1968 invasion conspirators: All unpunished but one

Pavel Baroch
22. 8. 2008 14:40
Karel Hoffman guilty of "sabotage", not treason
Czechoslovaks united against Soviet invasion? Only at the first sight
Czechoslovaks united against Soviet invasion? Only at the first sight | Foto: Miloš Gregor

Prague - With the 40th commemoration of the 1968 Soviet invasion new facts and theories come to light, old stories and injustices are being remembered.

Among those is the story of Karel Hoffman who headed the Central Communications Authority and who willingly cooperated with the Soviets in August 1968.

It is notoriously known these days that some members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) elite had collaborated with the invaders on their own volition.

The sad fact remains, though, that none of them has been ever punished but one.

Not treason but abuse of power

Karel Hoffman was charged four years ago. Not with treason, though, but with abuse of power.

Forty years ago, on the night of 21 August, Hoffman ordered a halt to Czechoslovakian radio broadcast to prevent airing of the statement of the KSČ leadership that sharply criticized the invasion.

Read more: Czech ex-prosecutor not punished for judicial murder

In 2003, Karel Hoffman was sentenced to four years in prison, though he eventually avoided the jail sentence. Eighty years old Hoffman was sent home due to his bad health.

He stayed in a prison hospital for mere 26 days.

Foto: Aktuálně.cz

KSČ apparatchiks, such as member of the Central Committee Secretariat Alois Indra or member of the Party Presidium Drahomír Kolder died before they could be brought to justice.

Read more: Pictures of 1968 invasion appeal to Georgians

Lack of evidence

Other important figures in KSČ were Miloš Jakeš and Jozef Lenárt who were in close contact with the Kremlin and were present at meetings at the Soviet Embassy in Prague. Both were cleared due to the lack of evidence.

"The evidence that was presented proved that both attended various meetings with the Soviets in August 1968," the Prague court ruled then. 

Another member of the KSČ's top rank, Vasil Biľak avoided court proceedings by returning to his homeland Slovakia that in the meantime became an independent state. Biľak was never sentenced. 

Read more: 1968 Soviet invasion: Environmental damage still seen

"Well, it is all foolish," president of Political Prisoners' Confederation Naděžda Kavalírová recently commented on the fact none of the collaborators has been ever convicted. 

On Brezhnev's order

Ironically, Karel Hoffman was one of the most important persons during the preparations of the occupation.

"Without him it would be impossible to accomplish the task ordered by Soviet leader Brezhnev to halt the radio and television broadcasts," said historian Vojtěch Mencl who was a witness during the trial with Hoffman.
Hoffman never pleaded guilty, claiming that on that night he only ordered that instead broadcasting the news about the invasion, there was a regular two hour broadcast intermission.  

Different views by historians

Historian Vojtěch Mencl claims that there was enough evidence to be used against Karel Hoffman. Mencl also presided the commission that was entrusted after the communist regime fell in 1989 with analysing the events from the years 1967-70.

"In 1968, Jakeš and Lenárt were not important enough or not willing to cooperate with the occupants enough. Lenárt declared himself ill, Jakeš was insignificant but nobody knew he would become a careerist later on," Mencl said, referring to the fact Jakeš was appointed the KSČ Secretary General in 1987.

Read more:

Dubček Jr.: People cannot be blamed for their leaders

Red Square protest against 1968 invasion remembered


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