The history of the Communist-era is filled with tales of martyrs, but few of them are as well-known and distressing as the story of Father Josef Toufar, who died on February 25, 1950. When a miracle was reported at his church in an eastern Bohemian village, the secret police tortured the priest mercilessly – and forced him to take part in a macabre video “re-enactment”.
A new film called The Trap, which is due to premiere on Czech Television this Sunday, tells the tragic fate of the great Czech film and theatre actress Jiřina Štepničková who fell into a trap set by the communist secret police in the 1950s and was sentenced to 15 years in jail for attempting to flee the country with her four-year-old son. The communist hysteria surrounding the process was so great that many of Štepničková’s colleague actors and actresses signed a petition for her to be put to death for treason.
Former justice minister and the current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, has rejected allegations that she had defended
laws against dissidents during the Communist regime and collaborated in her
professional work with the former state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was
responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf
Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Válková told journalists that the claims made by the news site info.cz were untruthful and insulting and that she planned to sue the site for slander.
At the same time Ms. Válková, whom the president nominated for the position of Ombudswoman, told Czech Television she had not been aware of Urvalek’s past when she worked with him.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček have both said the allegations are extremely serious and that they are awaiting an explanation from Mrs. Válková.
Former minister of justice and current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, defended laws against dissidents during the
Communist regime, the news site info.cz reported on Thursday.
At the turn of the 1970s and 80s, Mrs Válková published a series of articles in which she defended measures used by the Communist regime to restrict the rights of its opponents, the website writes.
It also says she collaborated on writing one of her articles with the state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Mrs Válková, whom President Miloš Zeman recently proposed for the post of the Czech Republic’s ombudswoman, denied any wrongdoing, saying the article was insulting and untruthful.
The Czech police’s Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of
Communism have initiated the prosecution of three senior figures from the
pre-1989 Communist regime. One-time Communist Party general secretary
Miloš Jakeš, former prime minister Lubomír Štrougal and ex-interior
minister Vratislav Vajnar are accused of abuse of office in connection with
the use of firearms on the borders of the then Czechoslovakia, a
representative of the Prague 1 state attorney’s office, Jan Lelek, said
The three top Communists were aware the border patrol service were using guns to shoot people crossing the border without authorisation but did nothing to stop them, Mr. Lelek said.
The Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of Communism said that because of the inaction of the three officials between 1976 and 1989 nine people were either shot dead or killed by dogs while attempting to cross the border into the West; at least seven others were injured.
The Náchod district court has ruled that Pavel Wonka, believed to be the
last Czech political prisoner to have died in prison under Communism, had
been illegally incarcerated.
His brother had filed a lawsuit to have him ‘rehabilitated’ and can now claim damages from the state over the unjustified imprisonment.
Following the verdict on Wednesday, Jiří Wonka told reporters that it was a moral victory and that he had not filed the lawsuit to get compensation.
Pavel Wonka was imprisoned in April 1988 for several weeks and died under unclear circumstances. He had initially been released due to bad health, but a judge sent him back to prison for another five months.
Wonka was posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit in 2013.
In the first of this series we heard the voice of Czechoslovakia’s first President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. His wife Charlotte was American, and thanks to her influence Tomáš became a champion of feminism. Charlotte went on to inspire many women both within Czechoslovakia and beyond and in this programme we hear some of them, speaking in their own words from the Czech Radio archive.
Prague councillors unanimously agreed on Monday to establish a Museum of
20th Century Memory that will focus on the history of non-free regimes in
the Czech lands. The city council is to put the proposal to a formal vote
on September 19.
A total of 30 civic associations and social organizations bringing together former political prisoners, educators and researchers had expressed support for setting up the new museum.
If approved, the museum’s board will likely include historian and writer Jiří Padevět, Post Bellum director Mikuláš Kroupa and historian Petr Blažek of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic marking the anniversary of
August 21 in both 1968 and 1969. Czechoslovakia was invaded by Soviet-led
troops on that date in 1968, while the following year a number of
participants in demonstrations on the first anniversary were killed in
clashes with Czechoslovak security forces.
The main memorial event on Wednesday will take place in front of Czech Radio, which was a focal point of defiance and violence in August 1968. Senior elected representatives and people who lived through that time are expected to attend.
The events of August 1969 are to be marked by a march from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle organised by the group Million Moments for Democracy.
Dozens of other memorial events are also being held around the Czech Republic.