A Trial in Prague

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A Trial in Prague is an 83 min colour documentary film directed by Zuzana Justman about a 1952 show trial in Communist Czechoslovakia.


At the height of the Cold War, an infamous political show trial, known as the Slánský trial, took place in Czechoslovakia. In 1952, 14 leading Communists, including Rudolf Slánský, the second most powerful man in the country, were tried on charges of high treason and espionage. Although they were innocent of the charges, they confessed and were convicted. Most of the men were hanged, but three received life sentences. Eleven of the fourteen were Jews.

The film tells the story of the trial and the paranoia of the period through testimonies, trial footage, archival films and extensive documentation. Among the people who appear in the film are Lise London, whose late husband Artur London was one of the defendants and wrote about the trial in a widely published memoir "The Confession;" Eduard Goldstucker, a Kafka scholar and the first Czech ambassador to Israel who was jailed and forced to testify at the trial; and Jan Kavan, the former Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose father, also a trial witness, died shortly after his release from prison.

What led these men to their passionate belief in Communism and why did they publicly confess to crimes they did not commit? The film explores the questions, as well as the role of Moscow, the motives for the trial and its anti-Semitic thrust. It deals with the personal stories of the condemned men and the legacy they left their children, who "feel a need to live out the interrupted lives of their fathers".


"Sensitive, intelligent & moving ... shows the human face of both communism and its victims" - New York Times [1]

"Harrowing and enlightening, a tale that even Kafka would find hard to imagine" (Boston Phoenix).[2]

"Measured, informative…neatly structured" (Variety).[3]

“The film is as compelling for these painful details as for the tough-minded analysis that ties them together.” ( The Village Voice)[4]

“Powerful, important and refreshingly straightforward documentary.” (New York Post) [5]


Writer and Director: Zuzana Justman; Director of Photography: Miro Gabor, Marek Jicha; Producers: Zuzana Justman, Jiri Jezek, Zuzana Cervenkova, David Charap, Editor: David Charap; Distributor: The Cinema Guild; Distributor: Ergo Media, Inc


Slánská, Josefa (1969). Report On My Husband. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-097320-8.

London, Artur (1971). Confession. USA: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-22170-2.

Margolius, Ivan (2006). Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th century. Chichester: Wiley. ISBN 0-470-02219-1.

Kaplan, Karel (1990). Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. ISBN 1-85043-211-2.

Heda Margolius Kovaly (1997) Under a Cruel Star: A life in Prague 1941-1968 (ISBN 0-8419-1377-3).


  1. ^ Scott, A. O. (2001-09-14). "A Trial in Prague (2000) FILM REVIEW; Loyalty to Communism Rewarded by Execution". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  2. ^ "A Trial in Prague - A Phoenix pick". Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04.
  3. ^ Cockrell, Eddie (2000-09-05). "A Trial in Prague (Documentary)". Variety.
  4. ^ "Show of Force". Village Voice.
  5. ^ "Trial in Prague". New York Post.

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