Shorn of his stars, Solzhenitsyn officially had no rank. In the unwritten law of the day, he was not only no longer a captain, but an enemy of the people - a "dirty counter" (counterrevolutionary). As the operative NKVD saying indicated - "We make no mistakes!" - arrest was virtually synonymous with condemnation. In these circumstances, the slightest show of sympathy for the condemned might easily have delivered the sympathizer to a similar fate. This danger was made more real by the presence at the colonel's side of the brigade's Communist Party overseer, one of whose principal functions was to report ideological deviations or weaknesses among other officers. This is what made Solzhenitsyn call Travkin's handshake "one of the most outstanding acts of courage I saw during the war."
- From Solzhenitsyn by David Burg and George Feifer