April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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The Execution of Alexander Karpov

Finally, in March 2018 I heard from USHMM. They were not able to find anything in their database on Alexander. To continue the research, they suggested I contact an organization that handles Soviet military casualties and POWs as well as another organization that handles Jewish soldiers of the USSR killed by the Nazis etc., sites that have nothing to do with Alexander’s past. They also suggested that I contact “Memorial.”

One of the three letters in Russian that we had sent out much earlier got a reply that they have no information on Alexander.

Boris informed me in March 2018 that he had made a thorough search through the new and revised database of “Memorial” and came up with several similar-sounding names but no match. He tested the system with names of persons he was familiar with and should have been in that database but were not. In other words, even the new and expanded database of “Memorial” is incomplete. Their database contains 3 million names, but Boris has heard of figures as high as 20-40 million people killed or imprisoned by Stalin.

Boris also mentioned that during his research into the “Memorial” database he repeatedly came upon the name Yaguda as an organization that helped Jews to escape from Russia. I suspected that that name was the Russian version of Agudah, an organization no doubt active behind the scenes in Eastern Europe. Direct contact to the New York office elicited no response despite several attempts. I asked Rabbi Edwin Katzenstein for help and he gave me the name of the person to contact. Not until Rabbi Katzenstein personally contacted that person did I receive a reply saying that they had no files left.

Sallyann Sack had given me as a contact a Shalom Bernstein who had been associated with CZA who also had been active behind the scenes in Eastern Europe. I wrote to him and he replied that he hoped to be able to reply the following week.

I also wrote to the Polish Jewish Historical Institute regarding Ita’s travels and marriage.

A reply to the second of our registered letters to Russia was received in April 2018 but again without any constructive information.

Boris said that he corresponded with a Russian journalist who wrote that as far as he knew a large part of the Moscow archives was destroyed in the 1950s by Khrushchev’s orders because he wanted to cover his own complicity in Stalin’s crimes. If that is true it certainly might explain why we were hitting a stone wall in our attempts to obtain information. On the other hand, why would Alexander’s records be in Moscow instead of in Belarus? As the journalist stated, only correspondence of “high value detainees” was forwarded to Moscow.

Also, the Minsk researcher suddenly got back to Boris stating he had not replied before because there was nothing to say. According to him, the KGB archives in Minsk were not accessible at that time and he suggested we try the U.S. embassy. We had gone through that circle already previously.

Shalom Bernstein also responded after several “one-week” periods, with numerous suggestions of whom to contact. Some of these suggestions were organizations that had already been contacted by me previously and others I was going to contact now.

One suggestion was to contact Zvi Bernhardt at Yad Vashem, which I did using Shalom’s name. Zvi replied that he was passing on my inquiry to one of his staff and that they currently had a big backlog.

Another suggested contact was Rob Rozett at Yad Vashem who replied that he was passing on my inquiry to his associate Zvi Bernhardt. That is how you sometimes felt you were going around in a circle.

In April 2018 I contacted my own attorney, Ray Jacobs, to see whether he could recommend someone to talk to me about the possibility of taking the CIA to court to force them to disclose whatever information they might have, if any. Upon his request, I furnished him with copies of my FOIA requests and the responses from OGIS.

Sallyann Sack suggested I contact Shalom Bernstein who is or at least was associated with CZA. In reply, Mr. Bernstein told me that he has retired from active research but suggested I contact Rose Lerer Cohen and Israel Pickholtz, as well as the CZA website in Israel under [email protected].

Boris told me that Sallyann would be in Israel for two weeks and would get me the right parties to contact.

(To be continued in four weeks…stay tuned for a JLNJ exclusive next week)

By Norbert Strauss

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