Before the bar of justice stood Captain Wilhelm Langfeld, 52, of Frankfurt on the Main, Germany.
"Is it established that orders for mass executions of innocent Soviet people were issued by the German Government?"
"Yes," answered Langfeld.
"How many Soviet citizens did you kill yourself?"
"It is hard to say exactly, but I think about 100."
"How many were killed by the Germans in Kharkov and Kharkov Province?"
"I heard about 30,000 and about the same number in Kiev."
Outside the courtroom, Kharkov's Theater Hall, workmen were busy opening mass graves,, carefully lifting rotted corpses, heaping up the bones.
Thus last week Moscow reported the beginning of the long, slow process of calling the Nazi executioners to account. In London, the Allied War Crimes Commission was wrestling with technicalities of such trials (TIME, Dec. 20).*In Kharkov, they had begun. Not since the trials of the Trotzkyites had there been such proceedings in a Soviet court.
Four Men. Three political generations of Germans were on trial. Langfeld, the oldest, was a horse-faced, clean-shaven, lipless veteran of World War I who told his story coldly. Weak-chinned, pompadoured Reinhard Retslow, 36, an agent of the Secret Field Police, was bored, contemptuous. Lieut. Hans Ritz, 24, was a small man with a caved-in chest, a gnome-like bald head and an infantile expression. The fourth defendant, Mikhail Petrovich Bulanov, was a Russian who had hired himself out as a chauffeur of a Nazi death van; beneath close-drawn eyebrows his eyes peered sharply at the court as the tribunal secretary read the four men's confessions. Their crimes ranged from rubber truncheon beatings to participation in mass executions.
Four Tools. These men were tools, and behind each was a chain of higher and higher personages reaching up to the topmost ranks of Naziism's hierarchy. Steadily, implacably, the Soviet courts would follow up this chain. At Kharkov, the pattern of prosecution, trial and judgment was unfolded.
The trial lasted four days. On the fifth day, in Kharkov's devastated square, the men were hanged.
*One technicality: Russia claims representation for 16 Soviet republics on the Council Since these include the Baltic States, annexed by Russia as three Soviet republics, acceptance would be tantamount to recognizing their annexationa step which even the Moscow Conference did not take.