Alois Eliáš

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Alois Eliáš
Alois Elias Langhans.jpg
Alois Eliáš on photo from Atelier Langhans Prague
Prime Minister of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
In office
27 April 1939 – 27 September 1941
Preceded byRudolf Beran (acting)
Succeeded byJaroslav Krejčí
Personal details
Born(1890-09-29)29 September 1890
Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia, Cisleithania, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died19 June 1942(1942-06-19) (aged 51)
Kobylisy Shooting Range, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Cause of deathExecution by firing squad
OccupationArmy general and politician
Awards

Alois Eliáš (29 September 1890 in Prague – 19 June 1942 at Kobylisy Shooting Range, Prague) was a Czech General and politician. He served as Prime Minister of the puppet government of the German-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from 27 April 1939 to 27 September 1941, but maintained contact with the government-in-exile. Because of his participation in anti-Nazi resistance, he was the only head of government to be executed by the Nazis during the war.

Education[edit]

Antonin Eliáš graduated from the Czech Technical University in 1911 in geodesy. Working for a private company as a land surveyor he was sent to Bosnia to work on a railway construction.[1]

Military career[edit]

World War I[edit]

After the declaration of war on Serbia Eliáš was obliged to join the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was sent with the Prague 28th Infantry Regiment to the Russian Front. Eliáš was taken a prisoner in Galicia on 28 August 1914 - after only several days on the front.

Czechoslovak legions in France[edit]

In 1917 Eliáš learnt of the existence of Czechoslovak Legions and joined them.[2] The Czechoslovak Legion were volunteer armed forces fighting together with the Entente Powers during World War I (France, Britain, Russia). Their goal was to win the Allies' support for the independence, which was ultimately successful.

Eliáš was later dispatched with the legions to France, where he studied at the officer school at St. Maixent, being later assigned to the 21st Czechoslovak Regiment as a platoon commander.

In autumn 1918 he took part in the Terron Battle and in the Battle on the Aisne. For his bravery and commanding skills, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) and a medal of Legion of Honour.

Creation of Czechoslovakia[edit]

Studies in France significantly accelerated Elias’s career after the war. In Prague Eliáš worked at the General Staff, later being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

He took part as an army expert to the Czechoslovak delegation at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1936 he was promoted to the rank of a General of Division (second highest army rank) and became a commander of the V. Army Corps in Trenčín.

During the so-called Second Czechoslovak Republic he was named the new Minister of Transportation and at the same time he became the member of the Highest State Defence Council of Czechoslovaka.

Prime Minister[edit]

Appointment[edit]

The first government under the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was only provisional in nature because it served as a successor to the government of the Second Czechoslovak Republic during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.[clarification needed] A replacement of the aforementioned government was discussed at the end of April 1939. President Emil Hácha thought Alois Eliáš was a good choice for prime minister because the popularity acquired by Eliáš during his earlier military career would legitimise the puppet regime. Eliáš had served with the Czechoslovak Legion in France during World War I, and attained the rank of general. Although somewhat dubious, some historians have written that Hácha hoped Eliáš's former contacts with the Reichsprotektor Konstantin von Neurath could influence the Reichsprotektor of the desirability of Eliáš as the Prime Minister. On 27 April 1939, he was appointed Prime Minister. Eliáš took office with the conviction that he might have a unique opportunity to help his country by covertly supporting the underground resistance to the Nazi occupiers.

Resistance activities[edit]

During the war, Eliáš maintained secret contacts with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile led by President Edvard Beneš, and supported the Czech resistance.

The situation started to deteriorate after a wave of arrests of resistance members in 1940. Among Eliáš' close contacts, the government minister Ladislav Feierabend [cs] fled to London and the Lord Mayor of Prague, Otakar Klapka [cs], who was well informed about Eliáš´s activities in support of families of exiled and arrested Czechs and secret messengers and contacts with Czech president Edvard Beneš in exile, was arrested and later executed.[3] By January 1941, the Gestapo had accumulated damning evidence of Eliáš' involvement in the resistance. SS and Police Leader Karl Hermann Frank called for his arrest, but was unsuccessful at having Eliáš removed.[4]

The Sandwich Affair[edit]

In early September 1941, Alois Eliáš lost patience with several collaborationist journalists.[5] Eliáš officially invited the journalists to the Office of the Government and planned their poisoning.[citation needed] With the help of his urologist Miloš Klika, sandwiches were laced with botulism toxin, tuberculosis-causing Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and typhus-causing Rickettsia bacteria. On 18 September 1941 the invited journalists ate the poisoned sandwiches. Karel Lažnovský, the pro-Nazi editor of the journal České slovo, was the only fatality.[6] Other journalists, including Jaroslav Křemen and Emanuel Vajtauer, fell ill.[7][8] Although Eliáš handled the sandwiches, he did not fall ill. Though the Sandwich affair was investigated by Gestapo, Eliáš was not charged and allowed to retain his office.

Arrest and execution[edit]

On 27 September 1941, two days before the appointment of Heydrich as the new Reich Protektor (German governor of Czech Lands), Eliáš was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death. Eliáš was executed at the Kobylisy Shooting Range on 19 June 1942. During Eliáš' time on death row, Heydrich himself was assassinated by Czech resistance.

It was over 60 years later that prime minister Eliáš was given a state funeral with full honours on 7 May 2006 and was buried at the National Monument in Vitkov in Prague.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://icv.vlada.cz/en/tema/alois-elias-29-9-1890---19-6-1942-76879/tmplid-676/ Antonin Eliáš on Czech Government official site
  2. ^ http://icv.vlada.cz/en/tema/alois-elias-29-9-1890---19-6-1942-76879/tmplid-676/ Antonin Eliáš on Czech Government official site
  3. ^ https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=PBs9DgAAQBAJ&pg=PA391&lpg=PA391&dq=alois+elias+executed&source=bl&ots=FFPPgR0mlQ&sig=H5fmVHtF8du6_y078uDwxlilfNI&hl=cs&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=alois%20elias%20executed&f=false Palgrave Macmillan: The Statesman's Yearbook 2017: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World
  4. ^ Mastný 1971, p. 162.
  5. ^ http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/alois-elias-adding-poison-to-paradox Adding poison to paradox
  6. ^ "Radio Prague - Alois Elias: Adding poison to paradox". Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  7. ^ "Protektorátní premiér Eliáš otrávil nacistické novináře". iDNES.cz. 2006-02-20. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  8. ^ "Rekonstrukce "chlebíčkové aféry" – atentát v režii odboje". Portál Mzone.cz (in Czech). Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  9. ^ Czech Radio: Plaue unveiled to General Alois Eliáš|http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/plaque-unveiled-to-general-alois-elias-protectorate-prime-minister-executed-by-nazis]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Kvaček, Robert, 2002. Czech History: Part Two [České dějiny II]. Prague, CZ: SPL-Práce, Úvaly, CZ: Albra.
  • Lustigová, Martina, 2006. 'Alois Eliáš Poisoned Pro-Nazi Journalists' [Alois Eliáš otrávil pronacistické novináře]. Český Rozhlas 7, Radio Praha, 24 February 2006 [cited 25 July 2006]. Available from http://www.radio.cz/cz/clanek/76230
  • Mastný, Vojtěch (1971). The Czechs Under Nazi Rule: The Failure of National Resistance, 1939–1942. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03303-6.
Government offices
Preceded by
Rudolf Beran
Prime Minister of Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia
1939–1941
Succeeded by
Jaroslav Krejčí

External links[edit]