Courtesy Reuters

Beneš and the Soviets

THE cold-blooded murder of Czechoslovak democracy last February by the ruthless agents of the Cominform shocked the free world. When the other states of Central and Southeastern Europe had been engulfed by Soviet totalitarianism it was often said, by way of explanation, that they had always lived under some form of dictatorship, that they were bound to have authoritarian régimes of some kind after this war, and that since the earlier monarchical and right-wing governments were compromised by collaboration with the Nazis, power naturally gravitated to Communist hands. Moreover, three of those states -- Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria -- had fought against the Russians. Poland had had a bitter territorial dispute with the Soviet Union. And in Jugoslavia, the Communist leader Tito had seized power before the war ended.

In Czechoslovakia matters were quite different. Here was a country which had enjoyed real democracy from its birth in 1918 until the tragic events of Munich in 1938. Its people treasured political and personal freedom above everything else, and at the same time entertained the friendliest possible feelings toward the Russians. Dr. Beneš, the former president, came back to his country enjoying tremendous prestige and was again installed as President of the Republic in the majestic old castle of the Bohemian kings overlooking the Moldau. Throughout the war he had made every effort to keep on good terms with the Soviets, and in some quarters had been called an "agent of Bolshevism" for his endeavors to bring the east and west together. One would have thought that the men of the Kremlin had every reason to be grateful to him.

Stalin and Molotov had promised Beneš on many occasions that they would not interfere with the internal affairs of his country. Yet when the opportune moment came, they let their pack loose on him without the least scruple and ordered the destruction of the democracy which he had salvaged from the ruins of Munich and the Second World War. Sick in body and

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