By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska
Milada Horáková was a lawyer, politician who was convicted on fabricated charges of conspiracy and treason and murdered by communists in the communist Czechoslovakia on June 27 1950 by hanging at the age of 48.
She died after being strangled for more than 13 minutes. Her remains were never found.
Many prominent figures in the West, including Albert Einstein,Winston Churchill and former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt petitioned for her life.
Before she was executed she wrote letters to her husband Bohuslav Horák and their daughter, Jana, but they were able to read them 40 years later. Her daughter was aged 16 at the time of her mother’s execution.
Milada Horáková wrote to her daughter “Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody … but don’t let it defeat you. Decide to fight. Have courage and clear goals, and you will win over life.”
Her conviction was annulled in 1968. She was fully rehabilitated in the 1990s and posthumously received the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1st Class) and Order of the White Double Cross (1st Class). 27 June, the day of her execution, was declared “Commemoration Day for the Victims of the Communist Regime” in the Czech Republic.
In 1929 she joined the Czechoslovak National Social Party, a strong opponent of German National Socialism and was a member of underground resistance movement during World War II.
In 1945, Horáková joined the leadership of the re-constituted Czechoslovak National Socialist Party. She became a member of the Provisional National Assembly. In 1946, she won a seat in the elected National Assembly.
Her political activities focused as before World War II on promoting the role of women in society and preserving Czechoslovakia’s democratic institutions. Shortly after the Communist coup in February 1948, she resigned from the parliament in protest and decided not to leave Czechoslovakia for the West. She remained politically involved in Prague.
On 27 September 1949 she was arrested by communists who accused her of being the leader of a group intending to topple the Communist regime. Before the trial Horáková and her group faced exhaustive interrogation by the StB, the Czechoslovak state security organ. She was accused of leading a conspiracy to commit treason and espionage requested by the United States, Great Britain, France and Yugoslavia. She was also accused of maintaining contacts with Czechoslovak political figures in exile in the West.
Her trial and of her twelve colleagues started on 31 May 1950 as a show trial, similar to those in the Soviet Great Purges of the 1930s. The trial was directed by Soviets and communists organised a public campaign demanding the death penalty for the accused. The State’s prosecutors were Dr. Josef Urválek and Ludmila Brožová-Polednová.
A recording of the event, discovered in 2005, showed Horáková’s courage saying “no-one in this country should be put to death or be imprisoned for their beliefs.”
Milada Horáková was sentenced to death on 8 June 1950, together with three colleagues (Jan Buchal, Oldřich Pecl, and Záviš Kalandra). Her reported last words were (in translation): “I have lost this fight but I leave with honour. I love this country, I love this nation, strive for their wellbeing. I depart without rancour towards you. I wish you, I wish you…”
Horáková’s body was cremated at Strašnice Crematorium, but her ashes were not returned to her family. Their whereabouts are unknown.
Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the only surviving member of the prosecution in the Horáková trial, was sentenced to six years in prison for assisting in the judicial murder of Milada Horáková on 11 September 2008. She was then 86. Brožová-Polednová was released from detention in December 2010, due to her age and health, She died on 15 January 2015.
Sources: Wikipedia, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2006/nov/15/20061115-103629-9821r/
Kaplan, Karel and Paleček, Pavel. Komunistický režim a politické procesy v Československu. Brno, 2001. p. 69
Published first on: https://www.communications-unlimited.nl/milada-horakova-murdered-by-communists/
and republished with permission.
Image: Wikipedia Commons, public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vazebn%C3%AD_fotografie_Milady_Hor%C3%A1kov%C3%A9.jpg