Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- The Government Story

The government version of Andrey’s last days was this. 

He went to school March 11, 1911, came home and brought his aunt some things she needed for her work, the box-making that paid for his schooling.  Saturday, March 12, he ate breakfast at home and went to school, or so everybody thought.  He actually went to Lukyanovka to play with his old friend Zhenya.
About 7 in the morning he played a trick on Kazimir Shakhovsky, the lamplighter, and about 8 in the morning Ulyana Shakhovsky saw him near a government-licensed shop.  He and Zhenya and Lyuda and Valya and at least one other child went to play on the factory grounds.  Their favorite game at the factory was to ride the pugger.  A pugger is like a huge cup, with a rim higher than a horse’s head, set on the ground.  Inside is a vertical shaft that attaches to a horizontal crossbar above the rim.  The end of the crossbar is attached to a harness for a horse.  The horse walks a track around the pugger, and in the bottom of the cup, at the bottom of the vertical shaft, flanges mix ground clay and water to the right consistency for bricks.

The game was that the children would boost each other onto the rim of the pugger.  From there they leaped over to the crossbar at the top, and stood there while the horse rotated it. 
On March 12, Beilis jumped out at them, grabbed the boys’ hands, and Zhenya struggled free, but Beilis put 14-year-old, kicking, screaming Andrey under his arm, ran 90 meters with him around several hangars where bricks were stored to dry before firing, and threw him into the upper kiln, which at the time was cold and out of use.  The other children ran, and Zhenya told his father, but the other child with them didn’t tell anybody.  Nobody knew this story, according to independent information, until July 1912, almost a year and a half later, except supposedly the Cheberyaks, who failed to inform the police and initially claimed that Andrey’s relatives murdered him.

Lyuda also “remembered” that a week or so before this incident, she and Zhenya and Valya went to Beilis’ house, sent there by their mother, to buy milk. Inside the house they saw two strangely dressed Jews whose very appearance struck them with fear. 
The government theory goes on to state that these two men were Chassidic tsadiqs (holy men), living at the factory in March, waiting to receive Andrey’s blood for use in baking matso for Passover, which was three weeks later, and also to consecrate a prayerhouse at a hospice that the Zaitsevs were building for convalescents from the hospital built by the founder of the factory.  These two men were named Ettinger and Landau, and they disappeared after Andrey’s murder.

Every detail of this story was false.  Who would tell a nice little 11-year-old girl that she was lying through her teeth?
Well, they didn’t put it that way.  In the 7 days before Lyuda got on the witness stand, and the 11 days that followed, one adult after another – and half a dozen of Andrey's friends and 3 of Lyuda’s – came to the stand and destroyed one item after another in her story.  The testimony was backed up by official documents like passports, and business documents like accounting records.

The milk story implies that Beilis owned a cow.  He did.  In 1907, 1908, and 1910.  In 1910, his son Pinchas was to go to gymnasium and hence have a chance at going to university, and Beilis sold the cow to pay the fees.  The only cow at the Zaitsev factory in 1911 belonged to an employee named Zaslavsky, who didn’t sell the milk.  The man whose wife took care of this cow testified at trial about it.
The two “tsadiqs” were Yakov Ettinger, brother of the wife of Mark Yonovich Zaitsev, the current paterfamilias.  Ettinger was an Austrian citizen, secularly educated, and had left his technical school before graduating to take care of the business left to him on his father’s death.  He was in Kiev December 1910-January 1911.  His international passport confirmed his entry and exit.

The other was Samoil Landau, son of Mark Yonovich’s sister.  Landau was also secularly educated and lived a dilettante life in Europe.  He was in Kiev in November-December 1911.  His international passport was all in order as well.
The Zaitsevs bought their matso in the Kiev marketplace.  They had been doing that since the death of Yona Mordkovich Zaitsev in 1907.  From 1897 to 1907, Yona Mordkovich had the custom of having grain, grown on his estate of Grigorovka, made into Passover matso, and had entrusted Beilis with going to the estate, carting the matso back, and distributing it to the families of his nine children.  There was no matso baked at Grigorovka in 1911.

The Zaitsevs built the hospice, getting the plans approved in 1910.  In February 1911, the ground was cleared.  On the anniversary of Yona Mordkovich’s death, 7 March, 1911, they held a religious service when the concrete was poured for the foundation.  Police officials were there at the time.  Andrey was still alive.  Jews do not need consecrated ground to pray on.  In fact, the ceremonies of the Passover Seder, and the lighting of Sabbath candles, are properly done in the home, and so is the lighting of the Chanukah lamp, and this home can be in a building which Jews did not build.
The hospice was built with bricks made in 1910.  These bricks were hauled from the factory grounds during the week after the foundation was poured.  Dozens of Christian as well as Jewish workers were on the factory grounds, and some of them lived in basement apartments in the same house where Beilis lived.  If Beilis had carried Andrey to the upper kiln, these people would have seen him or heard Andrey’s screams or both and come running to do something about it.

The pugger that the children liked best to ride on was operated only when new bricks were being made.  This work started after Easter every year, once the Zaitsevs had bought a new lot of up to 60 horses.  Easter was in April in 1911; work had not started and there were no horses to operate the pugger on the day of Andrey’s death.  The horses had all been sold off the previous autumn after the work ended.  The horses used in hauling bricks to the hospice belonged to Zaslavsky or to hired carters from Kiev.
This pugger was the closest one to the Zakharchenko property where the Cheberyaks and Lyuda’s friend Evdokia Nakonechny lived.  To get there, they crawled through gaps in the fence between the two properties.  The pugger at this location was not in the direct line of sight to Beilis’ house; there were brick-drying hangars in the way.  Beilis would have to know the kids were on the property before leaving work to chase them off.  One of the boys who had been in the habit of riding the pugger testified that in 1910 and later, a special guard and not Beilis was set to keep them off the grounds.  Beilis was assigned to office work in 1910.

The children couldn’t get through the fence in March 1911. Mikhail Nakonechny and a dozen other Christians testified that the Zaitsevs put up a new fence in autumn 1910.  In spring of 1911, because of the fence, Mikhail Nakonechny had to go around the factory grounds instead of through them, to get to the cemetery where his mother was buried, so he could visit her grave.  He also testified that the kids only “rode” the pugger in summer when the factory was making new bricks.
The brick haulers and the managers of the factory said work started at 4 in the morning and lasted until 6 at night.  One hauler confessed to getting Beilis out of bed at 3 in the morning.  The reason was that every load of bricks had to be accounted for three ways at the factory: loading; exiting; and for the purposes of the accountants at the construction company.  This last was where Beilis got involved.  He had to fill out bills of lading for the accountants and stubs for the factory records, and starting March 12, 1911, he also had to sign them.  With 24 loads hauled in 12 hours, Beilis sometimes had to interrupt meals to get his work done.  The police took the construction company records into custody, preventing any forgeries.

Work proceeded every day of the calendar year, including Saturdays but not Sundays.  The factory manager said the Jews got off Yom Kippur but not Sabbath.  So Saturday March 12, 1911, found Beilis at his post, signing for loads of brick that were being taken to the hospice that his employers were building.  He literally did not have time to interfere with any children that might be on the grounds, and that wasn’t his job anyway.
It's clear from the trial transcripts that the three prosecutors weren't ready for their case to dissolve out from under their feet.  Not Aleksey Shmakov, who had been obsessed since at least 1906 with the blood libel; not Georgy Zamyslovsky, a powerful member of the Duma who was in tight with the Black Hundreds; not Oskar Vipper, the hired gun from St. Petersburg who was not assigned to the case until March 1913 and didn't know any of the background.  They became increasingly abusive of witnesses and quarreled with each other; Zamyslovsky battled the judge constantly for control of the proceedings.  That was in lieu of striking back at the Tsar, whose government faked the data they were supposed to use to convict Mendel Beilis, because the Tsar held all their futures in his hands.

Running a show trial

© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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