Friday, November 1, 2013

Mendel Beilis -- Pranaitis Speaks!

This is the summary of the 26th day of the Mendel Beilis trial, which occurred on 20 October, 1913 on the Julian calendar, 2 November, 1913 on the Gregorian calendar.

This day occupies pages 317 through 342 of Volume II of the transcript.
See the translation of the transcript for day 26.

Justinas Pranaitis, today’s only witness, was a Catholic priest, not Russian Orthodox; he was selected by the government because of his anti-Semitic writings.  His infamous thesis of 1892 was rejected by the Catholic Academy in St. Petersburg for misusing Christian Scripture.  Pranaitis copied most of this work, such as the list of sources and Article I, from Johann Eisenmenger’s anti-Semitic Entdecktes Judentum, a work which Lutheran Gustav Dalman called a compendium of everything “repulsive” in Christianity and by no means an accurate representation of Talmud or Judaism.

In 1913 Pranaitis also published a pamphlet under the auspices of the Black Hundreds, called “The Jews’ Blood Dogma” in which he cited to an 1803 work by a probably fictitious monk named Neophyte.  See the information about Neophyte on day 25.

When Pranaitis says almost in his first statement that he is going to testify from memory, that is fallout from day 24.  Prof. Sikorsky read an anti-Semitic diatribe from notes he had in court.  These notes were never examined by a forensic investigator, so they were never passed as related to the case and attached to the case.  This means they were inadmissible evidence.  The defense made two petitions that the judge never even ruled on, he simply ignored them: either put Sikorsky’s remarks on the record exactly as he stated them; or get his notes and have them attached to the case.  Without the record or the attachment, the defense cannot use Sikorsky’s remarks in an appeal.  The transcript itself does not qualify as a record that can be used in an appeal. 

Apparently a conference was held between then and now and Pranaitis was instructed to speak from memory so there wouldn’t be another hassle about this.  The prosecution realizes as soon as cross-questioning starts, that Pranaitis doesn't know what he's talking about.

Pranaitis and Mashkevich worked together one-on-one to outline the material that would be used to write the May 23, 1913, indictment.  Pranaitis is quoted in it as providing certain information.  If he and Mashkevich didn’t create the exact wording of the 29 questions given to the scriptural experts, Pranaitis was there when the subject matter was decided on and the quotes chosen that the prosecution would use in this part of the trial.  Pranaitis had a year of lead time to prepare and he failed utterly.

I footnoted extensively while translating, to record information I needed to correctly translate or transliterate what all the parties said during this testimony.  The footnotes illustrate Pranaitis’ ignorance and falsehoods.  Whether he knew he was lying, I can’t tell.  His history of run-ins with Russian and Catholic law suggests he was pathologically incapable of understanding that what he wanted to do might be both wrong and stupid, so it’s easy to see that he might not be able to distinguish truth from falsehood, as long as the falsehood said something he wanted to believe. Despite the best efforts of the presiding judge and prosecution to support Pranaitis, they could neither keep out damaging evidence on cross-questioning nor make up for Pranaitis’ self-destruction as an expert.

The New York Times reported at the time that the judge stopped all testimony about the Talmud because Pranaitis failed to support the blood libel charge and the defense’s witnesses on the subject undercut it. 

“P” is always Pranaitis. 

Judge:  Fyodor Boldyrev

            Criminal Prosecutor, Oscar Vipper
            Civil Prosecutor Georgy Zamyslovsky
            Private Civil Prosecutor Aleksey Shmakov 

            Oscar Gruzenberg
Nikolay Karabchevsky
Dmitry Grigorevich-Barsky
Alexandr Zarudny
Vasily Maklakov

To "The Muzhik Revolt"

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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