Controversy Was Czech Leader Jan Masaryk Murdered Part 3

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




In her book The Masaryk Case, Claire Sterling theorizes that Masaryk was planning to escape from Czechoslovakia and denounce the Communists when he was safe in the free world. He had already sent his fiancee, novelist Marcia Davenport, out of the country with the promise that he would join her in London. Sterling says that the Communists--who had Masaryk under constant surveillance--learned of his plan and, in order to avoid being embarrassed by Czechoslovakia's most famous citizen, dispatched two party thugs to his room to talk him out of a window. A struggle ensued which ended in the bathroom, where the thugs subdued him by placing a pillow over his face and then dragged his body to the bathroom window and shoved it out. The inquiry into Masaryk's death was reopened when Czechoslovakia was liberalized under Alexander Dubcek in the first half of 1968. By that time 16 Czechs who could have supplied the investigator with valuable information were dead. Ten had been executed, one had died in prison, another had been released from jail only to die from the physical abuse he had suffered there, one had committed suicide, and three were most likely murdered--among them Dr. Teply, who died at police headquarters after he allegedly injected himself with gasoline. No one knows how many other witnesses were too frightened to tell what they knew about the Masaryk case. The taxi driver who took three security officers to the palace the morning Masaryk's body was discovered and stayed to gather heel bone fragments spent two years in a penitentiary. He was never charged or tried, but was informed he had been "punished as a warning" when he was set free.

The puzzle of Jan Masaryk's death was still officially unsolved when Soviet tanks started rolling through Prague in August, 1968, and it was left to the next regime to concoct an acceptable explanation. The Communists' sensitivity to the Masaryk mystery became apparent when in 1969 they replace the original finding of death by suicide with the following imaginative scenario: "Masaryk ... most likely fell accidentally from a windowsill where he had been sitting in a yoga position to combat insomnia."

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