The Slansky Trial: the performance

On 20 November 1952 the Slansky Trial finally opened in Prague.


The Slansky trial: contents.
Court documentation published in preparation for the trial emphasised the fact that this was not a trial of “ordinary” Czechoslovak nationals: the names of 11 of the 14 defendants were followed by the words “of Jewish origin.” Where the name was deemed not to sound sufficiently Jewish, the original name of the accused was also included: Slansky alias Salzmann, Frejka alias Freund, and Andre Simone alias Otto Katz.

Slansky and his 13 accomplices were accused of “high treason, espionage, sabotage and military treason.” More specifically, as the prosecutor explained in his opening address:

“As Trotskyite-Titoite, Zionist, bourgeois-nationalist traitors and enemies of the Czechoslovak people, of the popular-democratic social order, and of socialism, they formed an anti-state conspiratorial centre in the service of American imperialism and controlled by hostile western intelligence services. They undermined the popular-democratic social order, disrupted socialist construction, harmed the people’s economy, carried out espionage activities, and weakened the unity of the Czechoslovak people and the defence capabilities of the country.

“They did so in order to tear the country away from its solid alliance and ties of friendship with the Soviet Union, to liquidate the popular-democratic social order in Czechoslovakia, to restore capitalism, to again drag the country into the camp of imperialism, and to destroy its autonomy and independence.”

Slansky confessed that he had become a police spy in 1924/25, had joined a “Trotskyite faction” by 1928, and by 1930 had been recruited by the US intelligence services. During the war, Slansky continued, he had worked for both the American and British secret services. In the latter half of the 1940s he had then made contact with Yugoslav Titoites through Tito’s advisor Moshe Pijade and British Labour MP Konni Zilliacus.

Slansky’s links with Pijade were proof of his Titoism:

“I made it quite clear to Pijade that I regarded the measures of the Tito clique as correct and assured him that my stand was identical with that of Tito and his accomplices and that I was pursuing a similar line in Czechoslovakia.”

His links with Zilliacus were an even more serious matter, given the role allocated to Zilliacus in the “conspiracy” at the centre of the trial. According to the trial indictment:

“The hideous plans of the imperialist arsonists placed a special emphasis on the liquidation of the democratic system in Czechoslovakia and entrusted this important task to their trusted pimp, the master of deceit and provocation, Konni Zilliacus, one of the most successful agents of the British Intelligence Service.”

Slansky further “confessed” that he had personally selected his 13 co-defendants for the positions which they had held at the time of their arrests and which they had used in order to “execute sabotage and espionage.”

In response to the judge’s instruction to “elaborate on your activity in infiltrating Zionists into important posts,” Slansky replied:

“I collaborated with the Zionists, whose diversionary tactics were part of their campaign to liquidate the popular-democratic regime in Czechoslovakia. ...Those Zionists for their part brought other Zionists into various sectors of our political and economic life ...The Zionists active in Czechoslovakia were part of an international conspiracy led by American Zionists.

“The whole world-wide Zionist movement was, in fact, led and ruled by the imperialists — in particular the US imperialists through the American Zionists. For American Zionists, who, as in other countries, are the financially most powerful and politically most influential Zionists, form part of the ruling imperialist circles of America.”

In order to stifle criticism of his promotion of Zionists and his patronage of Zionist organisations, Slansky explained, he had falsely accused his critics of anti-semitism, creating an atmosphere of fear to prevent opposition to Zionism.

But even now the fantasies of Slansky’s scriptwriter had not yet exhausted themelves. Asked by the prosecutor if he had used other organisations apart from Zionist ones in his “subversive activities”, Slanksy responded:

“Yes. Freemasons. In its activities the Anti-State Conspiratorial Centre made use of Freemasons and their lodges as well as Zionist organisations ...I wish to stress that the hostile character of Freemason lodges was emphasised by the fact that Dr Eduard Benes (the former Czechoslovak President), the imperialist agent, was also a member.”

Slansky had a simple explanation for his behaviour: “My past... made me an enemy of the cause of progress and socialism. I was born into a middle-class Jewish family.”

Andre Simone, until recently the foreign editor of the CPC’s newspaper Rude Pravo, confessed to having been a Zionist, a Trotskyist, a foreign intelligence agent in his own right, and also a conduit for the information which his co-accused supposedly passed on to the foreign secret services.

In France, he confessed, he had been “in close contact with the Jewish nationalist and French Colonial Minister Georges Mandel until 1939.” Thereafter he had “links with the Jewish nationalist and member of the US Supreme Court, Frankfurter” and also with “the agent of the American secret service, the Jewish nationalist Schönbrunn.”

In addition, Simone continued, “I was at the service of the French, British and American espionage services.”

Simone’s scripted explanation for his treachery was:

“My personal characteristics, which resulted in my being an enemy of the working class and everything progressive. As the son of a manufacturer, and educated in the spirit of bourgeois ideology I have always been alien to the working class. I considered a worker an inferior being and moved in circles close to my heart, among traitors to the working people: Trotskyites, Social Democrats, and Jewish bourgeois nationalists.”

(To ensure the nature of Simone’s “personal characteristics” was properly understood, his confession was preceded by the following questioning by the judge: “Your name is Andre Simone. Was that always your name?” “My correct name is Otto Katz.”)

Geminder, former chief of the CPC’s International Division, confessed to being “a Trotskyite and a Jewish bourgeois nationalist.” He had been the go-between for Slansky and Zilliacus, as well as being Slansky’s intermediary for contact with Israeli and Yugoslav diplomats. According to Geminder: “The United States imperialists sought by means of the Zionist agency... to destroy the political and economic foundations of the country.”

Asked by the prosecutor about his attitude towards the workers of Czechoslovakia, Geminder replied:

“I was indifferent to the interests of the Czech people, and I have never felt any affinities with them. Their national interests have always remained alien to me. At the end of my studies I frequented petty-bourgeois, cosmopolitan and Zionist circles, where I met people of German nationality.”

Otto Fischl, one-time Deputy Finance Minister, confessed that he had been a Gestapo agent and had assisted Nazi exploitation of the Czech economy during the war. In the post-war years, he explained, he had been an agent of the Israeli secret services and had played a central role in recruiting Zionists to Slansky’s conspiratorial centre.

He further confessed that as Czechoslovak Deputy Finance Minister he had agreed trade deals with Israel which were disadvantageous to Czechoslovakia, and had also played the main role in allowing Jewish emigrants to drain 6,000,000,000 crowns from the Czechoslovak economy.

Fischl had been nicknamed “the Jewish Himmler” in Israel because of the difficulties which he placed in the way of Jews taking their possessions with them when emigrating from Czechoslovakia. But in the trial he confessed that this was just a cover to conceal his true purposes:

“My strict attitude... was intended to conceal the fact that I was helping the bourgeoisie by approving the export of their wealth. …The main purpose of my speeches at that time (attacking Jewish emigration) was to conceal my hostile activity. …I identified with the interests of the Jewish bourgeoisie and supported them.”

Bedrich Reicin, previously a Deputy Defence Minister, confessed to being recruited as a Gestapo agent and betraying leading members of the underground CPC to the Nazis.

As a reward for his treachery the Nazis had allowed him to escape to Moscow, where he joined Slansky’s group and secretly collaborated with western military attaches in post-war Czechoslovakia.

Ludvik Frejka, ex-chief of the Economic Department of the President’s Cabinet, confessed to having been an American secret services agent. He said he had abused his government position in order to sabotage Czechoslovak industrial development and economic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and artificially boosted trade with the West in order to assist imperialism in frustrating the first Czechoslovak Five Year Plan. Frejka accepted responsibility for the prevalent shortages in the country:

“The fact that there are still shortages today and that there are still food ration cards in Czechoslovakia — for that I alone bear the responsibility, I alone bear the blame for this.”

Eugene Loebl and Rudolf Margolius, two former Deputy Trade Ministers, confessed to having been recruited as agents of the American secret service during the war — Loebl confessing he had also worked for the English, Austrian and Israeli secret services — and to having collaborated with Israeli politicians in attempts to undermine economic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union:

“By means of foreign trade we endeavoured to bind the economy of the Republic to the West in such a way that this country would be completely dependent on the capitalist states and a toy in the hands of Western imperialists.”

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