CHAPTER 12 Aftermath -- the Death of Jan Masaryk and of Eduard Benes

DURING the weeks that followed the Communist coup it was common to see bits of black burned paper floating from chimneys into the streets. People were burning private papers and books the way they had when the Nazis marched in. It was a period of apprehension when no one knew whether or not his friend might be working with one of the Action Committees. Again, as after Munich, there was a widespread feeling that Czechoslovakia had been betrayed by the West. And yet so much had happened in such a short time that a great many people did not fully grasp what a fundamental change had taken place. There was a good deal of wishful thinking that the new government would be like any other.

But the people of Czechoslovakia were soon to learn otherwise, as purge followed purge and decree followed decree, imposing revolutionary changes from which there was no escape. Ambassador Valerian Alexandrovitch Zorin, his work well done, departed for Moscow on February 28. The peasants, who had been called together by the Communists for a huge mass meeting in Prague on February 29, were no longer needed, and after a minimum of oratorical fireworks, they were packed off home again.

Having won control of the government with their triumph of February 25, the Communists' main concern now was to reinforce their grip on the country and to begin its transformation on the Soviet model. They set about expanding the work begun by the Action Committees during the crisis. Some foreign newspapermen who kept inquiring as to the legal basis for the operations of the Action Committees, were informed by the Minister of Social Welfare, Evzan Erban, at a government press conference as follows: "The Action Committees reflect the will of the people. The constitution made the will of the people decisive and therefore the Action Committees are perfectly legal."

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