In this programme, the eighth in our series mapping this country’s history through the radio archives, we start with the dramatic events of the last days of the war in Prague. The radio played a major role in the Prague Uprising, and through the archives we can map how the city liberated itself from the German occupiers. In the two years that follow, the radio archives give us a picture of a Czechoslovakia returning to some kind of normality, but in February 1948 everything changes. We tell the story as it was heard on the airwaves.
The murky death of Jan Masaryk in 1948 has been back in the news recently, after the discovery of fresh evidence prompted the reopening of the case. The new investigation is welcomed by Masaryk’s great-niece Charlotta Kotik, who says that if he had wished to kill himself he would have done it in his characteristic style.
As a result of the Munich Agreement of September 1938, Czechoslovakia ended up losing 30% of its territory, a third of its population and the greater part of its industry and raw materials. Few people had much faith in the country’s long-term survival as a democracy amid dictatorships. It was, as Jan Masaryk put it, an “experiment in vivisection”. The radio archives give a vivid picture of the consequences of that experiment, which was to last less than six months and end in occupation and eventually war.
Thanks to a unique sound recording acquired by Czech Radio, the state attorney’s office has ordered a new investigation into the death of foreign minister Jan Masaryk, son of the country’s first president T.G. Masaryk, in February 1948. His great niece Charlotta Kotik has welcomed the news and is hoping to help the investigation.
The state attorney’s office has ordered that the case of the death of Jan
Masaryk be reopened, Právo reported on Wednesday. This follows the recent
discovery of a recorded statement from a police officer who was first on
the scene when Masaryk’s body was found beneath a window at Prague’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March 1948.
The case will now be investigated by the police’s Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism, which has looked into it several times in the past.
Jan Masaryk was the only democratic minister remaining in the Czechoslovak government after the Communist takeover of 1948. The official interpretation is that the minister was murdered.
Until recently Zdeněk Toman was an obscure name to many Czechs. However, his incredible story has now reached a broad audience thanks to an eponymous film about him that was released last autumn. Just this week Toman was nominated for 13 prizes at the upcoming annual Czech Lion awards. I spoke to Martin Šmok, the man who originally discovered his extraordinary story.
This Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic death of former
diplomat and foreign minister Jan Masaryk.
On March 10, 1948, Masaryk, the son of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, fell to his death from his bathroom window at the palace that is home to the Czech Foreign Ministry, a few weeks after the coup in which saw the Communists take power in post-war Czechoslovakia.
The suspicious circumstances of his death, described at the time as suicide, have never been fully cleared up. Many believe Mr Masaryk did not jump but was pushed from his window, in other words murdered.
Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnický paid homage a day earlier, laying a wreath at the foreign ministry’s main building in Prague. Members of the public can visit the commemorative bust of Jan Masaryk at the Černín Palace ministry building on Saturday.
Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the still murky death of Jan Masaryk. The son of Czechoslovakia’s founder Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Jan Masaryk was foreign minister in the Czech government in exile in the UK and retained that post until 10 March 1948, when he was found dead beneath the window of his second-floor apartment at the Foreign Ministry’s Černín Palace.
Seventy years ago the new Czechoslovak government was fully in the hands of the Communists. After the Stalinist coup d'etat in February 1948, a wave of arrests started and all democratic opposition was suppressed. Unclassified documents of the US Department of State show the degree of naïveté with which the American diplomats and intelligence officers in Prague faced their communist opponents and the subsequent shocking realization that there was nothing they could do.