Dreaded Communist-era StB secret police dissolved 15 years ago this week

Tuesday was the 15th anniversary of dissolution of the dreaded Communist-era secret police, the Statni bezpecnost, or StB. Formed in 1948, the StB's darkest period was the 1950s, when they were notorious for the cruelty of their interrogations. They kept tens of thousands of Czech and Slovaks under surveillance, and in the 1980s employed around 75,000 informers. I spoke to former Senator and presidential candidate Jaroslava Moserova, whose father was kept in solitary confinement by the StB for 12 long months.

Jaroslava Moserova
"He suffered mainly from cold and hunger, in winter of course mainly. Though he was a rather tough man, he said that sometimes he really did cry which is - for me - unbelievable, knowing my father.

"He was not allowed to sit on the bunk or use a blanket during the day. He could only sit or stand. Strangely enough he looked forward to the interrogations because that was a break, that was something - something was going on. The loneliness of the solitary confinement was somehow interrupted."

There have been press reports this week that around 1,100 former members of the StB are still working for the Interior Ministry. The Ministry does not dispute this figure, but says there is no cause for concern. Here's spokeswoman Radka Kovarova.

"That number - 1,100 former StB members - is actually correct. I can also tell you that there are 870 former StB officers working in the Czech Republic's police. But I should point out that at the beginning of the 1990s a special commission screened all of them to see whether they could remain in the police force."

For her part, Jaroslava Moserova believes the figure of eleven hundred may actually be misleading, and says Czechs should be more worried about ex-Stb officers who now hold important posts in civilian life.

"I'm not sure if they are really former StB men or former Interior Ministry men, because some of the StB people were just chauffeurs, or whatever.

"I think one should be concerned about StB people being everywhere, because they have a tendency to stick together. I don't worry so much about the Ministry of the Interior, I worry about some municipalities...they do have a tendency to stick together."

Unlike in East Germany, for instance, Czechs did not get the opportunity to read their own secret police files soon after the collapse of the Communist regime. In fact they had to wait until 1996. Did Jaroslava Moserova herself take advantage of the opportunity when it finally came?

"I must confess that I never went to look at my file, at the file that the StB kept on me personally. Because I was afraid lest I find some people whom I believed to be friends contributing to the file, if you know what I mean."