Antonin Sum, secretary to post-war foreign minister Jan Masaryk, dies in Prague at 87

Antonin Sum, photo: CTK

Antonin Sum, who was secretary to the post-war Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk, has died in Prague at the age of 87. Sum, who was born in Prague and studied law at Charles University, was active in the anti-Nazi resistance during the war. After working at the office of the government for two years, in 1947 he became the secretary of Jan Masaryk, a man with whom his fate was ever afterwards entwined.

Antonin Sum,  photo: CTK
Following Masaryk's mysterious death (Antonin Sum maintained he had killed himself, others blame the Communists) he was arrested in 1949, and received 20 years in prison in a notorious show trial.

Freed in 1962, Sum was rehabilitated during the Prague Spring. After 1989 he devoted himself to his beloved scouting movement and the YMCA, and founded both the Masaryk Democratic Movement and the Jan Masaryk Club.

A great linguist, Antonin Sum spoke to Radio Prague several times over the years. Here he recalls being moved from one prison to another, after a decade in the uranium mines. In the new jail he met an old foe, German general Rudolf Toussaint, who had led the Wehrmacht forces in Prague.

"I was transferred in 1960 to the big old Valdice prison - that was a former monastery - and there there was at that time a concentration of so-called "prominents", that means those who meant something in political or military or ecclesiastical life. And in prison a prominent had always a very very bad life, even in comparison with other prisoners because the communists didn't like them.

"I met several times the German General Toussaint, who was - and it is quite interesting - by profession a painter, an academic painter, who studied in Vienna long, long before the war most probably, and I was in Vienna in my youth for several years too - my father was Consul General there - so we had something in common.

"We spoke about Vienna and during the short time of our meetings - we had walks for about one hour several times during the week - sometimes - sometimes nothing at all, he was very eager to learn English words and I was very eager to know something about the German view of the Prague Uprising.

"So we exchanged ideas, exchanging these ideas from both sides, which was very interesting - for both sides, most probably."