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Rudolf Slánský during the show trial in November 1952
Rudolf Slánský during the sentencing phase of the show trial in November 1952, after which he was executed
The official protocol, 1953 printed in Prague in at least 7 languages

The Slánský trial (officially Proces s protistátním spikleneckým centrem Rudolfa Slánského meaning "Trial of anti-state conspiracy centered around Rudolf Slánský") was a show trial against elements of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) who were thought to have adopted the line of the maverick Yugoslav leader Josip Tito.[1] On November 20, 1952, Rudolf Slánský, General Secretary of the KSČ, and 13 other Communist leaders or bureaucrats, 11 of them Jews, were accused of participating in a Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy and convicted: 11 were executed and 3 sentenced to life imprisonment.The state prosecutor was Josef Urválek.

The trial was the result of a split within the Communist leadership on the degree to which the state should emulate the Soviet Union, and was part of a Stalin-inspired purge of "disloyal" elements in the national Communist parties in Central Europe, as well as an antisemitic purge of Jews from the leadership of Communist parties. Klement Gottwald, president of Czechoslovakia and leader of the Communist Party, feared being purged, and decided to sacrifice Slánský, a long term collaborator and personal friend who was the second-in-command of the party. The others were picked to convey a clear threat to different groups in the state bureaucracy. A couple of them (Šváb, Reicin) were brutal sadists conveniently added for a more realistic show.

The trial was orchestrated (and the subsequent terror staged in Czechoslovakia) on the order of Moscow leadership by Soviet advisors, who ironically were invited by Rudolf Slánský and Klement Gottwald, with the help of the Czechoslovak State Security personnel following the László Rajk trial in Budapest in September 1949.

Those put on trial confessed to all crimes (under duress or after torture) and were sentenced to punishment. Slánský attempted suicide while in prison. The people of Czechoslovakia signed petitions asking for death for the alleged traitors. The harsh treatment given to those on trial was a way of showing that the Communist Party would stop at nothing and that potential dissidents could expect no mercy.

After Stalin's death in March 1953, the harshness of the persecutions slowly decreased, and the victims of the trial quietly received amnesty one by one, including those who had survived the Prague Trial. Later, the official historiography of the Communist Party was rather quiet on the trial, vaguely putting blame on errors that happened as a result of a "cult of personality". Many other political trials followed on sending many innocent victims to jail and hard labour in Jáchymov uranium mines and labour camps.


List of defendants

  • Rudolf Slánský (1901), General Secretary of the KSČ (executed)
  • Vladimír Clementis (1902), Minister of Foreign Affairs (executed)
  • Otto Fischl (1902), Deputy Minister of Finance (executed)
  • Josef Frank (politician) (1909), Deputy General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (executed)
  • Ludvík Frejka (1904), Chief of the Economic Committee in the Chancellery of the President (executed)
  • Bedřich Geminder (1901), Chief of the International Section of the Party Secretariat (executed)
  • Vavro Hajdů (1913), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (life imprisonment)
  • Evžen Löbl (1907), Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade (life imprisonment)
  • Artur London (1915), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (life imprisonment)
  • Rudolf Margolius (1913), Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade (executed)
  • Bedřich Reicin (1911) , Deputy Minister of National Defence (executed)
  • André Simone (1895), editor of Rudé právo (executed)
  • Otto Šling (1912), Regional Party Secretary (executed)
  • Karel Šváb (1904), Deputy Minister of State Security (executed)


Czechoslovak President Ludvík Svoboda honoured several defendants on May 1, 1968:

  • Vladimír Clementis, Hero of ČSSR, in memoriam
  • Josef Frank, Hero of ČSSR, in memoriam
  • Ludvík Frejka, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
  • Vavro Hajdů, Order of the Republic
  • Artur London, Order of the Republic
  • Rudolf Margolius, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
  • André Simone, Order of the Republic, in memoriam
  • Bedřich Geminder, Order of the Labour, in memoriam
  • Evžen Löbl, Order of the Labour


The Slánský trial was dramatised in the 1970 film L'Aveu ("The Confession"), directed by Costa-Gavras and starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. The film was based on the book of the same name by Artur London, who was a survivor of the trial.

The Slánský trial is a key element of the book Under a Cruel Star: A life in Prague 1941-1968 (ISBN 0841913773). A memoir by Heda Margolius Kovaly, the book follows the life of a Jewish woman, starting with her escape from a concentration camp during World War II, up until her escape from Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring of 1968. Kovaly's husband, Rudolf Margolius , a fellow Holocaust survivor, was one of the eleven men executed during the Slánský trial.

See also another book about the Slánský trial by the son of Rudolf Margolius, Ivan Margolius: Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th Century (ISBN 0470022191)


  1. ^ Igor Lukes, "The Rudolf Slansky Affair", Slavic Review, Spring 1999
  • Kaplan, Karel (1990). Report on the Murder of the General Secretary. London: I. B. Tauris & Co. ISBN 1850432112.  
  • Slánská, Josefa (1969). Report on My Husband. New York: Atheneum.  

See also



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