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 militia and leads the Red Army to a small yet significant win for the fledgling Soviet state.
As World War I yields to an uneasy peace, Romm joins Soviet intelligence. He is posted under various guises to Germany, France, Japan and Geneva. In 1934 Romm is named Izvestia‘s inaugural correspondent to Washington where he is given orders to bring key Americans to the Soviet side. But as his career reaches its zenith, Romm is suddenly recalled, arrested and forced to serve with four others as ‘witnesses’ at the notorious 1937 Moscow show trial.
Stalin’s Witnesses is a novel. While it sticks closely to the historical record, the witnesses speak in their own voices, guiding our journey through a tangle of fascinating events to tease out the underlying truths. It’s their story, and it helped set the stage for our own.