The Slánský trial (officially Proces s protistátním spikleneckým centrem Rudolfa Slánského meaning "Trial of anti-state conspiracy centered around Rudolf Slánský") was a show trial against elements of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) who were thought to have adopted the line of the maverick Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito. On 20 November 1952, Rudolf Slánský, General Secretary of the KSČ, and 13 other leading party members, 11 of them Jews, were accused of participating in a Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy and convicted: 11 including Slánský were hanged in Prague on December 3, and three were sentenced to life imprisonment. The state prosecutor at the trial in Prague was Josef Urválek.
The trial was the result of a split within the Communist leadership on the degree to which the state should emulate the Soviet Union, and was part of a Joseph Stalin-inspired purge of "disloyal" elements in the national Communist parties in Central Europe, as well as a purge of Jews from the leadership of Communist parties. Klement Gottwald, president of Czechoslovakia and leader of the Communist Party, feared being purged, and decided to sacrifice Slánský, a longtime collaborator and personal friend who was the second-in-command of the party. The others were picked to convey a clear threat to different groups in the state bureaucracy. A couple of them (Šváb, Reicin) were brutal sadists conveniently added for a more realistic show.
The trial was orchestrated (and the subsequent terror staged in Czechoslovakia) on the order of Moscow leadership by Soviet advisors, who ironically were invited by Rudolf Slánský and Klement Gottwald, with the help of the Czechoslovak State Security personnel following the László Rajk trial in Budapest in September 1949.
Those put on trial confessed to all crimes (under duress or after torture) and were sentenced to punishment. Slánský attempted suicide while in prison. The people of Czechoslovakia signed petitions asking for death for the alleged traitors.
After the deaths of both Stalin and Gottwald in March 1953, the harshness of the persecutions slowly decreased, and the victims of the trial quietly received amnesty one by one, including those who had survived the Prague Trial. Later, the official historiography of the Communist Party was rather quiet on the trial, vaguely putting blame on errors that happened as a result of a "cult of personality". Many other political trials followed on, sending many innocent victims to jail and hard labour in Jáchymov uranium mines and labour camps.
List of the main defendants
- Rudolf Slánský (1901), General Secretary of the KSČ (executed)
- Vladimír Clementis (1902), Minister of Foreign Affairs (executed)
- Otto Fischl (1902), Deputy Minister of Finance (executed)
- Josef Frank (1909), Deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (executed)
- Ludvík Frejka (1904), Chief of the Economic Committee in the Chancellery of the President (executed)
- Bedřich Geminder (1901), Chief of the International Section of the Party Secretariat (executed)
- Vavro Hajdů (1913), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (life imprisonment)
- Evžen Löbl (1907), Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade (life imprisonment)
- Artur London (1915), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (life imprisonment)
- Rudolf Margolius (1913), Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade (executed)
- Bedřich Reicin (1911), Deputy Minister of National Defence (executed)
- André Simone (1895) (pseudonym of Otto Katz), editor of Rudé právo (executed)
- Otto Šling (1912), Regional Party Secretary in Brno (executed)
- Karel Šváb (1904), Deputy Minister of National Security (executed)
- Vladimír Clementis, Hero of ČSSR, in memoriam
- Josef Frank, Hero of ČSSR, in memoriam
- Ludvík Frejka, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
- Vavro Hajdů, Order of the Republic
- Artur London, Order of the Republic
- Rudolf Margolius, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
- André Simone, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
- Bedřich Geminder, Order of the Labour, in memoriam
- Evžen Löbl, Order of the Labour
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The Slánský trial was dramatised in the 1970 film L'Aveu ("The Confession"), directed by Costa-Gavras and starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. The film was based on the book of the same name by Artur London, who was a survivor of the trial.
The Slánský trial is a key element of the book Under a Cruel Star. A memoir by Heda Margolius Kovaly, the book follows the life of a Jewish woman, starting with her escape from a concentration camp during World War II, up until her departure from Czechoslovakia after the Warsaw Pact countries invasion of 1968. Kovaly's husband, Rudolf Margolius, a fellow Holocaust survivor, was one of the 11 men executed during the Slánský trial.
The Slánský trial is the subject of the documentary A Trial in Prague, directed by Zuzana Justman (2000, 83min).
- Josef Urválek
- Solomon Mikhoels
- Itzik Feffer
- Ilya Ehrenburg
- Noel Field
- Mordechai Oren
- Rudolf Margolius
- Artur London
- Milada Horáková
- László Rajk
- Traicho Kostov
- March 1968 events
- Eastern Bloc politics
- Le Bilan, song of Jean Ferrat who speaks about the trial
- Igor Lukes, "The Rudolf Slansky Affair", Slavic Review, Spring 1999
- Brent, Jonathan and Naumov, Vladimir P., Stalin's Last Crime, John Murray (Publishers), London, 2003, page 191
- Kaplan, Karel (1990). Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. ISBN 1-85043-211-2.
- Margolius, Ivan (2006). Reflections of Prague: Journeys Through the 20th Century. London: Wiley. ISBN 0-470-02219-1.
- Ministerstvo spravedlnosti, Proces s vedením protistátního spikleneckého centra v čele s Rudollfem Slánským, Orbis Praha 1953
- Rudé Právo, 30. 4. 1968