Jan Masaryk

03-10-2001

Jan Masaryk, a diplomat, an ambassador and later on the Czechoslovak foreign minister, was a son of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of independent Czechoslovakia, that came into existence in 1918. Since March 4th,1948, when Jan Masaryk was found dead under the bathroom window of his flat, the cause of his death has been shrouded in mystery. But in memories of the elder generation, which still remembers him, he will always remain the good natured Honza - the Czech nickname for Jan - with a highly developed sense of humour, who had been defending the democratic rights of his nation until the very last days of his life. By Alena Skodova.

Jan Masaryk was born in Prague on September 14th, 1886. Jan's mother Charlotte was of the American descend and Jan very soon tried to get away from his famous father - then a diplomat in Vienna and renowned university professor - and went to America, where he spent 6 years in Chicago. After serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI and finishing his studies in Prague Masaryk returned as charge d' affair to Washington where he lived till 1922. Three years later he was appointed the Czechoslovak ambassador to Great Britain, as we hear from his Secretary, 82 year old Antonin Sum:

This changed after the death of president T.G. Masaryk in 1937. After he resigned in 1935 he asked Jan to support his successor, president Edvard Benes. At that time in Germany, Hitler was on his rise to power and there was a mounting pressure from the Nazis concerning the 3 million Sudeten Germans who lived in the border areas of Czechoslovakia. In September 1938, the Munich agreement was signed and in accordance with it, the Sudeten lands were occupied by Nazi Germany. President Benes went to exile to London and Jan Masaryk resigned as ambassador after the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis in March 1939. On the eve of WWII, before Germany attacked Poland, Jan Masaryk spoke about the situation on the BBC in London:
During WWII, Masaryk served as a foreign minister in Benes's exile government, and he started addressing his nation on radio from London:
After the war, Jan Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia, where he served again as a Foreign minister - this time in the government of National Front, which included the Communists. The situation came to a head in 1947, when Czechoslovakia was invited to a conference in Paris, to confirm its participation in the US-funded Marshall plan:
The events of 1947 gradually led to the Communist coup in February 1948, when the majority of ministers, Jan Masaryk not included, handed over their resignation to president Benes in a hope for new elections. Instead, the president accepted their resignations and a communist government headed by Klement Gottwald was formed:
On 10th of March 1948 Jan Masaryk was found dead under his bathroom window, and although there is a lot of speculation about the cause of his death, his secretary Antonin Sum is convinced, that Masaryk committed suicide:

03-10-2001