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The Slansky Trial

Lawrence Bush
November 20, 2017

The Slansky Trial, in which 14 Czechoslovak communist leaders, eleven of them Jews, were accused of being Trotskyists, “Titoists,” and Zionists, began on this date in 1952. The show trial, preceded by torture, was part of Stalin’s purge of Jews and less-than-slavishly loyal communist leaders from leadership posts in the Soviet bloc. Eleven of the defendants were executed and three were sentenced to life in prison. Rudolf Slansky, who was general secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party and a staunch Stalinist, attempted suicide in prison. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the survivors (and those killed) were quietly given amnesty.

“Anti-Semitism is the distinguishing feature that sets off the Prague affair from all previous Soviet purge trials. The prosecutor’s indictment and the robot-like testimony of the doomed defendants made clear that neither ‘bourgeois nationalists’ nor ‘Zionists’ alone — but Jews — are the target of the most vicious anti-Semitic attack by a major power since Nazi Germany.” —Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.