Jan Syrový

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Jan Syrový
JAN SYROVÝ.jpg
Jan Syrový in 1938
Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
In office
22 September 1938 – 1 December 1938
Preceded by Milan Hodža
Succeeded by Rudolf Beran
Personal details
Born (1888-01-24)24 January 1888
Třebíč, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Died 17 October 1970(1970-10-17) (aged 82)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Nationality Czech
Signature
Military service
Service/branch Austro-Hungarian Army
Czechoslovak Legions
Czechoslovak Army
Rank General

Jan Syrový (24 January 1888 – 17 October 1970) was a Czechoslovak Army four star general and the prime minister during the Munich Crisis.

Early life and military career[edit]

Jan Syrový studied building at a technical school. Following his graduation in 1906, he became a one year volunteer in the Austro-Hungarian army. After that, he studied at a technical college in Russia. During World War I, he fought in the Czechoslovak Legions of the Russian army and lost his right eye in the Battle of Zborov. By the end of the war he commanded the Legions and anti-Bolshevik forces on the Trans-Siberian railway. A well-known veteran commander, he served as Chief of Staff of the Czechoslovak Army from 1926 to 1933 and as is general inspector from 1933 to 1938.[1] During this time, helped to prepare the Czechoslovak Air Force with the collaboration of Jan Antonín Baťa and moved military personnel and materials away from Nazi Germany.[citation needed]

Premiership and the "Munich Crisis"[edit]

When Milan Hodža's government resigned on 23 September 1938, Syrový was appointed Prime Minister of a national unity government, despite his objections. Syrový had insisted he was just a soldier, not a politician, and that he lacked the qualifications and relevant experience to qualify him for such an important post. President Edvard Beneš told him that the nation needed him and that, as a soldier, he should regard it as an order. With some reluctance, Syrový then accepted, and also took the defence portfolio as well.

As Prime Minister, he was forced to accept the terms of the Munich Agreement on 30 September. In a speech to the nation, he stated Czechoslovakia had no choice but to accept the terms because without British or French support, the country was outnumbered and any conflict would result in severe casualties. "We were abandoned," he said. "We stand alone." [2] Following the resignation of President Edvard Beneš on 5 October, Syrový temporarily took over some presidential duties (in accord with the Czechoslovak Constitution) until Emil Hácha was duly elected President on 30 November 1938.

He resigned the premiership on 1 December 1938, remaining as Minister of National Defence until 27 April 1939. He did not join the anti-German resistance as he was too well-known a figure for his involvement to be anything other than a liability. However, he did arrange the transfer of substantial sums from a Legionary relief fund to assist the resistance and people facing persecution.

Post-War fate[edit]

On 14 May 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the war, Syrový was arrested, charged with collaboration (although he had consciously steered clear of this, as far as his office allowed). In a show-trial of alleged collaborators in 1947, the National Court found him guilty (along with Rudolf Beran) and sentenced him to twenty years imprisonment in severe conditions.

Released in 1960 by Novotný's amnesty, Syrový was left with no pension or any means of maintenance. Additionally, the communist regime barred him from employment. Eventually he was allowed to work as a night watchman, ironically guarding Marold's panorama of the Battle of Lipany. Not until late 1967 did the regime grant him a limited retirement pension.

Syrový was deeply wounded by the verdict of the National Court and remained so for the rest of his life. His own conscience was clear and he never came to terms with the apparent injustice of the decision. He reviewed his trial in an interview for the Report Magazine in 1968 and stated that there were three critical pieces of evidence laid against him. Firstly, a snapshot of himself shaking hands with Hitler, during a meeting he was obliged to attend at the Prague Castle. Hitler had made a speech of reassurance as to Czechoslovakia's future under the 'protection' of the Reich; he then held out his hand to Syrový and the photographers immediately took a picture. Another photo provided the second piece of evidence: this photograph was taken at a government banquet and showed Syrový sat alongside Henlein. Syrový stated that the picture was taken out of context, to be used for Nazi propaganda. The final piece of critical evidence was an arms contract with the Nazis. Syrový stated the weapons sold had been obsolete items from the First World War, which were no longer of any use to Czechoslovakia and that the weapons had been sold to German private companies; in addition, he stated that, ultimately, the decision to sell was made not just by him, but by the government as a whole. Syrový felt that had the allies of Czechoslovakia offered their promised help, he would never have had to agree to the Munich Dictate, but that, under the circumstances, the Czechoslovak Army on its own had no chance of success.[3]

Syrový died on 17 October 1970.

Decorations[edit]

Awarded by Belgium:

BEL Kroonorde Grootofficier BAR.svg Order of the Crown: II. class[1]
BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-18[1]

Awarded by Czechoslovakia:

Czechoslovak War Cross 1918 (5x) Bar.png Czechoslovak War Cross 1918: with four linden branches [1]
Ribbon Czechoslovak Order of the Hawk.png Order of the Falcon: with swords [1]
TCH CS revolucni medaile BAR.svg Czechoslovak Revolutionary Medal 1914-18 with clasps: "Č.D.", "Zborov" and numbers "1", "2" [1]
Ribbon Czechoslovak Victory Medal 1918.png Czechoslovak Medal of Victory 1918 [1]

Awarded by Estonia:

EST Order of the Cross of the Eagle 1st Class BAR.png Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, for the Protection of the Country: I. class [1]

Awarded by France:

Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Grand Officier [1]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Commandeur [1]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Officier [1]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Chevalier [Knight] [1]
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-18: with palme [1]
From the right: Špidlík, Švec, Syrový
Image taken one day before Syrový lost his eye.

Awarded by Italy:

Grande ufficiale OCI Kingdom BAR.svg Order of the Italian Crown: II. class [1]
Croce di guerra al merito BAR.svg War Merit Cross [1]

Awarded by Japan:

Het lint van de Orde van de Schat Japan Order of the Sacred Treasure.jpg Order of the Sacred Treasure: II. class [1]

Awarded by Yugoslavia:

Ord.St.Sava-ribbon.jpg Order of St. Sava: I. class [1]
SRB Orden Belog Orla BAR.svg Order of the White Eagle: I. class [1]
Order of the White Eagle: II. class [1]
Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords rib.png Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords : II. class [1]

Awarded by Lithuania:

Vytautas komandoro didysis kryzius Ribbon.jpg Order of Vytis Cross: Cross, II. class [1]

Awarded by Latvia:

Lacplesis Military Order Ribbon.png Order of Lāčplēsis: II. class [1][4]
LVA Order of the Three Stars - Grand Officer BAR.png Order of the Three Stars: II. class [1]

Awarded by Morocco:

MAR Order of the Ouissam Alaouite - Grand Cross (1913-1956) BAR.png Nischan el Quissam Alaouite: I. class [1]

Awarded by Poland:

POL Polonia Restituta Komandorski ZG BAR.svg Order of Polonia Restituta: II. class [1]

Awarded by Romania:

Rib order star romania 1kl.jpg Order of the Star of Romania: I. class [1]
Romanian Kruunuritarikunnan suurupseeri.png Order of the Crown: II. class [1]
Order of Faithful Service (Romania) - ribbon bar.gif Order of Loyal Service: I. class [1]
Ribbon Crucea Comemorativă a Războiului 1916-1918.png Remembrance Cross 1916-19: with the clasp: "Siberia" [1]

Awarded by Imperial Russia:

RUS Order św. Włodzimierza (baretka).svg Order of St. Vladimir: IV. class [1]
Order of Saint Anne Ribbon.png Order of St. Anne: IV. class [1]
RUS Order św. Stanisława (baretka).svg Order of Saint Stanislaus (Imperial House of Romanov): III. class [1]
OrderStGeorge4cl rib.png Cross of St. George: IV. class [1]

Awarded by Greece:

GRE Order of the Phoenix - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Phoenix: I. class [1]
Greek Medal of Military merit ribbon.png Medal of Military Merit [1]

Awarded by Tunisia:

Ordre du Nichan Iftikhar GC ribbon (Tunisia).svg Order of Nischan el Iftikchar: I. class [1]

Awarded by Great Britain:

Order of the Bath (ribbon).svg Order of the Bath, in the grade of: Knight Commander [KCB] [1]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak (Czech) Vojenské osobnosti-Jan Syrový
  2. ^ (Czech) Projev předsedy vlády Syrového 30. září 1938
  3. ^ [1] | (Czech) Interview in the Report Magazine
  4. ^ Priedītis, Ērichs Ēriks (1996). Latvijas Valsts apbalvojumi un Lāčplēši. (in Latvian). Riga: Junda. ISBN 9984-01-020-1. OCLC 38884671. 
Government offices
Preceded by
Jiří Stříbrný
Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia
1926
Succeeded by
František Udržal
Preceded by
František Machník
Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia
1938–1939
Succeeded by
Ludvík Svoboda
(after World War II)
Preceded by
Milan Hodža
Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
1938
Succeeded by
Rudolf Beran
Political offices
Preceded by
Edvard Beneš
President of Czechoslovakia (acting)
1938
Succeeded by
Emil Hácha