Anti-Nazi resistance hero, Rudolf Pernicky, dies aged 90

One of the most outstanding Czech fighters against Nazi rule during the war, General Rudolf Pernicky, has passed away at the age of 90. A former paratrooper who was later jailed by the Communist authorities and rehabilitated only after the fall of the regime in 1989, died on Wednesday after a long illness in the Central Military Hospital in Prague.

General Rudolf Pernicky, photo: CTKGeneral Rudolf Pernicky, photo: CTK In the 1930s Rudolf Pernicky studied to become a professional soldier. But the German occupation forced him to leave the puppet Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Rudolf Pernicky first joined the French Foreign Legion and afterwards left for Great Britain with a Czechoslovak unit where he trained as a paratrooper.

As commander of the Tungsten Paratrooper Unit he was parachuted to his occupied homeland in 1944, but by mistake he and the other soldier parachuted with him landed some 80 kilometres away from their intended destination. After an exhausting journey during which they had to hide all the time and with only a bar of chocolate to keep them alive the two soldiers immediately joined the home resistance in the Vysocina region.

After the war Rudolf Pernicky became a member of the Czechoslovak general staff and graduated from military academy. But after the communist takeover in 1948, he was arrested and sentenced in a show trial to 20 years in prison, simply because he was considered suspicious, having fought alongside the British in the war. He spent 11 years in forced labour camps, including the notorious uranium mines in Pribram and Jachymov. In a recent interview for Radio Prague he remembered that time:

"Hope springs eternal. All of us in the camps always believed that it had to change and we would live to see freedom."

An amnesty in 1960 ended Rudolf Pernicky's imprisonment but he was not fully rehabilitated until the fall of communism in 1989.

Two months ago, on the occasion of the Czech National Holiday, General Rudolf Pernicky was awarded with the highest Czech state decoration, the Order of the White Lion.

"It is a great honour for me because this is a recognition of all my activities during the war, and especially towards its end in the Vysocina region. For me it was a great exertion and a challenge to accomplish something I had never done before."

Just before the award ceremony, General Pernicky had undergone major surgery and had been in poor health. He died on December 21st, exactly 61 years after he landed in his homeland on a frosty night, determined to help free it from the Nazi occupiers.