By Dr. Josef A. Mestenhauser
Now I will present the evidence supporting the argument that Jan Masaryk was indeed a victim of murder.
The first support for the murder theory arises from the denials of the Russian government to open its archives from that period. The Russians have released a great deal of other archival material, and still more records have become available through defectors who have smuggled important evidence about the Soviet system abroad. The question becomes, what are the Russians hiding in regards to Masaryk’s death? Even though there is no firm evidence that the archives contain an answer, the implication seems obvious that such is indeed the case. The only hard evidence that Masaryk was murdered comes from the results of the second autopsy, which found a type of foam in his mouth which would have been produced if his death was caused by asphyxiation.
The fact that all four inquiries into Masaryk’s violent death were conducted only superficially also suggests the likelihood of his murder. First of all, had Masaryk committed suicide, he would have surely left a note explaining his action. Leaving an explanation of his decision would have been consistent both with his “public” and “private” personalities, since it certainly would have condemned the communist takeover as well as the severe treatment to which the communists subjected all their opponents. Had such a note have existed, the Soviets would without a doubt have suppressed its release and possibly locked it away in the Russian archives. The lack of a suicide note, though, coupled with our knowledge that Jan may not have had sufficient personal courage to take his own life, would support the theory that he was murdered for political reasons.
Then there are private admissions of at least the four sources said to have confessed separately and independently to the murder. Three of the confessions were by NKVD agents Vavra-Starik, August Schramm, and Colonel Vojtech Kohout (the one who claimed to have saved Masaryk’s signature facsimile metal stamp as a “souvenir”), as well as by a Soviet general Michael Belkin. Even though their confessions are second hand, the disappearances of each of these people under strange circumstances would certainly support the possibility that they were participants in Masaryk’s murder. There is no reason to believe that there was a single murderer – all four may have been involved.
My own belief is that Masaryk was indeed assassinated by the Soviets. Furthermore, I am certain (though I know of no one else who has suggested this likelihood publicly) that both Masaryk’s office and his private quarters would have been subject to electronic surveillance. By means of this electronic spying, the Soviet and Czech secret services would have been aware that the “private” side of Masaryk’s personality opposed the communist coup. They would also have been aware from listening to his conversations that he intended to escape from Czechoslovakia soon.
The death of Jan Masaryk was tragic in itself, but the lingering uncertainty about precisely how it happened, who was responsible, and what motivated it makes his loss doubly tragic. We may never know its circumstances, yet the evidence is clear that he was murdered, despite all his efforts to accommodate the new communist system. It was, after all, his “private self” that did him in.