Prague memorial to Milada Horáková sparks controversy

Photo: CTK

Nearly 60 years after the Czech politician Milada Horáková was sentenced to death in a communist show trial and executed, the first memorial to honour her legacy was unveiled in Prague on Wednesday. But the new memorial has sparked controversy – some former political prisoners complain that among those who contributed to the monument are members of the party that had her murdered.

Photo: CTK
Around 200 people gathered at the unveiling ceremony of a memorial to politician Milada Horáková on Wednesday, just metres away from the place where she was sentenced to death on orchestrated charges, and hanged in June 1950. But former political prisoners, including some who suffered in communist prisons along with Milada Horáková, refused to attend. They were scandalized by the fact that some members of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, successor of the party that orchestrated the trial and murder of her and hundreds of others, had also contributed to the memorial. František Šedivý is a deputy head of the Confederation of Political Prisoners.

“We fundamentally disagree with the way in which this was handled. We requested a figural memorial to Milada Horáková from the state, in a central location of Prague. Also, you cannot get absolution from what happened by paying some 20,000 crowns to the memorial of a victim you destroyed.”

František Šedivý,  photo: CTK
According to one of the people behind the project, Bohdan Babinec, the costs reached around 1.8 million crowns, or just under 100,000 US dollars. While most of the funds were contributed by the head of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek and his friends, some 500,000 crowns were collected from other individuals – including 70,000 crowns, or nearly 4,000 dollars, from several members of the current Communist Party leadership. Communist MEP Miloslav Ransdorf, who himself contributed 20,000 crowns, says his party has apologized several times for the atrocities of the past.

“We do realize what really happened in the fourth and fifth decade of the 20th century, and I hope that this lesson of history will be shared by other political parties. It’s very important to realize that law and legal culture is something more important than a mere instrument of state administration.”

Photo: CTK
But it’s not the lesson of the 1940s and 50s that keeps dividing members of the former totalitarian party and its victims. According to František Šedivý, who spent 12 years in a communist prison, the current Communist Party should relinquish the most controversial parts of its ideology.

“The Communist Party should first of all give up its ideology, or its core, which caused the tragedy not just in our country but elsewhere in central and Eastern Europe. But they have never done that publicly.”

The Confederation of Political Prisoners, as well as the Milada Horáková Club, an association dedicated to her legacy, say they will continue to push for a full figure statue to be erected in the centre of Prague.