World War II veteran General Tomáš Sedláček dies aged 94
General Tomáš Sedláček, a World War II veteran who spent nine years in communist jails, died on Monday aged 94. A respected soldier, he fought both on the western and eastern fronts of the war before landing a life sentence by Czechoslovakia’s communist court. But his faith in freedom and democracy never waivered, and after 1989, he took up the cause of those who suffered under communism.
“I’m glad that I took part in the mobilization and that I could experience the nation’s last effort to hold on to freedom, and its readiness to defend it. When the Munich agreement came and then the occupation, it was a huge blow for us. But looking at it in retrospect, knowing what happened in Poland in France, I think fighting against Germany would have been a gesture of non-surrender but the consequences would have been terrible.”
After the Nazi occupation of his country, Sedláček fled to France and later to England, where he served in the Czech exile forces before being transferred to the Eastern front where he saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Dukla Pass. He was then dropped behind enemy lines to assist the Slovak National Uprising.
“When I heard the sentence at the show trial, I had to laugh. It was so incredibly absurd that I couldn’t take it seriously. But it was indeed serious. I was sentenced along with one of my subordinates, Josef Kučera. Unfortunately, the prosecutor appealed his verdict and he got the rope. I only caught a glimpse of him later before he was executed.”
Sedláček himself served nine years in prisons and labour camps. After his release he worked in various jobs until his rehabilitation in 1989. He later became involved in the post-communist justice campaigns of the Confederation of Political Prisoners, always speaking out for the need for justice and remembrance. But he said he did not feel hatred for his jailors.
Those that knew him have described him as quiet and modest. He took the time to give thoughtful interviews and speak out about his past until the very end of his life. President Vaclav Klaus, who awarded him the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, described him on Monday as „a true soldier“.