June 21, 1949 : General Heliodor Píka is executed after a show trial

Heliodor Píka

The staged trial of Heliodor Pika is one of the most infamous political trials in communist Czechoslovakia, along with that of Milada Horáková. He was sentenced to death on the basis of fabricated evidence.

Heliodor Píka in French Legion uniform in 1919 | Photo: VHÚ Praha

Heliodor Píka, a World War I legionnaire, was a patriot and respected diplomat who upheld the democratic principles of Presidents Masaryk and Beneš. During World War II, he saved the lives of many Czech refugees, housed prisoners of war and Czechoslovak Jews. In Russia, he participated in the building of a Czechoslovak military unit, meeting there, for example, with Ludvík Svoboda. Later he became commander of the Czechoslovak military mission in Russia. In May 1945, he returned to his liberated homeland, where he was promoted to the rank of division general.

Judicial Murder

A convinced democrat, he was a thorn in the side of the communists who came to power in February 1948. He also knew too much about the workings of the Soviet secret services and about the Soviet leadership's plans to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat in the liberated territories. He paid the ultimate price for this.

Karel Vaš | Photo: National Archive

Soviet henchmen in Czechoslovakia at that time (the head of military intelligence Bedřich Reicin together with a communist fanatic who worked for the Soviet party quite openly, Karel Vashem) did not hesitate to create false evidence, on the basis of which, after a three-day fabricated trial, Helidor Píka was found guilty of espionage and treason.

Posthumous Award

Píka’s son Milan (1922 - 2019), a brigadier general, member of the foreign resistance and a member of the RAF, himself persecuted in the 1950s, was credited with the fact that in 1968 the main trial that rehabilitated his father was resumed.

Heliodor Píka  (right) with his son Milan | Photo: VHÚ Praha

In 1991, President Václav Havel awarded General Píka the Order of Milan Rastislav Štefánik for extraordinary merits in the struggle for the liberation of his homeland during the Second World War. In 2020, President Miloš Zeman awarded Píka the highest state decoration, the Order of the White Lion. Posthumously, he received a number of other honours, a memorial was unveiled in Pilsen and in his native Štítin, the 53rd Regiment of Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare of the Army of the Czech Republic in Opava. A number of streets and squares also bear his name.

Heliodor Píka  (left) in Buzuluk,  January 1943  | Photo: VHÚ Praha

The fanatical prosecutor Karel Vaš stood trial after the fall of communism. In 2001, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, but the Supreme Court subsequently overturned the sentence, saying the case was already time-barred.

Source: Český rozhlas