The Iron Curtain Crashes Down
ON May 31, 1950, a little over a year after my arrival, Tania and I departed from Czechoslovakia for good, and in haste, because I had been accused of espionage. But before I tell that tale I want to describe life as it was in Prague during our last few months, and explain some of the vital changes that had taken place during the year.
That spring the Communist Revolution was no longer creeping. It was rampant. The Communists no longer pushed people around. They kicked them. They were concentrating on breaking those whom they could not win, and had been ever since the previous October when they launched what the police called "Operation Class Warfare" in the form of a giant wave of arrests. Some ten thousand people, mostly of the middle class, had at that time been thrown into forced-labor camps, ostensibly for "reeducation." The arrests have continued sporadically ever since.
Among the October victims there had also been some Communist officials, with three of whom I was acquainted--Dr. Loebl, Dr. Klinger and Dr. Kosta.
Dr. Loebl had headed a highly unsuccessful economic mission to Washington the previous April. Not only had he obtained no dollar credit and no relaxation of American export restrictions but his second in command, Dr. Hugo Skala, had defected the moment he reached Washington. Declaring himself a refugee he had turned over the mission's secret documents to the Americans. Now Dr. Loebl's office replied to telephone inquiries: "He does not work here any more," and it was widely believed in Prague that he had died during interrogation on a charge of sabotaging Czech trade with Russia.
At first the associates of Dr. Klinger and Dr. Kosta in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Information press offices had maintained that their chiefs were ill. Later they just shrugged.
It transpired that the illnesses were entirely political and very serious.