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The curious case of the missing dogs

- A photo is taken in the Bois de Boulogne, January 25, 1937. It is published in Excelsior, a Paris newspaper. Excelsior was in the avant garde of newspapers, trying to combine the photogenic style of Life with the quotidian pace of your usual daily. Its archive is a treasurehouse of photos. This one has a certain dramatic movement. It shows a corpse in a clearing in the bushes. All that remains of the Russian economist N. N.’s “governante”, most likely his housekeeper, from the accounts of other newspapers, stands in her woolen dress at the head of the corpse, and is making some point to the detectives who are grouped at the corpse’s side. There’s a rather soggy newspaper at the housekeeper’s feet. In the center of the group of detectives is Commissaire Guillaume, who is bowler hatted. In the background, the trees are bare, wintering. This grouping distinctly resembles certain Renaissance paintings — a pietá for the era of Detective magazine and the gangster.

- Another photo appeared in many papers on January 26, 1937 and afterwards, whenever some event or statement from officials made the murder hot again. It was published on the front page of L’oeuvre, Le Journal, Le Petit Journal, Le Matin, and the Republique among other newspapers. It is an undated portrait photo showing N.’s face. Rimless glasses, a broad bare forehead, a somewhat petulant expression about the mouth, a little moustache.

  • The posthumous life of the murder of N. has become a variant in one of the great binary structures that define Cold War mythology. Depending on who one’s favorite candidate for the murderer is, his name figures in two series of victims. One series consists of Eugen Miller, Rudolf Klement, Walter Krivinsky, General Koutiepov, and Ignaz Reiss. This is the Comintern series. Another, opposing series consists of Laetitia Toureaux, Carlo and Nello Rosselli, and Marx Dormoy. This is the fascist series. Left/Right, powerful absolutes. There are other names one could add to the first chain — for instance, Juliet Stuart Poyntz, or Leon Trotski. To the second chain one could add Maurice Juif and Jean Zay. The first series haunted the Cold War liberals; its shades attended parties with the Partisan Review notables and went to Cultural Conferences where, it was decided, Communism was the God that failed. The second series ended up in court in 1947–1948, in the Palais de Justice in Paris, where it was called the trial of the Cagoule — the nickname for the underground, extreme-right group of terrorists that operated in France from 1936 to 1938. More properly the Comité secret d’action révolutionnaire (C.S.A.R.), or as they called themselves, Organisation secrète d’action révolutionnaire nationale. Cagoule means hood, and the word comes, vaguely, from the initiation ceremony, which involved a black hood and an oath that bound the life of the oathtaker to the organization. The ferocity of the ceremony was devised by F. — who in this narrative murdered the Russian economist N.

- The postwar trial was not, by all accounts, a satisfactory reckoning; strings were pulled and the bloodiest perpetrators fled abroad — for instance, F. — to other lives and names. Many of the accused were out of prison in less than a year. One of them, in fact, went on to rise to the head of a huge international corporation, L’Oreal, successfully navigating the postwar world until, at the end of his career, attention was suddenly focused on his anti-semitic salad days. The burning of Paris’s synagogues. Under the approving eye of the German occupiers.

- After the postwar excitement of the purges, the collaborators, the lovers of German soldiers with their shaved heads, the affair was buried under the non-gaze of the turned backs of the French establishment, generally.

- N.’s corpse is one of the facts in our universe of facts, we hold this truth to be self-evident. As for everything else about the scene, from January 1937 until now, self-evidence has not been the order of the day. The blurring began with the first newspaper reports, with their conflicting details (mostly small) and their heavy implications about who did this (a bigger and bigger argument), and none of this was really cleared up.

- There were witnesses: one, M. Theophile Levoeuf — sometimes misspelled Leveuf or Le Veuf. The ligature is often bobbled. Use your search spelling accordingly. Two, M. Mallet. A cantonnier. That is, a roadworker, streetsweeper, repairer of the trails in the park, general presence in the streets of this part of Autueil. He’d been operating on Rue Michel-Ange, he’d often swept the sidewalk in front of 28 Rue Michel-Ange, “a pavilion” that went for at least 24,000 francs in rent per annum (the corpulent corpse it appeared, lived well, on an income estimated at “300,000 francs” per year). Three, the people who fled when the cops arrived, which always happens. Four, the anonymous sources feeding info to the police, or to private investigation agencies, blackmailers, informants, whisperers, who play it back to interested parties and the press. A political assassination is what we have here, with the attendant confusions, both real and designed. Agendas out the ass.

- Mr Levoeuf, January 25, 1937, 10:20 a.m. The weather is — as all accounts agree — “glacial”. Mr. Levoeuf, an unemployed accountant, living at 25, Rue Le Marois (the addresses in this story are, oddly, of a specificity…) is making for the bus stop near the gate to the Bois de Boulogne park, the Porte de Prince, across from the Roland-Garos stadium. “The witness crossed paths with an elegant, corpulent man with a still young face, under a crown of white hair, dressed in a beige tweed jacket and gray flannel pants, accompanied by two dogs, a white fox terrier and an auburn haired spaniel.”

- The clock is ticking.

- M. Levoeuf moves forward. Somewhere on the street the roadworker, M. Mallet, is busying himself with his usual observations of the neighborhood. M. Mallet, we suspect, was the kind of man who had a drink with the cops now and then. Had a second source of income, perhaps. His tips, their tips. As we will learn from the papers in the days ahead, M. Mallet is no ordinary streetsweeper, but a man of parts in his own way. He spent time, in his youth, in a Russian speaking milieu. He prides himself on accents, and can tell proper French from sloppy French, a Slavic accent. What an appropriate streetsweeper for the Russian economist N.’s street!

- M. Levoeuf is now at an angle from the gate into the park. He can look over the barrier into the park. ‘The gate of the Princes, which gives access to the woods, faces the street of the same name. The place where the body fell is thirty meters to the left of the [walking] path, which is to say, seen from the gate, slightly to the left of the line going perpendicular to the gate. Levoeuf… was on the side not of the woods, but on the opposite side, near the busstop where he was waiting to attend to his “business”. The distance between these points is 150 meters.”

- Does M. Levoeuf have any idea that his face, with a black beret, his everygull’s face, is going to be on the front page of many of Paris’s papers tomorrow? He does not. Did his friends goof about it with him? Or did he have friends? We know little about the life of this unemployed accountant at the beginning of 1937. After the difficult year, 1936. Year that Leon Blum was elected, on the Left. The Popular Front. Year of the strikes, the reforms. The civil war breaks out in Spain. But M. Levoeuf is a minder of his own business, from the brief bit of his life that surfaces in the paper. So when he sees the man with the dogs and another man arguing, it doesn’t attract his attention. Maybe they are exercise partners. Not M. Levoeuf’s world, frankly. This is Autueil, where the residents have the big francs, and perhaps M. Levoeuf is even here this morning to dream a little about becoming, one day, a success and getting a villa or apartment here.

- As an unemployed bookkeeper, he is probably not on the side of the factory worker. Petit bourgeois, this guy. These distinctions count in 1937. The headlines in the great dailies are about Stalin’s show trials, with the fantastic confessions of the great group that once made the Russian revolution. One of the accused was a friend of the man in the park, L’Humanité -the Communist newspaper — thunders that they are traitors all. Le Jour, on the right, goes in for the irony of quotation marks: The accused Trotskyists of Moscow continue their “spontaneous confessions”. LeVoeuf is likely more interested in the Petit Parisien story about the soccer match Sunday at Roland-Garros: “The Austrians squarely beat France.” Being unemployed, though, does M. LeVoeuf even give the newsvender 30 centimes for a paper, or does he simply forage among the newspapers left behind on benches and bus seats?

- M. Levoeuf is taken out of whatever daydream he is nourishing by the sight of the conclusion to the dispute in the park. “The two men appear to be boxing!” “Suddenly one of them collapses”.

- One account of what happened at some point between 10:30 and 11: “The witness heard no cry, no shot. Two small dogs walk around the fallen man, barking furiously. M. Levoeuf hurries to where the pugilist lay. He found the corpulent man, comfortably clothed in a beige tweed sweater and flannel pants, with expensive moccasins, extended, face down. He leaned over, wanting to help the wounded victim. He turned him on his back. But he saw, with horror, that the blood was escaping in abundance from a gash in his left cheek. A red spot was growing larger and larger on the gray wool vest of the victim. M. Levoeuf saw instantly that the man was dead. He cried for help. A park guard came, stopped for a moment, stupefied, and said he knew the man.” (Le Journal, January 26, 1937).

- Or: perhaps: “In his clenched hand he [the victim] still held the two leashes of his dog. The two dogs were there, a spaniel and a fox terrier, at the foot of the master, two poor beasts who understood nothing of what had just happened, whose worried looks seem to await an order.” (le Petit Journal, Jan. 26, 1937)

- Or perhaps: “the dogs were howling” (Le Jour, Jan. 26, 1937). Or perhaps: M. Levoeuf had “a difficult time separating the dogs, a fox terrier and a German shepherd [sic], who vigorously defended the remains of their master as he approached.”(Petit Parisien, Jan. 26, 1937). Or perhaps, as Candide, a weekly, reported later, after Levoeuf turned the body over, and saw the man was dead, “at that moment a road mender was passing by with his cart. Levoeuf hailed him and asked him to remain by the body, while he himself, stopping a car, went to find a guard.” (Candide, Feb. 25, 1937).

  • Or: “Two great dogs accompanied Comrade N. whenever he stirred abroad, and being a courageous man the Soviet economist persisted that morning in his habit of taking a brisk constitutional in the Bois de Boulogne. Several witnesses last week heard and saw what happened. A man with a pistol coolly fired three shots at close range, next grappled N., drove home four blows with a long thin knife, and nimbly escaped as Paris passers-by rushed to help the stricken man but only drew to themselves the snarling attentions of his two big dogs.” (Time Magazine, 2/8/1937)
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- Some clues. Item 1: The Russian economist’s cane. “As to the makila cane which, like all canes of this sort, carries a steel blade surmounted by a wooden handle. It is difficult to open, and only N. possessed the unlocking device that let it be lifted by the handle, exposing the blade.” “We observe that the victim did not use his cane to defend himself; now, this cane was a sword-cane”. Police Magazine, Feb. 7, 1937.

  • Item 2: A newspaper. The Figaro reported that at the first reconstruction of the crime, the guard — perhaps M. Mallet? — found a copy of L’Humanité on the ground, all wrinkled up. He assumed, or someone assumed, that the paper had been use to “hide the weapon from curious eyes.” The guard smoothed the paper out and put it over M. N’s face. A move of startling symbolism. And perhaps all spontaneous? A coincidence? Or was this a ballet of a sort, organized by a superpowerful underground organization? “There are not just known forces in this world. We have to understand that there are secret forces. I believe, Monsieur, that my husband was killed because he was too intelligent, that he knew too well the underside of things, that he knew too many things. He is the victim, I am sure, of an occult force that is neither fascism nor bolshevism.” Mrs. N., January 28, 1937, Paris Soir.
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-Item 3: Two pairs of glasses, one rimless, gold wire framed, the other hornrimmed. Both with broken lenses. Found among the autumn leaves on the path. “With spectacles on your nose and autumn in your heart” — Babel’s definitive phrase about a certain kind of Jewish Russian intellectual. N. was a certain kind of Jewish Russian intellectual. History, with its heavy hand. The police learned that N “never took off his glasses” and did not possess hornrimmed glasses. Thus, the hypothesis is: these must be the murderer’s glasses.

- Item 4, the clue that has never made sense: four douilles, shell casings. “The shell casings found near the body were examined again, yesterday, because it was supposed that they were dog protection shells, used to ward off threatening or bounding dogs. The examination and comparison show they weren’t, and that they really contained bullets.” They were 5 mm bullets, from an arm not common in France. Much later, a year later, the world learned that they matched the kind of bullets found in a box in a cave in Paris, marked Imperial Chemical 1. British. A box seized in a police raid.

- The report that a large luxurious car owned by a member of the Soviet embassy was parked nearby. The discovery of a note in a phonebooth with N.’s name on it up the street from his house. The stories in the emigre Russian press.

- They were not heard, these shots. A silencer? Later on, this empty space in the jigsaw puzzle was filled in with a silencer. And yet — where did the bullets go? N, as the autopsy revealed, was not shot, but stabbed, and not just stabbed but stabbed with some special instrument. “Wound transfixing the lung and the aorta, made by a long instrument, tapering to a strong point, presenting sharp edges, like a dagger or the point of a bayonet.” The point of a bayonet. Words that must have echoed in certain quarters. “His death had the effect of a bomb in high quarters. This time, they understood we weren’t joking.”

- “There could be a tie between the personality, in spite of everything a little weird of the assassinated man, and the mystery of the drama itself. There exists, in spite of everything two unknowns in the problem of the tragic discovery in the Bois: the secret activity of N. attested to by the news of his death, by the high personalities of the political world, and the motives for his tragic end.”

  • In 1937, this is how the newspapers reported the facts on the ground. And then: the iconic montage of his last half hour changed. You can pinpoint the inflection point: August 19, 1945. On that day, L’Aube, a formerly rightwing paper that was now editorially committed to leftwing Gaullism, published a memoir by “Commissaire X.” about the N case. It is a strange document. For instance, Commissaire X. gets the date of the murder wrong — January 24 instead of January 25. N. has only one dog in X.’s account: a “little fox that gamboled around him.” Then: Everything happened very quickly. F. threw himself on N, who defended himself. The little dog barked furiously and bit the pants of the aggressor of his master. F. turned after having thrown N. down with a blow from his fist. He drew his revolver and laid the red haired dog out, stiff and dead. He returned to the man, who was trying to lift himself up, and larded him with blows from a bayonette. All this took a minute and a half.” This account echoes through the canonical texts about the C.S.A.R. to our own day. For instance, in Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite’s Murder in the Metro (2010), N. has one dog, a fox terrier, who is killed with a bullet from the murderer of N. N., in this account, also struggles to get up and is stabbed to death while lying on the ground. The classic account of the Cagoule by Phillipe Bourdrel which included interviews with members, written in 1971, copied this account. So did Christian Bernadac’s notes in his edition of the journal kept by “Dagore”, from 1969, who was actually the young and horny Aristide Corre, the leader of the “deuxieme bureau” of the C.S.A.R., in 1937 and 1938. The martyred, gamboling fox terrier who ends up dead by his master’s side solves a mystery that was not solved in the original investigation: why did F. shoot four times, and why did he miss at such close quarters? The loyal dog that attacks the murderer comes from folkloric sources deep in the European heart.
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- It is as if N.’s murder took place in two different possible worlds: one in 1937–1938, detailed, speculated about and caricatured in the newspapers, with the surprise accusation at the end; and one post 1945, in which testimony from police officers working from memory, the info dump of dossiers of the police archives full of the speculations of informers, and the echoes of the rumor mill on the extreme-right produced an impression that spread virally in the journalistic and monographic histories. The natural history of the detail. The way natural selection operates on mutant information. The ghosts of dogs wagging their ghostly tales. Gamboling.

- Is the erasure of a detail a detail?

- Eight facts about the Russian economist N. (probable)

- 1: Son of the celebrated biologist, S. N. Born in Moscow, August 30, 1889. Wife, Marie S., born March 12, 1889, at Karkov. Daughter, Helene, born 1926. Cook, Catherine Creutz, 34. Maid, Emma Engel, 24. Secretary, N.K. Angoraki: with whom he argued. Angoraki published a hostile story about him in the most popular émigré Russian newspaper, Les Dernières Nouvelles. On January 25, 1937, he was using two secretaries to deal with his very busy correspondence.

- 2: Graduated from Kiev University with a law degree. Served as Vice President of the Red Cross committee for prisoners of war, first in post in Denmark, then in Russia, in 1917. “During the first revolution of Kerensky, N worked actively with the French social-democrat, Albert Thomas, an envoy to Russia who was trying to re-enforce the East Front. Working with Thomas, N. helped create shock troops with escapees from German prisoner of war camps.’

- 3: 1921, came to Paris and worked with a Scandinavian bank. At the same time, he became involved in the founding of “a Russian spiritualist masonic lodge.” A friend of his was quoted by journalists as saying that N. went to Genoa as a private individual and conferred with the Soviet delegation, who were trying to normalize relations with the Western powers and ended up signing the Treaty of Rapallo with the Germans. After Lenin died, he returned to Moscow and worked for the Industrial Bank, a Soviet bank meant to finance industrial projects. In 1927, left his position and returned to Paris to become the director of the Soviet controlled Commercial Bank of Northern Europe, which operated in close conjunction with the Soviet embassy to arrange trade deals between the Communists and the West. He was on the radar of the Deuxieme bureau, French military intelligence. Informers said that he was hand in glove with the GPU, the Soviet intelligence agency.

“I still hear the voice of N. telling me, in 1928, around: ‘The day man invented numbers he contracted a sort of insurance against uncertainty. Because we can change everything, but the numbers will still be numbers. This is why it is necessary that there be men who take care of numbers who are as careful and serious as those who cultivate tulips.”

- 4: In 1930, Moscow recalled a number of officials from Paris; many decided to stay in Paris and broke with the Soviets. N. stayed: the papers said he was “purged”. By this time, much to the alarm of the Sureté (and other private organizations that were collecting the names of communists and communist sympathizers), he had embedded himself in the elite of economists, businessmen and bankers that wielded considerable power in France. He became a member of something that came to be called the ‘synarchy’ — if such a thing really existed. A hot topic among historians. The phrase that was originally meant to designate something like technocracy, but came to represent the invisible, the gloved hand of the bankers, of the richest families, of their minions. Both the Left and the Right had worries about the synarchy — and both the Left and the Right took money from the synarchs, or at least the leading bankers and industrialists who were supposed to be members of the synarchy. N. did well for himself: he was, the papers noted, a counselor for Ford’s motor operation in France, Matford. His friends included Anatol de Monzie, a politician who held down several posts (Minister of Education, 1932, Minister of Labor, 1938, etc.); and M. Spinasse, the Minister of the National Economy. He was an eminence grise in a number of overlapping communities, socialist, capitalist, masonic, Zionist. He spread a sort of pre-Keynesian gospel of easing monetary restraints and increasing global trade, within the constraints of his Ricadian model.

- 5: N. promoted his views with public lectures. He was associated with a group of economists and political scientists — known as the Groupe X-Crise — who cast themselves in the mold of FDR’s “brain trust”. They formed a proto-think tank advocating non-orthodox economic approaches to end the Great Depression. They had great influence on France’s center-left goverments. N. advocated deficits and getting off the gold standard — anathema to the right, which saw these steps as undermining the rentier foundation of bourgeois society. The liquidation of the rentier class. Keynes’ phrase. Redolent of the highhanded, brutal policy talk of the interwar period. N. was eager to spread his ideas, writing books, articles in specialized journals, and a regular column for La Republique, which was founded and edited by Emile Roche. Roche, was a Synarch. Roche was Groupe X. Roche was a Free Mason. In fact, many of the influential French figures N. associated with were members of the Masonic lodges in which Navachine was a highly active participant. Is this sinister? The great number of Masons in positions of power attracted the evil eye of the very Catholic French far right, which was suspicious of all international organizations which clothed themselves in a vague enlightenment liberalism. The Enemy! When France fell and the Vichy government was formed under Petain, one of its first acts was to make membership in the Masons illegal.

- 6: N dreamed of reconstructing the international trade order. He dreamed of an international trade organization — like today’s WTO — which could coordinate national trade policies. N was allergic to revolutions. In an essay on revolutions he published in 1934, he claimed that all revolutions fed on themselves because they lacked the technique — and the technicians, like himself — to institute successful policies. Revolutionaries tried to realize their social values without having a firm sense of the mechanisms that made collective projects work. “The impossibility of [their] constructions is paid for by those who are declared the enemy of their goals. This, again, is infallibly repeated. If affairs don’t succeed, there must be someone responsible. The find this agent in the past, among the ones who have been stripped of their property, the ones who once were in front. And the less things go right, the more these must be pursued.”

- 7: In the weeks up to the murder, the Russian economist was worried about something, said Mme Rochet, the proprietor of a restaurant in Auteuil where the Russian economist often dined. Question: was this where he was spotted by a table of men, all members of a secret extreme-right organization? After the war, L’Aube published a reconstruction of the plotting that led to the Russian economist’s murder. It is placed in an Auteuil restaurant, and purports to represent a conversation between the conspirators, who don’t completely understand: why N.? Though N., all are agreed, is no good. Question: will his murder really precipitate the longed for counter-revolution?

- 8: “January 29. The funeral of the Russian, N., assassinated in the Bois de Boulogne, took place today. The mourners were represented by Mme N. and her daughter.” “The police also received an anonymous phone call” which proposed that “a madman in an irrational gesture struck down N.”. He was buried in Cimetiere Montrouge. The madman, it was reported, harbored an irrational hatred of dogs.

- Except for the Communist newspaper, L’Humanité, and its companion paper, Ce Soir, edited by ex-surrealist Louis Aragon, the general consensus in the press in February, 1937 was that N. was murdered by the GPU — Stalin’s secret police. The “wet works”, mokroye delo. GPU, NKVD, SMERSH. Like giant threatening graffiti written on the city walls, these acronyms. Blood spatter print. They created vivid fantasies in the Western mind, a new shudder down the spine, a kind of intelligence poetry was born. “This is the story of a police force that never failed to get their man, of a gang of killers unrivalled in history.” Yet even in February, 1937, the voiced suspicion that N. was struck down, for some reason, by the GPU was a solution in search of a motive -as well as, not incidentally, some humble forensic evidence.

- In February, 1937, there was a strange ripple in the far right press. Shall we say, N was posthumously isolated? Enter a new character: Gaëtan Sanvoisin. A literatus. An old hand from birth.

- “This morning, a letter from Gaëtan Sanvoisin, always precious in his turns of phrase.” Paul Leautaud, Journal, January 2, 1943. The preciousness, the backdoor familiarity with all the mustier institutions of the literary culture — Figaro, the Academie Francaise, the prizes, the Revue des Deux Mondes — this was Sanvoisin’s beat. Born in Moulins in 1894, he first appears in the Paris media in 1919, as a theater reviewer. He rose through the ranks of the papers, did good interviews — famous one with Clemenceau — adept at drumming out the rightwing, and sometimes far rightwing, line. Here he is in Figaro, December 10, 1930, stirring up the scandal of Brunuel and Dali’s film, L’age d’or: “The political intention, if one may say so, is undeniable. It is a matter of a special kind of bolshevisk project, yes, really special, which aims at corrupting us. Lenin’s propaganda has found, in certain studios, an unexpected, more or less improvised, assistance.” Here he is in 1933, bemoaning the influx of German Jews, with their revolutionary outlook, into France since Hitler gained power. Here he is, in 1943, being appointed to the office of chief censor of the press in the Vichy government. Here he is, apparently never actually taking the post. And here he is, post-war, advancing in the same old cultural environment, the Revue, the Academie, even ushering in Roger Caillois — once a member of the College de Sociologie with Bataille, surely Sanvoisin’s enemy in the thirties — into the Academie in 1965. A Cold War synthesis, of sorts. An old hand.

- The thing about Sanvoisin is: though he shared the extreme-right’s opinions, he did not share their style. Not for him Leon Daudet’s overheated stews, his monotonous denunciation of the Jews. Not for him, even, the incandescent conspiratorialist rhetoric. Maurras on Leon Blum: «that naturalized German Jew, or son of one… shouldn’t be treated as a natural person. Its a monster of the democratic Republic. … Human detritus, to be treated as such. Sanvoisin would not have expressed this kind of sentiment in so many words. Instead, under his own name, he preferred the mandarin chuckle.

- “Will some dramatist or novelist be tempted to narrate, barely transposing into the imaginary life the real, observed life, the existence of one of those characters which France, stupified, learns the name of, and at the same time his important political role, on the day after his death?” Gaëtan Sanvoisin, In the Margins of the N. Affaire, Journal des Debats politiques et litteraires, Feb. 1, 1937. The day of N’s burial. Sanvoisin compares him (after piously disclaiming that he is comparing him) to the famous Jewish swindler, Stavinsky, who caused a scandal and the downfall of the French government three years before. Jews. Foreigners. The readers nod.

- In fact, somebody was working on creating a highly colored life of N. A somebody named “Alain Selby”, whose imaginative re-creation of N.’s life (“the triple agent”) appeared at the end of February in a biweekly, Candide, edited by men in the circle of the extreme right. Is Alain Selby a pseudonym for Sanvoisin? Who often wrote for Candide. Is the name a secret joke, does it encrypt a riddle? The world “adventurer” figures prominently in N.’s new life. The three part poison pen portrait, going to almost 10 000 words, was well advertised, and crept into the public mind. Here was an image of N. much different from that drawn by his friends. Gone was N.’s work for the Red Cross. Gone was his position with a Swedish bank, which first brought him to Paris. Gone was his career as a writer, all those columns in the Republique advocating, with laborious moderation and, it must be said, a Krylovian love of the fable, a pre-Keynesian relaxation of state budgets and the suspending of the gold standard. In its place was a “ Cagliostro”, a coward, a sponger, an epicure, an incorrigible conspirator. The series was filled with oddly specific information that came from no quoted source whatsoever: for instance, that N. was a key figure in the Treaty of Rapallo; that N. was a member of the Cheka, drawing a salary of 200 dollars a month; that N. had an office in the Lubyanka, the NKVD’s building in Moscow, no. 159; that he is no. 178 in the NKVD and known as the Doctor.

- “A naturalized Russian, a double or triple agent, N.…” Le Monde, 1993.

- “The Doctor”. This is, perhaps, a wink. Because there was a man known as the Doctor, after all, in the C.S.A.R. Henri Martin, a Belgian, a presence in every extreme right group in France going through the sixties. Martin ran a surreptitious information bureau — Maison Martin — which insinuated intelligence tidbits, some true, some false, to politicians and journalists. N.was on Martin’s list. His sources were no doubt rightwing members of the French intelligence. Mixed, of course, with bits from the synarchs, and with lies.

- These private information collecting offices: one of the commonalities of the Cold War. Usually staffed by disgruntled ex-inteligence officers, rightwing tabloid journalists, private eyeS, assorted strong men and blackmailers.

- N. checked a lot of boxes.

- Who killed N.? The affair seemed to be in permanent stall as the months went on. The popular rightwing papers, Le Jour, kept alive the theory that N. was another victim of the GPU. May 17, 1937: “… on the day of the crime, a powerful automobile stopped not far from where the Russian was knifed. In the interior of the vehicle was a woman, who was rejoined by a blond man. Investigators are trying to find a soviet personality whose car is similar to that seen at the Bois.” Another of Stalin’s victims, this N. And, in his death, revealed as well as a Soviet agent. It was a doublesided accusation.

- Then:

- on May 16, 1937: Laetitia Toureaux is found alone in a car in the Paris metro with a knife in her neck. The knife “was stuck in her neck with such violence that it sectioned the spinal column.” The killer did it rapidly, and slipped out of the metro car before it began to take on passengers. Laetitia Toureaux, it appears, was a multi-talented woman. She was an assiduous visitor to the Italian embassy, where Mussolini kept contact with his French allies. She had a lover in the “second bureau” — military intelligence. She was a B girl in Montmartre, a frequenter of police spies and streetcorner hoods. And, it turned out, she also had a lover named Gabriel Jeantat. M. Jeantat, as it happened, held a post in the command structure of the C.S.A.R.

- on June 9, 1937, a man went for a leak on the side of a road outside of the small Normandy town of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne and discovered the bodies of two men in the ditch there. Carlo and Nello Rossellini, well known figures in anti-fascist circles. Carlo had made a famous escape from Mussolini’s penal island, Lipari, in 1929, and had since represented the anti-fascist Italian community in exile. The bodies had been shot and stabbed more than seventeen times. The car that they had been driving was discovered, too. The killers had attempted to blow it up by leaving a bomb in it, but the fuse to the bomb had been drenched by a shower. The car proved to be a goldmine of clues.

- on July 29, airplanes meant to supply the Republicans in Spain in were destroyed by a bomb in Toussus- Le-Noble.

- on September 11, a bomb goes off in the posh quartier de L’Etoile in Paris, destroying a building at 4 Rue de Presburg containing the office of the Confederation general du patronat francais, the organization of business leaders, killing two. A second explosion, timed to go off at the same time, 45 rue Boussiere, but it killed nobody.

- These explosions suddenly brought to the attention of the Parisian newspapers a series of explosions that had been occurring all year: a bomb attack in the cathedral at Montpellier on March 15, the same day as a bomb attack in Nice against a Spanish grocery story; a bomb attack against the express train between Bordeaux and Vintimille on May 5; and a bomb attack in Marseilles against ships loading grain for Republican Spain.

-These events lead to action by the police, under the leadership of Leon Blum’s secretary of the interior, Marx Dormoy, who announces, in the autumn of 1937 that a whole network of members and supporters of an unknown terrorist organization, trying to overthrow the state, had been busy, trying to create an atmosphere of coup d’etat. The headlines publicize a new and resounding scare-acronym: C.S.A.R. F. flees. Photographs appear of policemen pointing to rooms, escorting men into cars. Many are mid-ranking manager or engineer types. A lot of them come from the Michelin industrial base in Clermont-Ferrand. Some are so excited about what they have seen or done that they spill, others are more closed mouthed. Extensive weapon caches are found, evidence of a healthy cash flow. Where did the money come from? The police used their informants in the group (just as the C.S.A.R. used their informants among the police) to untangle the atrocities. As well, they found papers. Antoine Corre, “Dagore”, the head of the Cagoule’s own “second bureau”, had kept a list of all the members, which the police found, searching his apartment. Indiscrete! In his journal, he remarks that he realized, for the first time, that he could be killed for his betise — by the group itself. He’d pledged his life! He hastily left Paris — with his mother in tow. Left his lover, the aristocratic Helene d’Alton, whose penchant for not wearing panties had driven him crazy.

-For a covert revolutionary group, the C.S.A.R. left a detailed paper trail. Papers which revealed, among other things, a scheme to kidnap Leon Blum, the president, take him to a prepared torture chamber, hurt him into confessing his crimes and then kill him.

- In the police files, one can see crystalizing the reluctant conclusion that N. was not, after all, brought down by the GPU, but by the C.S.A.R. That the trail of corpses led from Navachine to the Rosselli brothers. Who were stabbed as well as shot. And stabbed. And stabbed.

- The finger pointing at the extreme-right was received with resistance and disbelief by the extreme right press. The latter stuck to the theory that the GPU did it. Stories were produced about other people who were stabbed to death and could somehow be associated with the GPU. Some opted for the bold theory that the GPU had penetrated the C.S.A.R., manipulating the extreme-right organization to assassinate and bomb.

- Why would an extreme-right group bomb the organization of executives, though? Here the C.S.A.R. showed ingenuity. For the first time in the twentieth century, a rightwing organization organized a series of crimes under a strategy later made famous, in Italy in the 1970s: the strategy of tension. The terrorist plants false flag bombs, commits false flag murders. The press and public blame the left. A reassuring military coup is staged. Order is restored.

- Some newspapers on the left pump up the angle of F., the executioner. But F. isn’t there. F. is never there. Elusive, the man with the hat, the thug’s glare.

- It is as though a historical particle splits. Particle and wave. One N., the corpse lying in the bushes, among the C.S.A.R. and in the files of the Surete, is killed by F. But another N., who is lying dead in the bushes with his dog, is killed by Stalin. “Comrade N., formerly in the service of the Soviet Government , had broken with the Kremlin and threatened to deliver a lecture exposing the treason trials. This would have been extremely embarrassing to Stalin, inasmuch as he counted on the continued support from Blum, Herriot and other French Left leaders. As N. was walking in a Paris park a man fired at him and fled. N. would never give the anti-Stalin lecture.” Henry Cutler Wolfe, Soviet Imperialism, 1940.

“Remember, the Communists have had much practice in secret assassinations and political kidnapping. Since 1930, they have developed their techniques. Did you ever hear of Eugen Miller, N., Klement Krivinsky, Koutiepov? All murdered secretly, or abducted.” Helen MacInnes, Pray for the Brave Heart, 1955.

“Only in 2004, KGB related historians published the name of the assassin: Panteleimon Takhchiyanov, officer of the NKVD special reserve. Different sources give different reasons for this murder but, suffice to say, for many years N. had served as the vice-director and then director of the Banque Commerciale pour l’Europe du Nord (BCEN), a Soviet banking institution operating in Paris under French law. Back in March 1930 Grigory Besedovsky, a Soviet detector, named N. as a secret agent of the OGPU who regularly wrote reports to the NKVD station in Paris.” Boris Volodarsky, letter to History Today, 2010.

- An anecdote — or is this a parable? “The files that were amassed by the police during their investigation of the C.S.A.R. in 1937- 1939 were taken to Bordeaux after the lines were broken in the North of France and the Nazi armies came in. In 1944, Judge Beteille, who had originally presided over the case, went to Bordeaux to find them, but they seemed to have disappeared from the building in which they were supposed to have been stored.

One of the people in the building advised Beteille to question the concierge, who was now in retirement. He sent for the concierge, who told him that unknown people, before the catastrophe, came and had the files enclosed behind the wall the broom closet When the Germans came and asked questions, the concierge played dumb. A policeman had the wall battered down, and the Judge had the satisfaction of finding all his documents from 1939.” The blog of Erick Labrousse.


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