Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Published by Bantam Books, Inc. New York, 1974.

The KGB arrested Father Juozas Zdebsis in August 1971, accusing him of teaching the catechism to Catholic children in Prienai, Lithuania, in preparation for their first communion. Fearing demonstrations, the authorities tried to keep the date and place of his trial secret. But on the morning of the trial, November 11, 1971, some six hundred men, women, and children gathered before the People’s Court in Kaunas, many carrying flowers. As police and KGB plainclothesmen dispersed them, one woman suffered a broken rib, another was knocked unconscious, and others were dragged by their heels to the vans. It was over quickly, although bloodstains and trampled flowers still had to be removed from the courthouse steps.

About ten children were interrogated as witnesses. “What did he teach you?” the procurator asked a girl little more than nine years old.

“Not to steal or break windows,” she answered. Several children were frightened to answer and simply cried.

The procurator summed up his case: “Children get all the teaching they need at school; there is no reason for them to go to church for more. We shall not allow children to be taught anywhere except at school.” The sentence: one year in a corrective labor camp for Father Zdebsis. As he was led away, witness could see the effects of beatings on his face.

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