THE KGB AND I

Kaplan, Howard

THE KGB AND I Howard Kaplan-The arrest of a young American in Moscow lustration/William T Carrol Before venturing into the Soviet Union, I spent several weeks in London familiarizing myself with...

...Dov took the book in his hands...
...Was the whole transfer off...
...We will continue this in the morning...
...Go now...
...Good," he said, abruptly waxing stern...
...The streets, as usual for that hour, bore little sign of life...
...If your answers are satisfactory, that will undoubtedly help...
...Many of the Soviet Union's great scientists and engineers are Jewish...
...I walked across the street, turning to glance behind me as I stepped on the curb...
...The Colonel paused...
...He stared at me, said nothing then walked towards the front of the building, to an aged and heavy wooden door...
...He didn't move...
...Not unless you prefer to be placed on trial for espionage...
...They would be sure to arrest me before I stepped foot onto what legally was foreign soil...
...Stop looking around, you idiot, you look suspicious...
...Soon vodka was brought out...
...Then suddenly he dried his hands and left...
...I moved quickly into the public bathroom...
...This man would like to ask you a few questions," the hotel manager translated...
...I didn't know what to do...
...It is my understanding that also in the United States ignorance of a law or of committing a crime is not a valid excuse...
...I said, trying to be as unencouraging as possible...
...The next morning, following instructions, I went alone to the corner of Pushkinskaya and Tsverskoi Boulevards...
...Contact international organizations...
...I was left alone for an hour...
...Sit down...
...A man stood facing the middle one, relieving himself...
...Part the Red Sea...
...Why not...
...This building was erected in such and such a year, Ivan IV fought such and such a battle here, this factory produces so many pairs of shoes per week...
...I felt slighted...
...In the hotel dining room," I said angrily...
...I smiled back...
...I found Sid Krasny's apartment that night with relative ease...
...How many students do you have...
...All of us are Hebrew teachers...
...I had been prepared well...
...When were you last in Israel...
...A SORDID AFFAIR, about Jews in Syria...
...Don't worry, everything will be fine," he said, receiving a stinging blow to the stomach...
...I shouted...
...A buzzing filled the room...
...After each question I'd have to write the answer out in longhand...
...And good luck...
...Hello," I said weakly...
...Zayon was supposed to be waiting inside...
...He responded by pulling me away from the building and shoving me forward with a painful squeeze of my wrists...
...I guessed that they held the ranks of Colonel and Captain in the local KGB corps...
...My heart beat wildly...
...That's nothing," Dov interrupted...
...Well, not exactly...
...He touched my arm...
...I thought it unnecessary, but he insisted on accompanying me just short of the hotel...
...About 3 o'clock in the afternoon I finished the fifth page of my confession, and signaled to the hotel manager...
...I zipped up my pants and spun around...
...What is your business with the French...
...If I'm not mistaken, you requested this," I said in Hebrew...
...The conversation wore on, the minutes grinding into each other...
...The secret police would not allow Russians to enter the building and the ambassador would never take the risk of accepting a manuscript outside the embassy that's why I'd been sent to make the transfer...
...Nobody has harmed or struck you...
...I applied to pay the teacher's tax and instead of an account form received a letter stating that I could not give private lessons because there are no public programs for the study of Hebrew in the USSR...
...I've never been to Israel...
...I assumed once they had a signed statement they would expel me to Vienna...
...No, but it is illegal to consort with hooligans," the manager also translated directly...
...I don't speak Russian," I meekly informed my captor...
...I was headed for Kharkov, the second stop of my independent tour...
...Quickly, while we are alone...
...I gave it to him...
...I waited for him to turn around...
...Their political persuasions remained carefully hidden until the day before my scheduled departure when I was given, along with several Hebrew texts, a fistful of speeches by Jabotin-sky, signifying their rightist persuasion, to take with me...
...I am afraid you are in very serious trouble," the Colonel said...
...He remained rigid...
...I moved to where I had stood before and unzipped my pants as if I had just arrived...
...Mikhail and I were invited to a meeting with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the City of Moscow...
...We were alone...
...He questioned me until 4 in the afternoon...
...he barked...
...I will now ask you to take a sheet of paper and write for us how you met these hooligans and what transpired during the evening...
...Finally it became too late to continue...
...But before answering, I leaned over, took a book out of the bag I carried, and tossed it on the table...
...Then as I paused to take a sip of water, a tall, dark-haired man burst through the doorway...
...In the departure lounge one of my interrogators took me aside...
...Yes," I answered, seeing no reason to deny something he already knew...
...I let my head drop on the table and tried unsuccessfully to force back the tears welling in my eyes...
...He smiled...
...I moved quickly outside and crossed the street...
...He ignored my sarcasm...
...Then, as we turned the corner to where the trolley would pass, a wall of men leaped from the shadows, their bodies a barrier across the sidewalk...
...The manuscript I had brought to the French Embassy was never mentioned...
...Hello, Howard," he said in a soft yet firm English...
...This man's hair was brown...
...He withdrew a small notebook from his pocket and the questioning began again...
...The Intourist schedule called for an excursion before lunch...
...I jumped to my feet...
...Then as we crossed over a river: "You see this bridge we are traveling on, it was built by a Jewish engineer," he said, deviating slightly from his text...
...I am sorry, but at this hour that is not possible...
...If I tell you everything will you let me go afterwards...
...Intermittently Kugelman instructed the driver, an unusual procedure considering there was only one rotate followed day after day...
...He lifted a pen off the desk and tossed it into his palm...
...Luckily, it was a good one...
...Turn around...
...Try a publicity campaign," someone suggested...
...I walked over to the urinals and pulled down my zipper...
...In the morning, tense and distraught, I moved slowly down the stairs prepared to meet the Prosecutor, only to find the Colonel and his open notebook waiting for me...
...It's a nice city, isn't it...
...I remained pressed close against the urinal...
...I can't tell you about Frazinger," I shouted suddenly...
...I turned the hot water on and rinsed my hands...
...The older, middle-aged, barrel-chested, with white, thinning hair, was the interrogator...
...Who sent you to Kharkov...
...The Colonel considered my request for several seconds, then consulted his watch, which, like mine, read 1:10...
...I looked down at the floor, but inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief...
...I breathed a sigh of relief...
...Do you know Yiddish...
...then I turned my watchband around so I could not see the face...
...I nodded, anger burning inside me...
...About an hour later a uniformed officer opened the door and motioned that I should follow him into the adjoining room...
...Then he smiled paternally...
...He finished and slowly began to button his pants...
...He looked confused...
...I took a paper towel and wiped my forehead and the back of my neck...
...No...
...I couldn't possibly phone the American Embassy in Moscow, could I?" "There is nothing they can do for you," he said curtly...
...I have plenty of time...
...I pulled the string tight and swung the bag back over my shoulder...
...Then I will not expect to see any newspaper articles or stories written about your experiences in the Soviet Union...
...We shall see," he said, rising and calling to the Captain...
...In Moscow I was driven to a hotel, interrogated for another 24 hours, then taken to the airport...
...The guard spoke into the receiver for a long time...
...Get to important individuals...
...Completing the job he turned and smiled at me...
...It will go much better for you if you cooperate, otherwise . . ."He lifted his hands and shook his head, allowing the rest of the sentence to drift into suggestion...
...Wait for him to speak...
...He dissected my every word, probing, poking, rephrasing and repeating the same questions over and over until reality and the world of lies began to meld into one...
...If so why didn't he say something...
...As far as I'm concerned we can sit in this room forever, you'll die long before I will...
...And you are allowed to teach Hebrew...
...Within half an hour the apartment filled with activist Jews...
...Really...
...Who did this guy think he was, Old Faithful...
...Suddenly, a little after 1 a.m., a chilling fear swept through me...
...I was trapped...
...A written statement would be looked upon most favorably...
...You give me no choice," the Colonel said, reaching for the phone...
...Just ahead of me I saw a sentry standing at attention on the sidewalk...
...Flying Aeroflot on internal Soviet flights offers a unique experience...
...I was just about to ask him the time in English when two men walked in, laughing and holding hands...
...A group of Dov's friends were already waiting inside his apartment, and our entrance sparked a burst of excited conversation...
...Is it illegal for a foreigner to talk to Soviet citizens...
...Rabinovitch walked downstairs with me...
...At the time I didn't know why, but now I realize that I, too, had lost my innocence...
...Moishe, Boris, Gavriel, and Israel work as unskilled laborers and teach in their homes in the evenings...
...When were you last in Israel...
...I mean Kaplan is not exactly nondescript...
...I closed my eyes...
...He pulled the handle and it groaned open...
...To help pass the hours I picked up two volumes in English: Lenin: Speeches at the 8th Party Congress...
...we can sit here until you decide to answer truthfully...
...He smiled and nodded...
...I had made it...
...Then the door to one of the toilet cabinets opened, and a tall man stepped out...
...The movie depressed me...
...You live here...
...I nodded, wiping my face against my shirt sleeve, then ran upstairs to my room...
...He guided us into a building, down some steps, and into a blank basement corridor...
...A wall of men leaped from the shadows, their bodies a barrier across the sidewalk...
...I stared silently at him...
...for if I do you should know that the KGB can find you anywhere in the world and next time we meet we will not be so humanistic...
...Take it, Dov," I said, as he stared at the cover...
...An elderly gentleman with a cane walked noisily through the doorway...
...I told you," I said loudly...
...Your passport," the guard snapped gruffly in the same language, stretching out his arm...
...Suddenly a primitive, immediate need overshadowed all other considerations...
...I'm from California...
...The man urinating had to be him...
...Rabinovitch was treated similarly...
...I wanted to slow down so I would not seem too anxious to get where I was going, but I couldn't...
...He was moving stealthily, toying with me, waiting for the right moment, then...
...It was stuffy in the small enclosure...
...He would like to know where you met the men you were with tonight...
...He forcibly seated me at the end of a long table, then moved against the wall...
...Two men ushered me to a chair and began firing questions...
...Do you understand...
...I reached the intersection five minutes early...
...Checking into the hotel at 6, I was informed to my dismay that the first of the two nights allocated me in Kharkov had expired into the morning light...
...We simply want to know who sent you to the Soviet Union, what your mission was, what information you were carrying, whom you met, and what transpired during these meetings...
...I wanted to follow him...
...My lower lip quivered...
...He was waiting for me...
...He glared at me with undisguised hate, screaming something in Russian...
...I want to speak to the American ambassador," I said forcefully...
...I felt confident...
...The seconds passed slowly...
...in the hotel manager's office...
...My knocking on his door produced a shuffling of feet within, but it took some time to unbolt the three locks and unlatch the chain that ornamented his door...
...There were two toilet compartments to my right...
...Maybe you speak Hebrew...
...He flipped the book open to the title page it was autographed...
...They were guilty of passing information slanderous to the Soviet Union to a foreigner, he He dissected my every word, probing, poking, rephrasing and repeating until reality and the world of lies began to meld into one...
...Then you'll let me go...
...The two men walked out I was alone...
...Stop...
...He grunted and left the room...
...I would probably leave the following day, or so I thought...
...dropped the Jabotinsky pamphlets in the wastebasket...
...he had said nothing about the Mikhoeles manuscript...
...I pushed, consciously trying to will more urine out of my body...
...Two plainclothesmen entered...
...I refuse to answer any questions until you let me use the bathroom," I said with determination...
...As I did he slammed the door shut behind me...
...They must have been telling jokes...
...I couldn't decide what to do...
...If I as a Russian was traveling in the United States and I violated your laws the Russian Embassy could do nothing for me...
...But I thought a lot of young Jews study Hebrew in New York...
...It seemed the logical thing to do, since the plane had lifted off at 2 a.m...
...Please," he said, placing pen and paper before me...
...Within an hour I was on a plane to Moscow, accompanied by two KGB officers...
...We have enough evidence to put you in jail for 10 years...
...I sat there numb, as if I was a piece of clay into which they were sticking their thumbs...
...I am afraid you erred in your judgment...
...I taught them some Arabic curses to punctuate their biblical Hebrew...
...After writing five pages, I had pretty much exhausted the cover story I'd rehearsed in London...
...In fact I was a little disappointed...
...None, I'm a tourist...
...But if I'm under arrest I demand to be charged and told specifically what law I have violated...
...With that he decided to return to his soliloquy on the history and culture of the Soviet Union...
...I was 22...
...Do I have a choice...
...I looked around me...
...They sat together in chairs against the wall as the Colonel spoke in Russian...
...The doors were closed but they did not seem to be occupied...
...He was now leaning eagerly on the back of his seat, one arm dangling near me...
...Hooligans...
...then the Colonel and hotel manager returned...
...I had to get out, get away from the fetid odors...
...Yes...
...That night, I went to see Summer of '42...
...Well, I think I can find a few new poses of Lenin for you," he chuckled...
...Beads of sweat trickled from my armpits...
...He picked up the phone and dialed...
...I hurried down Pushkinskaya towards central Moscow...
...The old man left...
...I am a family friend of Michelle Giroux, the ambassador's secretary...
...I whispered to myself...
...Kugelman frowned, possibly puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm...
...What have I done that is wrong...
...His lips curved into a faint smile...
...He stuffed a sheaf of papers into it...
...His companion was blond, lean, and a good 20 years his junior...
...No, just English and some French...
...I slept a good part of the time on the flight...
...he asked...
...I do not understand why you brought me here...
...We have reviewed your statement and prepared some further questions which we request you to answer now...
...I had discussed Uri Frazinger the night before...
...he commanded, stepping into the small telephone booth at his side...
...Please be downstairs at that hour wearing your most presentable clothes...
...I decided to switch to direct discourse, speaking to the Colonel's face while the manager translated from the far wall...
...The Colonel sat across from me without speaking...
...Say something first...
...I took the pen in my hand...
...I knew little about the people I was working with in England...
...Then he stepped out...
...He ushered me inside, speaking rapidly...
...And as I cleared customs at London Airport, unless I was mistaken, I saw two men following me...
...He stared into my eyes...
...You have intervened in internal Soviet affairs and consorted with known hooligans...
...the manager translated...
...You demand nothing here...
...In any event, I could not decide if I should break with my cover story so easily, if such action would seem contrived...
...It was the same as in Moscow: names, places, punishments an endless tide of frustration and misery pouring out of them and into me...
...Is that satisfactory...
...Within a few seconds four uniformed men accompanied the manager of my hotel into the room...
...Dov asked, his voice muted by surprise...
...I've never been to Israel...
...No, my parents were born in America," I lied...
...But he had to be Zayon...
...A little after 10, my guide arrived, jovially introducing himself as Sam Kugelman...
...We know you were with Uri Frazinger in Haifa four weeks ago...
...They didn't know...
...Had something happened...
...Who said they are hooligans...
...The taxi skirted through the Moscow suburbs, finally depositing us I was with Dov Zaretsky, my primary contact in the Soviet Union in front of a massive housing project...
...If it had not been for that Fascist Hitler, there would be many more great Jewish minds in Russia today...
...then I got drunk...
...What are we going to see this afternoon...
...I reached down and shook my knee gently, then rubbed my hands against my thighs to simulate sweating...
...Why did you choose Kharkov...
...he asked quickly...
...Since you understand your position fully, let us continue...
...He ran upstairs to have it translated at some sort of command center on the second floor of the hotel...
...I was driven back to the hotel and escorted to my room...
...The book, My Father Killed Mikhoeles, is in part an account of the slaying of the head of the Soviet Yiddish theater, Shloime Mikhoeles, by the secret police in 1948...
...Everybody has been very polite to you here, no...
...I was just curious...
...I had been led to believe the standard threat to be 15 years imprisonment...
...My mouth hung open...
...THE KGB AND I Howard Kaplan-The arrest of a young American in Moscow lustration/William T Carrol Before venturing into the Soviet Union, I spent several weeks in London familiarizing myself with the latest developments on the Russian scene, and rehearsing the exact steps I would take in my attempt to smuggle a leading dissident's manuscript out of Moscow...
...What was your purpose in coming here...
...Go in anyway...
...The Prosecutor grunted in disgust and left the room...
...I was left alone and the door slammed shut...
...Oh, yes...
...They sat at the table across from me...
...Constantine Rabinovitch, a young engineer who spoke a superlative English, helped me ward off a barrage of questions and desperate pleas...
...The hours brushed into each other, then faded away...
...It is growing late...
...He wore a beige uniform trimmed in red...
...I asked them what I could do to help...
...It had been a small black and white photo, yet it seemed to give the impression that Zayon had black hair...
...Okay...
...I stared across the room...
...I have to start at the beginning...
...The two of us were shoved into separate rooms...
...Was that a sign of recognition...
...You are Jewish...
...It is my responsibility to abide by the laws of the country I am visiting...
...Get up...
...He informed us that our requests had been considered at the highest levels but rejected because, 'It is not in the interest of the USSR that her citizens know Hebrew even if there is a demand to study the language, which there is not.' " Each person in the room recounted his story...
...Suppose we continue this in the morning...
...The Prosecutor will be here at 10 to make a decision about your case...
...First, there are the nets that hang over the passengers' heads, where one is instructed to store his personal belongings...
...I spoke to some people who are aware of your needs...
...Shut up...
...When I finally composed myself he rose...
...Stand on the sidewalk for five minutes...
...There was no choice: I would have to wait until they left...
...and Zionism: Instrument of Imperialist Reaction...
...You have broken Soviet law...
...I have a friend in the embassy I would like to see," I said in simple French...
...After a while the old man buttoned his pants and went to wash his hands...
...I asked as I stepped into a waiting car...
...Nobody sent me...
...Beads of perspiration formed on my brow...
...Very interesting," I felt compelled to respond...
...Let me explain...
...came the barked commands...
...Mikhail, David, Haim, and I do not work at all in a country where there's no unemployment we are blacklisted and thus subject to arrest as parasites of the state...
...It was 11:45...
...Krasny's apartment had been bugged...
...mentioned casually...
...I could not be positive from the back, but I was pretty sure he was Alexander Zayon, my contact...
...How did you know we wanted this particular book...
...None, I told you Kharkov was included on my tour...
...Yet something kept me glued where I was, facing the wall...
...Quickly a uniformed officer grabbed my arm, twisted it behind my back, and rammed me against the building, hissing something that could only have meant, "You're under arrest...
...Wait...
...Slowly, methodically, almost without my noticing it, the Colonel had maneuvered me into implicating the Jews I had met in Kharkov...
...You have been associating with known hooligans," he said...
...If the KGB was going to pick me up it would happen any second now...
...Maybe he would come back...
...The first man stood over the sink, washing for a long time...
...He studied it intently for a long time...
...My voice was steady...
...The driver was sitting bolt upright, head thrown back, straining both to control the steering wheel and to monitor my responses...
...second, reading material is scattered liberally throughout the fuselage...
...That's the middle, I can't start there...
...He mumbled something, then went to the phone...
...It was Moshe Shamir's Melech Basar Vadam (King of Flesh and Blood...
...There were three urinals against the far wall...
...Now, about 500...
...He set his briefcase on the floor and snapped it open...
...When I returned to the hdtel I Howard Kaplan is a doctoral candidate in Education at UCLA...
...I took the cloth book bag from my shoulder and held the mouth towards him...
...How long could I stand there pretending...
...Their voices came one after the other, louder and faster, covering each other, smothering me beneath them...
...I will leave you alone and see that you are not disturbed...
...Returning to the hotel after midnight would create suspicion...
...I nodded...
...I don't speak Russian," I said...
...In the meantime there are a few points I would like to clarify...
...Laughing even louder, they settled in front of the two urinals to my right...
...The Prosecutor has not yet had time to review your statements of last night, so he will be delayed...
...The interrogation began again at 10 a.m...
...Several of us have been summoned and requested to refrain from conducting classes," Boris said, tapping his chest proudly...
...I wouldn't know," I said...
...What messages were you carrying for the Jews...
...I want to speak to the American ambassador immediately," I said...
...An almost painful silence followed...
...I sat as numb as before...
...I wanted to run and catch Zayon but I couldn't take the chance, I had to stay where I was...
...Suddenly I realized he must know I had transferred the manuscript...
...He strummed his fingers on the desk...
...For a while he ran through the text all Intourist guides are required to memorize...
...Alexander Zayon...
...Was I supposed to follow him...
...We teach at any hour that is convenient for those who want to learn...
...Enter," he said loudly...
...He looked like the man in the picture I had been shown, but I wasn't sure...
...He recently completed a novel...
...The situation was absolutely impossible...

Vol. 1 • March 1976 • No. 8


 
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