Jan Masaryk died 54 years ago

Bust of Jan Masaryk, photo CTK

Two weeks after the Communist Party took over in Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk, the country's Foreign Minister was found dead. His body was found beneath his window in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry building. Jan Masaryk died 54 years ago, on March 10th, 1948 and the question as to whether he ended his own life or was killed by the Communists will probably never be answered. By Pavla Horakova.

Bust of Jan Masaryk,  photo CTK
Jan Masaryk, a diplomat and the longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs of pre-Communist Czechoslovakia was the son of the first president and founder of Czechoslovakia Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and his American-born wife Charlotte Garrigue. After his secondary studies in Prague, Jan left for the United States where he stayed until 1913. After independent Czechoslovakia was created in 1918, Jan Masaryk entered its diplomatic service. In 1919, he returned to the United States as Czechoslovakia's first charge d'affaires and in 1925, Masaryk was appointed ambassador to Great Britain. In protest against the 1939 Munich Agreement, Masaryk left the diplomatic service and in 1940, he became the foreign minister of the London-based Czechoslovak government in exile. On the eve of the Nazi invasion of Poland, Masaryk spoke out about the situation and the fate of his country on the BBC in London and on September 8, 1939, he started a series of regular radio addresses to the Czechoslovak people. After the war, Jan Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia, where he served again as a Foreign Minister - in what was known as the National Front government, which included the Communists. Jan Masaryk had to respect the Communists who won the 1946 election but he was wary of their aggression and Soviet expansionism. In 1947 Czechoslovakia agreed to participate in the US-funded Marshall plan - a decision unpalatable for the Soviets. In July 1947, Masaryk and the Communist Prime Minister Klement Gottwald went to Moscow to negotiate. "I left as a minister of a sovereign state but have come back as Stalin's lackey," Jan Masaryk said immediately after his return from the Soviet Union.

The events of 1947 gradually led to the Communist takeover in February 1948, when the majority of ministers, Jan Masaryk not included, handed over their resignation to president Benes in the hope that fresh elections would be held. Instead, the president accepted their resignations and a communist government headed by Klement Gottwald was formed. Jan Masaryk retained his post but was not sure whether his decision to stay in a communist government was right, and he even contemplated going into exile. Two weeks after the government was formed, Jan Masaryk met his end on the ground beneath his bathroom window.