“There were so many advisors here. How did they influence the way of interrogation, of investigation? They edited a number of witness testimony protocols or proposed motions on what should be investigated. Their role was significant. And their numbers high. [...] Because what was peculiar here was that the Soviet Union had wanted to create a Soviet-Czechoslovak organization for the extraction and processing of uranium ore. Both president Beneš and the communists stood up against this and claimed that it wasn’t possible, that they were nationalizing foreign capital at that very moment and then suddenly this organization would be here. So the organization was not created. But there was such a huge number of advisors that we can basically say that they ran or at least significantly contributed to the operation of the Jáchymov mines.”
“What we did was we wrote the final report where we defined how the show trials had happened. The three powers that had realized them – that is the Party, Party authorities (security) and the judicial authorities. We made an analysis. We wrote a report where it had all been described – how the show trials had come here, how they had emerged, how they had been created. There was an entire chapter: The mechanism for creating show trials. And we insisted on full rehabilitation for the victims in the report. In 1968 a law on judicial rehabilitation was created. That was under Dubček.”
“That was a consequence of your commission’s work, right?”
“It was a reflection of it, not a consequence. In 1969, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and after the elimination of Dubček’s leadership, we gave our report to the commission. The commission had all kinds of reservations, submitted it to the chairmanship of the Central Committee. The chairmanship rejected it, turned it down. There was full rehabilitation and there was political accountability. And personal accountability. These were the chapters. And there on the top spot was Gottwald. And then other officials responsible for the show trials and the politically motivated murders.”
“How is it possible that a man who had known a comrade for twenty-five years… Gottwald met Slánský in 1925 in Ostrava. Slánský was a regional secretary there and Gottwald was in charge of the Communist press in Slovakia, which was printed in Ostrava. So that’s where he met Slánský. They had known each other for twenty-five years and after twenty-five years he had him executed. He did nothing to save him, to not execute him. How is that possible? That’s a question of ethics. When I asked people who had worked with Gottwald this question, they only gave me one answer: ‘Because he was afraid it would all fall on him.’ And it’s possible that he was afraid. But that’s no excuse.”
Karel Kaplan was born August 28, 1928 in Horní Jelení. He joined the Communist Party in 1947 and began his ascent up the Party structures until he got to the ideological department of the Central Committee where he was in charge of history. He gradually established himself as a critically thinking reformative historian in the 1960s. During the 1968 Prague Spring he was a member of the so-called Piller commission that was supposed to reinvestigate the show trials of the 1950s. The final report described the mechanisms of creating show trials and suggested full rehabilitation of its victims – that was, however, impossible under the conditions following the August invasion. Karel Kaplan was subsequently expelled from the Communist Party and fired from his job. He then worked as a laborer in the Mitas company, was arrested in 1972 and shortly held in custody; he was followed by the State Security, labeled as an enemy person. He emigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1976 and managed to smuggle out a number of secret archival materials. He transformed these materials into publications in his exile, providing a valuable insight into the repressive power structures of a Communist state. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1990 and became one of the most prominent figures of our post-revolutionary historiography. Karel Kaplan passed away on March, the 12th, 2023.