Karel Vaš

* 1916  †︎ 2012

  • “Alone, without any company. After all I know the terrain and I studied it on the map. I didn´t have any papers, illegal. I didn´t have any documents with me. I crossed the border with what I had on. When I crossed, I was immediately caught and taken custody on the border by a Soviet border patrol. I presumed that in the Soviet Union of that time I would find asylum. But I was caught, taken custody, held for an illegal barrater of the border. Administratively I was sentenced to three years in a camp, in the gulag behind the Arctic Circle near Vorkuta. There were terrible conditions there, terrible.”

  • “And I was then taken to Leopoldov. There I was in a terrible company. German criminals, Beran was there and I don´t know who all. Beran was the Prime Minister of the pre-Munich government, politically he was a filth in my opinion. Please, I was then tugged variously and I served nearly six years.” How did the other prisoners behave to you? They knew that you were a former military attorney… “Sure. They beat me up there. Once. Of course there were people there, you will be surprised, former communists, politically active and they were hated. I met there some people who had been sentenced and I had been their attorney, so they beat me up. All right. There were people there.” Will you remember who it was? “Who was it? I don´t know, I don´t remember.” For what were they there? “Well, they were sentenced, I didn´t sentence them, maybe I did, maybe I sued, I don´t know! Indeed according to the law! Please – I found out that many people who were sentenced at that time, in the 1950s, many, I don´t say all – please note – committed real crimes according to the then valid laws. So they were rightly sentenced. And they present themselves today, sorry that I say that, not only as not guilty, but even as heroes! All right, it is their personal feeling. Please!” Who are you talking about now? “Please, don´t want names from me! I can say one thing. I have read their literary work, their confession. One even became an agent of an American intelligence service and oscillated between Bavaria and Czechoslovakia – illegally, he transmitted information, materials. (for example Ota Rambousek, František Zahrádka and others, remark of the author) It means that actually he really performed intelligence service against the regime of then. Well, if he had objections against the regime of then which was then valid, it was his personal thing. Please?! I take due note of it. But according to the law he was not allowed to do it. He did it, so he was sentenced. Maybe he was honoured today.” They were soldiers from the western front of the World War II? “Please, we will not identify them. One in question was honoured, here after 1989 from Havel, personally from Havel! I will now return to what I started with. I was sentenced to a life long penalty. On the basis of the appeal filed to the Supreme Court a renewal was prescribed and I was formally acquitted and rehabilitated. They set me free!”

  • “I was sure about one thing. Among those who in great numbers crossed Soviet borders, were many who had an anti-Soviet, anti-communist, anti-socialist attitude. They were simply spies from the other side. The Soviet Union had to defend against it in some way. That is why the people who came illegally were simply isolated, sentenced.” You had a right for a defence, didn´t you? “Noo! They didn´t believe it. Their examining authorities, their workers were primitives! They didn´t understand it. I was lucky that I didn´t have a map with me, otherwise they would have sent me to the gulags for longer than just three years. Three years was a minimum. Those who had for example a map with them were administratively sentenced to seven, eight years.” How did you get from the gulag? “I got to know that there was a contract closed between the Soviet government and our exile government and that in the territory of the Soviet Union the Czechoslovak army was being formed. I applied immediately.”

  • “Well, I did a lot of stupid things due to not-knowing. Due to not-knowing! I did not hurt anybody on purpose. But I did not permit any dirty business in my surroundings!”

  • “So look, as every accused. He predicated nothing, nothing, me nothing, he renounced. Then he admitted something, something he did not admit. And he did admit the crime. Píka not only confessed the spy working, he also confessed, confessed it…” What exactly did he confess? “He… Also… I don´t know, I don´t remember it. But he confessed, it is written in the protocol, and even during the main trial he confessed it. So I won´t speak about it.” Was General Píka guilty and was he supposed to be sentenced to hanging? “He committed the crime, he was guilty, I don´t doubt it. He had a double face. Partly he was a cadre, official, so professional officer, he had merits in building of the army and so on. On the other hand he double-crossed. There was a law, it was not changing. The law forbade. The punishment he got was assessed by the court. And I had no influence in it. I only charged as the examining authority. So…hmm…evaluated his hmm…not evaluated…hmm…so simply stated, so I would say, his activity. The court decided…”

  • Karel Vaš himself wrote in 1956 that he worked on the case of Píka on the direct request of the then Soviet chargé d´affaires in Prague, agent of the secret service Chazanov. He wrote in the defence in front of the communist authorities which later judged him among other things for murder: “In the meaning of the request of Chazanov I did everything I could, Píka confessed during ten days to the intelligence activity as an agent of an English news service.” Karel Vaš to the quotation: “Yes, it is probably in the application for a renewal, not?! So please, the application for a renewal is formulated so that it suits the time. So some things are true and some things are adapted to the purpose.”

  • “The high court solved it in a Solomon way. So in this way that I am now here out. The attorney general, not any more attorney, but attorney general, stated that it was badly prosecuted. I was supposed to be charged as a war criminal. There is nothing to be done against it and so it is. So the Institute for Documentation and Examination of the Crimes of Communism had to be left empty-handed.”

  • “So the contact with the Soviet command was looked after by Reicin (meant the later executed Bedřich Reicin, participant and initiator of many previous political processes in the beginning of 1950s and the feared chief of the defence news service, remark of the author). I for example don´t know at all with whom, I don´t even know the name, at all, where, what! I don´t know at all! I had only contact with the news service authorities, with whom I had to cooperate on business. The higher authorities I didn´t know.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    ČR, Praha, domov důchodců, 08.05.2007

    délka: 03:37:19
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

The communist who proposed the death penalties, says: “I started from scratch…” (in Czech from ´píka´, which is a homonym to the name of Czech General Píka hanged by the communists and accused by Karel Vaš; a joke)

foto Karel Vaš z Národního archivu dobova.jpg (historic)
Karel Vaš
zdroj: dobová - Národní archiv, současná z natáčení

Karel Vaš was born on 20th March 1916 in Uzgorod. At the age of 17 he joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party already and became a member of the Federation of Friends of the Soviet Union and Democratic Spain. In May 1939 he crossed illegally the border to the Soviet Union, he was arrested and tortured by the NKVD and administratively sentenced to three years in the gulag in Vorkuta. From the camp he got thank to a diplomatic mission of Heliodor Píka who was one of those who were organizing the Czechoslovak army in the Soviet Union. 1943 he joined Czechoslovak units and became at first clerk of the troop, later chief of the military court and then attorney. As a loyal and „reliable“ communist he was chosen by Bedřich Reicin to become his close colleague. On the 1st January 1945 he became the deputy head of the Military Defence News Service and he commanded the so called defensive news service. In the beginning of 1948 he worked as an attorney at the higher military court, from October 1948 as an examining judge, from January 1949 as a clerk of the military department of the state prosecution, from May till December 1949 as the chairman of the senate of the higher military court. At that time he „constructed“ maybe the greatest process of his career - the case of Heliodor Píka, for whom he proposed the death penalty. The court accepted the proposal of the punishment and the punishment was executed. In autumn 1950 Vaš became head of the court department of the Main Court Administration of the Ministry of National Defence. On 11th August 1951 everything changed for him - he was taken into custody and judged by his colleagues and comrades for high treason and murder. He was sentenced to the lifelong penalty, the punishment was then defused to 26 years. He was jailed in famous Leopoldov. In September 1956 he was acquitted and rehabilitated, then he worked for a short time as a clerk in Mototechna company and later as a journalist. After 1990 he was accused for the justice murder of Heliodor Píka, in the end on 15th January 2002 the prosecution was stopped for the reason of becoming statute-barred. When Karel Vaš, who as attorney proposed the death penalty in about hundred of political processes in the 1950s, was asked in an interview if he was sorry for something, he replied: „I did a lot of stupid things due to not-knowing. I did not hurt anybody on purpose. But I did not permit any dirty business in my surroundings.“ An icy expression from a man whom the political prisoners called „the judge hanger“.