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Leon Trotsky 19390410 Letter to Gerard Rosenthal

Leon Trotsky: Letter to Gerard Rosenthal

April 10, 1939

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p 811-816]

Dear Counselor and Friend:

    1. It seems that Mrs. Jeanne Molinier is claiming that my first marriage, to the mother of my daughter Zinaida, was not legal. This is a worthless allegation like so many others. In the first volume of my autobiography, I said of my partnership with Alexandra Lvovna: "To avoid being separated [in deportation], we had been married in the transfer prison in Moscow" [page 124, My Life]. And I had not the slightest reason to invent this passing assertion, the truth of which is, besides, well known to all my friends. As was mandatory under czarism, we not only had a civil marriage but a religious one as well. Alexandra Lvovna from that time on used my legal name, Bronstein, and this name was published in the Moscow press at the time of Alexandra Lvovna's deportation to Siberia in 1935. If necessary, one could easily verify this in the Moscow edition of Pravda of that time.

    2. No less worthless is the allegation by Mrs. Molinier that my late daughter Zinaida was not legally married to Professor Volkov. Mrs. Jeanne Molinier's allegation is all the more contemptible because she herself is well acquainted with the facts. Zinaida came to join me in Turkey with a legal Soviet passport in the name of her husband, Volkov, which would hardly have been possible if they were not legally married. Moreover, her son, my grandson, was included in the same passport under the name Vsievolod Volkov. That signifies that the marriage was recognized as legal by the Soviet authorities.

    3. My grandson Vsievolod Volkov traveled from Turkey to Paris and from Paris to Germany with a legal passport issued by the Turkish authorities on the basis of Soviet documents issued by the Soviet consulate in Constantinople. This legal passport was kept by my late son and is today in the possession of Mrs. Jeanne Molinier. She must produce this passport. Her refusal is tantamount to a confession of fraud. Besides, as I have already stated in my letter to the Minister of Justice, one may easily find in the records of the French police official documents on the two entries into France of the young Vsievolod Volkov, grandson of Trotsky.

4. On January 5, 1933, my daughter Zinaida Volkov committed suicide in Berlin. The matter had major repercussions in the world press, and especially the German press. Enclosed is a small part of the press clippings I possess: twenty German clippings, one Russian clipping, and one French clipping. All or almost all of these clippings refer to the press release of the Berlin Prefecture of Police, which was based on the most legitimate documents, and spoke of my daughter as Mrs. Volkov, nee Bronstein. These clippings also explain how the Soviet consulate in Berlin had used trickery to rescind my daughter's Soviet passport. This is why the only document identifying Vsievolod is a Turkish passport, which is, I repeat, in Mrs. Jeanne Molinier's possession. The aforementioned press release of the Berlin Prefecture of Police proves the legality not only of my daughter's marriage to Volkov, but of my marriage to Alexandra Lvovna, for it explicitly speaks of Zinaida Volkov, nee Bronstein. Besides, if it would not be inconvenient to refer to the Prefecture of Police in Berlin, the facts could be confirmed without the least difficulty.

    5. I enclose in addition three letters written by the German lawyer Oscar Cohn to my daughter Zinaida. They had to do with the extension of my daughter's German visa, and Dr. Oscar Cohn, who knew what a legal name was and was familiar with the documents, spoke of Zinaida as Mrs. Volkov.

    6. I enclose a letter from my son-in-law Platon Volkov to me during my exile in central Asia (1928). Naturally, the letter does not contain any formal information on the legality of the marriage, but by its content it shows that the relationships in their family were close and affectionate.

    7. I enclose photostatic copies of three postcards written by my daughter Zinaida a short time before her death. Their importance lies in the fact that they are signed Zinaida Volkov, my daughter's legal name.

    8. There was, besides, never the least doubt on the part of Mrs. Jeanne Molinier about my legal rights with respect to my grandson Vsievolod Volkov, and she proved it beyond all misunderstanding a few months ago in a letter to me of March 17,1938, in which she acknowledged with no prompting that she had no legal rights to custody of my grandson, and in which she asked with insistence that I "give" him to her, a request which would have made little sense had she herself not recognized that henceforth I was to be the only one in the world who could "give" him or not.

    9. I never entrusted my grandson to Mrs. Molinier, but to my son Leon and, as she was my son's companion, to Mrs. Molinier. I should establish here that Mrs. Molinier had four years previously broken all relations with my wife and me. The reason for that was that we had not come to the defense of her former husband, Mr. Raymond Molinier, who was under heavy moral and political criticism. From long experience I had come to the conclusion that this criticism was completely justified and that Mr. Raymond Molinier is not worthy of trust. The sole fact that I had not come to his defense (which I could not do in good conscience) sufficed for Mrs. Jeanne Molinier to break off all correspondence with us, to communicate nothing to us about my grandson, even when I was interned in Norway or when I had to leave Europe for Mexico. During the past three years it has been my son who had kept us informed about Vsievolod Volkov's growth. Under these conditions there can be no possibility of my giving custody of the little boy to Mrs. Jeanne Molinier personally.

    10. After our son's death I tried with all my might to establish friendly relations with the woman who had been his companion. I even suggested to Mrs. Jeanne Molinier that she come into our home and live with us as our daughter. I in no way overlooked the moral authority she had acquired with my grandson, who had spent several years in her company. But in order to come to an agreement there must be goodwill on both sides. Unfortunately, I received nothing from Mrs. Molinier but ambiguous answers, laced with false allegations and full of poorly concealed hostility.

    11. You know, dear friend, the history of my archives, which Mrs. Molinier has attempted to seize, against my will, for purposes which remain obscure, to say the least. She tried in an unspeakable fashion to abuse the wishes of my son for ends absolutely opposed to those wishes. My son, who, as she herself wrote in her deposition before the judge, "venerated his father," wished that, given the difficulties of my situation, Mrs. Molinier help me in recovering my own papers. In her letters to me Mrs. Molinier acknowledged that these papers were mine and were no concern of hers. At the same time she tried to extort from me a power of attorney which would have allowed her to transfer my papers to Mr. Vereecken, a man in the confidence of Mr. Raymond Molinier, an open enemy of my son and myself, a man who heaped hateful slanders on my son during his last illness.

    12. Since in this affair Mrs. Jeanne Molinier has acted as nothing but Mr. Raymond Molinier's agent, I quote here from two letters from my son to me which show clearly how my son himself, after long resistance, came to assess the character of Mr. Raymond Molinier. For me it involved having the testimony of Mr. Raymond Molinier and his brother Mr. Henri Molinier concerning my stay in France, in relation to the well-known Moscow trials. My son, who, like myself, had tried for a long time to defend Mr. Raymond Molinier against his opponents and had been forced to realize that the accusations were justified, strongly advised me against approaching Mr. Raymond Molinier and his group (La Commune). On my insistence he finally approached Mr. Henri Molinier, refusing, however, to take any responsibility by this statement: "It is up to you to decide whether we can make public use of the testimony of an individual like Raymond Molinier." He informed me later that he had received from the Raymond Molinier group an "arrogant, stupid, and at the same time dishonest" response. He warned me again that these people were going to try to make of their testimony "a political scandal of the most demoralizing kind" (letter of February 22, 1937).

I shared and still share this evaluation of Mr. R. Molinier. Even if I were willing to call him as a witness in a political inquiry, I have at the same time always wanted to keep him from having the slightest influence on my grandson's life and education. While my son was alive there could never be any question of anything like that. But everything is changed since my son's death. Mrs. Jeanne Molinier's words as well as her deeds have shown at each step that she has become merely an agent of a man who is extremely untrustworthy and violently hostile towards me and all my friends. Could I have my grandson in this poisoned atmosphere? I continued to urge Mrs. Jeanne Molinier to come here with the boy. She equivocated. She was evasive. Each of her letters was nothing but boldfaced lies, whether about my grandson or my archives. In this situation nothing remains for me but to resort to legal channels.

Mrs. Jeanne Molinier is making her last attempt, profiting from my difficult situation as an exile deprived of documents and without freedom of movement. She denies the most obvious facts. She invents others. She distorts my life history. She is attempting to induce a miscarriage of justice. She even dares to invoke French law on mistreated and morally abandoned children.

You are aware, my dear friend, that this matter involves nothing but hateful slander. I neither materially nor morally abandoned my grandson for an instant. During the first three or four years of Jeanne Molinier's life together with my son the material support of the couple and of my grandson Vsievolod

Volkov was guaranteed completely by me. During the last three years, while my material situation worsened, Mrs. Jeanne Molinier took responsibility for a certain part of the family's expenses. But my son's and my grandson's expenses were in any case covered by my contributions.

The situation changed only after my son's death. I then wired several thousand francs and I intended to continue these dispatches every month. Mrs. Jeanne Molinier hurried to reply that she was setting this money aside for her lawyer (the one, I suppose, who is conducting this case against me) and not for Vsievolod. Given the previously described circumstances I decided to cease financial support and demand custody of my grandson.

I am writing these lines in a hurry so that the letter will arrive in time. But I could confirm each of my allegations with irrefutable letters and documents. I could as well present at least an approximate record of the money I sent and also show that at no time was Vsievolod Volkov "abandoned" to the exclusive care of Mrs. Molinier. Compiling this list would take several weeks of research.

In closing this letter I reaffirm once more in the most solemn manner my absolute faith in the integrity, honesty, and devotion of my dear friends Alfred and Marguerite Griot [Rosmer], to whom the French authorities have given custody of my grandson. I thank you, dear friend, for your unflagging and nobly disinterested devotion, and I sign affectionately,

Your devoted,

P.S. I am adding an appendix, which is a good summary concerning the money that I sent.


The enclosed letter from Leon Sedov of April 8, 1937, shows that during my stay in Norway I sent monthly the sum of 270 Norwegian crowns (roughly equivalent to 1,400 francs at that time). These contributions were much more modest than the contributions of the preceding period, due to my own financial difficulties.

During the first year of our stay in Mexico my son received from the European publishers of my works about the same amount. During that year he also earned some money from his own literary work.

After his death one hundred and fifty dollars and one thousand francs were sent by wire to cover various expenses.

In April 1938 forty-five dollars was sent for Sieva, then twenty or twenty-five dollars per month. The last contribution of twenty dollars was made in January 1939.

All of that can be substantiated by documents, affidavits, etc.