Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948-1954

By George H. Hodos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
THE SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL

The "Trial of the Leadership of the Anti-State Conspiratorial Center led by Rudolf Slánský"began on November 20 and concluded on November 27, 1952. Each of its fourteen defendants was a high-ranking communist. They had fought on the battlefields of Spain and in World War II, they had served in the French resistance or with the partisans in the forests of Slovakia, and they had survived the terrors of Nazi prisons and concentration camps. Tried by their own comrades, their entire lives, devoted to the ideals of the revolutionary movement, were turned end over end. In the courtroom of the Pankrac prison, before a carefully selected audience, one defendant after another confessed to having been, from the days of their youth on, imperialist spies, police informers, Trotzkyist traitors, and agents of a Titoist-bourgeois-nationalist plot to overthrow the communist government of Czechoslovakia and murder its head of state, Klement Gottwald.

The particulars of their crimes are unimportant; they were, as in the Hungarian model, arbitrarily selected and incidental to the purpose and the course of the trial. 1 Every Western or Yugoslav contact these people had over the years was transformed into an espionage contact. The differences from the Hungarian scenario resulted from differences in historical background and present circumstances. London, the wartime seat of the Czech government-in-exile headed by President Eduard Beneš and Foreign Minister Hubert Ripka, was now reinterpreted as having been a training school for future spies and conspirators. The Londoners, Frejka, Clementis, Hadju, Lὂbl, Šling, and Simone, became the tools of the "notorious Western agent, Beneš." The indictment describes them as "corrupt creatures of Beneš and Ripka, bought by foreign espionage agencies. After the war, they descended like locusts into the territory of liberated Czechoslovakia in order to act here in the interests of the Western imperialists."

This emphasis on the London connection explains why, in the Slánský trial, British intelligence played a much more prominent role than it had in the show trials of the other satellite countries. The role of the arch criminal was attributed to Konni Zilliacus, a leftist Labor member of parliament.

"The hideous plans of the imperialist arsonists placed a special emphasis on the liquidation of the democratic system in Czechoslovakia and entrusted this

-83-

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Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948-1954
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION 1
  • Chapter 2 - PRELUDE IN ALBANIA 5
  • Chapter 3 - THE KOSTOV TRIAL IN BULGARIA 13
  • Chapter 4 - THE FIELD CONNECTION 25
  • Chapter 5 - THE ROAD TO THE RAJK TRIAL 33
  • Chapter 6 - PREPARATIONS FOR THE MODEL TRIAL 43
  • Chapter 7 - THE RAJK TRIAL 59
  • Chapter 8 - THE UNLEASHED TERROR IN PRAGUE 73
  • Chapter 9 - THE SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL 83
  • Chapter 10 - THE REINTERPRETED SHOW TRIALS IN ROMANIA 93
  • Chapter 11 - THE INTERRUPTED SHOW TRIALS IN EAST GERMANY 113
  • Chapter 12 - THE POLISH WAY OF SHOW TRIALS 135
  • Chapter 13 - CONSEQUENCES AND CONCLUSIONS 159
  • Notes 165
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 179
  • Index 183
  • About the Author 195
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