June 27, 1950: The Execution of Milada Horáková

Execution of Milada Horáková

Since 2004, the Czech Republic has commemorated June 27th as the Day of the Victims of the Communist Regime.

Exactly 72 years ago, on June 27th, 1950 at 5:35 am in the courtyard of Prague’s Pankrác prison, Milada Horáková, a brave lawyer and a top politician of democratic Czechoslovakia, was hanged by the communist regime.

Her opinions and criticism of the regime had made her a target for the Secret Police, who put her in prison on trumped-up charges of conspiring to overthrow the republic.

After a disgraceful trial, Czechoslovakia’s “first working-class president”, Klement Gottwald signed the order to murder her, despite lots of polite begging to save her life by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others.

Each defendant was ordered to read from a script during the debacle that was broadcast over the radio. Horáková defended herself instead. She and three of the 12 others received the death penalty.

Milada Horáková was a Czech politician, who was part of underground resistance movement with the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939.


Back in politics from 1945 to the Communist coup of 1948

In 1945 she was reunited with her husband. Czechoslovak democratic President Edvard Beneš convinced her to return to the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party, and she became a member of Parliament in 1946, a post she would hold until the February 1948 Communist coup.

After joining the Union of Friends of the Soviet Union, Horáková realized that Czechoslovakia had to solidify its relations with the West in order to fight against the Premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. She also chaired the Council of Czechoslovak Women and served as deputy chairperson for the Union of Liberated Political Prisoners.

Horáková worked with several publications, including Vlasta, still an influential magazine today. As the Communists gained power in February of 1948, Horáková rallied citizens to support Beneš, but on February 25, 1948, the day the Communists took over, she was expelled from all organizations.

The arrest and her trial

Although Horáková had the opportunity to flee abroad, she decided to remain in Czechoslovakia and continue to support democratic ideals. While working with illegal political organizations and maintaining contacts with exiled politicians, she was arrested in September of 1949 on a fabricated charge of conspiring to overthrow the totalitarian government.

The Communists beat her and psychologically bullied her, but she did not give in. Her trial began May 31, 1950, and the 48-year was one of three to receive the death penalty on June 8, 1950. She was the last of the four to be executed on June 27, 1950.

Honored in memoriam

As of 2000 Horáková has had a symbolic grave at Prague’s Vyšehrad Cemetery, though the whereabouts of her urn is unknown. Horáková’s remains were never returned to her family.

The verdicts of treason and espionage were annulled in 1968, during the time of the Prague Spring reforms. But it was not until after the Velvet Revolution that Milada Horáková was fully, officially rehabilitated.

In 1991 she was awarded the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1st Class). The 27th of June, the day of her execution, was declared “Commemoration Day for the Victims of the Communist Regime” in the Czech Republic.

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