Prague - After the communist takeover of February 1948, it was necessary to silence all enemies of the "working class". And if it was the youths who protested against the new order, they ended up in prison too. For instance for printing anti-state leaflets.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes points to this little known part of the Czech history at an exhibition called Zkouška odvahy (Bravery test), which was on display in Litomyšl and Prague and now moved to Brno.
"According to the archives, a total of some 200 people convicted of treason were imprisoned between 1948 and 1953 in the youth institution in Zámrsk, the institution for underage girls in Lnáře and in district court prisons," Ondřej Bratinka of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes told Aktuálně.cz.
Bratinka added that the persecution of underage enemies of the regime continued after 1953, but to a much lower extent, rather in isolated cases.
Another popular type of punishment was social discrimination - young people were not allowed to study, for instance.
"We do not want to compare with adult political prisoners. We just want to point to the fact that we were taken out of schools and that most of us never finished secondary school. The adult prisoners had some qualification. Even though they were also meant to become blue-collars in the beginning, their position improved step by step," said Jiří Kopřiva who served a two-year sentence for treason in 1950 - 1952.
"We were nothing in the instant they jailed us, and have remained nothing for the whole of our lives," Kopřiva added.
Children of farmers as well as scouts
Ondřej Bratinka of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes said that the youths committed treason for instance within student initiatives, leaflet protests against the Communist Party and by actively boycotting the official youth organisation Československý svaz mládeže.
Children of farmers who lost their property within collectivization became anti-regime activists as well. Young opponents of the regime distributed leaflets in villages and tried to intimidate local Communist Party officials in various ways.
"Scouts represented a distinctive and original group where it is rightful to talk about resistance activity," Bratinka told Aktuálně.cz. Scouts gathered weapons and walkie-talkies, and guided agents crossing the borders, he added.
"However, a vast majority of the youths only participated in events prepared by the adults," said Bratinka. One of the exceptions was the resistance group of Jan Masaryk in Brno.
Beaten during interrogation
Before being sentenced, the youths were subject to investigation methods very similar to what adult political prisoners underwent. During interrogation, the investigators often beat them and threatened to also punish their family members, for instance.
The youths were usually sentenced to 2.5 or three years in prison. Imprisonment longer than ten years was rare.
"They were re-educated in correctional facilities for the youths by working in agriculture, at construction sites, in coal mines and factories. And by means of mandatory political training," said Ondřej Bratinka of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.