A Prague Trial: The People against Rudolf Slánský

 

Dr Jan Gerber

(Simon Dubnow Institut, Leipzig, Germany)

6.30pm, 16 February 2017

 

In November 1952, fourteen leading officials of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (CCP), eleven of them Jews, were accused of participating in an alleged bourgeois, nationalist, Zionist conspiracy against the people’s democracy. Eleven of them, including General Secretary Rudolf Slánský, were hanged. This biggest and most antisemitically charged show trial in the Eastern bloc can be seen as a consequence of the Soviet geopolitical turn in the Middle East – away from Israel towards the Arab countries. It was also a consequence of the pursuit of ethnic homogeneity within the CCP. What can be observed here is a resurfacing of the ethnic conflicts of the interwar period, albeit under different terms.

 

Jan Gerber is head of the research unit ‘Politics’ and of the research group ‘A new History of the Labour Movement’ at the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture. His latest monograph about the left and Israel is Ein prozess in Prag. Das Volk gegen Rudolf Slánský und Genossen (2016).