Karel Šling

* 1945

  • “I do remember it. We went to bed as usual; State Security always made their arrests in the night, they learnt that from the Soviets. Because a person the most thoroughly disoriented when they nab him at two in the morning. He doesn’t know what’s going on. So I remember we went to bed, suddenly the light switched on, we got up, there were men in leather coats in the room. State Security copied that off the Gestapo, you could say, the long leather coats, it was a kind of uniform. We got dressed, they put us in a car and took us away. We were in the car with our mum because Dad wasn’t there at all at the time, he’d been nabbed on the way home, he hadn’t come home at all on that 6 October. On the way the comrades managed to get lost, and their car broke down. We finally arrived at the Ruzyně prison, where State Security officers forcibly tore us apart from Mum, loaded us into a second car, and took us away. I know that the separation was very dramatic, I screamed and held on to the car’s door handle. They had to wrench me away, and then my brother and I locked ourselves in the car, so they had to force their way in. We locked the car at one o’clock in the night, because we didn’t want to leave, so we locked ourselves in. We were lured out by Dad’s chauffeur, who baited us with a toy. So we unlocked the car, and then they got us.”

  • “The trial with Slánský began in November 1952. And that’s when all hell broke lose, so to say. Because the headmaster of the [children’s] home decided that my brother had to listen to the broadcast of the trial and to our father admitting to the crimes he had committed. He also had to write a homework about it. I was lucky because I was two years younger, I was too small for that, so I didn’t have to endure it. But it impacted us the same, everyone turned against us, claiming that my father was a traitor. The way things were back then, when you got labelled like that, everyone went against you. So you can imagine the situation. I can say that my brother had mental problems because of it until the end of his life. I did as well, I guess, although at the time no one knew what post-traumatic disorders were, that didn’t exist back then.”

  • “I don’t know what last moments the condemned had exactly. But the execution took place on 3 December 1952, in the early morning, in the courtyard of the Ruzyně prison. In the same place where they executed Horáková and others. After everyone had been executed, the coffins were taken under armed guard to the Strašnice crematorium, where they were all cremated. The ashes were dumped into one sack, and two State Security officers were given the order to get rid of it. So they took it away I don’t know where. But because the road was frozen, they scattered the ashes on to the road. I know they hoked on the way, the one who drove, said: ‘I’ve never driven with ten men on the back seat before.’ When we demanded that the remains of our father be returned to us, after the rehabilitation, when my father’s sentence was annulled in 1963, we were told that the remains had been placed by unknown people in an unknown location. As I discovered from the archive, they both wrote a report stating that they had scattered the ashes on to the road.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 16.08.2017

    duration: 04:31:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 15.08.2019

    duration: 02:23:25
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I’d be ashamed if I hadn’t signed Charter 77 back then

Karel Šling
Karel Šling
photo: Jan Holík

Karel Šling was born on 29 April 1945 in London. After the war his father Otto Šling took part in the political renewal of Czechoslovakia and became the regional secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in Brno. In 1946 the witness returned to Czechoslovakia when his mother was repatriated. His father was falsely accused and condemned in a show trial and executed by the Communists in December 1952. The family was persecuted, and Karel and his brother were placed in several children’s homes. When their mother was released from prison in January 1953, the family was forced to withdraw into the seclusion of the Eagle Mountains. After attending secondary mining school, Karel Šling graduated from the University of Economics in Prague. He worked at Obuna and then after signing Charter 77 at the Water Works and the Prague Water Works. In 1984 he emigrated to England; he is thrice married and has two daughters and a son.