Recently uncovered film footage shows infamous Slánský Trial, a Stalinist purge

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The accused await their verdicts at the Slánský Trial, Prague, November 27, 1952. All of the defendants are flanked by military officers. Rudolf Margolius can be seen in the third row at the edge of the photograph. Rudolf Slánský is in the front row, second from left. Courtesy Česká televize.

In Hitler, Stalin and I: An Oral HistoryHeda Margolius Kovály talks about tragic death of her first husband Rudolf Margolius, who served as the Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade in 1950s Czechoslovakia. Margolius was unjustly accused in the infamous Slánský Trial and executed for treason in what is now recognized as a Stalinist purge with anti-Semitic overtones.

As mentioned in an introduction by Heda and Rudolf’s son, Ivan Margolius, no official apology has ever been issued by the government of the Czech Republic, and the court file has disappeared. However, documents and film footage from the trial were recently discovered near Prague, bringing hope that omissions to the historical record now will be rectified.

As reported in The Guardian:

It was among the most notorious show trials of the 20th century, the prosecution and sentencing to death of Czechoslovakia’s leading communist, who had been arrested in a brutal purge ordered by Stalin.

Prosecutor Josef Urválek at the Slánský Trial. Courtesy Česká televize.

For decades, events surrounding the revolutionary tribunal that resulted in the execution of Rudolf Slánský, general secretary of the Czechoslovak party, and 10 other defendants was shrouded in mythology – with most visual and verbal evidence apparently lost to posterity.

But an event that has fascinated historians could soon be seen in graphic detail after footage and audio recording of the 1952 trial was found. Hours of film and voice recordings, much of it mould-damaged, believed to cover most of the eight-day procedure were found stashed in metal and wooden boxes – along with millions of classified Czechoslovak Communist party documents – in the basement of a bankrupt former metal research business in Panenské Břežany, near Prague.


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