Margolius in 1950
|Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade|
1949 – November 1952
|Born||August 31, 1913|
|Died||December 3, 1952 (aged 39)|
|Political party||Czechoslovak Communist Party|
|Spouse(s)||Heda Margolius Kovály|
Imprisoned by the Nazis in the Lodz ghetto and several concentration camps, he survived the Holocaust and joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party, working as an economist. The 1952 show trial involved the Communist Party General Secretary, Rudolf Slánský, and his thirteen co-defendants. They were arrested, unjustly accused, tried, and executed as traitors and western spies. The trial was orchestrated by Soviet advisors, sent to Prague by Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, and assisted by Czechoslovak Secret Service interrogators and the members of Czechoslovak Communist Party Central Committee. The destruction of the Czechoslovak Communist high-ranking party officials by their own colleagues has defied attempts to rationalize it, and our understanding of the affair remains superficial. One of the people who were thrown into the alleged conspiracy was Dr Rudolf Margolius.
The Slánský group consisted of many personalities. On one side was Slánský, an extremist and one of those who helped to usher Czechoslovakia into the Stalinist era. At the centre stood Vladimír Clementis (Minister of Foreign Affairs), a Communist and one of the conductors of the February 1948 communist coup, but also a man who had dared to criticize the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. On the other extreme of the scale was Margolius. Unlike others in the Slánský group, he joined the Communist Party late – in December 1945 – and acquired faith in socialism as a result of his experience in Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps and never held any Party appointments, he was purely an economist.
Rudolf Margolius was born in Prague into a patriotic Czech, middle-class milieu. As a law student in the thirties at Charles University, studying together with the Czech poet Hanuš Bonn, he devoted much of his time to the YMCA travelling in Western Europe, Middle East and America. During Czechoslovakia’s Munich crisis with Nazi Germany he was an Army reservist serving together with his friend, music composer, Jan Hanuš. In 1939, while Czechoslovakia was already occupied by the Third Reich, he married Heda Bloch (later known as Heda Margolius Kovály).
In 1941 he was deported to the Łódź Ghetto and subsequently to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau. In May 1945 after escaping from Dachau, he was made a leader of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen camp for the war refugees. After returning to Prague in June 1945 together with Jarmila Čapková Margolius went to Bergen-Belsen to search for Josef Čapek. In December 1945 he joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party influenced by his war experiences and murder of his parents and relatives in the concentration camps and hope of instituting better future for the country. Between 1945 and 1948 he worked for the Central Federation of Czechoslovak Industry in Prague. Afterwards he was promoted to the Chief of Staff of the Minister for Foreign Trade (1948–49) and subsequently became Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade responsible for the sector trading with Western countries (1949–52). Together with his colleague, Evžen Löbl, Margolius was the author of dollar offensive in the Czechoslovak economic policy. In 1949 in London Margolius negotiated and signed several important economic and financial agreements with Ernest Bevin and Sir William Strang who represented the British Government. The agreements through Margolius' effort were weighted much in favour of the Czechoslovak trade rather than the British trade. Czechoslovak government was satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations and requested that the effort of all those who participated would be appreciated. Margolius was a lawyer and economist and was not directly involved in the contemporary Communist Party machinations or politics.
Dr. Rudolf Margolius was arrested on January 10, 1952. After months of physical and psychological coercion in addition to being forced to sign a false confession, Margolius met for the first time his alleged co-inspirators led by Rudolf Slánský at the Czechoslovak High Court attached to the Pankrác Prison in Prague in November 1952. Margolius was chosen as a member of the ‘conspiracy’ because in his capacity as Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Trade he made trade agreements with capitalist countries against the wishes of the Soviet Union to increase trade with other socialist countries and he dealt with large sums of money. These details had a great impact on contemporary public opinion. As had been determined in advance in Moscow and by the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s Central Committee, the court sentenced Margolius and ten others to death, three received life sentences. On December 3, 1952, at the execution, Margolius did not pronounce any last words.
Pavel Tigrid wrote: 'Margolius… survived the Nazi concentration camps and after the war enrolled into the Communist Party from the real conviction: that never again would be repeated what had happened in the past, that no one would be persecuted for his or hers racial, national or social origins, in order for all people to be equal, in order to establish an era of real freedom. A couple of years later the comrades succeeded in what the Nazis had not managed: they killed him.' 
The Scotsman reported on 16 May 1968:
Czechoslovak President Ludvík Svoboda has awarded the Order of the Republic posthumously to Rudolf Margolius, former Deputy Foreign Trade Minister executed in 1952 after the Stalinist Slánský trial. Margolius was accused of being a member of the “anti-party conspiratorial centre,” and was sentenced to death along with former Party Secretary Rudolf Slánský and nine others on November 27, 1952. Slánský and the others were judicially rehabilitated by the Supreme Court in 1963. All had been accused of high treason, espionage and sabotage and organizing a Jewish plot to bring down the régime.
A memorial plaque dedicated to Rudolf Margolius is located on the family tomb at New Jewish Cemetery, Izraelská 1, Prague 3, sector no. 21, row no. 13, plot no. 33, directly behind Franz Kafka’s grave.
- Heda Margolius Kovály
- Ivan Margolius
- Under a Cruel Star (book)
- Artur London
- Milada Horáková
- Jan Hanuš
- Slánský trial
- Josef Čapek
- List of Czech and Slovak Jews
- Igor Lukes (2002): Rudolf Margolius: A Clean Man in a Filthy Time, Boston University 2002
- Heda Margoliová Kovályová a Helena Třeštíková: Hitler, Stalin a já: Ústní historie 20. století, Mladá fronta, Praha, 2015, p. 176, ISBN 978-80-204-3625-2
- Margolius, Ivan (2010-12-13). "Heda Margolius Kovály obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
- Jarmila Čapková, Vzpomínky, Torst, Praha 1998, p. 331.
- Jan Kuklík, Do poslední pence, Karolinum, Praha 2007, ISBN 978-80-246-1332-1, pp.243-298
- Jan Kuklík, Do poslední pence, Karolinum, Praha 2007, ISBN 978-80-246-1332-1, pp.286
- Ivan Margolius, Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th Century, Wiley, Chichester 2006, p. 160
- Pavel Tigrid, Kapesní průvodce inteligentní ženy po vlastním osudu, 68 Publishers, Toronto 1988, p. 97.
- Frank Shatz, The Lake Placid News, July 8, 2011 http://www.lakeplacidnews.com/page/content.detail/id/503813/WORLD-FOCUS--A-Kafkaesque-tale.html?nav=5001&showlayout=0
- James, Clive (2007). Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0393061167.
- Kaplan, Karel (1990). Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. ISBN 1850432112.
- Margolius Kovály, Heda (1997). Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968, New York: Holmes & Meier, ISBN 0-8419-1377-3
Na vlastní kůži, Academia, Praha 2003
- Heda Margolius Kovály and Helena Třeštíková (2018). Hitler, Stalin and I: An Oral History. DoppelHouse Press (Los Angeles). ISBN 978-0-9987770-0-9, ISBN 978-0-9978184-7-5.
- Margolius, Ivan (2006). Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th Century, Chichester: Wiley, ISBN 0-470-02219-1
Praha za zrcadlem: Putování 20. stoletím, Argo, Praha 2007, ISBN 978-80-7203-947-0
- London, Artur (1971). The Confession, New York: Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-345-22170-2.