In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Communist parties in Eastern Europe, at Stalin’s direction, began a series of purges. Although he was an economist and, as such, not involved in Party politics, the Czechoslovak secret police arrested [Rudolf Margolius, Heda’s husband] on January 10, 1952. The next time Heda saw him was nearly one year later on the eve of his execution. Rudolf was one of 14 government officials, 11 of them Jewish, who were convicted, after repeated torture, of “anti-state conspiracy” as part of the notorious Slánsky show trials. The Communist state had Rudolf hanged and his body cremated. As the secret police were transferring his ashes, the car they were in began to swerve on an icy road. They threw his ashes under the car’s wheels for traction.Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
From the shelves of someone else’s library
During the 1970s and 1980s, I devoured books pertaining to totalitarianism, with respect to both its theoretical underpinnings and practical effects. I read, with a mixture of horror and outrage, The Gulag Archipelago, The Diary of Anne Frank and Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps, just to name a few non-fiction works that made the deepest impression. In literature, Orwell, Koestler, Grossman and Kuznetsov elevated the heart-breaking reality to the level of art. Yet in all that time, I have somehow managed to overlook what seems to be a classic: Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968, by Heda Margolius Kovály. Michael McDonald has written an excellent review. A very brief sample: