The Prague Spring 1968: A National Security Archive Documents Reader

By JaromÍr NavrÁtil | Go to book overview

DOCUMENT No. 102: The Arrest of the CPCz CC Presidium Members,
as Recalled by Josef Smrkovský's Personal Secretary H. Maxa

Source: ÚSD, Sb. KV, A—D. Bárta and V. Holá, eds., "Sbírka dokumentú a svědectví z let
1968–69," pp. 60 et seq.

When the reformist members of the CPCz leadership spent several hours waiting in Dubček's large
office suite after the Czechoslovak Presidium had adjourned at around 2:15 A.M. on August 21, 1968,
numerous other people also were present, including three of Smrkovský's top aides. His secretary, H.
Maxa, stayed in the suite the whole night and thus witnessed what happened when Soviet troops and
Czechoslovak StB agents finally entered and arrested the top officials. While questioned many years later,
Maxa recalled what he saw at around 9:00 on the morning of August 21, when Dubček, Smrkovský, Kriegel,
and Špaček were summoned from the room and detained for another few hours in Císař's vacant office.

Maxa's testimony is largely consonant with other first-hand accounts of this scene, except for his
intriguing comments about what the StB agents said when they arrested the four CPCz leaders.

At about half past eight a group arrived, though there was already quite a commotion all around. The group was led by a Soviet colonel, followed by two plainclothesmen, who appeared to be some of our people. They were wearing tweed jackets and open-neck shirts, and they came into the room and started looking for Cde. Dubček. I was standing some two meters from the door, and a young soldier with a machinegun stood on the other side. He was policing the area, and the moment the others saw Dubček, they immediately went up to him and said: "Cde. Dubček, you are to come with us straight away." And Dubček asked him: "Who are you, what do you want?" They replied: "The revolutionary committee." And Dubček again asked: "What and who are you?" And they again replied: "The revolutionary security committee." There was again confusion in the room. One of the two was fairly young; the older one was perhaps 1.7 m or 1.75 m tall. He had graying hair and was stocky, whereas the younger one was taller and thin. Then the colonel came in behind the two security agents and shook hands with everyone. He went up to Dubček and wanted to shake hands with him, too, but Dubček did not even speak to him, so he simply grabbed hold of Dubček's hand. He then went up to Smrkovský, who was standing opposite him with clenched fists, and the colonel tried twice to shake hands with him, but Smrkovský refused.

At that point they indicated who was to go with them: Dubček, Smrkovský, Špaček, and Kriegel….

Question: It was also said that these plainclothesmen, when they came to make the arrests, uttered just one sentence: that they were arresting Dubček, Smrkovský, and Kriegel in the name of the revolutionary workers' and peasants' government headed by Cde. Indra….

Answer: No, that's not where it happened. Later on I heard and saw and read reports about the testimony of a comrade from State Security who had concluded a bit too much from what preceded their entry into Cde. Dubček's office. He said that in the outer office there were two groups of six people each from our security officials, and that they had been chosen to arrest Dubček and the others. And that is where some official of the NKVD taught them the formula of arresting people: "In the name of the revolutionary workers' and peasants' government headed by Cde. Indra we hereby arrest you."…131

131 NKVD was the old acronym (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) of what was known from 1953 to 1991
as the KGB.

-418-

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