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The Rudolf Slánský Affair: New Evidence

  • Igor Lukes (a1)


Rudolf Slánský's arrest in November 1951 by Statni bezpecnost (StB), the Czechoslovak secret police, his Kafkaesque trial a year later, and his execution caused a sensation during the early years of the Cold War. For a full week, the trial could be followed live on the radio in Prague. The transcript of the proceedings was published and widely distributed. Yet the affair remained a mystery. Slánský, until recently the general secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC), and thirteen of his colleagues, all of them lifelong party members, confessed to crimes of high treason against the Prague government, espionage on behalf of the west, and sabotage of the socialist economy. In tired, monotonous voices, they described their lives as being motivated by their hatred of the CPC and loyalty to such sponsors as the Gestapo, Zionism, western intelligence services, and international capital. In their final speeches, all the defendants demanded that the court impose upon them the death penalty. The judge disappointed only three—they received life sentences. Slánský and ten others were executed in December 1952.



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1. spravedlnosti, Ministerstvo, Proces s vedenίm protistátnίho spikleneckého centra v čele s Rudolfem Slánským (Prague, 1953).

2. NA 749.001/12–55, Oliver L. Troxel.Jr., U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv, to the Department of State, Washington, D.C, 5 December 1951. “The recent arrest of… Slánský is a subject of much speculation and a source of numerous theories. “

3. NA RG 84, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Department of State, Washington, D.C, 25 November 1951. “Most Czechs … seem believe only explanation lies in use drugs. Emb more inclined rely on psychological if not physical torture as explanation. “

4. The three were Artur London, Vavro Hajdů, and Evžen Löbl.

5. Kotik, Meir, The Prague Trial: The First Anti-Zionist Show Trial in the Communist Bloc (New York, 1987); Harap, Louis, The Truth about the Prague Trial (New York, 1953); Robinson, Nemiah, The Significance of the Prague Trial (New York, 1952); Oschlies, Wolf, Antizionismus in der Tschechoslowakei (Cologne, 1970).

6. See Kopecký, Václav, Antisemitismus poslednίzbranί nacismu (Prague, 1945).

7. NA 749.00 (W)/l 1–2152, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 21 November 1952. King identifies the three non-Jewish defendants as Vladimίr Clementis, Josef Frank, and Karel Svab.

8. Murashko, G. P., “Delo Slanskogo,” Voprosy istorii, 1997, no. 3: 16 . See also Barton, Paul, Prague á ι'Heure de Moscou. Analyse d'une démocratic populaire (Paris, 1954), 16 , and Kaplan, Karel, Nekrvavá revoluce (Toronto, 1985), 345.

9. KPR, D 11484/47 and AÚV KSČ 100/24, folder 130, unit 1493. Bulinova, Marie et al., Československo a Israel v létech 1947–1953: Dokumenty (Brno, 1993), and Dufek, Jiřί et al., Československo a Izrael v letech 1947–1953 (Brno, 1993).

10. Ulam, Adam B., Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917–1967 (New York, 1969), 584–85; also Bulinova, Ceskoslovensko a Israel, 141–56.

11. See NA 949.61/11–1651, Ellis O. Briggs, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 17 November 1951. Ambassador Briggs reported on a recent speech by the Egyptian chargé d'affaires in Prague who praised improving “relations of Egypt with countries of peace camp, and in first place with Czechoslovakia.” Also Kaplan, Karel, Report on the Murder of the General Secretary (Columbus, 1990), 236–48.

12. The most recent treatment of this can be found in Mastny, Vojtech, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (New York, 1996), esp. 30–115. The Yugoslav angle of the Slánský affair is stressed in Hermann Weber and Staritz, Dietrich, Komunisten verfolgen Komunisten: Stalinistischer Terror und “Sduberungen” in den kommunistischen Parteien Europas seit den dreissigerJahren (Berlin, 1993), esp. the chapter by Jan Osers. See also Lowenthal, Richard, “Why Was Slánský Hanged?The Twentieth Century 153, no. 911 (January-June 1953): 1823.

14. Fond Komise II, vol. 14, unit 382. Slánský apparently possessed a dark sense of humor. When Karel Šváb was about to accept an StB post, Slánsky gave him a book (in German) on Napoleon's notorious top policeman Joseph Fouché. Also Harry Slapnicka, “Der Fall Rudolf Slánský: Ein Aktueller Rückblick auf Gottwalds Schauprozesse,” Osteuropa 13, nos. 11/12 (November-December 1963): 768–71.

15. Péju, Marcel, “Hier et aujourd'hui: Le sens du procés Slánský,” Les Temps modernes 8, no. 90 (May 1953): 1775–90; 8, no. 91 (June 1953): 2009–23; 9, no. 92 (July 1953): 139–64. Also Briigel, J. W., “Gedanken zum Slansky-Prozess: Zwanzigjahre danach,” Osteuropa 12, no. 72 (1972): 916–20.

16. Ministerstvo spravedlnosti, Proces, 61. The court never attempted to explain how Slánský's desire for a “Czechoslovak path to socialism” fit with the overall charge that the former general secretary was in the pay of western capitalists.

17. TonyJudt, , Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944–1956 (Berkeley, 1992), 110.

18. I have chosen to ignore Steven, tSewart, Operation Splinter Factor (Philadelphia, 1974). Steven claims (without providing any evidence) that Slánský's downfall was caused by Allen Dulles and that Stalin was the deceived victim.

19. NA 749.001/12–55, Oliver L. Troxel, Jr., U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv, 5 December 1951, and NA 749.00/11–2052, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 20 November 1952. King correctly noted that “Slansky as Zionist was no more plausible than Slansky as potential Tito.” Also Mastny, Cold War, 154.

20. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29 November 1951.

21. Kaplan, Nekrvavá revoluce (Toronto, 1985), 342, and Kaplan, Report, 139–51.

22. AÚV KSČ, 100/50, file 1, unit 1.

23. SÚA, Ministry of Interior, 1936–40, X/K/26, 225–1056, Police Directorate to the Ministry, 9 December 1938.

24. On 3 October 1943 the Slánskýs’ youngest child, Nadia, was kidnapped in a Moscow park. Despite the family's interventions with the police and their letters to Soviet authorities, Nadia was never returned to the family. The Slánskýs’ letters went unanswered, and Nadia, the darling of the family, was swallowed up by die vastness of Russia. Although the case was replete with suspicious aspects, Nadia's parents accepted the benign explanation that the kidnapper was a mentally disturbed woman. See Slánský, Josefa, Report on My Husband (London, 1969), 121–25.

25. RudéPrávo, 10 November 1945.

26. Hanzlik, František, Únor 1948: Vý'sledek nerovného zápasu (Prague, 1997), and Lukes, Igor, “The Birth of a Police State: The Czechoslovak Ministry of the Interior, 1945–48,” Intelligence and National Security 11 (January 1996): 7888.

27. AÚVKSČ, 100/50, file 1, unit 2, and AÚVKSČ, 100/50, file 19, units 184 and 185.

28. Slánský was featured in eight articles that appeared in the New York Times in 1948.

29. Fischl, O., Hovory sjanem Masarykem (Prague, 1991), 37.

30. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 202.

31. Mrs. Dulce-Ann Steinhardt Sherlock, the daughter of Ambassador Lawrence Steinhardt, the first post-World War II ambassador to Prague, told me that her father “didn't like Gottwald and Fierlinger, but he hated Slánský.” Interview, Chevy Chase, Maryland, 18January 1998. NA 749.00/11–2052, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, 20 November 1952. King suggested that Slánský was “Czecho's most ruthless Commie and outstanding Moscow servant. “

32. Fond Komise I, vol. 34, unit 866. Slánský chaired the so-called security five (Slánský, Karel Šváb, Václav Nosek, Josef Pavel, and Ladislav Kopřiva). These men, not the courts, decided all capital cases. Before his arrest in November 1951, 1 estimate that Slánský had shared the responsibility for imposing 139 death penalties upon political prisoners. The real number may never be known. Interview with Colonel Adolf Rázek, Institute for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes, Prague, 14 August 1998. See also AMV, 310–23-1.

33. AÚV KSČ, 100/50, file 1, unit 2, Václav Kopecký, “K 50. narozeninám soudruha Rudolfa Slánského.” According to Rude Právo, 31 July 1951, the presidium of the CPC Central Committee awarded Slánský the Order of Socialism because he fought “on the ramparts … for the application of the Bolshevik line and against opportunistic wreckers and traitors. “

34. Slánský, Rudolf, Za vitězství socialismu, 2 vols. (Prague, 1951). See AÚV KSČ, 100/ 50, file 21, unit 185; Murashko, “Delo Slanskogo,” no. 3: 16. The Soviet Embassy reported that the general secretary was paid rather well for his collected works: he was supposed to have received 1, 200, 000 Kčs. I have not been able to verify this allegation.

35. AÚV KSČ, 100/50, file 22, unit 188.

36. Rudé Právo, 30 July 1946.

37. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 15. On 5 September 1951, the presidium of the Central Committee of the CPC resolved, unanimously, “to recall comrade Slánský from the post of general secretary.” Also NA 749.00/9–1051, Ellis O. Briggs, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 10 September 1951.

38. New York Times, 9 September 1951.

39. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 12.

40. Fond Komise II, vol. 14, unit 380.

41. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 12.

42. Hodos, George, Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948–1954 (New York, 1987).

43. NA 749.02/9–1051, Oliver L. Troxel, Jr., second secretary, U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv, to the Department of State, Washington, D.C., 20 September 1951.

44. Lewis, Flora, Red Pawn: The Story of Noel Field (Garden City, N.J., 1965). New perspectives can now be discovered in the archives in Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest. In the following, I will rely primarily on AMV, Z-84, Osobni svazek, no. 4528, and AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund. For the sake of brevity, this account of the Field affair must bypass the case of Erika Glaser Wallach, born in 1922, the adopted daughter of Noel and Herta Field. See her Light at Midnight (Garden City, N.J., 1967).

45. AFL-BU, box 1, Loy Henderson to Flora Lewis, 22 November 1959.

46. AFL-BU, box 1, Vladimir Sokolin to Flora Lewis, 30 September 1960.

47. AMV, 302–103-3, Noel Field's interrogation in Budapest, 4 January 1950. This is confirmed in the Czech summary of the case in AMV, Z-84, no. 4528. See also AÚV KSČ, 100/24, vol. 62, unit 947. Noel told Ludvik Frejka in Prague that he had been recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1927. In addition, Hermann Field told me (interview on 25 April 1998) that Noel affirmed his work for Soviet intelligence in a manuscript he prepared while in Hungarian prison, a manuscript the Hungarians have made available to Hermann Field. Noel was also identified as a Soviet agent by Hede Massing, the woman who recruited him in Washington, and by her husband, Paul Massing. See AFL-BU, Hede Massing to Flora Lewis, 23 September 1959 and 16 April 1960. Hede Massing identified Noel as a Soviet agent in congressional hearings; see United States Senate, Senate Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act of the Committee on the Judiciary, 82d Cong., 2d sess., 2 August 1951, 231–36. Henry Jordan, “Where Is Noel Field?” Argosy Magazine (November 1958); Jordan quotes Walter Krivitsky to the effect that Noel had worked for him while he was employed by die League of Nations. Noel states the same in AMV, Z-84.

48. AFL-BU, box 1, USC Files, Helen Fogg, 4 December 1959.

49. AFL-BU, box 1.

50. AFL-BU, Bert Jolis to Flora Lewis, 11 June, no year.

51. AFL-BU, Paul Massing to Flora Lewis, 2 November 1959. Noel boasted to Hede Massing concerning his part in the assassination; see Massing to Flora Lewis, 16 April 1960. For information about the target of the assassination, see Poretsky, Elisabeth, Our Own People: A Memoir of “Ignace Reiss” and His Friends (London, 1969). Noel confirmed his role in the assassination in AMV, Z-84.

52. AFL-BU, Arthur Schlesinger to Flora Lewis, December 1959, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

53. AMV, Z-84, and AFL-BU, Bert Jolis to Flora Lewis, 11 June, no year.

54. New York Times, 14 September 1970.

55. AFL-BU, Arthur Schlesinger to Flora Lewis, December 1959, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

56. AFL-BU, Hede Massing to Flora Lewis, 16 April 1960.

57. Noel Field died in Budapest in 1970.

58. AFL-BU, box 1, Mr. Bragg to Flora Lewis: “When I visited some of our installations [in France], I was welcomed as a comrade.” This did not make Mr. Bragg happy at all, and he cut off Noel's salary in October 1947.

59. AFL-BU, box 1, Helen Fogg, USC files, 4 December 1959.

60. AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund.

61. AMV, Z-84. Among those who declined to meet Noel were Artur London and Bedřich Geminder; nevertheless, both were tried with Slánský.

62. AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund.

63. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 20. The StB file on Noel originally consisted of ‘just a tiny note without any attribution from which it followed that Field was supposed to be an American agent. “

64. AMV, 372-Z-82.

65. AMV, Z-84.

66. Fond Komise II, vol. 25, unit 504. Mátyás Rákosi to Element Gottwald, 9 May 1949: “To comrade Gottwald. Please do us a favor and arrest Field who has just returned to Prague. Rákosi. “

67. AMY Z-84.

68. Hermann, and Field, Kate, Departure Delayed: Stalins Geisel im Kalten Krieg (Hamburg, 1996).

69. Interview with Hermann Field, Shirley, Massachusetts, 21 January 1998.

70. Fond Komise II, vol. 6, unit 72. Interrogation of Ladislav Kopřiva, 28–29January 1963: “Trust Fund was construed as a cover for English intelligence where people with long-term perspectives could be recruited.” See also the testimony of Otto Šling and Ludvík Frejka, Ministerstvo spravedlnosti, Proces, 9.

71. AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund, Záznam nos. 4, 5, and 22.

72. AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund, interrogation of Noel Field, 5 June 1949.

73. AMV, 302–103-3, Trust Fund, Václav Koštál, 10 June 1952. A team of StB investigators went to Budapest to witness some of Pavlík's interrogations in the ÁVH headquarters. According to their account, the brutality they saw in Budapest shocked them. The StB team prepared a report regarding Pavlík's treatment by the ÁVH that found its way up to Slánský's desk. He demonstrated his Bolshevik core when he limited his comments to saying matter of factly: “Different country, different style. “

74. Fond Komise II, vol. 6, unit 72. The interrogation of Ladislav Kopřiva, 28–29 January 1963. Kopřiva recalled that Soviet advisers kept pointing out to the Czechoslovaks that the harsh measures applied in Hungary were “correct.” “Comrades,” one adviser admonished, “stop thinking that the imperialists will bypass you.” Tonyjudt writes that Prague was “suspiciously Western and moderate in Russian eyes. “Judt, Past Imperfect, 104. This is true, but there was little unity among the CPC leaders. Alexej Čepička, Antonín Novotný, andothers routinely informed on their colleagues to the Soviet Embassy. See Murashko, , “Delo Slanskogo,” Voprosy istorii, 1997, no. 3: 1416 and no. 4: 3–17.

75. Frolik, Jan, “Plukovnik Antonin Prchal a jeho doba,” Minulostý západočeského kraje, 31 (1996): 162. 76. Fond Komise II, vol. 25, unit 504.

77. Ibid.

78. Fond Komise II, vol. 14, unit 383.

79. AUV ESC, 100/24, file 62, unit 947, Rudolf Slansky to Element Gottwald, 16 September 1949. The Russian text talks about “vydelit’ i napravit’ v Pragu neobkhodimykh rabotnikov.” Signed Filipov.

80. Fond Komise II, vol. 25, unit 504.

81. Fond Piller Komise, The Case of Bourgeois Nationalists, information no. 32, December Neither the gung-ho Soviet adviser (Likhachev) nor the more cautious StB officer (Baláž) was to escape from the clutches of their own system: Likhachev was recalled to the Soviet Union and sentenced to death by the USSR Supreme Court; he was executed on 19 December 1956. In 1953, Baláž was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

82. Frolík, “Plukovník Antonín Prchal,” 163–67. “Modřín,” a.k.a. Vth Sector, was commanded by Antonín Prchal. In early January 1951 it had 40 officers, by mid-January it had grown to 118 officers.

83. SÚA, fond 60. This category included Václav Nosek, the minister of the interior. Therefore, once the purge began, he lost control over the security organs. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202, notes that Nosek was gradually isolated; arrests were taking place without his knowledge, and the StB opened a file on him. Informers were placed in his secretariat, and his safe was routinely checked. The Ministry of Interior was split into the Ministry of National Security, headed by Ladislav Kopřiva, and the old but emasculated Ministry of Interior that remained under Nosek. Even Kopřiva did not last long. Fond Komise II, vol. 6, unit 67: Moscow told Gottwald to replace Kopřiva because he sympathized with Slánský. Consequently, the Ministry of National Security went to Karol Bacílek in early 1952. The old Ministry of Interior was restored in its original form in the fall of 1953 under the capable Rudolf Barák who lasted until his power-struggle with Antonin Novotný in the early 1960s. See Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202.

84. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202.

85. NA 749.001/10–451, Ellis O. Briggs, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, 4 October 1951. Ambassador Briggs speculated that the purge came late to Czechoslovakia because “the leadership of the Czechoslovak CP … appeared to be particularly homogeneous and to possess a sense of mutual loyalty stemming from long years of cooperation in the party. “

86. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202. Paradoxically, the first concept of a trial in Prague was based on the assumption that the conspiracy was headed either by Šling or Geminder and was directed against Slánský. See also Murashko, “Delo Slanskogo,” no. 3: 3–9, and the memorandum of Ambassador A. E. Bogomolov. The ambassador reports on his conversation with Viliam Široký, the Czechoslovak minister of foreign affairs, in Murashko, “Delo Slanskogo,” no. 4: 15–16.

87. The following is based in part on the private papers of Colonel František Zdeněk Ostrý. In the Prague archives, the best sources on Ostrý are AMV, 6–314/2/825, and AMV, H-235. The first reference in official print to Major Ostrý and his activities was in Jiří Šole, “Operace ‘Velký metař, '” Historie a vojenstuí, 1995, no. 4: 79–101.

88. AMV, H-235/2. He escaped in August 1939.

89. Interviews with General Alois Šeda, Watsonville, California, 8–10 March 1997.

90. Ibid.

91. AMV, H-664, Operation General.

92. AMV, H-235, KV-StB Praha to KV-StB Karlovy Vary, 22 June 1949.

93. Moravec escaped on 19 March 1948. See František Moravec, Špión, jemuž nevěřili (Prague, 1990), 363.

94. I will use CIC to refer to all U.S. intelligence in Germany at the time.

95. AMV, H-235.

96. NA RG 59, LOT 54D426, Records of the Office of East European Affairs. Documents contained therein show Uiat the reception of General Moravec, an officer decorated with U.S., British, and other allied medals for his service in both world wars, was lukewarmin the west. A State Department memorandum of 23 June 1948 states that Moravecis but “one of many refugees in Western Europe… . [The General] will have to take his chances along with the others and provide proper documentation to fulfill the legal requirements.” In a bitter letter to General Clayton Bissell, the U.S. military and air attaché in London, Moravec noted that he had been foolish to presume that he would “not be forced to ask too many and too much. I was disappointed in this expectation.” General Bissell helped his colleague. He asked the visa section in the U.S. Embassy in London “to cut some corners” for “a General who has served us well enough in the last war to be given a decoration.” The intervention obviously worked.

97. An okapi is a giraffe-like creature without the long neck. It is shy and prefers darkness.

98. Interview with General Knorr, New York City, 15 May 1997, and with General Šeda, Watsonville, California, 9 March 1997. Knorr: “It was hard to control Moravec.” Šeda: “We operated on our own. The Americans had no idea what was happening around them. Intelligence operations inside Czechoslovakia were our initiatives. “

99. AMV, H-253/2.

100. By contrast, Gottwald's fifty-fifth birthday was celebrated with much fanfare. Rude Prdvo, 23 November 1951, carried a warm statement from Stalin in a prominent position.

101. Ostrý hints at strikes in Kladno. Just after Sáanský's arrest, the second largest city in Czechoslovakia, Brno, witnessed street demonstrations. See NA 749.00/12–651, Alexander Schnee, first secretary, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Department of State, Washington, D.C., 6 December 1951. The embassy noted “widespread and increasingly evident discontent among the workers.” See also the documents gathered in Pernes, Jin, Brno 1951: Příspěvek k dějinám protikomunistického odporu na Moravě (Prague, 1997).

102. AMV, H-784–13. Kauders and his wife Anna escaped to the west between April and May 1951.

103. AMV, H-784–13. Kankovska, born in 1922, met Kauders in 1947. It is likely that she fabricated her relationship with Slansky. On 24 November 1962, she told the StB that she had invented it because she wanted to appear important. Nevertheless, she talked about the alleged relationship not only with Kauders when she was free but also when she was in jail. A fellow prisoner who spied on Kňnkovská reported: “Kaňkovská boasted of having had intimate relations with Rudolf Slansky.” AMV, H-784–13, Zdena Dittrichová, 23 November 1962.

104. PFO. The following is based on the account of Operation Great Sweeper by Frantisek Ostry that he prepared for the CIA in 1953 and on a set of notes in his personal papers.

105. AMV, H-784–13, file 13/2, page 11. “Podpora,” Ostrý's code name, means “support. “

106. PFO. Hoffman's last job was to guide to the west the sixteen-year-old daughter of Milada Horáková, a well-known democratic politician who was executed by the communists in June 1950 and whose husband was an OKAPI officer. Their daughter eventually made it to the west in 1968.

107. AMV, H-780.

108. AMV, H-780. Nevečeřal crossed the border into the U.S. zone near Hundsbach in March 1951. The CIC formally recruited him in Weiden.

109. AMV, H-780. Nevečeřal signed the contract as an agent of the StB on 15 May 1951.

110. AMV, H-784–13. The mission that the CIC had designed for Nevečeřal was supposed to take six days, but he returned only after seventeen days in Czechoslovakia.

111. AMV, ZV119 folder 13/5, interrogation of Rudolf Nevečeřal, 12June 1956. PFO, Ostrý's records indicate that Nevečeřal had crossed the border a day earlier. Since Ostrý did not drive Nevečeřal to the border area—it was another OKAPI officer, Zale—I will have to accept Nevečeřal's and the StB's date.

112. AMV, H-784–13. This document was prepared by die Ministry of Interior in the early 1960s.

113. AMV, H-784–13. The StB specialist was Bohumil Miller (Müller), who was interrogated on 20 October 1962.

114. When on duty, especially abroad, Soviet advisers often did not use their real names. This one was simply known as Smirnov.

115. AMV, H-784–13, Josef Novotný's interrogation, 5 November 1962.

116. AMV, H-784–13, Otakar Suchý's interrogation, 9 November 1962.

117. AMV, H-784–13, Josef Novotný's interrogation, 7 November 1962.

118. AMV, H-784–13, Jaroslav Saksl's interrogation, 19 October 1962.

119. AMV, H-784–13, Jaroslav Skřivánek's interrogation, 18 and 19 October 1962.

120. AMV, H-784–13, the translator was Petr Bechyně, who was interrogated on 2 November 1962.

121. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 12.

122. AMV, H-784–13, Kaňkovská's interrogation, 24 November 1962.

123. AMV, H-784–13. Kaňkovská received 5, 000 Kčs in her envelope.

124. AMV, H-784–13. The officer was Lt. Ladislav Doubravský.

125. AMV, H-784–13, Kaňkovská's interrogation, 24 November 1962.

126. AMV, H-784–13, Nevečeřal's interrogation, 17 October 1962.

127. NA, Donnelly, Frankfurt, to the Department of State, 26 November 1952, confidential telegram. Donnelly quotes a source: “I do not subscribe to thesis that Gottwald and Slánský opposed each other in power struggle or differed seriously about ends or methods. They were friends and collaborators. “

128. NA RG 84, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Department of State, 6 September 1951. The memorandum quotes Slansky's self-criticism before the Central Committee of the CPC on the day he lost the top party post. Slánský confessed that he bore “responsibility for the bad cadre policy which has resulted in so many deviationists, enemies, and traitors entering” the party.

129. NA RG 84, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 19 November 1952. King speculates that there was a link between the arrival in Prague of the new Soviet Ambassador, A. I. Lavrent'ev, on 15 November 1951 and Slánský's arrest. Lavrent'ev is said to have “brought with him orders from the Kremlin” for Slánský's arrest. There is no evidence to support this view.

130. AMV, H-784–13. Beschastnov states he gave the letter to Gottwald on 11 November 1951, hours before Slánský's arrest. In reality, Slánský was arrested almost two weeks later.

131. Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 12.

132. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202.

133. Fond Komise II, vol. 14, unit 382.

134. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202, and Fond Komise II, vol. 6, unit 72. According to Murashko, “Delo Slanskogo,” no. 3: 16, the Soviet Embassy heard that Mrs. Slánský had withdrawn 200, 000 Kcs. The sum is not specified in any of the Czech archival documents I have seen.

135. AMV, H-784–13. Officers of the department that monitored the RFE broadcasts in 1951 recalled that they had been ordered to listen specifically for “Bad things happen all at once. Message from Podpora” and for “Greetings to my child from Kabes.” To everyone's relief, both sentences were in fact broadcast from Munich and were successfully recorded. Lt. Jaroslav Zeman was ordered to take the then precious reel tape recorder (it was called “Paratus “) and bring it, with the tape recording of the two messages, to the StB chief, who then took it to Gottwald.

136. AMV, H-784–13, “Report Regarding the Circumstances That Had Preceded the Arrest of Slánský,” by A. D. Beschastnov.

137. Fond Komise II, vol. 6, unit 72.

138. Slánský, Report on My Husband, 139.

139. Fond Piller Komise, file 32, information no. 23.

140. Svobodné slovo, 7 December 1951. Gottwald refers to a fragment of a biblical phrase from Daniel 5: 24; its popular translation is “writing on the wall.” Also NA 749.00 (W)/12–75, Security Information, U.S. Embassy, Prague, Prague 180—J. W. no. 49, to the Department, Frankfurt, 7 December 1951.

141. SÚA, fond 60, unit 5/1, Nosek's speech on 12 December 1951.

142. NA RG 84, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, 21 November 1952. King noted that the prosecutor read the [Great Sweeper] letter and suggested it showed the “interest of Amer official circles” in bringing about Slánský's escape. “Prosecutor then presented additional evidence that Amer intelligence operators prepared Slansky's flight to West. Signal to mount operation allegedly given several times over [Radio Free Europe] ‘which belongs to Amer intelligence operators.' “

143. Ministerstvo spravedlnosti, Proces, 88–89.

144. AMV, H-784–13, statement by Frantisek Klima, M.D., who worked as an agent of Czechoslovak intelligence in Austria (code name: agent Tfinact).

145. NA 749.00/12–1351, Ellis O. Briggs, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, 14 December 1951. The U.S. Military Attache reported seeing eight roadblocks between the border and Pilsen. He “was informed in strictest confidence in Germany of rumors of impending flight of important Czech. “

146. AMV, H-784–13, folder 13/5. This contains questions for Slánský's interrogation: “Explain how you planned to escape abroad in case you were about to be unmasked?” “We know that, after you had lost the position of CPC general secretary, American intelligence made you such an offer.” “Here is a letter that was sent to you in November 1951, via American intelligence, by the American-English ruling circles inviting you to escape to the west. Confess to your arrangement with American intelligence.” “This letter was to be handed to you by Daniela Kaňkovská who had received it from American intelligence. “

147. SÚA, Commission II, file 14, unit 377, 23 May 1956.

148. Mastny notes correctly that Slánský's alleged confederates “had been chosen not so much for what they were—even less for what they had done—as for what they could be made into because of their particular association with a cause or institution that was to be highlighted.” Mastny, Cold War, 154.

149. Fond Komise II, vol. 49, unit 93. The executions were witnessed by Bohumil Doubek and Karel Koštál, who reported on the event to Colonel Antonín Prchal on 3 December 1952. See also Americké listy, “Co říkali pod šibenicí,” 8 June 1968.

150. Other studies of the Slánský case concurred. See Fond Komise I, vol. 2, unit 26: “The well-known letter to the Great Sweeper was the immediate cause of Slánský's arrest. “

151. Šeda was one of the most active Czechoslovak émigré case-officers working in the U.S. zone in Germany. But the Americans had sent him into retirement even before Slánský was arrested. He and his family arrived in New York City on 26 March 1951. Interview, Watsonville, California, 9 March 1997.

152. NA RG 84, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 19 November 1952. King notes that the Prague government frequently charged the United States with involvement in various espionage cases. “Whether there is any factual basis for the charges … should be better known to the Department than to this Embassy … there appears to be reason to suspect that there is at the very least a kernel of truth in many of the charges. “

153. AMV, H-784–13.

154. NA 749.00/11–2152, Spencer M. King, U.S. Embassy, Prague, to the Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 21 November 1952. This is the first time that Kauders and Kaňkovská are mentioned in an open source.

155. Interview with General Milos Knorr, New York City, 19 January 1998.

156. PFO.

157. PFO. František Ostrý, private letter, 6 November 1995. “The CPC declared my letter to the Great Sweeper to be a document forged by itself so as to escape the shame that the Czechoslovaks in exile [that is, OKAPI] had managed to bring about Slánský's fall. “

158. PFO. Ostrý's papers contain lists of CPC leaders who could be targeted by some future operations designed to follow the Great Sweeper pattern.

159. Personal interview, New York City, 22 March 1997.

160. PFO. Ostrý notes Kauders's complaint that the United States was willing to pay a large sum to any Soviet pilot who would escape with his fighter aircraft. Yet, he “who helped to shake up the Soviet empire” was living in poverty.

161. AMV, H-784–13, folder 13/2.

162. PFO. In a gruesome way, the trial surpassed Ostrý's expectations. He had predicted “only” six death sentences.

163. Fond Komise I, vol. 12, unit 202.

164. Pernes, Brno 1951, 134.

165. Seejudt, Past Imperfect, 131, and Peju, “Hier et aujourd'hui,” Les Temps modernes 8, no. 90 (May 1953): 1776. Péju feared that the Slánský trial was a caricature of the ideology that produced it. PFO. Ostrý writes that the Great Sweeper showed “left wing intellectuals” the true nature of “socialism.” He notes with approval that after the Slánský trial, many intellectuals returned their party cards.

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Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 0037-6779
  • EISSN: 2325-7784
  • URL: /core/journals/slavic-review
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