FRANCE: Petlura Trial

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Crime. Simon Petlura was shot at the corner of the Rue Racine, and the Boulevard St. Michel, on May 25, 1926. As M. Schwartzbard described the murder to the court:

"Here's my chance, I thought. 'Are you Petlura?' I asked him. He did not answer, simply lifting his heavy cane. I knew it was he.

"I shot him five times. I shot him like a soldier who knows how to shoot, and I shot straight so as not to hit any innocent passerby. At the fifth shot he fell. He didn't say a word. There were only cries and convulsions.

"When I saw him fall I knew he had received five bullets. Then I emptied my revolver. The crowd had scattered. A policeman came up quietly and said: 'Is that enough?' I answered: 'Yes.' He said: 'Then give me your revolver.' I gave him the revolver, saying: 'I have killed a great assassin.'

"When the policeman told me Petlura was dead I could not hide my Joy. I leaped forward and threw my arms about his neck."

"Then you admit premeditation?" asked the judge.

"Yes, yes!" replied M. Schwartzbard, his face lit with fanatical exultation.

Trial. The case opened with M. Schwartzbard telling the court in a high pitched voice and halting French, his beady eyes gleaming, his face suffused with joy, how he had tracked Petlura down. With a photograph of his intended victim in his pocket and a loaded pistol in another, he was wont to roam the street peering into the faces of passers-by to see if they were Petlura. All this, he said, he did to avenge the assassinations of his coreligionists. Finally, he found and killed him.

One Reginald Smith, an Englishman, a reputed eye-witness of the crime, was called to describe the crime. Quoting Shakespeare, he ended his testimony by referring to Schwartzbard's expression as Petlura fell: "He wore an expression of 'exaltation mixed with anguish.' "

Many witnesses called by the prosecution declared that Petlura was not an enemy of the Jews, but Maitre Torres insisted that "Petlura's proclamations expressing indignation over the pogroms were mere blinds. While murdering Jewish men, women & children, he had to maintain a straight face before the opinion of the world. He also wanted money from Jewish bankers."

"No," said a massive Slav, "Petlura was not antiSemitic. He was a humanitarian—a friend of the Jews."

"No, no, no, he lies!" chorused a dozen people in the court in as many languages.

"They cut them down with naked blades," screamed M. Schwartzbard.

"I accuse that man of being an agent of Moscow. I swear it a thousand times!" roared another witness for the prosecution, pointing an accusatory forefinger at M. Schwartzbard.

"You—! You—!" yelled Schwartzbard, jumping to his, feet, incoherent with rage, his shoulders quivering in spasmodic jerks. Recovering his powder of speech, he continued:

"Do you remember the terrible days of 1910 and 1911 at Kiev? Do you remember the accusations that Jews were using Christian blood for Easter ceremonies? You hate me because I am a Jew!"

"No," screamed the other in a high falsetto, "because you are a Bolshevik!"

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