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20. století

Záviš Kalandra

A renowned Czech historian and a victim of show trials
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Záviš Kalandra is a very interesting character in the Czech historiography, his work was rather original and he was executed for his activities along with Doctor Milada Horáková after having had to stand in court and go through a show trial. He was born in the town of Frenštát and his father Břetislav Kalandra was a medical doctor. After completing secondary school, he studied classic philology and philosophy at the Charles University in Prague. He was very interested in public affairs and his hobby was journalism which later became his profession. In 1923, left wing orientated Kalandra joined the Communist Party. He was a well known editor of the party newspaper and soon became head editor of the main political periodical Rudé Právo. During the thirties, he nonetheless started to show his disagreements with the official line of the party while refusing to go along with the efforts of Klement Gottwald to achieve ideology uniformity inside the party. Kalandra's critcism was most virulent between 1935 and 1937, after Joseph Stalin's had started his purges in the USSR. His strong criticism of such brutalism as well as his influence as head editor finally led to his removal from all public functions as well as being thrown out of the Communist Party. In addition, he was accused of being a follower of Leon Trotsky.
Kalandra later became strongly involved fighting Nazism and founded an alternative wing of the Communist Party. Because of all this and due to his past he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1939. Nobody then knew about his main illegal activity, which was actually smuggling people on

foot through the border to Poland, mainly Jews.
During World War II, Kalandra was prisonner in camps, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen. After World War II, he pursued his scientific activities and stayed away from politics. Later, he definitely split up with the Communist Party and warned of imminent danger.
After February 1948, he was arrested by the STB (Secret Communist Police of Czechoslovakia) and was indicted in a huge, Communist-fabricated show trial. It was supposed to discourage any future rebels against the Communist regime. He was selected mainly as a traitor of the Communist Party.
After his arrest, he underwent a series of difficult interrogations and instructional training sessions about how to behave during the trial to be led by prosecuting attorney Urválek in 1950. However, Kalandra refused to follow the "puppet" show and in the end, he was sentenced to death by hanging, together with Milada Horáková, Jan Buchal, and his friend from secondary school Otakar Pecl. His wife filled in the application for pardon but Gottwald did not even bother to acknowledge it.
Kalandra was an exceptionally erudite man who had encyclopedic knowledge. He was also one of the first Czech historians who used significantly anthropological and religious knowledge during his research about Czech mythology or when the so-called Kristián's Legend were being authenticated. They had been the subject of debate during the thirties of the 20th century. His work shows his interest in surrealism, classic German philosophy or psychoanalysis. He was a friend of Milena Jesenská, Albert Camus and André Breton.


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