up at the hotel).63 Clearly you don’t “put up” at a café.64 But if Gol’tsman remembered the hotel as the “Hotel Bristol,” this seeming inconsistency vanishes.

Gol’tsman’s claim that he planned to “put up” at the Hotel Bristol is contradicted later in his testimony when he claims that during the conversation with Trotsky he notified him that he planned to leave Copenhagen the same day.65 It is hardly logical to “put up” at a hotel if you are planning to leave the same day. This inconsistency vanishes if we assume that Gol’tsman had agreed to stay at the hotel but
then changed his mind. After all it was a clandestine illegal meeting and he did not want to stay any longer than necessary in Copenhagen.

The fact that the Field couple lied raises the question: Was Trotsky unaware of their falsehoods? In our view that is out of the question. The Fields had been with Trotsky in Prinkipo when Jean Van Heijenoort arrived there in October 1932. Later that year they had travelled with Trotsky to Europe. They gave an affidavit to the Dewey Commission which was read out in Coyoacan in Trotsky’s presence, and later testified to the Dewey Commission in New York. Clearly the Fields’ purpose was to help Trotsky with their testimony. Had they lied without informing Trotsky that lie might have come back to hurt, rather than to aid, Trotsky’s case. It is most unlikely they would have lied about this without Trotsky’s prior knowledge.

A plausible hypothesis is as follows. Trotsky was acquainted with Nielsen’s article and realized it could cause him trouble. Therefore he decided, with the help of the Field couple, to fabricate a story about Grand Hotel and Bristol. But why would he do this? There is only one plausible answer. He knew that Gol’tsman had told the truth but had confused the name of the hotel with that of the café.

The whole point of the Fields’ lie – that in 1932 the Grand Hotel and the Bristol café were separated by several other shops such that their entrances could not have been confused, nor the name of the Grand Hotel mistakenly remembered as the “Bristol” – was to co-ordinate the Fields’ stories in order to create “deniability” that Trotsky met with Gol’tsman.

Therefore there are two possible reasons that Trotsky, with the Fields’ help, would have constructed this lie. First, the incorrect caption on the photo in Soviet Russia Today gave Trotsky a chance to appear to prove a “Stalinist lie” at the first Moscow trial. If Gol’tsman lied, other defendants could have lied as well, and the case against Trotsky would appear weaker. Second, Sedov really did meet with Gol’tsman at the Grand Hotel or, possibly, in the Bristol café itself, which Gol’tsman may have confused with a café in the lobby of the hotel, therefore as a part of the hotel itself.

We know that both B. J. Field and Esther Field were devoted Trotskyists. They were both leading members of the League for a Revolutionary Worker’s Party.66 In 1934 B. J. Field constructed something called the “Field Group”:
About April-May 1934 half a dozen members of the Toronto branch and almost all of the Montreal branch split from the CLA(O) and  joined the Organizing Committee for a Revolutionary Workers Party. [61] This group was set up by B. J. Field, leader of the 1934 New York hotel workers’ strike and later a consulting economist to Wall Street brokerage firms, and a handful of his followers, following Field’s expulsion from the New York branch of the CLA(O) in February.
Later the name was changed to the League for a Revolutionary Workers Party,                         known in Trotskyist literature as the “Fieldites” or “Field group.”67
There’s no reason to doubt that the Field couple would agree to lie in order to help Trotsky.


6.7. Trotsky’s other falsehoods during the Dewey Commission hearings

We have known since 1986 that Trotsky lied to the Dewey Commission when he claimed that he had had no contacts with certain members of the opposition after he was forced into exile abroad in 1929. The American scholar J. Arch Getty found traces of the correspondence between Trotsky and, among others, Radek and Sokolnikov (two of the main defendants in the Piatakov-Radek trial) in the Trotsky Archive in Boston:

At the time of the Moscow show trials, Trotsky denied that he had any communications with the defendants since his exile in 1929.  Yet it is now clear that in 1932 he sent secret personal letters to former leading oppositionists Karl Radek, G. Sokolnikov, E. Preobrazhensky, and others.  While the contents of these letters are unknown, it seems reasonable to believe that they involved an attempt to persuade the
addressees to return to opposition.68


Getty also established that Trotsky and Sedov lied to the Dewey Commission by denying the existence of the “Trotskyite-Zinovievite Bloc” which in fact Trotsky had personally approved. Getty observes the enormous mysteriousness that characterizes these contacts:
Unlike virtually all Trotsky’s other letters (including even the most sensitive) no copies of these remain in the Trotsky Papers.  It seems likely that they have been removed from the Papers at some time. Only the certified mail receipts remain.  At his 1937 trial, Karl Radek testified that he had received a letter from Trotsky containing “terrorist instructions,” but we do not know whether this was the letter in question.69

One of the foremost authorities on Trotsky, the late French scholar Pierre Broué, attempted to explain Trotsky’s lying in the following manner:

Recognizing the existence of a political bloc with Zinoviev and Smirnov in 1936 would have meant collaborating with Stalin, helping him to destroy all who had participated in the bloc and had yet to be “unmasked.”  On this subject, our conclusion is clear: Trotsky and Sedov did not tell the truth about the bloc of 1932, but it was precisely their duty, at this time, not to tell this truth.70

Broué’s assumption here that this bloc existed only in 1932 is a gratuitous one. For all Broué, or anybody, knows the bloc could have continued up till 1936 when the defendants in the January 1937 Moscow Trial were arrested. For our present purposes the fact still remains: Trotsky both lied and withheld important evidence. That means that his words cannot be taken as an account of the truth. J. Arch Getty has put it this way:

The point here is that Trotsky lied. . . .  Trotsky was from the pragmatic, utilitarian Bolshevik school that put the needs of the movement above objective truth.71
Getty and Broué have established that Trotsky lied to the Dewey Commission regarding his contacts with the Trotskyists in the Soviet Union. In the present article we have proven that he – or at any rate, B. J. and Esther Field – lied about the Grand Hotel and Bristol café.

Trotsky knew he had written to his supporters in the USSR that he had approved of the formation of the “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites,” and had even been reminded of that fact by his secretary Jean Van Heijenoort.
Included in file 13095 is a 1937 note from Trotsky’s secretary Van Heijenoort which shows that Trotsky and Sedov were reminded of the bloc at the time of the 1937 Dewey Commission but withheld the matter from the inquiry.72

Despite the fact that some – perhaps a lot of – incriminating material has been removed from the archive, we still know a good deal. We know that Trotsky went far beyond merely withholding information, or lying “by omission,” at the Dewey Commission hearings. Trotsky told outright falsehoods as well.

Trotsky also lied, as we have seen, about his relations with Radek:

Pyatakov alleged that he came from Berlin to Oslo by airplane.  The enormous importance of this testimony is evident. I declared many times, and I repeat again, that Pyatakov, like Radek, has been during the last nine years not my friend but my bitterest and most perfidious enemy, and that there could be no question of negotiations between us.73

As we have seen, Getty has proven that this is not true, on the basis of documents in the Harvard Trotsky Archive.

Trotsky could have said: “Yes, I have been in touch with Piatakov by letter, but he never visited me in Norway or anywhere else.” Instead, after having acknowledged the “enormous importance” of Piatakov’s “testimony” at the January 1937 Moscow Trial about his visit to Trotsky in Norway, Trotsky chose to deny that he had been in touch with Piatakov, “like Radek, during the past nine years.”

Trotsky did not have to mention Radek’s name here. But in doing so, he told a lie. This means that Trotsky’s denial of having met with Piatakov in Norway in December 1935 cannot be accepted at face value. It reopens the possibility that Piatakov was telling the truth, and that this meeting of “enormous importance” did in fact take place.

It appears too that Trotsky lied to the Dewey Commission about his stay in Norway. In his testimony Trotsky denied that he had enough mastery over the Norwegian language in order to travel by himself in Norway.74 That is contradicted by the unpublished memoirs of the police officer Askvig, who guarded Trotsky just before his departure to Mexico in December 1936. According to Askvig, Trotsky addressed the guards in correct and fluent Norwegian.75 This came as a big surprise for Trotsky’s host Konrad Knudsen when the author Isaac Deutscher confronted him with this information in April 1956. Knudsen and Trotsky had mostly communicated in German.76

The conclusions drawn by the Dewey Commission regarding the Bristol case rest on falsified testimony. We now know for a fact that both the Fields and Trotsky himself lied to the Dewey Commission. Thanks to Getty and Broué, we know that Trotsky lied when he denied being in touch with his followers in the USSR; when he testified that he had not been in touch with Radek since before 1930 and that there was no “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.”

We have no way of judging the rest of Trotsky’s testimony to the Dewey Commission except by evaluating that portion of his testimony that we can independently check. If it had turned out that Trotsky had told the truth about those matters we can check, we might be inclined to grant him the benefit of any doubt about other statements of his that we cannot independently verify. But the opposite is the case. We now know that Trotsky lied in a number of statements about important events. That suggests that his lies may well have not been limited only to those issues on which we now have independent information. He may have lied about much else as well.

The Dewey Commission was not Trotsky’s last attempt to try and refute the “Hotel Bristol” question. In the issue of his magazine Byulleten oppozitsii published in the summer of 1937, well after the Dewey Commission hearings, he made a very strange statement regarding Bristol:

Not until February this year the Comintern press made a saving discovery: in Copenhagen there is assuredly no Hotel Bristol but there is a Konditori Bristol next to the hotel.  However, the name of the hotel is “Grand Hotel Copenhagen,” but at least it is a hotel.  The konditori, on the other hand, is no hotel, but its name is Bristol.  According to Gol’tsman the meeting took place in the lobby of the hotel.  The konditori has not assuredly any lobby. But there is a lobby at the hotel, which name, however, is not Bristol.  One can add to that, which can also be seen on the diagrams that have been published in the Comintern press, that the entrances to the konditori and the hotel are             located at different streets.  Where did in fact this meeting occur then?   In the lobby without Bristol or in Bristol without a lobby?

Here Trotsky goes a bit further than the Fields did. He claims that Bristol and Grand had its entrances at different streets. Not even the Fields claimed such thing. Why did Trotsky tell such a blatant lie? The most likely explanation is that it was a smokescreen on his behalf. He wanted to create as much confusion as he could regarding the Bristol question since he knew that Gol’tsman had told the truth.

Trotsky was a very intelligent man and realized that the Bristol question was a crucial matter in the 1936 trial. He knew that very few people and virtually no one outside Denmark had seen the diagram in Arbejderbladet so he could claim anything he liked.

All these proven lies call into question other statements Trotsky made at the Dewey Commission (as well as elsewhere). Perhaps Trotsky lied when he denied having met any of the defendants in the 1936 Trial.78 Perhaps the documents which were said to prove that Sedov at the time of the alleged meeting had an exam at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin should be taken with a grain of salt.79

6.8. . Sedov’s falsehoods in his “Red Book”

We know that Sedov lied in his own analysis of the first Moscow Trial, his previously mentioned The Red Book On the Moscow Trials. In chapter 9 he claims:

. . . The Left Opposition was always an intransigent opponent of behind-the-scenes combinations and agreements.  For it, the question of a bloc could only consist of an open political act in full view of the masses, based on its political platform.  The history of the 13-year struggle of the Left Opposition is proof of that.81

In reality, Sedov knew that his father had approved the “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” in 1932. We have more examples of Sedov’s lack of trustworthiness. In the foreword of his book he claims:

The author of these lines keeps himself apart from active politics.82


We know that is false too. Sedov was assiduously aiding his father’s political work long before 1936. Getty discovered materials in the Harvard Trotsky Archive indicating that while he lived in Germany, Sedov helped his father maintain contact with persons passing in and out of the USSR.

He [Trotsky] had tried to smuggle copies of his Byulleten’ oppozitsii into the Soviet Union, and through his son Lev Sedov (who lived in Berlin) had maintained contacts with tourists and Soviet officials travelling to and from the USSR.83

As Sedov had moved to Paris from Berlin just before Hitler seized power in 1933 this means his political activity dated from before that time. According to materials in the former Soviet archives Mark Zborowski, the NKVD agent who became Sedov’s confidant and undoubtedly NKVD’s most valuable mole inside the Trotskyist camp in Paris, reported to his handlers that Sedov had proposed in June 1936 he go to the USSR to do illegal Trotskyist work (Zborowski refused). Zborowski was Sedov’s assistant in the writing of The Red Book.84

Van Heijenoort states that Sedov had to promise the French police that he would remain aloof from political activity,85 so Sedov had a good reason to lie about his political activity, which had to remain clandestine. But the fact is that he did lie, and not only about this fact but about the bloc.

We have established that Leon Sedov lied in The Red Book about the 1936 Moscow Trial. He would certainly have coordinated his story with his father, since the whole purpose of The Red Book was to deny charges made against Trotsky at that trial. But we can also see that this coordination failed concerning Gol’tsman.

Neither Esther Field nor Sedov would have lied without Trotsky’s approval.

So Trotsky was a part of their falsehoods as well.

 6.9. The purging of the Trotsky Archive 

Two other people bear responsibility for the above mentioned falsehoods: the author Isaac Deutscher and Trotsky’s secretary, Jean Van Heijenoort.

Deutscher had studied the Dewey Commission report. Therefore he was fully aware of what Trotsky said about his shortcomings in the Norwegian language. Yet he says nothing about it in his book. That is not the only thing that Deutscher failed to mention. He was also silent about the contradiction between Sedov and Trotsky regarding contact with Gol’tsman. After having established the fact that Sedov and

Gol’tsman often met and discussed the developments in the Soviet Union, Deutscher revealed that these contacts were based on Sedov’s correspondence with Trotsky:

This account is based on Lyova’s [Sedov’s nickname] correspondence with his father, and on his deposition to the French Commission of Inquiry, which, in 1937, conducted investigations preparatory to the Mexican  counter-trial.86


This makes it crystal clear that Trotsky had at least an indirect contact with Gol’tsman. But Deutscher did not mention the fact that Trotsky had lied about this at the Dewey Commission hearings. Nor did Van Heijenoort mention this, though as Trotsky’s secretary he would have been responsible for the letters between them, and also had access to the Archive.

Deutscher also said nothing about the formation of the “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites.” This cannot be anything other than a deliberate omission on Deutscher’s part since it is clear that he had access to the closed section of the Trotsky

Archive, where Getty discovered multiple pieces of evidence attesting to Trotsky’s knowledge of this bloc.87

It is clear that the Trotsky Archive has been “purged” – but why? There is only one plausible answer: There were incriminating documents there. Broué assumes that because the only evidence of a “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites” that remains in the Archive is from 1932, that the bloc existed only in 1932. But this is an unwarranted assumption. There is no basis for Broué or anyone else to assume that the only materials “purged” were those that were “purged” incompletely. Neither Broué nor we know what may have been removed so successfully that no trace of it remains. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

Jean Van Heijenoort was Trotsky’s secretary from October 1932 until 1939.

Along with Deutscher and Trotsky’s wife Natalia Sedova, he is the only person known to have had access to the archives, which he claims to have “put in order” himself.88 He described the work for the Dewey Commission as follows:

Needless to say, in all this work, there was nothing falsified, nothing hidden, no thumb pressed on the scales.89

Thanks to Getty’s research we can now see that Van Heijenoort lied about this fact, for his 1937 note about the bloc to Trotsky and Sedov remains.

It is very likely that it was either Van Heijenoort or Deutscher who “purged” the Trotsky archive of incriminating materials. Aside from Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife, they are the only two persons who are known to have had access to the archive. If Deutscher or Van Heijenoort did the “purging,” then the falsehoods of theirs that we can now identify pale in comparison with the information they concealed.

But even if neither of them did the “purging,” they still lied. Deutscher would have seen the same thing that Getty saw – the certified mail receipts. We know he examined in detail the closed archive, to which we know he had access (he cites it specifically). But he never mentions this. Deutscher would also have seen Van Heijenoort’s note, which he also failed to mention. Therefore Deutscher deliberately concealed material that would have made Trotsky look untrustworthy. In fact Deutscher’s book is relentlessly uncritical of Trotsky, basically just relating Trotsky's viewpoint on everything without seriously interrogating it, juxtaposing it to other evidence, etc.

We do not know for certain who “purged” the Trotsky Archive of incriminating materials. But the fact that both Deutscher and Van Heijenoort lied about what the Archive contains suggests that it may well have been one or both of them. The fact that they lied about matters we do know about suggests they are quite capable of having purged the archives – of lying about matters that, because of the “purging,” we do not know about now.

At least two other persons could have “purged” the Archive – Trotsky himself and his widow, Natalia Sedova. This is unlikely. Trotsky did not expect to die when he did, by an assassin’s hand. Why would he have expurgated his archive before then?

Sedova might have done so, but why would she have left what Getty called the “most sensitive” letters there? Those letters involved Trotsky’s infidelities, his anger at her and hers at him, a letter in which Trotsky refers to his penis and his desire for sexual intercourse with his wife.90 It seems likely that she would have removed these letters had she taken the trouble to go through the whole archive with a view to “purging” it.
6.10. The Dewey Commission’s lack of credibility

We managed to uncover the connection between the Grand Hotel and the Bristol café with relative ease. With much greater ease the Dewey Commission could have checked and come up with the same facts that we have reached. Instead it chose to swallow Trotsky’s version uncritically. At best, their research in this question can be described as sloppy, at worst dishonest. It is remarkable, for example, that the Dewey Commission did not probe further into the contradiction in Vikelsø Jensen’s affidavit, a contradiction admitted by the Commission itself when dealing with the affidavit mentioned earlier in this essay:

This affidavit appears to contradict Jensen’s letter, quoted above.  If the café in 1932 occupied the place where the two shops are today, then in order for shops to have been situated between the entrance to the hotel and that to the café, as stated by both Jensen and the Fields, they must have occupied a space in front of the café.91

This passage appears to mean that the Dewey Commission knew that the situation in 1932 was not the same as in 1937 but chose to ignore it. As noted above, we have established that in October 1936, Sedov admitted that he met Gol’tsman in Berlin in 1932. But at the hearings in Mexico in April 1937 Trotsky denied even an indirect contact with the same Gol’tsman. The Dewey Commission took no notice whatsoever of this contradiction between Sedov and Trotsky in Not Guilty!

Remarkably, the Dewey Commission during all these years has been commonly regarded as reliable and objective despite the fact that it was founded by Trotsky’s American followers and despite its composition. Of the five commissioners who appeared in Mexico, three of them were members of the ACDLT – Suzanne La Follette, Benjamin Stolberg and John Dewey.92

The Commission was biased from its inception. Columnist and Editor of the Baltimore Sun Mauritz Hallgren, one of the original Commission members, resigned at the beginning of February 1937 in protest against what he felt was an attempt by Trotsky and his followers to use the Committee as a tool in Trotsky’s struggle against the Soviet government. Hallgren was quoted in the New York Times as follows:
I believe that neither Trotsky nor his adherents are really desirous of obtaining abstract justice for Trotsky or for the Moscow defendants.  I am certain that they want to use the committee, and are using it, for the single purpose of carrying on their campaign against the Soviet Government and, therefore, against socialism.  I have no intention of becoming a party to any such arrangement.  I have made no secret of my opposition to Nazi, or Fascist, or Japanese intervention in the Soviet Union.  I see no reason why I should not as vigorously oppose Trotskyist intervention even though it be attempted under the banners of liberalism and in the name of an abstract and meaningless justice.
For these reasons, which I have set forth in great detail in my communication to its secretary, I have withdrawn from the committee.93

The Commission hearings have been described as a counter-trial. One fundamental condition for a judicial trial is that it should contain both prosecution and defense. In the Dewey Commission hearings only the defense appears. Trotsky was defending himself aided by Albert Goldman, but nobody was present to challenge his statements, much less to accuse him. In some European jurisdictions defendants may lie to defend themselves and do not have to “tell the whole truth.” In the USA they can “take the 5th Amendment” – refuse to say anything that will make them look guilty of a crime. Absent of both a prosecution and some kind of neutral, objective investigation any such proceedings must inevitably be a whitewash, as the Dewey Commission indeed turned out to be.

Author Carleton Beals, an independent commissioner not tied to Trotsky, resigned from his post after a week in protest against what he felt was an attempt by the Commission to steer the hearings in a manner friendly to Trotsky. He explained his resignation in an interview in the New York Times:

The hushed adoration of the other commissioners for Mr. Trotsky throughout the hearings has defeated all spirit of honest investigation
. . . . The very first day I was told that my questions were improper.  The final cross-examination was put in a mold that prevented any search for the truth.  I was taken to task for quizzing Trotsky about his archives. . . .  The cross-examination consisted of allowing Trotsky to spout propaganda charges with eloquence and wild denunciations, with only rare efforts to make him prove his assertions. . . .  The commission may pass its check on the public if it desires, but I will not              lend my name to the possibility of further childishness similar to that
already committed.94

Formally, the Soviet government was given the chance to accuse Trotsky. But this was an invitation that no government could realistically accept. Doing so would have been not only to reject the results of the Soviet trial that had already taken place, but also to lend legitimacy to an organization that was so obviously friendly to Trotsky. The Dewey Commission must have been aware that the Soviets would reject participation in the hearings when they invited them to it.

The Dewey Commission could have found neutral members, like Beals and Hallgren, and given them a free hand in cross-examining Trotsky and other witnesses. They could have made a real attempt to verify some of the statements made, such as the relationship between the Grand Hotel and the Konditori Bristol in 1932. They could have checked on the obvious contradiction in Vikelsø Jensen’s statement.

Having reached the results we have obtained here, they could have cross-examined Esther Field about her obviously false testimony. They could also have confronted Trotsky with what Sedov wrote in The Red Book about the contact with Gol’tsman. They chose to do none of these things.

6.11. The “Hotel Bristol” question and the Scandinavian periphery
How is it possible that the question of Hotel Bristol and the affidavits in the Dewey Commission have not been investigated before? One part of the answer is that it has been. As we have seen, the Danish Communists investigated the “Hotel Bristol” matter in 1937. But instead of checking the assertions and evidence given in Arbejderbladet, Trotskyists and – a more serious issue – scholars of history have

chosen either to ignore or to dismiss them.95 The only scholar we have found who has dealt with the Grand Hotel-Konditori Bristol question is Robert Conquest. Conquest quotes the version in Social-Demokraten and then continues:

Soviet propaganda had some difficulty with this point and belatedly settled for a story that Holtzman had met Sedov at a Café Bristol which was near a hotel of a different name at which he was staying, a version inconsistent with the original testimony.96

Conquest’s statement is untruthful. The “Café Bristol” story (Conquest’s term) came not from Moscow, but from the Danish Communists. As we have seen, the publication Soviet Russia Today was also incorrect regarding the Bristol question. Nor did Nielsen, the Arbejderbladet author, claim Gol’tsman met Sedov at the café. Conquest could and should have gotten these elementary facts right. Moreover, he too could have done the research we have done here. Instead he chose to falsify the situation and ratify the testimony at the Dewey Commission.

And perhaps there is another reason that the “Hotel Bristol” affair has never been thoroughly examined, and that is the fact that Denmark, and Scandinavia generally, are at the periphery of the world’s attention. If the “Hotel Bristol” story had developed in, let’s say, London, Paris or New York it would have been checked and put to rest long ago. It is probably for this same reason that Piatakov’s alleged flight to Norway has also never been thoroughly investigated.


7. Conclusions

This essay has established the following facts.

· There was a “Bristol” – a café, the Konditori Bristol – at the same place in Copenhagen where the defendant Gol’tsman said that the hotel he went to was located.

· This Bristol café was connected to the hotel next door in two ways. Their doorways were side by side, adjacent to each other. They also shared an internal passageway between the hotel lobby and the café.

· As far as we can tell there was no sign identifying the hotel entrance. But there was a large sign reading “Bristol” right next to and above the door to the café, and the door to the café was right next to the revolving door to the hotel lobby.

· This “confusion” would not have caused the owners of the hotel and the café any inconvenience because both enterprises were owned by the same family – either by the husband alone or by him and his wife.

· Trotsky and the witnesses that testified before the Dewey Commission hearings in Mexico in April 1937 lied.

· The Trotsky Archive has been purged of incriminating evidence.

· The Dewey Commission did not bother to seriously examine the “Hotel Bristol” question but relied on what only can be described as party pleading on Trotsky’s behalf. This means that the credibility of the Dewey Commission must be seriously questioned.

This means that in his article in Arbejderbladet of January 29, 1937 Martin Nielsen was correct in all essential respects. It also means, as mentioned, that the affidavits presented to the Dewey Commission in favor of Trotsky are inconsistent with the fact

Pierre Broué’s conclusion that Trotsky lied because it was part of the struggle against Stalin makes perfect sense. Lying and withholding the truth is common in politics but the fact still remains: Trotsky both lied and withheld the truth. This means, as we have established, that Trotsky’s word cannot be taken for granted.

No one who has the truth on his side needs to lie in the way Trotsky, Sedov, and Esther Field did. They lied because they had something to hide. Therefore this is strong evidence that Eduard Gol’tsman in his testimony in Moscow told the truth about having met Sedov and Trotsky in Copenhagen in November 1932.

The Danish Communists in 1937 were right about the Bristol question but since they were Communists their account was either dismissed or met with silence. As Swedish professor Torsten Thurén, Principal Lecturer in the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMK) at Stockholm University writes in his

manual about source criticism: “It is not easy to accept . . . that the opponent that you hate with all your guts sometimes may be right.”97


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Copyright © 2008 by Sven-Eric Holmström and Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087


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SEE APPENDIX A >>>>>

Copyright © 2008 by Sven-Eric Holmström and Cultural Logic, ISSN 1097-3087