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Resolution 1096


Communist Terror
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Czech Republic




The Things I Know About the People's Tribunal in 1944-1945

Peter Semerdjiev

The role of the [communist] party committee in [the town of] Sliven and my role, as its secretary was not limited to my participation in deliberations on the composition of the people's tribunal and the control on the trials. The severity of each convict's penalty was another issue where no decision would ever be made without taking my opinion in consideration or coordinating with my guidance. The sentence was usually decided upon in my office where I called the people's prosecutor Peter Filipov and Mara Eneva as a member of the panel of the people's tribunal. No objections have ever been made on behalf of both to my suggestions and clarifications concerning certain convicts. I recall Mara Eneva's complaint that one of the panel members in their conversations opposed her statements in favor of death sentences and was of the opinion that there should be no severe punishment and death sentences. [.]

Among the defendants-to-be of the people's tribunal in Sliven, a few were killed before reaching trial. The rest, once their sentences were pronounced, as soon as in the next two or three days, were taken by trucks out of town and shot. I know that a group found their deaths west of town, by the river Tundja. Soon after their execution the command of the Soviet troops in the Sliven region notified us that human corpses were unearthed near their camp by flood rain. The Soviets insisted that the bodies are buried more deeply and that executions be carried out farther away from Soviet military encampments so that they are not taken for Soviet wrongdoings. Another group of convicts was shot in the Stara Planina mountains beside the road Sliven - village of Ichera. One day, however, passers-by saw scattered body parts, probably uncovered by torrential rains and torn up by wildlife. I attended the shooting of the former police officers lead by police commandant, major Georgi Aleksiev. They were tied up and lined in a row, waiting for their execution. The firing squad was selected among the militia ranks. Before the firing, the police commandant shouted, "Long live Bulgaria!".

The driver who served me at that time, Ivan Yosifov, usually drove the firing squads executing the death sentences. Many atrocities have been reported, particularly in 1943 - 1944, when detained underground communist party activists and guerilla fighters were killed. They were executed in different ways and what their murderers did is only natural to be condemned. The people's tribunal executions, on their part, have often been conducted with cruelty beyond measure, but also with profanation and robbery. In our conversations with the driver Yosifov he told me that after the shooting, before the bodies were buried in the ditches, the killers cut off the victims' ears and noses and smeared the spilled blood on their faces. Then they succumbed to real marauding. They robbed the bodies, taking watches, rings and other valuables. He even pointed out that the watch of one of the victims was taken by a militia boss who not before long became the Sliven militia head of logistics.

When we remind of the events related to the so-called people's tribunal, one could not miss the killings done on the orders of the politburo of the party 's central committee. Pursuant to these, terrorist actions were committed by the party committees directed against acting and reserve officers. There are many things said and written about the people's tribunal but these orders to kidnap and kill officers from garrison towns of the country have been diligently avoided. These officers were arrested before the people's tribunal even started work. This happened not because they were deprived of the party committees' attention or were not subject to detention. While dealing with detaining and investigating the defendants under the general accusation to be tried by the people's tribunal, an instructor from the central committee arrived in Sliven to bring me a special recommendation, not subject to written confirmation. The turned to be an acquaintance, Nikola Petrov. In a private conversation, he informed me that, pursuant to a politburo decision, in every garrison, some 2-3-4 officers should be earmarked, regardless of their status as acting or reserve. They should be kidnapped and murdered without any preliminary investigation. As first secretary of the party committee I had to personally organize the implementation of this decision in the Sliven garrison. I could only share this entrusted mission with a limited number of responsible party members whom I had to recruit to help me. Together we had to earmark the victims as well as the persons commissioned for the kidnapping and killing.

"Nikola Petrov stayed in Sliven very briefly and left for Yambol and Burgas. I set to implement the politburo decision almost at once. I called on Mihail Kunev, militia commandant, former guerilla fighter and party committee member, as well as Ivan "Yonko" Slavov, former commander of the Hadji Dimiter guerilla detachment. While waiting for them in the agreed hour, I also managed to talk with Todor Stoinov, chairman of the Fatherland Front committee and party committee member, about the persons whose cruel lots had to be drawn. From these talks I took it that three people could be spotted - one was acting officer, and two who, while serving in 1923 - 1925, took an active part in the events of that time. I knew by name the young officer and lieutenant colonel Rakladjiev who was currently serving in the corps of engineers. The third one was Shangov's acquaintance. Wneh Mihail Kunev and Ivan Slavov arrived I explained what were we asked to do, told them the names of the earmarked three and asked their opinion. Mihail Kunev knew all three and he accepted my suggestion. Ivan Slavov did not know them but he did not care who they were. The more important issue we addressed was who were to become their executors. We were of the same opinion, that they had to be selected among the former guerilla fighters. We wanted to give preference to those who lived in town as they had to know the neighborhoods where the earmarked victims lived. When we enumerated their names, the guerilla commander's opinion mattered most but we all singled out Mihail Muglov with nomme de guerre Stefko, former guerilla, and Peter Radanov, also former guerilla, with nomme de guerre Bunchuk. The militia commandant was asked to call on them to explains what was required of them and stress it was a decision of the party committee. He had to supply them with convenient weapons. They were obliged to do the kidnappings and killings of the two military men in the nearest days. The kidnapping and killing of the third one, lieutenant colonel Rakladjiev, was commissioned to Peter Shangov. According to his plan, the victim was to be kidnapped in the village of Binkos, some 15 miles west of Sliven, and killed there, as it was done.

The evil order was fulfilled. It happened that the young officer's wife went searching for her husband to the militia precincts. She said two people came to their home, called her husband and he did not return any more. She has the impression he was detained and asked where he was. She even stated she knew one of the persons who committed the kidnapping and would recognize him if she saw him. From her description it was clear that she spoke of Mihail Muglov. To avoid meeting with her by chance, he was sent to the town of Karnobat in disposition of the local militia precinct while his relocation was arranged. Peter Radanov was sent to the Bulgarian-Turkish border to the 11th infantry regiment units stationed there. Peter Shangov organized the kidnapping of lieutenant-colonel Rakladjiev and with the help of communists form the village of Binkos he was murdered there. His wife tried to learn something about him but she was served the legend that he was taken to that village to a debriefing, to tell about his participation in the 1925 events. It was ascribed to him that under his command then arrests were made of local villagers and some of the underground activists apprehended were reportedly shot. It was insinuated that he made use of the weak security that night, managed to escape and his whereabouts were unknown.

I am telling of my participation in the preparation and organization of the so-called people's tribunal in Sliven because I believe that by doing so I am helping give an example of the things past, so that in this town the truth of what was committed at that time across the land be shown to some extent. At that time I had the opportunity to learn what was happening in the district of Burgas. On the other hand, my meetings with party activists from other districts and counties and what they shared confirmed my experience. I learned what was going on in their regions. All informations highlighted the general strategy that was conducted. The differences related to some details, in most cases due to the fact when was the local power transferred into the hands of the local communist party leaderships and to what extent were they stabilized immediately after September 9, 1944, and the next couple of days. There may be found some data showing that, in some smaller towns and villages, it might have been done by individual communists before party committees were even formed there. Having in mind, however, that in all district party centers the district committees were either functional or restored immediately, and the communist party central committee established connections with them immediately, the uniformity displayed in the repressive measures committed everywhere is explainable. Each district party committee on its behalf in counted hours and days established communication with its subordinated party organizations. Moreover, central committee plenipotentiaries were present at the more important district committees. Through then, on the eve of September 9, 1944, general instructions were transmitted to neighboring district committees as well, and they reached the individual party organizations and even some guerilla detachment. For instance, Gocho Grozev and Vasil Markov, central committee members, were in Plovdiv, and in Yambol, Dimiter Dimov was the one. A few days before September 9, Stoian Karadzhov was sent to Varna and Nikola Georgiev to Pleven as instructors, etc.

"Literaturen forum" weekly, February 2 - 9, 1998

Translation from Bulgarian by Dr. Neli Hadjiyska and Dr. Valentin Hadjiyski

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