Critical references to the larger social costs of life during a brutal transitional period in the history of the Soviet state enhance our understanding of the depths of degradation to which human beings are capable of descending in the support of their own interests.
A final chapter titled “A Little Bit of History” provides invaluable evidence of the role that history played in the evolution of the Soviet “Theater of the absurd”, in addition to the fictional characters that fleshed out the narrative. All of this makes for an engrossing read."
--- Marian Rubchak, Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University
"Jay Wachtel’s 'Stalin's Witnesses' is historical fiction at its best—a gripping story that sheds light on one of the most shocking and egregious travesties of justice in modern times. With verve and brilliantly constructed dialogue to fill gaps in the historical record and to bring the historical characters to life, Wachtel chronicles the story of five individuals who were forced to testify against their fellow Communists and in so doing condemned not only the defendants but also implicated themselves in farfetched crimes. He shows what happens when ideology enslaves human beings, hollows out their dignity, and changes their dreams into nightmares. Along the way, he showcases the duplicity and hypocrisy of fellow travelers and others who for various reasons stood by, even lent credibility to the sham proceedings. Above all, he conjures up the spirit of Stalinism — a frightening reality that stills impacts the Russian people."
---Dennis J. Dunn, Professor of History and Director of the Center for International Studies, Texas State University - Author of 'Caught Between Roosevelt and Stalin: America’s Ambassadors to Moscow'
“Wachtel’s lively fictional account offers a fresh look at the cruelty of Stalin’s repression from the vantage point of one of its victims, an honest communist official and spy cast in the role of witness to sabotage at one of the three show trials of the Great Terror. The fascinating life story of Vladimir Romm encapsulates much of the Soviet experience, and the reader’s natural sympathy with this attractive figure gives his cruel fate added poignancy. A powerful indictment of Stalinism and a great read besides!”
Peter H. Solomon, Jr., Professor of Political Science and Criminology, University of Toronto, author of "Soviet Criminal Justice under Stalin (Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies Series)" and "Courts And Transition In Russia: The Challenge Of Judicial Reform"
Vilna, the Russian Empire, 1905. En route to deliver a secret pamphlet entrusted to him by his elder brothers, a young boy falls into the clutches of the Czar’s secret police.
Another decade will pass before the Crown gives way, not to liberally-minded revolutionaries like Vladimir Romm, the boy now a young man, but to the pitiless disciples of an embittered lawyer named Lenin. For the next three-quarters of a century, Marxism in its cruelest form will rule over Russia.
Returning to Vilna during the winter of 1918 for the first time since his youth, Romm finds it occupied by Polish troops. He takes charge of a Communist mil