Letters of Protests

American intellectuals organized by Roger N. Baldwin, Chairman of the International Committee for Political Prisoners, sent the following letter to the Yugoslav representative in Washington on November 24, 1933.

     Dr. Leonide Pitamic,

     Minister of Yugoslavia,

     Washington, D.C.


     For some years past dispatches in the American and foreign press have indicated that political prisoners in Yugoslavia are suffering inhuman treatment. This committee has noted the reports and has on occasion intervened in behalf of some particular prisoner as have many associations and individuals throughout the world interested in checking persecution for political opinions and activities.

     More recently, we have obtained documentary material form one of our associates, Louis Adamic, and American writer of Yugoslav birth, lately returned from a year’s stay in his native land as a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation. Mr. Adamic’s standing as a writer of integrity and accuracy is above question. We have substantiated to our satisfaction the genuineness of the material he has brought corroborating previous information.

     In the light of these reports, and Mr. Adamic’s specific information, we desire to protest, through you, to your government against the whole system of political persecution which marks the regime in Yugoslavia today and particularly against the incredible tortures inflicted on political prisoners under that system. These reports involve authentically reported tortures at police headquarters in Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Skoplye, Novi Sad and other cities, as well as in various state penitentiaries. They affect the various groups opposed to the policies of the present government: the Croat, Slovene, Moslem, and Macedonian nationalists; the Socialists, Agrarians, and Communists.

     These reports make it evident beyond question that scores if not hundreds of these prisoners are beaten and tortured before being brought to trial. The records show about 120 known cases of persons either directly killed or so tortured that they died. Such cruel and revolting methods employed during the so-called examination of prisoners are described as sticking needles under prisoners’ fingernails, placing live coals between armpits and body, prolonged beating on the soles of the feet, driving sharp instruments into the heels and perpetrating outrages upon sexual organs. These methods are used in attempts to force confessions incriminating themselves and other men and women active in opposition movements.

     But the tortures described are not confined to the period of preliminary examination. They continue after commitment to prison. Even those prisoners convicted of such trivial offenses as distributing opposition literature or belonging to opposition groups are systematically beaten and starved. Some are reliably reported as having been inoculated with disease germs, others have had iron bands clamped around their heads for months at a time. Conditions in the prisons are reported to be so inhuman that many prisoners must sleep on the bare floors of their unheated and wet cells. Against these unbearable conditions 248 men and women in the Sremska Mitrovica Prison are now said to be on a mass hunger strike.

     Solitary confinement of political prisoners and for long periods of time is another method against which we direct our protest. A reliable report come to us that Dr. Yovanovitch, former professor at Belgrade University, a well know political economist and leader of the Yugoslav Peasant Movement, is, or until very recently, was for several months in solitary confinement. We are advised, too, that Dr. V. Machek, leader of Croat Peasant Party, in serious ill health, is incarcerated under unsanitary conditions which may lead to his death.

     We learn, too, that scores of prisoners particularly among the intellectuals, are exiled to the malaria-infested regions of Macedonia where they are required to report to the local police every few hours day and night.

     Your government must be aware that knowledge of brutalities such as these arouses the indignation of the civilized world. In the name of a section of the American public opposed to such severity against political opponents, we protest against the policies and methods of your government. So long as 2100 opponents remain in prison under conditions such as these they are a standing indictment of the claims of your government to recognition by the civilized world.

     While we are aware that condition in prisons in our own country are not above reproach, that political persecutions sometimes take place here as elsewhere, we are just as quick to condemn them here. But of all the reports which have come to us in recent years these from Yugoslavia are among the most appalling and barbarous.

      We are, Sir,

     Very truly yours,

     For the Committee: Roger N. Baldwin, Chairman.

     Authorized Signatures William Allen White, Author, Editor-Publisher of Emporia (Kansas) Gazette

     Theodore Dreiser, Novelist, Poet, Dramatist; New York

     Arthur Garfield Hays, Author, Lawyer; New York

     Oswald Garrison Villard, Editor, Author; New York

     Mary Austin, Author; New Mexico

     Sherwood Anderson, Novelist, Poet; New York

     John Dos Passos, Novelist, Dramatist; New York

     Norman Thomas, Author, Political and Civic Leader; New York

     Harry Elmer Barnes, Historian, Publicist; New York

     W. E. Woodward, Novelist, Biographer; New York

     Burton Rascoe, Author, Critic; New York

     Ernest Boyd, Author, Critic, Editor; New York

     Kyle Crichton, Author, Editor; New York

     Edmund Wilson, Author, Critic; New York

     Upton Sinclair, Novelist, etc.; Los Angeles

     Bruce Bliven, Author, Editor; New York

     George Soule, Author, Editor; New York

     Louis B. Boudin, Author, Historian, Lawyer; New York

     Benjamin Stolberg, Author, Critic; New York

     Mrs. Paxton Hibben, Author, widow of close personal friend of late King Peter of Yugoslavia

     John Haynes Holmes, Minister, Publicist, Civic Leader; New York

     Erskine Caldwell, Novelist; Maine

     Horace Gregory, Poet, Critic; New York

     Grace Lumpkin, Novelist; New York

     Clifton Fadiman, Critic, Editor; New York

     Richard L. Simon, Publisher; New York

     Eliot White, Minister; New Jersey

     Lenore G. Marshall, Editor; New York

     Carleton Beals, Writer; New York

     Newton Arvin, Critic, Professor; Northampton, Massachusetts

     George Leighton, Author, Editor; New York

bsp;Carey McWilliams, Author, Critic, Lawyer; Los Angeles

     V.F.Calverton, Author, Editor, Critic; New York

     Alfred M. Bingham, Editor; New York

     James Weldon Johnson, Author, Poet; Connecticut

     Margaret Reese, Social Worker; New York

     Nels Anderson, Sociologist; Columbia University

     Edward J. Allen, Economist; Columbia University

     Florence L. Voorhis, Librarian; Seth Low Jr. College

     John M. Brewster, Professor; Seth Low Jr. College

     Paul C. Clifford, Professor; Seth Low Jr. College

     Matthew N. Chappell, Professor; Seth Low Jr. College


     Einstein Accuses Yugoslavian Rulers in Savant’s Murder

     The following article concerning the assassination of Dr. Milan Suffly appeared in the New York Times on May 6, 1931.

     Charges the Slaying of Sufflay, Noted Croatian Leader, Was Inspired by Government. Links King to Terrorism

     Protests With Heinrich Mann Virtually Lays Parliament Killing Monarch

     Increase in Cruelty Seen

     League for Rights of Man Is Urged to Take Action Against “Horrible Brutality” of Belgrade Regime.


     Berlin, May 5.-Accusing the Yugoslav Government of the murder of a Croatian, Professor Milan Sufflay, who was struck down in the streets of Agram (Zagreb) on Feb. 18, Professor Albert Einstein and the novelist Heinrich Mann, the brother of Thomas Mann, have sent a joint letter to the international headquarters in Paris urging a protest against the “horrible brutality which is being practiced upon the Croatian people.” The letter also was signed by the German headquarters of the league.

     The Paris headquarters, upon receipt of the communication, immediately undertook steps toward an effective protest to Belgrade.

     “As the professor was walking home on the fatal day he was attacked from behind with an iron rod, according to our information, and felled,” the letter of protest reads. “On the next day, he died and he was buried on the twenty-second beside other Croatians.”

     Professor Sufflay was noted for a long list of scientific books, the letter continues.

     “Yet Agram newspapers were not allowed to report his activities, and the news of his death was suppressed,” the protest goes on. “Condolence telegrams were not delivered. The time of the funeral was not allowed to be made public and the raising of the mourning flag on the university was forbidden. The authorities went so far as to expel those school children who took part in the funeral and to remove wreaths which were bound with the Croatian national colors from the grave.

     “The name of the murder was known. It was Nikola Jukitsh. His organization (Young Yugoslavia) likewise is known. It was even known that arrangements for the murder had been worked out on the night of the eleventh in the home of the military commandment of the city, General Beli Markowitsch, at a session in which members of the Young Yugoslavia organization, Brkitsh, Godler, Martschetz and the murderer Jukitsh, took part. Yet the Agram police officially stated the next day that the name of the murderer was not known.

     Turning to the events leading up to the murder, Professor Einstein and the other signers charged that when the King visited the Croatian capital in January numerous leading Croats received letters, signed “For the King and Country,” in which their lives and those of their families were threatened if they uttered any protest while the King was there. Professor Sufflay received one of those letters, it is charged.

     “The name of these terrorist organization was Young Yugoslavia, the protest continued. “The King, in an address to the organization, told how the Croatian representatives to the Parliament had been put out of the way at his request. An example of this was the shooting of a Croatian leader on the floor of the House on June 20, 1928.”

     Following the King’s visit the murder of political and intellectual leaders of the Croatians was openly demanded in the government press, says the letter.

     “The official organ, Nascha Sloga, in Suschak, on Feb.18 wrote,’Skulls will be spilt.’ The same evening Professor Sufflay was struck down,” the letter says.

     In January the delegates to the Croatian National Assembly sent a memorandum to Geneva calling attention to the situation in Croatia.

     “The facts show that the cruelty and the brutality practiced upon the Croatians only increases,” Professor Einstein’s letter says. “In view of this frightful situation, we urge the International League for the Rights of Man to do everything possible to suppress this unrestrained rule of might which prevails in Croatia.

     “Murder as a political weapon must not be tolerated and political murderers must not be made national heroes. The league should muster all possible aid to protect this small, peaceful and highly civilized people.”

     Sufflay a History Professor

     Professor Milan Sufflay, who was murdered in Agram (Zagreb) on Feb.18, had been a Professor of History at Zagreb University for ten years. He had written many works on the history of Albania. In 1920, because of his connection with Croat extremists, he was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment for lese-majeste and high treason. On his release he resumed his political activities.

     Protest against the Yugoslav dictatorship of King Alexander have been frequent since the murder of Professor Sufflay and the many “suicides” of Croats and Macedonians in the prisons of Belgrade and Zagreb.

     Three Serbs were arrested in Vienna recently who were alleged to have been sent there on a murder mission with the knowledge of the Zagreb Chief of Police.

     The bitter feeling in Yugoslavia has resulted in numerous bombings and assassinations.

     When King Alexander proclaimed the dictatorship two years ago his chief problem was the deadlock caused by the refusal of Croatia to be dominated by a parliamentary government recruited largely from extreme Serbian sources.