Controversy Was Czech Leader Jan Masaryk Murdered Part 1

About the controversy surrounding the death of Czech leader Jan Masaryk, history and exploration of whether it was murder.




Victim: He was born in Prague on Sept. 14, 1886, the son of Tomas Masaryk, founder of Czechoslovakia's Golden Republic and patron saint of Czech nationalism. After Tomas Masaryk's death in 1937 and the subsequent Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia, freedom-loving Czechs transferred their affections and yearnings for independence to Jan. He answered their call from England, where he was a member of the Czech democratic government in exile. With the charismatic voice of a Roosevelt or a Churchill, Masaryk inspired his countrymen through underground radio broadcasts to Czechoslovakia. In August, 1945, he returned to a liberated Prague, happy to serve in the new government but wary of the conditions of peace which made Czechoslovakia a protectorate of Russia. Within two years his fears were confirmed; he met Stalin in Moscow in July, 1947, and was told that the Czechs must not accept Marshall Plan assistance. "I went to Moscow as the foreign minister of a sovereign state and I came back a stooge of Stalin," he complained. This incident and the truth it revealed to him about his country's diminished standing in the world helped form the backdrop for one of the most perplexing political deaths in history.

His Death: In September, 1947, two months after his meeting with Stalin, Masaryk and two other democratic leaders received anonymous gift boxes marked "Perfume" which contained crude bombs. An investigation by Minister of Justice Prokop Drtina linked the unsuccessful bomb plot to the Czech Communist party and Alexeja Cepicka, son-in-law of party boss and prime minister Klement Gottwald. On Feb. 25, 1948, the Communists assumed total control of Czechoslovakia, and Gottwald ousted Drtina as minister of justice and replaced him with Cepicka. The next night Drtina allegedly attempted suicide by jumping from a third-story window. Masaryk, a friend of Drtina, characterized the action as "a servant girl's way to die." Masaryk's comment proved highly significant, because two weeks later--at 6:25 A.M. on Mar. 10--his own body was found sprawled in the courtyard of the Czerin Palace, the apparent result of a suicide jump from a third-story bathroom window.

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