Prague to exhume remains of communism victim Zdena Mašínová from Ďáblice mass grave

Zdena Mašínová, photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

Prague City Hall announced on Monday that its representatives had met with Zdena Mašínová and agreed to exhume the remains of her mother, who was imprisoned by both the Nazis and communists and shares the same name. The city is now preparing the necessary documentation after which the exact date of exhumation will be set.

Zdena Mašínová,  photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
The Nazi and communist regimes were not just brutal towards their victims while they were alive. Many of those they considered enemies were also buried in a mass grave in Prague’s Ďáblice Cemetery.

One of the bodies that lie there belongs to Zdena Mašínová the elder. The wife of First Republic general Josef Mašín, who was executed by the Nazis, and mother to Ctirad and Josef Mašín, who famously fought their way out of the Iron Curtain and ultimately emigrated to America.

Zdena Mašínová the elder herself was also not a bystander in the struggle against totalitarianism. After being imprisoned by the Nazis in 1942, she actively took part in the fight against the communist regime and was eventually arrested and sentenced to 25 years in jail, dying a prisoner in 1956.

Now, 63 years later, it seems that she will finally be laid to a dignified rest after her daughter met with representatives of Prague City Hall, who have agreed to exhume her remains.

Historian Petr Blažek, who has been actively trying to raise awareness of the fact that some of the country’s heroes are scattered in Ďáblice, welcomed the announcement.

“The agreement between the daughter of Zdena Mašínová and the representatives of Prague’s political coalition to exhume her remains is, I believe, a turning point, at least for the Mašín family. For me, it is the continuation of attempts by many people since the fall of totalitarianism to bury the victims and opponents of these regimes, who were scattered on the cemetery.”

Declared a national cultural heritage site in 2017, some have likened Ďáblice Cemetery to a condensed history of the 20th century. It is a space where members of Operation Anthropoid lie next to individuals such as Nazi Protectorate leader K. H. Frank.

Milena Johnová,  Zdena Mašínová,  photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt
Dr. Blažek says he hopes the interest displayed by Prague City Hall could lead to systemised identification and a proper burial of the remains.

But Prague City Hall Councillor Milena Johnová, one of the instrumental figures in organising the meeting with Zdena Mašínová’s daughter, says it would not be an easy process.

“There are many victims who lie buried there in an undignified manner. It is connected with the fact that you need permission from the others and opinions on exhuming these bodies from the mass graves are conflicted. Both from an ethical and legal standpoint, it is not easy. Furthermore, there are also economic considerations.”

However, Mrs. Johnová has not ruled the possibility out and says she will also strive to find a suitable way in which to honour the memory of the victims.