SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL


SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL
SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL, the first of a series of antisemitic show trials held in Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s whose prime victim was Rudolf Slánský (1901–1952), secretary-general of the Czechoslovak Communist Party after World War II. Of the 14 leading party members prosecuted for conspiracy against the state, 11 were Jews. Eight of these defendants – Ludvík Frejka, head of the economic department of the President's Office; Bedřich Geminder, head of the party's international department; Bedřich Reicin, deputy defense minister; Rudolf Margolius, deputy minister of foreign trade; Otto Fischl, deputy finance minister; Otto Sling, first secretary of the party in Brno; and André (Katz) Simone , a leading Communist journalist, in addition to Slánský himself – were executed. The remaining three Jewish defendants – deputy foreign ministers arthur london and Vavro Hajdu and deputy minister of foreign trade Evžen Loebl – were sentenced to life imprisonment. Show trials aimed at eradicating the Titoist "heresy" from the leadership of the Soviet satellites were held shortly before in other East European countries (e.g., the Kostov trial in Bulgaria and the Rajk trial in Hungary), but the Slánský trial evolved a distinct anti-Jewish character. Foreign Minister Vlado Clementis, one of the three non-Jewish defendants sentenced to death (the other two being Slánský's deputy, Josef Frank, and deputy security minister Karel Šváb) was accused of Slovak "bourgeois nationalism" and Titoism, and an attempt was made to present him as "the Czechoslovak Rajk." But the main orientation of the prosecution was "anti-Zionist," anti-Israel, and openly antisemitic. The Slánksý Trial thus formed a direct link with the doctors plot and the wave of antisemitism in the Soviet Union in the last years of Stalin's regime (see antisemitism : the Soviet Bloc). In these trials, for the first time in the history of Communism, the antisemitic accusation of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy was openly proclaimed by an authoritative Communist forum (it was linked by the prosecution with the activities of the American jewish joint Distribution Committee). The Jewish origin of the accused was repeatedly stressed, and their alleged crimes were traced to this prime cause. The prosecution stigmatized the accused as Zionists, although they had never had any connection   with the Zionist movement and had, in fact, opposed Zionism all their lives. The trials were part of an effort to consolidate power inside the Czechoslovak Communist Party in the hands of a group of leaders approved and manipulated from Moscow. The fact that Jews held many key posts in the party and state machinery – although Slánský was the only Jew in the Politbureau at the time – prompted an increase of latent popular antisemitism. This circumstance was utilized to strengthen the position of the inner circle of the Communist leadership and to put the blame for the rapidly worsening economic situation on prominent Jewish Communists. The trials were conducted under the direction and supervision of secret agents from Moscow and were also intended to help explain the change of Communist policy toward the State of Israel. The Israel legation in Prague was depicted as a center of espionage and anti-Czechoslovak subversion. Accusations were directed mainly against the first Israeli minister in Prague, ehud avriel , and his successor, aryeh kubovy , who was declared persona non grata. Two Israel citizens, Mordekhai Oren and Shimon Orenstein, were arrested, used as prosecution witnesses to prove Slánský's alleged contacts with "Zionist conspirators," and were later sentenced in a separate trial to long prison terms. The trials were a signal for a wave of anti-Jewish persecution. Hundreds of Czechoslovak Jews were thrown into prison or sent, often without trial, to forced labor camps. The situation gradually became less frenzied after Stalin's death; but only at the end of the 1950s, and in some cases even later, were victims of the Slánský Trial rehabilitated. The accusations against the Zionist movement and Israel, however, were not revoked, and relations between Czechoslovakia and Israel remained tense and unfriendly. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: R.L. Braham (ed.), Jews in the Communist World: A Bibliography (1961), 20–22; American Zionist Council, Public Opinion on the Prague Trial (1953); K. Kaplan, Thoughts About The Political Trials (1968); M. Oren, Reshimot Asir Prag (1958); S. Orenstein, Alilah be-Prag (1968); idem, Lefi Pekuddah mi-Moskva (1969); E. Loebl, Die Revolution rehabilitiert ihre Kinder (1968); idem, Sentenced and Tried (1969); Proces s vedením protistátního spikleneckého centra v čele s Rudolfem Slánským (1953); A. London, The Confession (1970); J. Slánska, Report on My Husband (1969). (Avigdor Dagan)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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