Great-niece: If Jan Masaryk planned suicide, he would have done it elegantly

Jan Masaryk, photo: Czech Television

The murky death of Jan Masaryk in 1948 has been back in the news recently, after the discovery of fresh evidence prompted the reopening of the case. The new investigation is welcomed by Masaryk’s great-niece Charlotta Kotik, who says that if he had wished to kill himself he would have done it in his characteristic style.

Jan Masaryk,  photo: Czech Television
Czechoslovak foreign minister Jan Masaryk, by then the only non-Communist in cabinet, was found dead in a courtyard beneath his bathroom window on March 10, 1948.

The Communist authorities ruled the cause was suicide but that version of events has long been disputed.

A previously unknown recording of a police officer who was at the scene at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March 1948 has led the state prosecutor to order the fifth investigation into the matter.

Masaryk’s great-niece Charlotta Kotik welcomes the move.

“Of course it would be amazing if there was some sort of clarification. All the available sources should be used, without regard to who they help or don’t help. I’m in favour of questions being asked everywhere possible, though how the answers will be handled is another matter.”

Charlotta Kotik,  photo: Tomáš Vodňanský / Czech Radio
Charlotta Kotik told Czech Radio that the conditions in which Masaryk was found give the lie to the suicide interpretation.

“That wasn’t his style. If he had killed himself, he wouldn’t have jumped in his pyjamas. He had a certain idea of how one should behave and look in public, so that would absolutely not have been in character. Also what the family saw of his body and of the apartment did not suggest he had committed suicide. If he had done it, he would probably have used sleeping pills. He would have done it elegantly. He would have got dressed. It would have had style.”

Charlotta Kotik also says she believes that Jan Masaryk would have left a suicide note.

His great-niece was seven at the time he died and recalls visiting him at the grand headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Jan Masaryk's apartment in Černín Palace,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů
“When you went into the Černín Palace – that huge, heavy building with all its slopes – it was rather oppressive. But then when you entered the apartment and he began to joke around, for instance by dancing or crawling on the ground – he was actually physically agile, despite his size – there was a kind of light there. He could really light up a room. I’m very grateful that I can remember that. And that’s why when I heard he had died it struck even me, with my child’s mind, as rather strange.”

Charlotta Kotik recalls a mix of sadness and anger within the family and her grandmother saying, They’ve killed Jan.

Now 78, she says the details of that time have faded but she has been left with an enormous sense of injustice.