Plans to bring persecutors of wealthy farmers to justice

29-10-2007

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.

1951 marked the trial of Josef Pazout - a wealthy farmer, or kulak, who stood accused of sabotage when he failed to produce the high yields of milk, pork, beef and eggs that the Communist government had demanded of him.

Mr. Pazout was one of hundreds of wealthier Czech farmers to be tried at the beginning of the 1950s, as part of 'Akce K' ('Operation K') - the government's drive to wipe out the kulak. Otakar Raulim is from the Confederation of Political Prisoners. He explains:

"These trials were the second stage of this operation - when they tried to show that there was a 'reason' for the persecution of kulaks. At first they just chose a group of people, around 4,000 families, which they displaced. They shunted them into different state-run cooperative farms, which were failing. These cases trying farmers for not meeting their quotas - that was a second phase."

At first, as Mr. Raulim explains, many kulaks weren't even tried, but instead thrown out of their homes, as the state nationalised their land:

"The majority of parents were sent to the gulags, while children and grandparents were taken off to the towns along the Czech-German border, which were uninhabited after WWII. There, they lived in misery and poverty. They slept like homeless people under bridges."

Now, there are plans to bring those behind 'Akce K' and its implementation to trial. Mr. Raulim and the Confederation of Political Prisoners want charges of genocide to be brought against those tried.

But the man behind the prosecutions doesn't agree. Jan Srb is from the Bureau for the Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes:

"It would maybe be possible to bring charges of genocide against those who sat in government at the time, and who made the decisions. That would mean the Justice Minister, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of the Interior, who approved this bill to get rid of kulaks. But all of these people are dead now, and so for this reason we are not trying to charge anyone with genocide."

So, who is the Communist Crimes Bureau wanting to prosecute?

"Those people who carried out these acts at a local level. The prosecutors, the village mayors and so on. These are the characters that we are trying to identify in each individual case, and then find out if they are still alive. And these are the people who might end up being tried, but most likely on charges of abuse of office."

29-10-2007