Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mašín brothers: heroes or monsters?

There are two Czech people who have made rather extraordinary things between 1951 and 1953.

Unlike other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia was a mostly peaceful country without much armed resistance during the Nazi occupation as well as during communism.

But there have been two brothers who don't fit this description, namely Ctirad Mašín and Josef Mašín (pronounce: "machine"). Their acts continue to divide the Czech society. Were they heroes or villains?
Wikipedia about Mašíns
Their father was a prominent member of the underground resistance during the Nazi occupation. And even his two young sons were given medals from President Beneš.

However, communism started in 1948. The brothers listened to the Western radio stations and believed, together with a group of others, that America was planning to wipe out communism. The U.S. saviors were not coming and the resistance against the political correctness of the early 1950s was getting tough. Eventually, their group decided to leave the communist country.

It wasn't quite trivial. So they had to do two raids to grab some weapons for their future adventures, terminating one cop per raid, and to obtain CSK 850,000 (a lot of money): the life of a wage clerk turned out to be redundant in this case. Meanwhile, they were planning to explode a train with uranium and maybe the private jet - sorry, I mean private train - of President Gottwald, the little Czech Stalin. Eventually they were ready to get to the West through West Berlin because the wall didn't yet exist. They made a logistical mistake in East Germany and 20,000 German communist cops were trying to get them.

The two brothers were thus facing a pretty large number of armed commies. Nevertheless, the brothers have won, shooting three German cops directly (that puts the total direct casualties of their trip to six) and encouraging other German cops to shoot at least three more policemen in friendly fire. ;-) The German forces were completely humiliated so the German officials at least realized, a posteriori, that the number 20,000 above could have actually been just 5,000 ;-) while the Czechoslovak TV shot a movie about the popular fictitious communist secret cop, "Major Zeman", who was actually able to catch the brothers on the screen!

The reality was quite different. Eventually, the brothers got to the U.S., served in the U.S. army, and did other things. The other members of the group who were caught were executed, of course, much like many people who knew the brothers in Czechoslovakia. Their decisions were surely not risk-free.

Because these two Gentlemen born in 1930 and 1932, respectively, are still alive, the main question is: should they be given medals for their heroic resistance against a brutal totalitarian regime as fans, including the current prime minister, propose? Or should the Mašíns be treated as Godless killing machines whose murders have been barely forgiven which is what roughly 50+ percent of Czechs think?

The story is tough and morally ambiguous. What is your answer?

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