HEARINGS BEFORE A SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, UNITED STATES SENATE, SIXTY-FIFTH CONGRESS, THIRD SESSION AND THEREAFTER, PURSUANT TO S. RES. 439 AND 469, FEBRUARY 11, 1919, TO MARCH 10, 1919
Subcommittee: Mr OVERMAN, North Carolina, Chairman; Mr. William H. KINO, Utah; Mr. Knute NELSON, Minnesota; Mr. Josiah O. WOLCOTT, Delaware; Mr. Thomas STERLING, South Dakota.
TESTIMONY OF MR. WILLIAM W. WELSH.
(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)
Senator Overman. Where are you from, Mr. Welsh?
Mr. Welsh. New York City, I should say now.
Senator Overman. How long have you been in this country ?
Mr. Welsh. Twenty-seven years.
Senator Overman. When did you leave Russia?
Mr. Welsh. I left Russia at the same time as Mr. Smith, the 1st of September last .
Senator Overman. How long were you in Russia?
Mr. Welsh. Just lacking a month of 2 years.
Senator Overman. What was your office over there?
Mr. Welsh. I was in the National City Bank.
Maj. Humes. In what capacity?
Mr. Welsh. As a junior officer; subaccountant.
Maj. Humes. Mr. Welsh, will you just state in your own way your observation of conditions from the time you reached Russia, during the revolution, and the conditions as they existed in Russia during that time, to the time of your departure?
Mr. Welsh. We arrived in Russia in October, 1916, which was several months before the March revolution, the first revolution. After we had been there some time, a month or so, and learned a little Russian, you could hear an undertone of protest against the Czar, and especially against Razputin and the Czarina. The revolution was looked for at the end of the war, when the soldiers returned, but came, though not as a surprise, yet earlier than people had expected.
The first days of the Russian revolution were perfectly wonderful. Madame Breshkovskaya yesterday spoke of the wonderful spirit of everyone at that time. I can confirm that; that the people, from the aristocracy right straight through to the soldiers on the streets, showed a wonderful feeling of brotherhood which, of course, was expected to be capitalized for the welfare of Russia, but which seems to have been perverted by the Bolsheviks.
Senator Nelson. Were you there when Razputin was killed?
Mr. Welsh. Yes. One question that has been asked and which I noted was this: What class of people came to Russia from America, after the first revolution? I met most of the people that came into the bank, and met a great many of the Russians who came from New York to Russia, and in almost every instance they had been in this country from 9 to 10 years, from the time of the first Russian revolution in 1905 until this second revolution. This was not an unusual statement by many of them, and it was given by one in particular. When I asked him why he came back, he said. ” Because I have come back to a free country.” He asked me, ” Do you think America is a free country?” I said, “I know it is.” “Well,” he said, “do you know you can not say anything you want or do anything there you want to?” I said, ” No, not in time of war.”
(At 4.55 o’clock p. m., the subcommittee adjourned, to meet tomorrow, Saturday, February 15, 1919, at 10.30 o’clock a. m.)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1919.
United States Senate,
Subcommittee Of The Committee On The Judiaciary,
Washington, D. C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10.30 o’clock a. m., in room 226, Senate Office Building, Senator Lee S. Overman presiding.
Present: Senators Overman (chairman), King, Wolcott, Nelson, and Sterling.
Senator Overman. The committee will come to order.
TESTIMONY OF MR. WILLIAM W. WELSH—Resumed.
Maj. Humes. Mr. Welsh, will you take up your statement where you left off last night and tell us the conditions us you saw them said found them? ~
Mr. Welsh. I think I was relating about the influx of the Russians [i.e. Russian Jews] from America just after the revolution, and of the fact that as they came into the bank to bring in their American dollars for exchange, and to make change, it was not unusual at all to have them interrogate you and say, “What kind of a country do you think you have got over there in America? I suppose you think you have got freedom. Do you suppose, that a person can, like they can in Russia, go out and say anything that he wants to with perfect freedom of speech?” I said. ” No, the United States is at war, and every loyal American ought to keep his mouth shut.” Many showed very strong antagonism to the United States. I made it a point to ask as many as possible how long they had been there. Most of them had come into the United States in 1905 and had remained in the United States 9 or 10 years. In almost every case none of them had applied for or taken out any citizenship papers, and they came back there condemning the United States.
Senator Nelson. And they were leaving the United States and coming back to Russia because there was no liberty in the United States!
Mr. Welsh. Yes. Because there was no liberty in the United States.
Senator Nelson. They were coming back to Russian freedom?
Mr. Welsh. Yes, they were coming back to Russian freedom. Of course, Russian freedom to them is freedom, because they are now on top. Many of them are Bolshevik loaders, like Shatoff. who has been spoken of.
Senator Nelson. But freedom to them meant the right to exploit everything and everybody else but themselves.
Mr. Welsh. Yes, sir.
Senator Overman. To take what they wanted, do what they pleased, and shoot down whomsoever they pleased, if necessary.
Mr. Welsh. Yes, sir.
Senator Nelson. Were they well supplied with money ?
Mr. Welsh. No, not necessarily. They were well clothed, as compared with the Russians, because a laboring man in this country would be a bourgeois in Russia.
Senator Wolcott. You say a laboring man in this country would be a bourgeois over there?
Mr. Welsh. Yes, according to Russian standards.
Senator Wolcott. What makes him a bourgeois? Suppose he is not a house owner, but he does own household property, has got a piano and has a home and comfortable bedding, beds, bureaus and such things—a home nicely furnished—would that constitute him a bourgeois in Russia?
Mr. Welsh. Yes.
Senator Wolcott. Even though he does not own his own home ?
Mr. Welsh. Not only that, but if a man is well dressed and wears a white collar.
Senator Wolcott. He is a bourgeois?
Mr. Welsh. To the average hooligan, as they call the Bolshevik supporters, who are the rough necks there, every man that wears a white collar, or a woman that wears a hat, is a bourgeois.
Senator Nelson. The Russian workman wears a blouse, does he not?
Mr. Welsh. Yes, sir.
Senator Nelson. With a kind of belt around it?
Senator Overman. A woman who wears a hat is in the bourgeois class?
Mr. Welsh. Yes. It was not uncommon at all to hear conversations in the street cars of the peasant women, or working women, addressing women who had on hats, saying, ” You people who wear hats, you think so-and-so,” and then going on in a tirade against them; but the distinction was, ” You women who wear hats.”
Senator Wolcott. What I am trying to get at is this. When we speak of the bourgeoisie, many people have the idea that they are the class referred to in this country as the well to do, the people who have laid up some substance, saved a little something, and have got a little bit invested, but that is not the case, from what you say now. It simply means a person who is enabled to live in comfortable, decent surroundings, without necessarily owning any property other than household goods, comfortable household equipment and so on. Now, that is the bourgeois, is it, that kind of person ?
Mr. Welsh. Yes, sir.
Senator Wolcott. In other words, the typical laboring man would be a bourgeois in Russia ?
Mr. Welsh. The laboring man in this country, as he lives, with what he owns and the conditions of his life, that condition of life put into Russia would make him a bourgeois?
Senator Wolcott. And would mark him as a person to incur the enmity of this ruling crowd there?
Mr. Welsh. Yes, of the Bolsheviks.
Senator Wolcott. And they would take away what he had ?
Mr. Welsh. They might take it away. But what surprises me is this. There are a great many supposed Bolsheviks in this country, who, if they were to step on Russian soil, would be immediately taken as bourgeoisie, and before they had been there very long would be considered counter revolutionists.
Senator Wolcott. They would soon find themselves in the class marked for starvation?
Mr. Welsh. Yes; they would be in that class.
Senator Nelson. Did these Americans that came over to Russia— I mean these East Side fellows that came over, that you have described—actively enter the ranks of the Bolshevik crowd?
Mr. Welsh. Yes.
Senator Nelson. And become officials among them?
Mr. Welsh. Yes. There were some—not many, but there were some—real Russians; and what I mean by real Russians is Russian-born, and not Russian Jews.
Senator Nelson. You mean Slavs?
Mr. Welsh. Yes; people who had been really political exiles, who came over in the hope, as Madam Breshkovskaya expressed it yesterday, that they now had realized their revolution. Those people are now in Russia, and if they have not starved, they are starving, because they can not work with the Bolsheviks, and with the Bolsheviks there is no compromise; you are either with them or against them.
Senator Nelson. There were a few there that were real Russians, you say. What were the balance? Were they Russian Hebrews?
Mr. Welsh. There were many, yes.
Senator Nelson. Did the Hebrew element predominate among them?
Mr. Welsh. I can not say it predominated, but it was very noticeable.
Senator Nelson. They joined the Bolsheviki, did they not?
Mr. Welsh. Yes.
Senator Nelson. They were not like the others that you have described, that were disappointed?
Mr. Welsh. No. It might be well to explain a little the general fact that most of the Bolshevik leaders are Jews, in order to avoid misunderstanding. In Russia it is well known that three-fourths of the Bolshevik leaders are Jewish. This fact does not prove, however, that the Bolsheviks are pro-Jewish or that the Jews are pro-Bolshevik in Russia. In many cases it happens that decidedly the opposite is the case. The Bolsheviks claim to be first and last internationalists and anticapitalistic. I know of several cases in which well-to-do Jews have been persecuted in quite the same way as the other Russian bourgeois. A Jewish factory owner, whom I knew very well, was hounded for months by the Bolsheviks and spent most of his time away from his own home in the houses of his friends. Hp had finally succeeded, however, in buying off the Bolsheviks. He recited to me the instance of a friend of his, a Jew, who was arrested by the Bolsheviks and held for 100,000 rubles. His wife, on the advice of friends, protested that she could not pay that much. They told her to get what she could, and she returned with 50,000 rubles. They then said that she had gotten that so easily she could go and get some more. She returned the second time with 10,000 rubles, which she paid over. She was then told if she wanted her husband she could have his body.
Bolshevism can not be explained along racial lines alone. The Bolsheviks are made up of the very worst elements of many races. It is important, however, that Jews in this country should not favor Bolshevism because of any liberties or privileges which they may think are being accorded to the Jews in Russia by the Bolsheviks. They should study the facts carefully and not be prejudiced by any racial feeling, or they are sure to bring the odium of Bolshevism unjustly to the door of the Jew. The best Jews in this country would do well to brand the Jewish Bolsheviks in Russia as anti- Jews, which they really are, for they bring nothing but discredit to the Jewish race.
Senator Overman. It was testified yesterday that they had searching parties that went into people’s houses at all times of the day and all times of the night, and took food and everything they found. Were these people that went over from this country who were there, this crowd you described, in the searching parties, in order to maraud, raid, steal, and kill?
Mr. Welsh. No, the searching is done by the soldiers and people lower down. These people who come over from the United States. being intelligent, educated people, became naturally the leaders. As an instance of who might make up these searching parties, take this case: The sweetheart of our maid was the son of a Bolshevik commissar, though he himself was not a Bolshevik, and we had conversations many times in our house. He had been working for the Trayolgolnik Rubber Company, there, which was shut down because they expected the Germans to come in. That is the largest rubber company, perhaps, in the world. There was no work. Although his father was a Bolshevik, he was not a Bolshevik, yet he joined in with these searching parties; for, as he said to me, ” If I do not do it, somebody else will, and I have to live.”
I have with me some coins that he sold to me that were taken in these searches. Some of his young Red Guard friends who used to come to the house and have tea with myself and the others would say, “Of course, we are working for the Bolsheviks, because we have got to live.” But I remember in the month of June last, when everyone was anticipating the overthrow of the Bolsheviks, these same two were saying that they, too, expected their overthrow, and I asked, “Then what?” “Then we will have a constitutional government, perhaps the cadets, or social revolutionists, and we will work for them.”
I spoke on a Tuesday night in May with this particular young boy, the sweetheart of the maid. On Thursday morning at o o’clock I was awakened by soldiers coming into my bedroom and asking for my passport. They were polite and said. ” Do you know Victor Stronberg?” I said, ” Yes.” They said, “Who is he?” I said, “He is engaged to our maid.” They said. “Have you seen him lately? ” I said, ” I saw him two or three nights ago.” ” Did you see him last night?” I said, “No.” ” Did you see him the night before ?” “No.” ” That is all.” They went out.
I put on a bathrobe and went out into the kitchen, where soldiers were stationed. In the dining room they had my maid and another young Russian who had also been a soldier, but was not a Bolshevik. They were cross-examining them. I asked the Bolshevik commissar what it was all about. He said, “These things we do not talk about in public.”
They took the maid and the soldier off at 7 o’clock in the morning. They were held under arrest until 7 o’clock at night. They were brought before the commissar and the commissar said to the maid, “Do you know Victor Stronberg?” The maid answered, “Yes; I was engaged to marry him.” The commissar said, “I simply want to tell you that he was shot last night.” There was no reason given, and, as far as I know, even though the father of the boy was a Bolshevik commissar, they had not been able to ascertain why he was shot. There were conjectures, but they did not give reasons. They did not need to.
Senator Sterling. Have you reason to suppose that there were many such executions as that, summary executions without trial or hearing?
Mr. Welsh. Yes. I want to put in here one statement. A person that comes out of Russia and who has been out of Russia one month is not in a position to state what is the condition in Russia at the present time. You can tell what the trend of events has been. But for people who have come out of Russia a year ago to stand up and talk as authorities on Russia is ridiculous.
People might ask me if I personally knew of British or Americans who were persecuted while I was there. I left on the 1st of September. My answer would be, no. The British were not allowed to leave; that is, the young British of military age were not allowed out of Russia. However, a young Englishman who was connected with our bank succeeded in escaping from Russia one month later. We came out the week when the terrorism began, when Lenine was shot at and Uritsky was killed in Petrograd, and the next week came out the statement. ” For every Bolshevik. 1,000 bourgeoisie.”
Senator Sterling. What did that mean?
Mr. Welsh. That meant that they would stand up against the wall 1,000 bourgeoisie for every Bolshevik that was shot. […]