Under the government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, the 1950s were clearly the worst, the hardest. In the nation, silence and fear, sometimes disinterest and indifference, in part, certainly, in agreement with the regime that was forced upon the nation by force; and, from above, terror, arrests, prisons, and also executions. Of course, there have been and are many countries around the world with a much tougher regime, but in Central Europe ?! But yes, the Soviet Union was not far away…
More than 260 executions were carried out in our country, but this was the only woman executed. Lawyer Milada Horáková, 70 years after her death just this year; she was executed on June 27, 1950. A victim of judicial murder during communist political trials, convicted of “conspiracy and high treason,” during the greatest tyranny of President Klement Gottwald.
However, Milada Horáková had already been imprisoned during the war. She was arrested by the Gestapo, with her husband Bohuslav, for resistance activities in the Petitions Committee in August 1940 and they were not released until April 1945. Convicted under both regimes, but the communists came out “on top”.
Milada Horáková fought her battles as a member of parliament for the National Socialists. However, as Bohuslav Horák’s recollections show, the democratic forces had no chance after the war against the Czechoslovak communists, who were protected by Moscow and held in place by a handful of Soviet comrades.
The trial of Milada was a completely artificial construction, which was devised and staged by the leadership of the Communist Party, under the personal supervision of Klement Gottwald, with the direct participation of Soviet advisers. The party leadership needed to point to a fictional enemy and provide an exemplary punishment so brutal that no one would attempt real resistance.
The Communists won the May 1946 election. Many really believed in the idea of communism, and formally it was perhaps a “free” election. However, it was voted on under the ubiquitous social pressure of the Communists, who, among other things, also controlled public information, or rather propaganda. They had already ruthlessly followed the motto „he who is not with us is against us“. As an opposition member of parliament, Milada Horáková was monitored by the secret police, and her speeches, as she travelled around her constituency in southern Bohemia, were monitored. And February 1948 marked – despite all the political charade in the background – a violent takeover of power. Armed coup. End.
Milada was arrested in September 1949; Bohuslav managed to escape from Czechoslovakia. He followed the trial in June 1950, which the communists called the „Trial of Conspiracy against the Republic – Horáková et al.“, only through fragmentary information that reached him in the Valka refugee camp in West Germany.
This year, on the seventieth anniversary of Miladina’s death, banners appeared in Prague with her likeness and the inscription „Murdered by the Communists“. One of them is also on the church wall of the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church in Prague in Smíchov, where Milada was a member.
In the letters that Milada wrote from prison in Pankrác to her closest friends in Prague just before her execution, she says: “Don’t cry too much for me. I don’t cry either. From the point of view of eternity, human life is actually just such a small event… In the most difficult moments, in the Terezín cells, in Principal Cell No. 8, I knew what God was and I felt that he had accepted me. And that is why you should also rely on faith in him… Do not pity me! I bear my punishment with serenity and submit to it humbly – I have stood the judgment of my conscience – and I hope and believe and I pray that I will stand the supreme judgment, God. “
And hence the phrase „I am going with my head held high“. This sentence by Milada gave the title to a book written by journalist Daniel Anýž, which focuses on US policy and transatlantic relations. Quotes from the letters are from this book. Daniel Anýž wrote the book thanks to the great help of Milada Horáková’s daughter, Jana Kánská, who lives in the USA. She is now 87 years old, full of life; life, determination, and love for the truth, an inheritance from someone special.
Jana Plíšková, Daniel Anýž