Lev Trotsky and the forgotten Jews
His childhood gives a sense of a different kind of Jewish life that existed in the Russian Empire just before it blown to bits by rot and wars and revolutions.
A few days ago we visited the Museo Casa de León Trotsky — the house in Mexico City where Trotsky lived out his last years and where he was assassinated by Ramón Mercader, who was a Spanish communist and an NKVD agent.
We were expecting a modest apartment but instead we found ourselves in a small villa surrounded by a giant wall with guard towers. When Trotsky lived here in the late 1930s, it must have been a much less developed, more rural area. He had a big yard where he raised chickens and rabbits, which he would eat. Now there’s a loud freeway running right up against the property and high rises towering over it.
The place has a good feel to it. It’s not big for a big time political leader like Trotsky, but not small either. It has a study, an office for his secretary, two bedrooms, a big bathroom, a dining room, a separate house for his guards and security detail. Probably the most surprising thing about the place were the guard towers with slits for shooting in them and the thick iron bank vault-style doors and window blinds installed in the living areas of the house, including in his and his wife’s bedroom and in that of their grandson’s.
This is the study where Trotsky was attacked with the infamous ice axe.
And this is one of several guard towers ringing his property.
I didn’t know this, but before Trotsky was killed with an ice axe by a guy who was able to worm his way into confidence, his compound came under a direct assault by a group of assassin commandos. They tied up some of his guards, shot up his house, injured this grandson, and maybe tried setting the place on fire. Trotsky had taken a sleeping pill that night so he was zombified throughout the ordeal. His wife — Natalia — had to roll him off and push him under their bed and even got on top of him to protect him from the gunfire. I’m guessing they installed the thick bulletproof doors after the attack, but maybe they were there from the beginning.