I thought I knew certain things about the trial when I started working on the translation. One of them was that two charges were filed against Beilis. Now, having translated the endgame, I've learned more about what actually happened.
Yes, the jury voted twice on 28 October, 1913 (Julian).
But five months earlier, on May 23, 1913, when Beilis was arraigned the second time, the only charge in the indictment read like this:
"On the basis of what is laid out above, the resident of the city Vasilkov, in the Kiev gubernya, Menachem Mendel Tevyev Beilis, 39 years old, is accused that under a previous agreement with others, whom the investigation has not found, with previous planning and intent, out of the promptings of religious fanaticism, for ceremonial purposes of depriving the 12 year old boy Andrey Yushchinsky of life, on 12 March 1911 in the city of Kiev, in the property on Upper Yurkovsky Street of the Zaitsev brick factory, caught the above named Yuschinsky who was playing there with other children, attracted him onto the premises of the factory, where later the accomplices of Beilis with his knowledge and permission, having tied Yushchinsky’s hands and gagging his mouth, killed him, inflicting on him 17 [this is a typo for “47”] wounds on the head, neck and torso with a stabbing instrument, causing wounds to the cerebral vessels, the neck veins and arteries on the left temple, and also wounds of the dura mater, liver, right kidney, lungs and heart, such wounds being accompanied by heavy and prolonged suffering, caused almost complete exsanguination of the body of Yushchinsky, that is in a crime covered by sections 13 and 2 part 1453 of the criminal code.”
The emphasis is mine. This is the ritual murder language.
On day 29, in his closing speech, Criminal Prosecutor Oskar Vipper stated that Russian law does not criminalize religious fanaticism. The statute paragraphs cited in the indictment do not cover the underlined words.
Here is the whole sequence of events, as far as I can tell from the transcript.
On day 28 after four witnesses proved that Pranaitis didn't know what he was talking about, the judge called the bench, the attorneys, and the scriptural experts behind closed doors. What happened is hinted at in Shmakov's closing argument on day 31, when he refers to blasphemy, and in Zarudny's when he refers to sacrilege and Jesus. A charge of blasphemy led to the 1554 censorship of Talmud passages that were falsely supposed to refer to Jesus.
The closed-door conference was threatened by the judge to stop Pranaitis from referring to Jesus on day 26. From Zarudny's closing argument, I believe Pranaitis aired parts of his rejected thesis about "Jesus in Talmud" and was argued down by the others, particularly Troitsky. A cranky comment by Shmakov on day 31 supports this supposition.
After the conference, the judge declared a recess. The day 28 transcript shows him apologizing in open court for ending the recess late, saying that one of the prosecutors had a medical emergency.
Twenty-four hours later, Vipper made his admission about law and the ritual murder charge.
Twenty-four hours after Vipper's admission, Shmakov said in his closing argument that it wasn't fair to charge somebody with one thing one day, another thing the next day, and still a third thing half an hour later.
On day 31, Shmakov finished his speech. At one point, he told the jury they would probably get two charges to decide, one about the simple fact of the murder and another with different wording. He said he believed they would vote "yes" on the first charge and their vote on the second would be up to their consciences.
The defense presented their closing arguments on days 31, 32 and 33. Maklakov revealed the illogic in the government theory. Gruzenberg ripped apart the Cheberyaks' testimony -- all three of them -- and also pointed out that the government had shifted ground on its theory, producing an even more ridiculous scenario than the original. See The Wiffle Ball Theory. Zarudny satirized the prosecution and rebutted Boldyrev's hypocritical (or stupid) claims that all Judaism wasn't on trial. Karabchevsky, the "old lion" of Russian law, took on Zamyslovsky, whose Duma and Black Hundreds connections couldn't really harm a man that late in his career. All of them brilliantly used testimony from the prosecution's favorite witnesses to prove their points. They even took advantage of Golubev, whose May 1911 remarks to Lyadov and Chaplinsky put Beilis in the dock in the first place.
On day 34 the judge held a faux discussion of the charge from the indictment and Zamyslovsky spoke on the subject. The bench retired and returned with -- guess what! TWO CHARGES.
Mendel Beilis was going to be sentenced on charges he had not been tried on, because they were not in the original indictment, and they had not been subjected to due process, such as deposing witnesses, attaching documents to the case, or letting attorneys reject some witnesses.
The first one read as follows:
“Is it proven that on 12 March, 1911, in Kiev, in Lukyanovka, on Upper Yurkovskaya Street, in one of the buildings of the brick factory belonging to the Jewish surgical hospital, and being under the management of the merchant Mark Yonovich Zaitsev, on the 13-year-old boy Andrey Yushchinsky, when his mouth was blocked, were inflicted by a stabbing weapon on the parietal, occipital and temporal regions, and also on the neck, wounds accompanied by injuries to the cerebral veins, the artery of the left temple, the neck veins, giving as a consequence of this a large flow of blood, and next, when from Yushchinsky had flowed blood in the quantity of 5 glasses, again were caused in him with the same weapon wounds on the torso accompanied by injuries of the lungs, liver, right kidney and heart, in the region of which were directed the last blows, which wounds in the aggregate number of 47, caused painful suffering to Yushchinsky, caused almost complete exsanguination of the body and his death.”
The ostensible reason for this charge is to help out the civil prosecutors by allowing the jury to vote on the event of the crime as opposed to designating somebody as guilty of the crime. Zamyslovsky gives this reason and Boldyrev relays it to the jury -- who in any case were there while Zamyslovsky made the request. I do not know why this would help the civil prosecutors. I speculate in The Anvil.
Zarudny objected on two grounds. He said that when a charge describes the event of a crime as opposed to assigning guilt for it, the charge is supposed to avoid all verbage that would identify the persons. The charge as worded assigns responsibility to people on the factory grounds and more specifically to people in the pomeshchenie which was used at trial to mean rooms near the stables where several people lived at various times. Mrs. Beilis and the children moved here, which was inside Plossky District where Jews were allowed to live, after Beilis' arrest.
But since the government theory of the murder required a morning murder, there was nobody living there at the time of the murder. At 3 in the afternoon, Yov Zelensky arrived from Grebenki, and soon after the rest of the Grebenki workers arrived, according to testimony in the trial. But at the supposed time of the murder, the rooms were empty and the government bases its claim that the charge doesn't identify anybody in particular on that timing.
But if the government was wrong and the murder occurred right before the Adamovich robbery, as Makhalin said Singaevsky claimed, or between the robbery and the time the gang caught the train for Moscow, as Karaev said Singaevsky claimed, then the Grebenki workers become supposedly responsible for the crime and they are Christians.
That can't be what the government meant by wording the charge this way.
Zarudny's second objection goes to the heart of what the government probably intended. He said that it leaves people under suspicion. There is one person this wording does NOT leave under suspicion, and that is Vera Cheberyak, who as everybody knows was living on the Zakharchenko property at the time. And that is probably why the government insisted on specifying a location on the factory grounds as the site of the murder.
From the fact that Zamyslovsky made the request for the first charge, I suspect that he was using what he learned as a legislator. People who voted "yes" on one thing might vote "yes" on a related thing. The jurors all knew about the death and the state of the body and it was easy to vote "yes" on this charge. Zamyslovsky also could count to some extent on a unanimous "yes" vote putting pressure on the entire group to also vote "yes" on the second charge. He could be even more confident of this since Dr. Pavlov got stampeded by the group into agreeing on medical questions. Only later when he was alone did Dr. Pavlov see the problems with some of the answers he had agreed with while he was in the group conference. The jury wouldn't have that opportunity.
Also, as Margolin wrote in his memoirs, the Black Hundreds were allowed in-person access to the supposedly sequestered jurors. This would have increased the chances of getting a unanimous "yes" vote on both charges.
And remember that the jury were almost hand-picked to be obedient muzhiks.
Notice the count of 47 injuries; it agrees with the first autopsy, the one that didn't support the ritual murder theory. In fact, if you hold to Pranaitis' requirement that there be 13 wounds in the neck and no other wounds, this cannot be a ritual murder charge. What's more, Shmakov used his closing speech to claim that 13 wounds in the right temple qualified as the sign of ritual murder, but you can't get 47 wounds unless there are 14 wounds in the temple (as the autopsy says) AND in the neck (as the autopsy says). Whoever thinks that this paragraph represents a ritual murder charge is reading that INTO the text, which does not contain the code phrase "religious fanaticism."
The second one read:
“If the events described in the first question are proven, then is the the resident of the city Vasilkov, in the Kiev gubernya, Menachem Mendel Tevyev Beilis, 39 years old, accused that under a previous agreement with others, whom the investigation has not found, with previous planning and intent, out of the promptings of religious fanaticism, of depriving the 13 year old boy Andrey Yushchinsky of life, on 12 March 1911 in the city of Kiev, in Lukyanovka, on Upper Yurkovskaya Street, at the brick factory belonging to the Jewish surgical hospital, and being under the management of the merchant Mark Yonovich Zaitsev, he, the accused, for accomplishing this his intention, caught the above named Yuschinsky and took him into one of the buildings of the factory, where then having agreed earlier with them, the persons not observed by investigation, on depriving Yushchinsky of his life, with his, Beilis’ knowledege and permission, closed Yushchinsky’s mouth and inflicted on him with a stabbing weapon in the parietal, occipital and temporal regions [of the head], and also on the neck, wounds accompanied by injuries to the brain veins, the artery of the left temple, the neck veins, giving as a consequence of this a large flow of blood, and next, when from Yushchinsky had flowed blood in the quantity of 5 glasses, again were caused in him with the same weapon wounds on the torso accompanied by injuries of the lungs, liver, right kidney and heart, in the region of which were directed the last blows, which wounds in the aggregate number of 47, caused painful suffering to Yushchinsky, caused almost complete exsanguination of the body and his death.”
This does NOT cite a statute, which avoids calling Vipper a liar for saying that Russia has no statute prohibiting religious fanaticism.
This is the charge that literally represents ritual murder.
Once the jury obediently voted yes on the first charge, they turned to the second question.
Some of them voted no on the second charge, and it was just enough of them to acquit Beilis. And that meant they also voted down the textual ritual murder accusation.
Jury deliberations lasted a total of one hour and twenty minutes, according to the transcript.
I believe that during the recess on day 28, after the closed door conference, the government admitted that even if it won the case on trial, it would lose on appeal. That's because Oskar Gruzenberg had gotten a 1900 ritual murder conviction overturned on appeal, within one year of the verdict, four years before he was admitted to the bar. With twelve years of experience under his belt, and the help of his extremely able colleagues, it was a slam dunk for him to get Beilis' conviction overturned on appeal.
While that was going through, demonstrations and strikes against the trial would continue and the spectre of another revolution raised its bloody head. I believe everybody in that room was thinking of 1905, and it came out in Vipper's closing speech.
I believe that a telegram to St. Petersburg was composed. Chaplinsky might have decided then and there to rewrite the charges, but I believe he did not have the guts to do it without written permission from his mentor Shcheglovitov, the Minister of Justice. I believe that Vipper's remarks about the non-existent statute amounted to a criticism of the government for filing them, and that he would not have made those remarks without written permission. I think Boldyrev would have cut him short, as he did other similar remarks, if the judge didn't know that Vipper had written permission to make them.
Failing to get permission to change the charges or to refer to the non-existent statute would have been professional suicide for both Chaplinsky and Vipper.
I believe that the wording of the new charges was specifically approved in St. Petersburg. Maybe Zamyslovsky wrote them in Kiev, but I cannot see Boldyrev presenting them in court unless Shcheglovitov sent Chaplinsky written permission for it.
It's not clear when this stratagem developed. It might have happened earlier than day 28; it might have been developing since day 19 when Dyachenko, a subordinate of National Police Chief Beletsky, wired from Kiev to St. Petersburg saying that the results of the witness testimony were not encouraging.
I have no proof for this scenario, beyond what is in the transcript. Tager does not report on any telegrams related to such a concept. Tager did not focus substantially on the transcript, and it's possible that he saw one of them in the archives but didn't know what he was looking at. Or else he decided it wasn't relevant to his theme of Tsarist misdoings in a case that got worldwide attention.
I believe that it was because Zamyslovsky came up with the concept, that the judge gave him the credit in ruling to adopt the new charges. The government also paid him to write a pamphlet that read as if the ritual murder charge had been won. It came out in 1917.
It's possible that the majority of the Black Hundreds never knew they had been treated to a bait and switch. The newspapers printing stenographic records (Vipper complained about them on day 3) probably were mostly center-to-left oriented, which the Black Hundreds would have ignored. If they heard about the change, and it came from such organs, the Black Hundreds probably dismissed it as propaganda. Zamyslovsky might have whipped up a pogrom, but he would have sacrificed the payment for the pamphlet, and the late date of its publication hardly qualified as "whipping up."
One hundred years after the Beilis trial, it's easy to dismiss the whole thing as an aberration of an autocracy used to having its every whim obeyed, and to point out that monarchies nowadays are not only not absolute, they pay taxes just like commoners. But only 20 years after the Beilis trial, a commoner enforced his whims on almost 100 million people, beginning with destroying millions of Jews.
Every situation ignoring basic fairness, on up to violating due process of law, has to be regarded with suspicion, even if it's dressed up as "the will of the people". Vipper used that concept in his closing argument -- "the will of the Tsar is the voice of the people" -- and the defense asked to have it put on record for a possible appeal. All the more so if it's bad for the Jews, because what's bad for the Jews always turns out to be bad for everybody.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved