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Simeon Kaspé in 1933

Simeon Kaspé in 1931

Simeon Kaspé, a brilliant 24-year-old concert pianist and naturalized French citizen, was kidnapped and murdered by anti-semitic Russian bandits in 1933 during the Japanese occupation of Harbin. Simeon was the son of Russian-born Joseph Kaspé, owner of the elegant Hotel Moderne as well as a large jewelry store and a chain of theaters. When Joseph refused to negotiate with the kidnappers, they sent him his son’s ears. Simeon's torture continued for several months, during which time the Japanese authorities ignored both the French consul’s protests and widespread international outrage. The general belief was that the Japanese authorities were in collusion with the Russian kidnappers because the Japanese wanted to terrorize the family in order to take over the Hotel Moderne.  After 95 days of captivity, Simeon was shot to death, and his body was found in a shallow grave. Simeon's father lost his sanity upon viewing his son's mutilated body. Thousands of Harbin residents, shouting "Death to the Japanese militarists" and "Death to the savage brutes!," followed Simeon's funeral car all the way to the Jewish cemetery.

According to Amleto Vespa in his memoir, "Secret Agent of Japan" (Little Brown, 1938), the six Russian kidnappers received special treatment in jail for 15 months while they awaited trial. Chinese judges then sentenced four of them to death and two to life imprisonment. Two days later the presiding judge was arrested, according to Vespa, and six months later three Japanese judges dismissed the case and ordered the kidnappers to be released on the grounds that they had acted as patriots. 

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