Diabolical pedagogy; Noel Field and the show trials in Eastern Europe

I’m reading this biography, truly transnational, of an American anti-Fascist caught in the political whirlwind of Stalinist terror in East-Central Europe. The Stalinist Left was a global movement and this explains why such biographies bear upon more than one country. Think of Arthur Koestler, Manes Sperber, Willi Munzenberg, Otto Katz (Andre Simone), Ilya Ehrenburg, Malraux, Margarete Buber Neumann. The main character is Noel Field, a former State Department official, who provided assistance, through the Unitarian relief service, to political refugees in France and Switzerland during WWII. In 1949, Noel and his wife were kidnapped in Prague, transported to Budapest, tortured, jailed, never tried. The interrogations by Matyas Rakosi’s AVO, supervised and instructed by Soviet advisors, lasted until 1954. Field testified in the Rajk trial in 1949. His banal contacts wilth Allend Dulles in Bern during the war became “proofs” for the existence of a conspiracy involving major figures of world communism, from Tito to Paul Merker and Slansky. One of the most powerful persons within the Romanian Workers Party Control Commission, Ronea Gheorghiu, attended the Slansky trial in order to get inspiration for a similar spectacle in Bucharest. The candidates for the main role would have been Ana Pauker as well as former Spanish Civil War and French resistance veterans. It was only Stalin’s demise, in March 1953, that arrested this murderous course…

Field was not Jewish, neither was Rajk, but the trial had an umnistakeable anti-Semitic component. Many of the defendants were Jewish communists who had spent years in Western exile. This anti-Semitic delusion would be exacerbated in the Slansky trial, in the fall of 1952. There are several memoirs of that trial, including “Confession” (L’Aveu) by Artur London. Based on London’s book, Costa Gavras made his film with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. During the war, London (nom de guerre Gerard), was one of the leaders of the FTP-MOI resistance movement. My aunt, Cristina Luca, was the chief of the intelligence unit of this network. London’s son-in-law was Pierre Daix, the influential communist writer who, after decades of moral blindness, broke with PCF and became a major supporter of Soviet and East European dissidents.

Field’s adopted daughter, Erica Glaser (married Wallach), was arrested in East Berlin in 1950. She ended up in the Gulag. Erica’s parents were German Jewish: her father was a doctor in the International Brigades hospital in Vic, close to Barcelona. My mother, Hermina Marcusohn, was a nurse in that hospital. Erica and Hermina became freinds. Field was released from jail and spent the rest of his life in Budapest. In the 1960s, he worked for a publishing house, editing books in English. I talked about him one evening in Warsaw, at the bar of the Bristol Hotel, with my friend Laszlo Rajk, Jr, an architect, former dissident, and human rights activist. This was in May 2000. Now, the story will be part of the book that I am writing together with Marius Stan, “Two Sisters in Dark Times”. The term “la pedagogie infernale,” referring to the show trials in the “people’s democracies,” was coined by the great French historian Annie Kriegel. Born in London in1904, son of a famous American zoologist, Noel Field died in Budapest, in 1970.



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