Irena Bernášková

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Irena Bernášková
Born Irena Preissigová
(1904-02-07)7 February 1904
Died 26 August 1942(1942-08-26) (aged 38)
Nazi Germany
Nationality Czechoslovak
Known for resistance activities

Irena "Inka" Bernášková (7 February 1904 – 26 August 1942) was a Czechoslovak journalist and resistance member who was active in the fight against the German occupation during World War II. She was the first Czech woman sentenced to death and executed by Nazis.

Childhood and youth[edit]

Bernášková was born in Prague as the second of three daughters of painter Vojtěch Preissig.[1] During World War I, the family resided in Boston, United States. Their villa in Boston became an important center of meetings of politicians and statesmen fighting for Czechoslovak independence. Personalities such as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš and Milan Rastislav Štefánik visited their house.[2] Irena returned to Czechoslovakia along with her sisters in 1921. In 1925, in Prague, she married her cousin, František Bernášek. Her parents did not approve of the marriage and her father even cut off all contact with her for four years.[2] The couple settled in a villa in the Spořilov area of Prague. During the Munich crisis mobilization, Bernášková volunteered as a Red Cross nurse and helped refugees from the occupied Czechoslovak border area.[2]

Resistance and death[edit]

During the occupation of Czechoslovakia by German troops she started to distribute leaflets and began collaborating with her father on publishing of the illegal magazine V boj ("Into Combat") in 1939.[1] She also helped to organize illegal transfers across the border with Slovakia. Although the Gestapo searched for her, she managed to avoid arrest and continued to publish the magazine. She was arrested on 21 September 1940 in Prague, Poříčí Street, with false documents.[2] During the interrogation, she tried to accept all the blame herself and saved a number of other resistance collaborators.[2] Still, members of her family were arrested - her husband died in the Buchenwald concentration camp, her father in the concentration camp in Dachau.[3] Bernášková was the first Czech woman convicted and sentenced to death by the Nazis.[3] She was sentenced on 5 March 1942, and then guillotined at the end of August 1942 in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.[4]

In 1946, she received the Czechoslovak War Cross, in memoriam. In 1998 she was posthumously awarded the Medal for Heroism by President Václav Havel.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hynková, Alena (2008). "Neznámí hrdinové - Zasnoubena se smrtí (Irena Bernášková) (TV documentary)" (in Czech). Czech Television. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Koura, Petr (27 September 2005). "Inka Bernášková - statečná žena ze Spořilova" (in Czech). Spořilovské noviny. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Irena Bernášková (*7 Feb. 1904 – †26 Aug. 1942) – a figure in the anti-Nazi Resistance". Prague 2 - official website. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Gebertová, Alena (21 February 2014). "Irena Bernášková – la première Tchèque exécutée par les nazis reste très méconnue dans son pays" (in French). Czech Radio. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "State Decorations: Medal for Heroism". Václav Havel - official website. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Tomášek, Dušan (2001). Žena pod gilotinou [Irena Bernášková]. Český Těšín: Agave. pp. 251–267.