To the Editors:
It will clarify the issues raised in Theodore Draper’s article, “The Mystery of Max Eitingon,” in The New York Review of Books of April 14, 1988, for me to summarize the purpose of my article, titled “Intellectuals and Assassins: Annals of Stalin’s Killerati,” in The New York Times Book Review for January 24, 1988. My article was not exclusively about Dr. Max Eitingon, the collaborator of Sigmund Freud, as one might think by reading Mr. Draper’s critique. Rather, it was a fairly brief survey covering a number of intellectuals, ranging from Dr. Eitingon to the medical anthropologist Dr. Mark Zborowski, to the Mexican mural painter David Alfaro Siqueiros and the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who lent themselves to the enterprises of the Soviet secret police, then known as the GPU and NKVD, now the KGB, during the 1930s, and culminating in the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940. That one of the figures I discussed was a psychoanalyst and close associate of Sigmund Freud was in no way intended as an indictment of Freud, of his circle, or of psychoanalysis.
The subject under debate is, briefly, that Mr. Draper questions whether there is any reason to believe Dr. Max Eitingon served the Soviet secret police apparatus in any role whatever. The essential disagreement between us consists in that I do believe this to have been the case. What is the basis for that belief? That comes down to a mass of evidence, involving certain historical matters. These are: the role of Nikolai Skoblin and Nadyezhda Plevitskaya in KGB activities and their relationship with Dr. Eitingon; the relationship between Dr. Eitingon and Leonid (Naum) Eitingon, the overall commander of the mobile terror squad operating in Western Europe and the Americas against enemies of Stalin, and the relations between the Eitingon family fur business and the Soviet regime.
Nikolai Skoblin and Nadyezhda Plevitskaya, regardless of the latter’s fame as a singer, are generally known to historians today only because of their involvement in the abduction of the White Russian general Yevgeny K. Miller and in the joint project of the Soviet secret police and the German Gestapo in the fabrication of evidence against the Red Generals who were purged and murdered in 1937. Their complicity in the Miller disappearance is confirmed by the verdict of the French court which sentenced Plevitskaya, after Skoblin’s own disappearance, to a long prison term, as well as by recent Soviet historiography. Their complicity in the forging of evidence against the Red Generals is doubted by nobody; although various historians, including Vitaly Rapoport and Natalie Grant, argue the final importance of the forged documents in the purge process, they do not challenge their existence or the participation of the Skoblin/Plevitskaya circle in their production. It is well established that the White Russian circles around Skoblin held strong sympathies in favor of Nazi Germany at the same time as the Skoblin couple maintained covert relations with Soviet Russia. In addition, the Russian exile historian Burtsev, famous for having exposed the Tsarist agent-provocateur Evno Azev in the leadership of the Social Revolutionary Party’s terrorist Combat Organization, published a pamphlet in 1939, titled Bolshevik Gangsters in Paris, in which he outlined Plevitskaya’s extensive anti-Semitic associations, including involvement with leading figures in the Union of the Russian People, a component of the notorious and fearful “Black Hundreds,” a kind of Russian Ku Klux Klan. Burtsev wrote in the same period to expose the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as, in his words, a “demonstrable forgery,” and his expertise in this area seems unchallengeable. Trotsky himself, the chief target of the mobile terror squad, wrote on the corruption of its White Russian mercenaries in an article titled “Stalin, Skoblin, and Co.,” in 1939. Other contemporary commentary on this relationship comes to us from the outstanding Soviet military and diplomatic figure F.F. Raskolnikov, who defected from the Stalinist regime and died in mysterious circumstances in 1939, and whose rehabilitation, under “glasnost,” has lately involved great pomp.
Mr. Draper has not questioned the existence of a relationship between Dr. Max Eitingon, Plevitskaya, and Skoblin. He has questioned my analysis of the character of the relationship, and has sought to minimize the possibility that Dr. Eitingon functioned, as I and other historians have maintained, as a “financial angel” for Plevitskaya. I will deal with this further on. But he has also ignored the issue, which I raised in my response to letters in The New York Times Book Review of March 6, 1988, of the anti-Semitic bigotry of the environment in which Skoblin and Plevitskaya moved. Given that biographers of Freud and historians of psychoanalysis have commented on the acute sensitivity of Dr. Eitingon to anti-Semitism, this is not a minor matter.
Mr. Draper has assailed the description by Vitaly Rapoport and Yury Alexeev, Dr. John J. Dziak, and myself, as well as Pierre Broue, whom I also cited and whom Mr. Draper ignores, of Dr. Max Eitingon as the brother of Leonid (Naum) Eitingon, the high KGB official. The issue of the Eitingons and their relationships is further complicated by the debate over the use by Naum Eitingon of the name Leonid. However, when Naum Eitingon is described as the organizer of the murder of Trotsky, it is clear this is the same person as Leonid Eitingon, named in this role in numerous books. Mr. Draper admits in his article that the eminent historian Robert Conquest, who is in a better position than either Mr. Draper or myself to judge these matters, considers Naum Eitingon and Leonid Eitingon to be the same person. But Mr. Draper failed to describe on what data Mr. Conquest bases this opinion. Mr. Conquest has informed me of an official decree of the Soviet secret police announcing the promotion to major general of Naum Isakyeyevich Eitingon, dated July 11, 1945, and of his own belief that this man was either the brother or cousin of Dr. Max Eitingon. This individual would match, in name and patronymic, the cousin and brother-in-law of Dr. Eitingon, as placed on the family tree Mr. Draper furnished to The New York Review of Books. This relationship would exist because of the marriage of Motty Eitingon to his own cousin Fanny, which, as Mr. Draper, drawing on Ernest Jones’s biography of Freud, admits, made Motty and his brothers the brothers-in-law of Dr. Max. It is also of some interest, I think, that the first printed source in the West on the activities of the KGB officer Eitingon, Georgi Agabekov’s OGPU (New York, 1931), states that Leonid Eitingon used the pseudonym “Naumov.” Such would not be the first instance of a cover name providing inadvertent means for exposure.
However, the mysteries of the Eitingon family and its relationships have yet to be fully resolved. To begin with, the Eitingon “family tree” as supplied by Mr. Draper is incomplete. The National Archives in Washington show that in 1939 a family head named Michail Eitingon applied with his dependents for a visa; Natalie Grant has found a Salomon Eitingon of London on the board of one of the Eitingon firms. Earlier visa records show even more Eitingons connected with the fur company. We now know there were two Maxes in the family; while a Naum Eitingon was certainly engaged in the textile business in Poland, how can we be sure there were not, as well, two Naums? The point here is that Mr. Draper must decide whether he is serving, in this instance, as a historian or as an advocate for the Eitingon family. In my work, I cited sources that can be checked, as did Dziak, Rapoport/Alexeev, and others. Mr. Draper has yet to produce any information on the Eitingon family that is open to independent confirmation.
In addition, although Mr. Draper has argued as if I utilized only the books of Dziak and Rapoport/Alexeev in writing my article, I also cited Natalie Grant and Pierre Broue, the latter working in complete independence from the others. There are other sources as well, including one unknown to Mr. Draper, namely, the Russian émigré writer Kirill Henkin. Henkin is described at some length (although incompletely) in Simon Karlinsky’s Marina Tsvetaeva (Cambridge, 1985); his mother was a close friend of the wife of L.I. Raigorodsky, the brother of Dr. Max Eitingon’s wife. Further, Henkin served in the NKVD in Spain under Leonid Eitingon. He has published two books in French, one on Andropov and the other, titled L’Espionnage Sovietique (Paris, 1981), on the subjects dealt with in my article. In a recent manuscript, “La Penetration Sovietique et la Troisieme Emigration,” he has described Leonid Eitingon as the “brother or cousin” of the psychoanalyst.
Finally, there is the matter of the Eitingon fur business, its relations with the Soviet Union, and the funds derived from it by Dr. Max Eitingon. It is this company that furnished Dr. Eitingon his income, as admitted by Mr. Draper. Indeed, Mr. Draper’s challenge to me rests significantly on the statement, enunciated eight times, and drawn from Jones’s biography of Freud, that after 1931, “the family business from which Eitingon drew his income was in America, and the disastrous economic situation there had proved catastrophic for it. Before long, Eitingon was for the first time in his life a poor man.”
The Eitingon fur companies appear, for some years, to have enjoyed a monopoly on the export of Soviet furs to the West. The firm reported a loss at the end of 1931, but the effect of this was neither “catastrophic,” as Jones said, nor did it bring on a “decline” of the company, as Mr. Draper claims. It seems that even with the help of a small army of researchers, Mr. Draper was unable to go beyond the work of Ernest Jones, whose own reliability I have found to be frequently questioned, in addressing this issue. We can say, for example, that the company maintained a stable business position at least up to the end of 1934. On November 20 of that year, Motty Eitingon, head of the New York office of the firm, appeared as a sworn witness before the McCormack-Dickstein congressional committee. Regarding his company, Eitingon-Schild, Inc., Motty Eitingon said, “We have all told about $85,000,000 of contracts” for the import of Soviet furs; further, that the company was strictly an importer and did not hire fur workers (therefore avoiding the overhead costs of production and inventory); that the New York office employed 70 people, and that its operations, with branches “all over the world,” involved thousands of employees.
Activities of Motty Eitingon are also covered in rather surprising detail in a volume titled The Fur and Leather Workers’ Union, by Philip S. Foner (Newark, 1950). In this work, we find that in 1937, the year in which Dr. Max Eitingon made his final visit to the Skoblin couple, the Eitingon firm was still doing a multimillion dollar business annually. But, more importantly, Foner reports that charges were made by the American Federation of Labor in 1926 that Motty Eitingon was a Soviet agent, with $8,000,000 in Soviet fur contracts. Further, a source cited by Foner as an authority on fur industry labor affairs but misidentified by him as “O’Leary,” namely John G. Leary, Jr., labor editor of the old New York World, testified in 1930 before the Fish congressional committee that he believed the Eitingon firm, then with $30,000,000 in Soviet contracts, according to him, was involved in the illegal entry of Soviet monies for subversive activities. Motty Eitingon seems to have sought an opportunity to answer this charge but not to have actually done so at the time.
In challenging Maitre Ribet, attorney for the family of Gen. Miller, in his Plevitskaya trial argument, Mr. Draper asks if “no one…should have imported anything from the Soviet Union” since, as Me. Ribet stated, all Soviet products were “requisitioned,” i.e., produced by enterprises expropriated from private interests. But the issue is not that of “requisition”; rather, it is that during the 1920s and 1930s as well as today, Soviet commercial functions served as a cover for Soviet secret police activities, including financial transactions as well as operational assignments. As early as 1922, according to a New York Times report of July 22, 1930, Motty Eitingon was negotiating for Soviet furs through the Arcos trading entity, a notorious front for Soviet espionage activities. Mr. Draper has presented excerpts from Me. Ribet’s courtroom speech as if they exculpate Dr. Eitingon, when they do not; further, Dr. Eitingon made no apparent effort to respond to Me. Ribet’s very serious remarks about the relations between the Eitingons and the Soviet government. I do not believe the Eitingon companies’ relationship to the Soviet Union was an innocent one; I believe they provided business cover for GPU operations, and that the explanations of Dr. Eitingon to his psychoanalytic colleagues were fabricated to hide a decision about allocation of funds by his Soviet masters.
This is not to say, by the way, that no decline in the fortunes of the Eitingon-Schild took place. By 1940, the company was out of business, and on August 5, 1940, its stock was stricken from the New York Stock Exchange. A report on the firm published in The New York Times for April 25, 1940, indicates that the worst blow to the company was the onset of the Second World War, shutting off its relations with the Eitingon textile subsidiary in Poland, to which it was a major creditor. This followed the seizure of its holdings in Germany, under the Nazi “Aryanization” laws, in 1938, and the sale of its properties in China. Curiously, in 1937 the New York firm had been fined by the Joint Boycott Committee of the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee for shipping furs through Nazi Germany, although in this as in other instances “the luck of the Eitingons” held—the report of the board partially exonerated the firm on the grounds that its involvement in the transaction in question was a matter of simple negligence (The New York Times, November 10, 1937).
Mr. Draper argues that Dr. Max Eitingon was, in effect, too busy with his career in the psychoanalytic movement to serve in KGB work, but he has also confused the status of an agent with that of a professional. While Dr. Eitingon, unlike Leonid/Naum, may not have been a professional GPU officer, he was certainly capable of carrying out assignments. I believe the funneling of money to the Skoblin/ Plevitskaya menage and coordination in turn of their assignments were tasks Dr. Max Eitingon fulfilled for the Soviet secret police. Indeed, the point of my article may be said to be that it was precisely such men as Max Eitingon, Mark Zborowski (who maintained two careers—as an anthropology student and as editor of the Trotskyist Byulleten Oppozitsii—in addition to his pure spying work), David A. Siqueiros, painter, and Pablo Neruda, poet, who proved invaluable to the GPU/NKVD/KGB, since their status as intellectuals provided a magnificent cover for their other tasks. One should not forget that Whittaker Chambers, who certainly served in the Soviet “organs,” was the translator of Felix Salten’s Bambi!
Mr. Draper makes much of the misidentification of Max Eitingon as “Mark,” and writes that “there is no authority for the alleged misidentification.” But I did not perpetuate the misidentification; I corrected it. In all the published and the unpublished references to the individual in question, although he sometimes appears as “Max” and sometimes as “Mark,” he is described as a friend or student of Freud, a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist, as well as a resident of Jerusalem in the 1930s. As in the case of Leonid (Naum), it was obvious to me from the beginning that this could only be Dr. Max Eitingon, as Mr. Draper himself admits. The “slip” involved in the use of “Mark” instead of “Max,” which seems to have been perpetuated by Dziak, Rapoport, and Alexeev on the basis of the Prianishnikov book, also appears in the work of Pierre Broue, who has drawn on sources independent of Prianishnikov. But neither Dziak, nor Rapoport and Alexeev, nor Prianishnikov, nor Broue can be expected to have a very broad knowledge of the inner history of psychoanalysis, and Dr. Max Eitingon, unlike Freud himself, or, say, Wilhelm Reich, is not an individual whose name has passed into the mind of the mass.
On page 40, while discussing the diaries kept by Plevitskaya in prison, Mr. Draper thanks Natalie Grant for her essay pointing out the existence of these journals and, further, “for other information.” Mr. Draper here ignores the highly interesting fact that Natalie Grant’s paper on the abduction of Gen. Miller contains an extensive impeachment of Max Eitingon, without, by the way, falling into the error of identifying him as “Mark.” For Mr. Draper to cite this source without noting my citation of it (in my article and in my reply to letters in the Times Book Review) and the support it gives my argument is, at least, a discourtesy. But let us examine Natalie Grant’s assertions. She declares that “(o)bservers sometimes trace Skoblin’s contacts with the Soviets to the early 1920s. In 1923, the Skoblin couple was visiting Berlin. They ran into a former actress of the Moscow theatre married to Dr. Max Eitingon. The Eitingon home in Berlin served as a meeting place for a motley crowd comprising politically neutral émigrés, pro-Soviet Russians residing in Western Europe, and visitors from the Soviet Union.” She goes on, later, to say, “Important changes occurred in Eitingon’s position in 1931 and 1932…. There is no doubt that the Eitingon Schild Co. of New York had sustained losses in the early 1930s…. They did not prevent him, however, from continuing to subsidize the Skoblin couple for another two years…. Did the benefactors whom Eitingon served as a channel decide in 1932 to cease supporting psychoanalysis (but) to continue financing the Skoblins? These questions open up frightening possibilities.”
According to Mr. Draper, we must assume that all this is a matter of pure coincidence. But surprisingly little of what Mr. Draper, on the other hand, has asserted about Dr. Eitingon, his family, and his relations with Plevitskaya is, in the end, either provable or based on cited sources. There remains a significant corpus of evidence on which to believe that Dr. Max Eitingon served the Soviet secret police. It is unlikely any historian will ever be in a position to tell the whole story of the NKVD’s eruption into Europe and the Americas during the Stalinist purges. That is in the nature of the subject, involving multiple levels of secrecy, denial, misrepresentation, and the rewriting of history. Nobody should understand this better than Theodore Draper.
US Institute of Peace
To the Editors:
In the article on Max Etingon, Theodore Draper, a leading authority on the history of the American Communist Party and an ex-communist, has abundantly abused and misused our book (Vitaly Rapoport and Yuri Alexeev, High Treason, Duke University Press, 1985). Because of this, I would like to make clear that our book is not about Stalin’s killerati or Freud’s pupils, as some could infer. It deals with the Red Army’s history in 1918–1938. We tried to demonstrate how Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Yagoda, Ezhov, and other heroes of “New Masses” had destroyed the officer corps just before the war. The Old Left enthusiastically applauded. The net result was 45 million Soviet citizens perished in World War II. Mr. Draper did not bother to mention these trifles.
The figure of Max, or Mark, Etingon was negligibly marginal to our research. On more than 450 pages of the book, he is mentioned 2 (two) times with little space allocated—only 7 lines. We said that, according to Pryanishnikov, Mark Ettingon most likely was working as a bagman for his brother Naum, famous NKVD operative. That was all. Out of this, Mr. Draper has created 14 (fourteen) references supported by 4 footnotes, altogether 71 lines. The polemical technique too familiar to forget! He has not even stopped before character assassination. Mr. Draper implies that Alexeev and I are either a) con artists who wrote the book here, pretending it was completed in the USSR, or b) KGB agents who in Russia had access to what he calls “anti-Soviet books” (see a footnote on page 34). I leave to the reader’s imagination to figure out why Mr. Draper has done all that.
Mr. Draper is irritated by the very possibility of the Max Etingon’s NKVD connection. On many pages of large format he was arguing that all available evidence was insufficient. In the end, however, he could not convince himself and had to come up with a different argument—mistaken identity. Why did not he start with this? You’d better not ask. Mr. Draper, as his teachers, employs the dialectical logic, not the Aristotelean one. Here is another example of this logic. In the beginning, Mr. Draper pretends to be impartial: “If he [Max Etingon] was not one of Stalin’s killers, he deserved to be vindicated, if he was….” You expect something terrible, don’t you? Not to worry! “If he was,” Mr. Draper continues, “the mystery of his double life was even more fascinating.” Understand? Being historically right enables you to win both ways—when you kill and when you don’t.
Mr. Draper has not succeeded in getting his hero off the hook. He dared not to announce: Dr. Etingon was never involved in any NKVD activities. He promised to defend Max from “intellectual assassination.” It turned out that to achieve this goal he had only one dubious method at his disposal—the same intellectual assassination.
Yet I did like the article. Its tenor and tone are so nostalgic. For two bucks, without buying an airline ticket, I breathed in a good gulp of Moscow air. Pure bargain!
New York City
Theodore Draper replies:
Stephen Schwartz’s letter belongs to the “Have you no shame, Sir?” department of political controversy.
One would hardly know from this turgid letter what his original article was all about. It was not about Dr. Max Eitingon alone, but it was far more about him than about anyone else, and without him Schwartz would have had almost nothing new to say.
The article was ostensibly about intellectuals who were also Stalinist “killerati.” By far the most attention was paid to Eitingon; the others were passed off with a sentence or two. Though I immediately saw that some of the others, especially the Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva, were treated most unscrupulously, I decided to concentrate on Eitingon as a test case of the entire article. The stories about Zborowski, Siqueiros, and Neruda have been hashed over many times; the accusation against Eitingon was treated as if it were the one new sensation.
I decided to devote myself to a detailed examination of the Eitingon aspect of Schwartz’s article not only because one man’s good name had been vilified. In this world, with all its crimes and evils, it is sometimes possible to redress a single wrong to a single person; I do not overestimate what good it can do, but the world must be an infinitely worse place if we remain silent in the face of a shameful injustice to a worthy man. I never knew Dr. Max Eitingon and have no personal stake in his reputation; he happened to embody a case of personal injustice and intellectual foul play.
But there was more to my interest. Schwartz’s article in “the most influential book magazine in America,” as The New York Times Book Review advertises itself, was an example of a type of journalistic misconduct that passes too often without challenge. I wanted to see whether I could make it into a case study of how one man’s life can be besmirched by the misuse of sources and the abuse of references that belie what they are supposed to prove. The principle here was far more important than one man.
Schwartz’s original article made three main charges against Eitingon, though one would not know this from his present letter. First, Eitingon was “instrumental in preparing the secret trial” of the Soviet generals in 1937. I challenged this absurd statement; there is not a word about it in his letter. Second, Eitingon was also “involved in the murder of Ignace Reiss,” also in 1937. I challenged this baseless assertion; there is not a word in defense of it in the present letter. Finally, there is the claim, citing one of Schwartz’s sources, that Eitingon was a “key agent” in the kidnapping of General Miller, again in 1937. In the end, this is the only one of the three that Schwartz chooses to continue to deal with. Apparently two thirds of the case against Eitingon has been given up without a struggle.
There is a reason why Schwartz has conveniently ignored the first two charges against Eitingon. If Eitingon had taken part in all three “killerati” episodes in a single year, 1937, he would have had to be a trained, seasoned, professional Soviet agent of the most hardened type; he would have had little time for anything else. By dropping two of his three charges, Schwartz has tried to make it easier to believe the third.
But these two are not the only things that Schwartz chooses to ignore. He based his original article on two books, John J. Dziak’s Chekisty: A History of the KGB and Vitaly Rapoport and Yuri Alexeev’s High Treason. I showed that Schwartz’s most damaging charge against Max Eitingon was a perversion of a line in the Rapoport-Alexeev book. The latter had written: “It is more likely that he [Max Eitingon] acted as messenger and finance agent for his brother Naum.” This surmise had no apparent source or evidence behind it. Yet it came out in Schwartz’s article as follows: “The dissident Soviet historians Vitaly Rapoport and Yuri Alexeev declare flatly in their book High Treason (Duke University Press), that Dr. Eitingon, serving his brother Leonid, was the control agent for Skoblin and Plevitskaya.”
In his long letter, Schwartz finds no room for a defense of this flagrant distortion even of his own source. The baseless surmise of Rapoport-Alexeev was transformed by Schwartz into a flat declaration. Whatever Rapoport-Alexeev wrote about Leonid (whom they call Naum Iakovlevich) need not be taken as gospel, since they cautiously prefaced their second- or third-hand treatment of him with the warning that information about him is “laughably scarce.” Their information about Max Eitingon was even more laughably scarce. This type of source cannot be used the way Schwartz used it—both uncritically and unconscionably.
In the case of Rapoport-Alexeev, Schwartz at least perverted something, with the result that one can check up on him. His other uses of source material are even more objectionable. In this letter, he complains that I ignored the description of Max Eitingon by Pierre Broué, whom he had cited. It happens that I had read the article by Broué in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky, which Broué edits. Let us take this as an example of Schwartz’s method of citation and why I did not bother with it.
In his original article, Schwartz mentioned that the French historian Pierre Broué, as well as the American Sovietologist Natalie Grant, “have done extensive research on the Eitingon-Efron-Zborowski group and its relationship with the NKVD center in Moscow.” But this Eitingon was Leonid, not Max, and even more to the point, Schwartz did not say what Broué’s research had been or what it had to do with Max Eitingon. In his letter in The New York Times Book Review (March 6, 1988), Schwartz advised Professor Peter Gay to learn from Broué’s article, again without any indication of what was in it to learn.
I saw no reason to discuss Broué’s article, because Schwartz did not bother to say what there was to discuss in it. In his article, Broué refers once in passing to Max Eitingon in a way which reveals that he had picked up absurdly apocryphal bits and pieces of misinformation. Broué refers to “a sinister name, that of Eitingon, doctor or ‘high-functionary,’ friend of Marie Bonaparte, who traded in the market of furs ‘confiscated in Siberia’ ” and, as the brother of “Naum” Eitingon, was “the protecteur of Plevitskaya” (p. 79). A “historian” who did not know whether Max Eitingon was a doctor or a Soviet “high-functionary,” who thought that his business was furs, and simply assumed that Max and “Naum” were brothers, did not seem to merit much discussion—especially since Schwartz had prudently kept from the reader what Broué had actually written.
Schwartz’s reference to Broué is a good example of how not to do research. Broué took his alleged information about Max Eitingon as possibly a Soviet “high-functionary” who dealt in furs requisitioned in Siberia from the French police files in the Nicolaevsky Collection at the Hoover Library at Stanford. This nonsense is there ascribed to the testimony in a judicial hearing of one Semenoff, the editor of a White Russian newspaper in Paris, who even said that Eitingon had been such a “high Soviet functionary” in Berlin. Broué had no independent information of his own; he knew so little about Max Eitingon that he made him into a fur merchant. We thus get Schwartz relying on Broué, who happened to hit on one of the most unreliable passages in the French police file.
Another example of Schwartz’s peculiar use of sources is that of the Russian exile historian V.L. Burtsev. His pamphlet nowhere deals with Max Eitingon. It is hard to see why Burtsev or anyone else writing on the subject of White Russian anti-Semitism should be an authority on Max Eitingon’s alleged career as a murderous Soviet agent. Dr. Max Eitingon was a victim of Nazi anti-Semitism; he became a zealous Zionist. If Skoblin and Plevitskaya moved in anti-Semitic circles, it is even more of a mystery why Eitingon should have been their political co-conspirator. The indications are that the acquaintance of Max Eitingon and his wife, Mira, with Plevitskaya was essentially social, going back to the early 1920s, and that it primarily came about through Mira, who had been an actress in a Moscow theater and to whom (not to Max Eitingon) Plevitskaya had dedicated her first book of memoirs published in 1925. All this wordage about White Russian anti-Semitism has little or nothing to do with why Max Eitingon should have worked for Stalinist killers.
A third case of Schwartz’s way with sources is that of Natalie Grant. Schwartz complains that I committed a “discourtesy” by not mentioning that he had cited her unpublished draft of an article in his original article and in his reply to letters. I did not mention his reference to it because he cited nothing of substance to mention. In his article, all he said was that she has done “extensive research on the Eitingon-Efrom-Zborowksi group and its relationship with the NKVD center in Moscow.” In his reply to letters, he advised Peter Gay to benefit from her unpublished paper, “The Miller Abduction.” After she kindly made available her draft article to The New York Review, I thanked her in my article for her citation of the diaries of Plevitskaya.
Now this quotation from her article enables me to comment on the portion cited by Schwartz. It adds very little to our knowledge of the main issue. The first part says that Skoblin and Plevitskaya were among those who came to the Eitingon home in Berlin in the early 1920s, apparently because Plevitskaya, a well-known Russian singer, “ran into” Max Eitingon’s wife, who was a former Russian actress. Nothing terribly compromising here; the Eitingon home was famously open to all sorts of intellectuals and artists. The second part asks a question that she does not answer, but that I intend to discuss later on. In any case, it is a question that hardly settles anything about Max Eitingon.
Schwartz is a peculiar type of gambler. He gambles that no one is ever going to check on his references. Broué, Burtsev, and Natalie Grant are not the only cases in point. I have checked on Schwartz’s other references in the present letter, and here is some of what I have found (the authors’ names are first given as in the books):
- Georges [Georgi] Agabekov, OGPU (1931): This book tells us nothing about the issues here discussed, except that one “Eitingon,” clearly Leonid, used the pseudonym “Naumoff.” It hardly advances our knowledge to learn that secret agents use pseudonyms.
- Cyrille Henkine [Kirill Henkin], L’Espionnage Soviétique (1981). Schwartz says this book deals with the subject of his article. It does nothing of the kind. It is primarily about the case of Rudolph Abel, a.k.a. Willy Fisher (or vice versa), the Soviet spy. Leonid Eitingon is twice mentioned briefly in connection with the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. Otherwise, there is not the slightest reference to the subject of Schwartz’s article in The New York Times Book Review.
- Cyrille Henkine, Les Russes Sont Arrivés (Scarabée, 1984). This seems to be the published version of what Schwartz describes as a recent manuscript, “Le Pénétration Soviétique et la Troisième Emigration.” It is a peculiar hodge-podge. Henkin says that he had worked in the NKVD under Leonid Eitingon, but that he had never dared to ask him about his relationship with the Eitingons in Paris. Nevertheless, Henkin makes Leonid one of the brothers or cousins in the family business. The bits and pieces in his memory largely come, Henkin says, from stories told him by his mother, a friend of Raigorodsky’s wife, the sister-in-law of Mrs. Max Eitingon. His actual references to Dr. Max Eitingon show that his memory leaves much to be desired. He has Dr. Max leaving for Israel and settling in Tel Aviv, instead of Jerusalem, during the trial of Plevitskaya in 1938 instead of at the end of 1933, after Hitler came to power in Germany. Henkin asks a number of questions about the whole affair, but concludes discouragingly: “No one today will know what really happened.” The work is an obvious jumble of what Henkin remembers of what his mother told him in bygone years, what he has read in such books as Prianishnikoff’s, and Henkin’s own freewheeling conjectures. It is another example of a genre from which one cites at one’s peril.
- Simon Karlinsky, Marina Tsvetaeva (1985). Schwartz says in connection with this book that Henkin’s mother was a close friend of the wife of L.I. Raigorodsky, the brother of Dr. Max Eitingon’s wife, as if this—even if true—has any bearing on the issues here. In fact, the connection with Raigorodsky is never mentioned in the book.
p class=”initial”>Schwartz has the disconcerting habit of throwing out a name or a book, as if that alone were enough to prove his case. On examination, I have usually found that the reference is a hoax. Schwartz seems to think that an inaccuracy, if repeated often enough, must be taken as a demonstrated fact. Every historian knows that falsehoods can be repeated ad infinitum, one author picking it up from another, especially in popular literature. Not a single source that has made Leonid-Naum Eitingon into a brother of Max Eitingon provides the slightest reason or evidence for this connection; yet one can cite at least five sources that make this statement, each repeating the previous one, without adding anything to the verisimilitude.
The issue of whether Leonid (or Naum) Eitingon was the brother of Dr. Max Eitingon has been wildly exaggerated. I looked into their relationship because it always seemed to come up in the accusations against Max Eitingon, as if this alleged brotherhood was essential to an understanding of Max’s “killerati” role. I took the trouble of making a family tree to show that Max could not have been Leonid’s brother, which was the only thing in question at the time. I did not set out to trace all the Eitingons in the world, so there was no need for me to put in Salomon Eitingon of London or anyone else of more distant lineage. A “complete” family tree was unnecessary for the purpose at hand.
Here we come to a rather brazen bluff, typical of Schwartz’s methods. He claims to have cited sources about the family relationship “that can be checked, as did Dziak, Rapoport/ Alexeev, and others.” The only source cited by Schwartz in his article in this respect was Rapoport/Alexeev. I have already shown that Dziak cites Rapoport-Alexeev, who cite the book by Boris Prianishnikoff, who gives no specific sources at all. The idea that Schwartz cited sources and I did not is ludicrous. I examined his sources at some length and demonstrated how they feed on each other and pass on the same misinformation.
Was Leonid-Naum Eitingon the same as the Naum Eitingon who appears in the family tree accompanying my article? Schwartz speculates that the two could be the same. There is a simple reason why they could not be the same. Naum Eitingon died in New York in 1964 at the age of eighty-six. We know that Leonid-Naum was still alive in 1971 (he is mentioned in a report by James Yuenger, then chief of the Moscow bureau, in the Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1971). Naum Eitingon came to the United States from Poland in 1934, a notice of which appeared in The New York Times, October 12, 1934, and stayed there for the rest of his life. He worked mainly in the real-estate side of the Eitingon business (Motty Eitingon had interests in far more than furs; he put up the first airport hotel at La Guardia). There is nothing remotely in common between the lives of Leonid-Naum and the Naum Eitingon in the family tree published in The New York Review; Schwartz is grasping at the weakest of straws by trying to make them the same person. Mrs. Mary Eitingon, the wife of Naum Eitingon’s son, Leon, who provided information for the family tree, is only one of many people who knew Naum in New York and can testify to the absurdity of any identification of him with Leonid-Naum.1
I had already reported in my article that I had been in touch with Robert Conquest about the confusion in the names of Leonid and Naum Eitingon and that he thought the two appear to be the same man. Now it seems that Conquest in a private communication has told Schwartz that he believes Leonid-Naum to have been the brother or cousin of Dr. Max Eitingon. He could not have been the brother; Dr. Max had one brother, Vladimir, who died in 1920. He could not have been a first cousin, as the family tree shows. Any other kind of cousinship can be so elusive and distant that by itself it tells us very little about a relationship, even if it could be established. In any case, not knowing whether he is a brother or cousin is a confession of ignorance of what he is or where he fits in; anyone who really knew who Leonid-Naum was would know whether he was a brother or cousin. Guesswork takes us nowhere in this matter.
Where does all this get us? Dziak and Rapoport-Alexeev made Leonid-Naum and Dr. Max into brothers, as if this would explain why Dr. Max was Plevitskaya’s “contact and bagman.” Schwartz, following them, made the same misidentification but now says, leaning on Conquest, that they may have been cousins. This is clearly no way to make a connection between Leonid-Naum and Dr. Max. Substituting an imaginary cousin for an apocryphal brother adds nothing to the case against Dr. Max.
But what is the point? If every cousin could be accused or even suspected of crimes because of a family relationship, however remote, few of us could be considered innocent. Dziak and Rapoport-Alexeev had no business making them brothers, let alone implying that the connection had something to do with Dr. Max’s alleged “killerati” role; Schwartz has even less business attempting to make them cousins for the same purpose. If Dr. Max had been a trained, seasoned, professional Soviet agent critically implicated in at least three major operations in a single year, the evidence should point at him, whether or not he was someone else’s brother or cousin. The case is even flimsier if he was not such a brother or cousin; but even if he was it is not any stronger.
We now come to Schwartz’s ultimate outrage. Schwartz wants us to believe that the Eitingon companies “provided business cover for GPU operations.” There is not a shred of evidence for this wild accusation against the entire Eitingon family business. Further, Schwartz accuses Dr. Max Eitingon of having “fabricated” the losses of his American family businesses in 1931 in order “to hide a decision about allocation of funds by his Soviet masters.” He seems to have got this idea from Natalie Grant, who wrote, as he quotes her: “Did the benefactors whom Eitingon served as a channel decide in 1932 to cease supporting psychoanalysis [but] to continue financing the Skoblins? These questions open up frightening possibilities.” These questions also open up nonsensical possiblities.2 But at least Natalie Grant merely posed this unlikely conjuncture of events as a question.
At this point, Schwartz crosses the line between distortion and defamation, not merely of Dr. Max Eitingon but of an entire family and the psychoanalytic movement. Schwartz is now in the grip of a runaway phobia that drives him to make increasingly shameful accusations to bolster his previous outrages. The implication here is that the Soviet masters provided the funds and instructed Dr. Max Eitingon to assist the Freudian movement financially until, in 1931, the funds were cut off and the instructions changed. The Soviet enmity toward psychoanalysis throughout this period was notorious; Schwartz has the Soviet Union providing its main financial support! This is no longer a denunciation of Dr. Max Eitingon; it is an indictment, through him, of the Freudian movement as wittingly or unwittingly a financial dependent of the Soviet Union. Whatever one may think of the psychoanalytic movement intellectually, no one has stooped so low as to besmirch it during some of its most creative years on this political ground.
Since Schwartz wants us to believe that all of the Eitingons’ business affairs were controlled by Soviet masters, it is hardly necessary to go into Motty Eitingon’s finances at the same tedious length. I had already noted that Motty Eitingon’s business had its ups and downs in the 1930s, most of them downs. The Eitingon company reported net losses of $2,423,584 in 1929; $1,075,980 in 1930; $1,149,345 in 1931 (The New York Times, March 8, 1930; March 19, 1931; April 24, 1932). The New York Times of April 25, 1940, which Schwartz cites selectively, shows that his company suffered steady losses from $750,384 in 1934 to $140,750 in 1939, showing a profit only for 1936. Schwartz’s version of the Eitingon company’s worst year—the onset of the Second World War in 1939—is spurious; the worst year was 1929; the company was stricken from the New York Stock Exchange in 1940 because its assets had dwindled so much. Presumably the Soviet masters allocated losses to the Eitingon businesses all through the 1930s.
Virtually all of Schwartz’s letter is a smoke screen to cover up the lack of even the slightest ground for making Dr. Max Eitingon a servant of the Soviet secret police. His letter goes on and on about matters that barely touch the real issues. He never made up his mind in his original article whether Max Eitingon was intimately implicated in three murderous operations or merely passed on Soviet funds to Skoblin and Plevitskaya. Schwartz’s method has been to pile flagrant distortions on unfounded suppositions on immaterial details.
p class=”initial”>As for the letter from Vitaly Rapoport, little need be said about it. I clearly was not reviewing his book; I dealt with it only insofar as Schwartz had used it. I gave the two passages to which Rapoport refers in full. Incidentally, Rapoport’s book did not attribute the “contact and bagman” line to Prianishnikoff (see pages 259 and 391 of High Treason); Rapoport-Alexeev can claim this contribution as their own. We are now told that they got it from Prianishnikoff, but we are not told where Prianishnikoff got it. It is true, however, that they were merely speculating; Schwartz turned their surmise into a flat declaration. I made all this clear in my article; Rapoport need not worry about it.
As for the question of his book’s documentation, Rapoport would have done better to explain rather than to complain. In the introduction to the book by Rapoport and Alexeev, the editor, Professor Vladimir G. Treml, assured the reader that this book had been “fully researched, documented and written” in the Soviet Union. But much of the documentation comes from books published in the West, particularly in the United States, such as Prianishnikoff’s, and not generally available in the Soviet Union. I was curious about this aspect of the book. Rapoport’s introduction does nothing to satisfy this curiosity.
Another point needs to be made. There is something sick about Schwartz’s article and letter. They belong in the political class of what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style.” That the article was published in The New York Times Book Review under a particularly lurid title is appalling. This article had previously been submitted to a well-known magazine, which sent it to a knowledgeable reader who happened to have known Dr. Max Eitingon and advised the editor to reject it. Even more appalling, however, is the silence for months now of The New York Times, which publishes daily corrections of minor errors but has preferred to pretend that a much more serious wrong can be ignored. Enough time has now passed for the editors of The New York Times to have checked the allegations and references in Schwartz’s article and to have made up their minds whether they wish to stand behind it. They have published something that was not fit to print; they owe their readers an explanation and an apology.
To the Editors:
Mr. Schwartz’s story about Max Eitingon, alleged brother of Leonid, the GPU general and prominent member of Stalin’s killerati, was no doubt meant to be a serious contribution to the history of our time. If true, it would have been a sensation. Unfortunately, the author did not do his essential homework before rushing into print. I know more about the subject than he does and I could have advised him, so, I am sure, would have others. Max Eitingon was no mystery figure and there are no secrets; had Mr. Schwartz only tried, he would have found that members of Eitingon’s closest family are still alive, so is his secretary, so are some friends and pupils and patients and a great deal of documentation is also available. He would have understood that Leonid was not a brother, he would have learned about Eitingon’s political views, attitudes to Russia and the Soviet Union, character, state of health, movements after 1933. And from all this he would have drawn the inevitable conclusion, albeit perhaps a little reluctantly, that he had been on a false trail, that Max Eitingon was no more a member of the killerati than Hitler one of the Elders of Zion. The reluctance to admit a mistake is a common human phenomenon but it should not be carried beyond the limits of good taste and common sense. Mr. Schwartz owes apologies to various groups of people—to the family for having out of ignorance and carelessness rather than bad faith besmirched the memory of a decent man; to students of contemporary affairs for having wasted their time inducing them to find out (in vain) whether his allegations perhaps contained after all a grain of truth, however small; to the ecologists for having used up half a forest in Canada initiating and prolonging a debate which should not have taken place in the first place.
Center for Strategic and International Studies
More Eitingon Mystery August 18, 1988
I have been told by Mary Eitingon that there was a family story about Leonid Eitingon. The name of Leonid first came to the attention of the family as a result of a story in Life magazine (September 28, 1959) on the assassination of Leon Trotsky, which Leonid was said to have masterminded. At that time, members of the family wondered who this Leonid was, because they had never heard of him. The story came from Naum Eitingon that the property of Chaim Eitingon in Russia had been taken over by strangers when he left Russia at the turn of the century. Naum said that it was common for the new owners to take the name of the old one in order to establish their right to the property. Naum believed that Leonid’s father might have appropriated Chaim Eitingon’s property and had handed down the name to his son, for which reason the legitimate Eitingons had never known or heard of him before the appearance of the Life article. I have no way of checking this story, but no one has come up with a better one. ↩
Since Schwartz has seen fit to quote from Natalie Grant’s draft of an unpublished paper, I feel free to quote another passage that shows how far her imagination can carry her: ↩