Betty Lee Knorr, mainstay of Czech community in US, dies at 88

Betty Lee Knorr

Betty Lee Knorr, a leading member and supporter of the Czech community in the United States and the widow of war hero Major General Miloš Knorr, died in New York earlier this week at the age of 88.

Miloš and Betty Knorr | Photo: Archive of  Betty Lee Knorr

Mrs. Knorr worked for the US State Department and for the CIA.

Her activities with the Czech community included running the annual Beseda Ball for many years.

She was born in the United States on September 10, 1934, and met her husband, during the Cold War era.

Speaking to Czech Television at her New York apartment four years ago, she said Knorr had told her on their first date that they would marry. Initially she was resistant to this idea but then gradually started to like him, she said.

When the couple met at a cocktail party in the Netherlands she was evidently already aware that Knorr, a US insurance company manager, was actually a spy.

Betty Lee was working at the State Department at the time and was warned to be careful by a boss.

Betty amd Miloš Knorr | Photo: Archive of  Betty Lee Knorr

Their paths parted ways for two years but two years after they were reunited they tied the know. Betty Lee was 27 and Miloš Knorr was 42.

After the wedding, the Czechoslovak war veteran and resistance fighter also began to tell her his story.

Miloš Knorr was born on September 20, 1918. After graduating from grammar school in Ivančice in Brno, he decided on a professional military career.

As a graduate of the military academy in Hranice in Moravia, Knorr fled the occupied Protectorate through Slovakia and the Balkans to France at the beginning of WWII, enlisting in the French army.

Later he became a member of the Czechoslovak unit in England. He also survived an explosion on a ship in which only 50 of the 600 soldiers on board were saved.

Knorr was one of only three Czechoslovak soldiers who took part in the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 with the British Army and later received the Order of the British Empire from King George VI.

Miloš Knorr | Photo: Post Bellum

After the war, Knorr returned to Czechoslovakia. However, shortly after the Communist putsch in 1948, when he was threatened with persecution, he left his homeland again.

In Austria and then Germany he became involved in intelligence work for the American intelligence services.

He initially checked whether there were any Communist agents among the post-coup refugees from Czechoslovakia. He then managed the entire network of agents in the country from Germany’s Munich.

In 1954 Knorr moved to New York and found work at a large insurance company, where he built a successful career.

In the US he was also involved in the activities of the Fund for Aid to Czechoslovak Refugees and other expatriate organizations.

Bohemian National Hall | Photo: Radio Prague International

Together with another prominent Czech exile, Jan Hird Pokorný, he advocated for the reconstruction of the Bohemian National Hall on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Betty Lee Knorr said that her husband was in bad shape by that time, adding that she had run parties at the Bohemian National Hall for 15 years.

She also financially supported Czechoslovak refugees with her husband and herself collaborated with the CIA as a spy.

In the nineties, she and her husband visited Czechia several times.

Betty Lee Knorr survived her husband by 15 years; Miloš Knorr died on July 1, 2008 in New York.

In accordance with his wishes the urn containing his ashes was buried next to his parents at the Ivančice cemetery 10 years after his death.

Author: Katarína Brezovská
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