Close-up of Two Political Trials
IT may be instructive from many points of view to analyze some of the Communist political trials. First, I have chosen the Kacerovska-Elsner trial because the defendants were so obviously innocent of any real wrongdoing; because it was the first political trial to which Western correspondents, including myself, were admitted; because the proceedings were so greatly distorted in the press; and because the political objectives were so apparent. Second, I have chosen the Wahl- Nechansky trial because in it the correspondents were again admitted, because the Communist regime found such an easy pretext for devastating action against the United States representation in Czechoslovakia, and because of the intrinsic interest of the problems of resistance and espionage mentioned in the trial.
Two young translators employed in the offices of Josef Kolarek, American Embassy Press Attaché and Chief of the United States Information Service, were brought to trial on April 13, 1950, on charges of espionage and high treason. They were Dagmar Kacerovska, twenty- three, a buxom, pleasant-faced blonde, who sat near the entrance to Kolarek's suite of offices and with whom I had often exchanged greetings when I went to see Kolarek; and Lubomir Elsner, twenty-eight, the chief translator, an intelligent and obliging fellow, whom I had talked to occasionally when I needed an early copy of the embassy's daily review of the press or help on some translation job.
One day in early March 1950, these two young people left the embassy after their day's work but never reached home. For weeks neither their families nor the embassy got any clue as to what had happened to them, although they could guess. Their worst suspicions were confirmed when they traced Elsner and Kacerovska to Pankrac.