Rudolf Slánský was perhaps the most powerful person of Jewish descent among the Communist Parties of Eastern Europe in the immediate postwar years. A personal friend of Party leader Klement Gottwald, Slánský rose to become general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1946. Yet his time in power proved to be short-lived. In 1951 on Moscow’s orders, the Czechoslovak Communist Party implemented a purge of top leadership and Slánský, targeted mostly because of his Jewish ancestry, fell victim to the paranoid logic of Stalinism. In one of the most notorious show trials the Communist Party had ever conducted, Slánský and thirteen other co-defendants confessed to belonging to a Zionist-American conspiracy bent on overthrowing the socialist order. He was executed on December 3, 1952.
In the documents collected here from the National Library and Archive of the Czech Republic, the rise and fall Rudolf Slánský can be traced from 1945 to his trial in 1952. In these speeches and transcripts we see a man who dedicated his life to Bolshevism trapped in the machinery of a state dedicated to crushing any political resistance, real or imagined.
Having arrived from the Soviet Union as a part of the victorious Red Army only one month before this speech, Slansky rouses the Communist Party of Zlin to foment a social revolution in one of the country's largest industrial towns.
Only one year before the trial that would lead to his execution, Rudolf Slánský spoke at the annual meeting of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Speaking before him, party leader Gottwald admonished Slánský for his past mistakes, while going on to celebrate his dedication to the cause. This was to be Slánský's last speech to his comrades and he gives few hints that his time in power has run out.
The Slansky Trial, officially known as the "Trial of anti-State Conspiracy centered around Rudolf Slánský", was Czechoslovakia's most notorious show trial of the Stalinist period. Broadcast to the nation, Czechoslovaks and the rest of the world listened as 13 formerly high-ranking Communist Party officials (11 of whom were Jews) confessed to a dizzying array of crimes against the state. In the end, of course, all of the defendants were found guilty. Here are excerpts from the transcript of the trial, which was distributed widely throughout the Eastern bloc.