Julius Fučík (journalist)
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|Born||23 February 1903|
|Died||8 September 1943 (aged 40)|
Berlin, Nazi Germany
|Notable works||Reportáž psaná na oprátce|
|Notable awards||Honorary International Peace Prize (1950)|
Julius Fučík (Czech: [ˈjulɪjus ˈfutʃiːk]) (23 February 1903 – 8 September 1943) was a Czechoslovak journalist, critc, writer, an active member of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and part of the forefront of the anti-Nazi resistance. He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Nazis.
Julius Fučík was born into a working-class family in Prague. His father was a steelworker, and he was the nephew and namesake of the composer Julius Fučík. In 1913, Fučík moved with his family from Prague to Plzeň (Pilsen) where he attended the state vocational high school. Already as a twelve-year-old boy he was planning to establish a newspaper named Slovan (The Slav). He showed himself to be interested in both politics and literature. As a teenager he frequently acted in local amateur theatre.
Journalism and politics
In 1920 he took up study in Prague and joined the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers' Party, through which he was later to find himself swept up in the left-wing current. In May 1921 this wing founded the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPC). Fučík then first wrote cultural contributions for the local Plzeň CPC newspaper.
After completing his studies, Fučík found a position as an editor with the literary newspaper Kmen ("Stem"). Within the CPC he became responsible for cultural work. In the year 1929 he went to literary critic František Xaver Šalda's magazine Tvorba ("Creation"). Moreover, he constantly worked on the CPC newspaper Rudé právo ("Red Right") and several other journals. In this time Fučík was arrested repeatedly by the Czechoslovak Secret Police, managing to avoid an eight-month prison sentence in 1934.
In 1930, he visited the Soviet Union for four months, including the Czechoslovak collectivist colony Interhelpo in Central Asia, and painted a very positive picture of the situation there in the book V zemi, kde zítra již znamená včera ("In a Land, Where Tomorrow is Already Yesterday", published in 1932). In July 1934, just after Adolf Hitler had suppressed the SA, he visited Bavaria and described his experiences in Cesta do Mnichova ("The Road to Munich"). He went to the Soviet Union again in 1934, this time for two years, and wrote various reports, which again worked to support the Party's strength. After his return, there were heated arguments with authors such as Jiří Weil and Jan Slavík, who criticized developments under Joseph Stalin. Fučík took the Stalinist side and criticized such statements critical of Stalin as fatal to the CPC.
In 1938 Fučík married Augusta Kodeřičová, later known as Gusta Fučíková.
In the wake of the Munich Conference, the Prague government disbanded the CPC from September 1938 and the CPC went underground. After Nazi Germany's troops invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Fučík moved to his parents' house in Chotiměř (Litoměřice District) and published in civilian newspapers, especially about historical and literary topics. He also started to work for the now underground CPC. In 1940 the Gestapo started to search for him in Chotiměř because of his cooperation with the CPC, and so he decided to move back to Prague.
Beginning early in 1941, he belonged to the CPC's Central Committee. He provided handbills and tried to publish the Communist Party newspaper Rudé Právo regularly. On 24 April 1942 he and six others were arrested in Prague by the Gestapo, probably rather coincidentally during a police raid. Although Fučík had two guns at the time, he did not use them. The only survivor of the incident, Riva Friedová-Krieglová, claimed in the 1990s that Fučík had had orders to shoot himself to avoid capture.
Notes from the Gallows
First, Fučík was detained in Pankrác Prison in Prague, where he was also interrogated and tortured. In this time arose Fučík's Notes from the Gallows (Czech: Reportáž psaná na oprátce, literally Reports Written Under the Noose), which was written on pieces of cigarette paper and smuggled out by sympathetic prison wardens named Kolínský and Hora. The book describes events in the prison since Fučík's arrest and is filled with hope for a better, Communist future. In later years its authenticity was contested. The book was published in a more "acceptable" version, from which the less pleasant passages, which did not quite fit into everyone's picture of heroic resistance fighters, had been stricken. After his death those letters were treated as great literary works itself. The notes translated in many languages all over the world.
Trial and death
In May 1943 Fučík was brought to Germany. He was first detained in Bautzen for somewhat more than two months, and afterwards in Berlin. On 25 August 1943 in Berlin, he was accused of high treason in connection with his political activities by the Volksgerichtshof, which was presided over by the notorious Roland Freisler. Fučík was found guilty and was sentenced to death along with Jaroslav Klecan, who had been arrested with Fučík. Fučík was hanged two weeks later on 8 September 1943 in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin (not beheaded as is often stated).
After the war, his wife, Gusta Fučíková, who had also been in a Nazi concentration camp, researched and retrieved all of his prison writings. She edited them with help of CPC and published them as Notes from the Gallows in 1947. The book was successful, and its influence increased after the Stalinist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948. It has been translated into at least 90 languages.
Fučík as an ideological symbol
The Party found Julius Fučík and his book convenient for use as propaganda and turned them into one of the most visible symbols of the Party. The book was required reading in schools and by the age of 10 every pupil growing up in communist Czechoslovakia was familiar with Fučík's work and life. Fučík became a hero whose portrait was displayed at political meetings. Gusta Fučíková was given a high position in the Party hierarchy (the chairmanship of a women's organization), holding it for decades.
Many places were named after Fučík, among them a large entertainment park in Prague (Park kultury a oddechu Julia Fučíka), the city theatre in Jablonec nad Nisou (1945–98), a factory in Brno (Elektrotechnické závody Julia Fučíka), a military unit, and countless streets and squares. In 1955, Milan Kundera published a poetic tale entitled Poslední máj (The Last May) that depicts an encounter between Fučík and his Nazi interrogators.
The Julius Fučík (Юлиус Фучик) was a Soviet and later Russian barge carrier. In Tom Clancy's 1986 novel Red Storm Rising, about a hypothetical war between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, this ship was given the role of being used for the Soviet invasion of Iceland.
References in popular culture
The position and reverence of Fučík during Communst Czechoslovakia is depicted by Milan Kundera in his book The Joke from 1967. There he describes how the portrait of Fučík hangs in public buildings where public expulsions from the Communist Party took place, and how Fučík's book is recited and used as propaganda by the Communist party.
"I recognized Fučík's Notes from the Gallows...That text, written clandestinely in prison, then published after the war in a million copies, broadcast over the radio, studied in schools as required reading, was the sacred book of the era."
After the Party lost its power in 1989, the legend of Fučík became a target of scrutiny. It was made public that some parts of the book Notes from the Gallows (around 2%) had been omitted and that the text had been "sanitized" by Gusta Fučíková. There were speculations as to how much information he gave his torturers, and whether he had turned traitor. In 1995 the complete text of the book was published. The part in which Fučík describes how he succumbed to torture was published for the first time. In it, one learns that Fučík gave false information to his captors, saving countless lives among the Czech resistance to the Nazis. The historian Alena Hájková coedited the critical edition of Fučík's memoir.
- Reportáže z buržoazní republiky, published in journals, collected in 1948
- V zemi, kde zítra již znamená včera, about the Soviet Union, 1932
- V zemi milované, about the Soviet Union, published posthumously in 1949
- Reportáž psaná na oprátce (Notes from the Gallows), 1947, complete text in 1995, many editions and translations
Theatrical critiques and literary essays
- Milujeme svoji zem, 1948
- Stati o literatuře, 1951
- Božena Němcová bojující, O Sabinově zradě, Chůva published in Tři studie, 1947.
- Pokolení před Petrem, an autobiographical novel, unfinished, 1939
- Julius Fučík (1872–1916), composer and Fučík's uncle.
- Notes from the Gallows, ISBN 0-87905-252-X
- Radko Šťastný: Čeští spisovatelé deseti století, Prague 2001, ISBN 80-903071-0-8