Jakob Peters

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Jakob Khristoforovich Peters (born September 22, 1886) was a Latvian[1] Bolshevik who became second in command of the notorious Cheka, the Bolshevik Revolution's feared secret police, and the most important of Felix Dzerzhinski's early deputies.[2]

Early years

Peters is said by Lockhart to have been a Latvian, but by Count Jaxa-Ronikier to have been half-Latvian, half-German.[3] He had become a Socialist at the age of fifteen and had been both exiled, and imprisoned in Riga, the capital of Kurland, in Tsarist days, for his revolutionary activities, and Lockhart stated that Peters showed him his finger nails as a proof of the torture which he had undergone. Peters was a fanatic as far as the clash between Bolshevism and Capitalism was concerned, who "pursued his Bolshevik aims with a sense of duty which was relentless." [4]

Peters claimed that he had an English wife who was, in 1918, living in London.[5]

Cheka

Following the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, in October 1917, on the 20th December Lenin issued a Decree establishing the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission through the Council of Peoples' Commissioners for Struggling with Counter-Revolutionaries and Sabotage - the Cheka. Felix Dzerzhinski was to be its head, with Peters one of the seven others appointed to the Council. Peters was active in the wholesale murder of so-called anarchists early on the morning of April 12, 1918 in Moscow, when over 100 were killed in the fighting and 500 arrested.[6] On Friday August 30 1918, Uritsky, head of the St Petersburg Cheka, was murdered by a Russian Junker named Kannegiesser. The following evening a Jewish girl, Fanny (or Dora) Kaplan, fired two shots point-blank at Lenin as he was leaving a factory where he had been speaking.[7] Her examination by Dzerzhinski was not assisted by the fact that Peters was said to have enjoyed her "favours".[8] The same day in Moscow the British agent Lockhart was arrested and taken to the Lubianka and interrogated for "sabotage" etc., by Peters who asked Lockhart was he acquainted with Kaplan. Lockhart claimed his diplomatic immunity and refused to answer his questions.[9] Peters stated following the attack on Lenin that "the masses have avenged the attempt on his life"...the number of people shot "certainly does not exceed 600."[10] Lockhart recounts several horrifying incidents involving Peters during his confinement including one where three ex-Ministers of the Tsarist government were brought in, along with a Bishop, in a terrible state. "Where are they going?" asked Lockhart? "To another world" replied Peters.[11] It is said that the total of Cheka executions during the period 1917-21 was probably well over 250,000.[12]

Peters was one of the last people to speak privately to Dzerzhinski on the day he died, when he informed Dzerzhinski by telephone that there was a plot afoot to kill him.[13]

Peters was undoubtedly a survivor, as in early 1935 he and Pospelov presented a Report to the boss of the Party Control Commission, Nikolai Yezhov, and his deputy M. F. Shkirytov, on the Society of Former Political Prisoners and Exiles, stating that 57% of the membership were non-Communist Party members, that following the assassination of Leningrad Party boss Kirov in December, 40 to 50 Society members were arrested, along with a host of other counter-revolutionary accusations and innuendos, and the Report concluded that the Society should be "liquidated". This was approved by Stalin.[14]

References

  1. Lockhart, R.H. Bruce, Memoirs of a British Agent, London, November 1932, p.258.
  2. Andrew, Christopher & Gordievsky, Oleg, KGB - from Lenin to Gorbachev, London, 1990, p.24. ISBN 0-340-48561-2
  3. Jaxa-Ronikier, Count B., The Red Executioner Dzierjinski, London, January 1935, p.185.
  4. Lockhart, 1932, pps:328 & 337.
  5. Lockhart, 1932, p.339.
  6. Lockhart, 1932, p.258.
  7. Lockhart, 1932, p.317.
  8. Jaxa-Ronikier, 1935, p.198.
  9. Lockhart, 1932, pps:318-329.
  10. Heller, Mikhail, Cogs in the Soviet Wheel, London, 1988, p.120, ISBN 0-00-272516-9
  11. Lockhart, 1932, p.329.
  12. Andrew & Gordievsky, 1990, p.41.
  13. Jaxa-Ronikier, 1935, p.304.
  14. Volkogonov, Dmitri, Trotsky, London, 1996, p.430-1. ISBN 0-00-255272-8