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Political Processes

Citizens Judges, in the name of our nation, whose freedom and happiness the criminals have risen against, in the name of peace, against which they have shamefully conspired, I demand the death penalty for all those accused. Let your judgement fall like an iron fist without the slightest mercy. Let it be the fire that burns this shameful tuber of treason to the root. Let it be the bell ringing throughout our beautiful homeland to new victories on our march to the sun of socialism.

From the closing speech of prosecutor Josef Urválek during the trial of Rudolf Slánský and other former communists at the State Court in Prague (26th of November 1952).

Political trials of both real and perceived opponents took place in all communist ruled countries. The events of February 1948 were followed by staged political trials with real and perceived opponents of the regime – more than 240 of whom were executed while several thousand died in prison. At least 300 people lost their lives at state borders. Paradoxically, one of the groups of victims was the Communists themselves, some of whom had occasionally personally taken part in the repression before their arrest. The internal discussion about their rehabilitation was one of the important impulses leading to the Prague Spring.

A photo of Klement Gottwald during his speech at the Old Town Square on the 21st of February 1948. On the left is the original form, on the right is the retouched photograph with Karel Hájek and Vladimír Clementis deleted, on closer inspection it can be seen that Vladimír Clementis (who was executed on December the 2nd 1952) has been added again and hidden in the new version of the photo. In June 1950, the StB (State Security Service) confiscated Hájek’s extensive photo archive, from which only a small number of the images were later returned to him (MMP, ČTK)


Demonstration in support of the Communist Party on February the 21st 1948, at the Old Town Square in Prague (Klement Gottwald 1896-1953)

This period caricature for the magazine Dikobraz (porcupine) was painted by Lev Haas (1901-1983).
At the time of the Nazi occupation he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. After the war he joined the Communist party and helped with their propaganda. In the mid 1950’s he moved to East Germany (APB)

Rudolf Slánský (1901-1952) was a close associate and friend of Klement Gottwald. After the war he became second in command in the Communist party. He ran the party’s apparatus, including the Communists infiltrated to the security forces, and had a significant hand in the coup of February 1948 and subsequent political repression. In July 1951, he celebrated his fiftieth birthday and became the first and last bearer of the Order of Socialism. In September 1951 he was removed from his party position and appointed Deputy Prime Minister.