November 26, 2007


John Noble, 84, gulag survivor (Douglas Martin, November 26, 2007, NY Times)

John Noble, an American who never knew why the Soviets imprisoned him in their notorious gulag, but not only lived to write books on the grim, decade-long experience but also recovered his family's company and castle in the former East Germany, died on Nov. 10 in Dresden, Germany. He was 84.

His family announced the death.

Noble's story surfaced in the early years of the cold war, as the United States repeatedly asked the Soviet Union about him, only to be told that the Russians knew nothing. President Dwight Eisenhower personally intervened and won his release in January 1955 after nine and a half years of captivity.

His incarceration included backbreaking labor; minimal water and food; temperatures that regularly plunged 50 degrees below zero; and solitary confinement — first in Russian prisons in Germany, including Buchenwald, the former Nazi concentration camp. Then Noble was sent to Russia's slave labor camps, the notorious gulag. He was Slave No. 1-E-241. [...]

Soon after Noble's release, The New York Times reported on his reunion with his family in New York on Jan. 17, 1955. Contrary to his later accounts, he said he had been treated well, and the article said he appeared to be in excellent health.

But he soon spoke more darkly of his experiences in many interviews, speeches and writings, which included a series of articles in The New York Times and books that included "I Was a Slave in Russia" (1958) and "I Found God in Soviet Russia" (1959), written with Glenn D. Everett, with an introduction by the Rev. Billy Graham.

He long charged that the Soviet Union continued to hold many American prisoners. In 1968, he said at a mock trial of international Communism organized by anti-Communist groups that the Soviets had held 3,000 Americans in 1955 and still had many. The State Department replied that it knew of no such captives.

He fueled his message with religious conviction annealed in Soviet jails, and an anti-Communism so fierce that he went on a speaking tour for the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society in the mid-1960s. He was founder and director of the Faith and Freedom Forum, which sold recordings of his books, among other things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2007 5:46 PM
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