The head of the Czech communist party Vojtech Filip and communist MEP Miloslav Randsorf have contributed financially to a planned memorial to Milada Horakova, a Czech politician executed by the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1950. The corner stone of the monument was laid on Tuesday near Prague’s Pankrac prison where Milada Horakova and other political prisoners were executed.
During the enforced nationalisation of the hard-line 1950s, one class who came in for particular persecution were the 'kulaks' or wealthier, propertied farmers. As part of their efforts to destroy them, the Communists are believed to have displaced over 4,000 such farming families. Now - a full 50 or more years later - there are moves to bring to justice some of those responsible for what has even been described as genocide.
On Tuesday a court in Prague began hearing the case against Ludmila Brozova-Polednova, the last living participant in one of the most notorious show trials of communist-era Czechoslovakia. In 1950, Mrs Brozova-Polednova was a 29-year-old prosecutor who helped condemn the democratic politician Milada Horakova to death. Now 86, she is being tried as an accomplice to murder.
Historians are planning a project which will map the stories of Czechoslovak citizens who died tragically during the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Institute of Contemporary History has reportedly begun contacting surviving relatives and friends for information, photographs, and other documentation. 72 people were killed in the first fourteen days or so following the August 21st invasion. The occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops crushed the period of reforms known as the Prague Spring. The project underway will help mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion next year.
Bohuslav Horak, the husband of Milada Horakova who was executed after a notorious show trial in 1950, escaped communist Czechoslovakia in 1949 but until now the details have not been known. Fifty-seven years later, the people who helped Bohuslav Horak escape across the Iron Curtain have come forth, and Czech Television has captured the dramatic events as part of its documentary series "Stories of the Iron Curtain."
Show trials featuring trumped up charges and fabricated confessions remain one of the strongest symbols of Communist state repression throughout the former Eastern Bloc. Czechoslovakia's most infamous show trials involved senior Communist Rudolf Slansky and resistance leader Milada Horakova, both of whom were given the death penalty. But not all defendants were so high-profile: a newly discovered recording reflects Communist Party efforts to use the courts to crush a whole class - relatively wealthy farmers.
In 1952, when Ivan Margolius was five years old, his father Rudolf, a former deputy minister of foreign trade, was found guilty in the notorious Slansky show trials, surely one of the darkest chapters of the Communist era. Rudolf Margolius, who like Ivan's mother Heda had survived the Nazi death camps, was executed. Ivan Margolius left Czechoslovakia in 1966 and is now a successful architect in the UK. When I spoke to him recently, he recalled growing up in the shadow of his father's death.
Since the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Czech historians have been freed of the ideological burdens imposed upon them by the communist system. This has allowed them to approach topics in Czech history in a more open way - especially when dealing with particularly sensitive historical issues, such as the political trials of the 1950s.
This week the Czech Prison Authority has been housing not only prisoners but also a group of international scholars - who, it should be said, have not broken any laws. They have, instead, come to Prague's Pankrac Prison for a conference examining the political trials in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. The most infamous of these trials was against the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Rudolf Slansky, who was executed in the gallows of Pankrac Prison in December 1952.