Milada Horáková's arrest photos, 1949

Posters around town advertise a film with a single word – Milada – as the title. What is it all about?

Milada Horáková was a strongly political figure of her time. Born Milada Králová in Prague in 1901, her activism came to the fore early in her life; in 1918, she was expelled from school due to participation in antiwar demonstrations. She also joined the Czechoslovak Red Cross not long after the war ended. After finishing her basic studies in 1921, she entered Charles University. She graduated with a degree in law in 1926.

One day in 1924, Milada, an admirer of President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, waited in the Rudolfinum (which then housed the Czechoslovak Parliament) to meet him. It was here that she would meet someone who would have a profound effect on her life. Františka Plamínková was an activist, heavily involved in women’s rights, and one of the founders of the Women’s National Council.

Milada soon joined the Council and became one of the most influential members of the organization. She worked to improve conditions for single women and children born out of wedlock, traveling widely to make contacts with women’s associations in foreign countries.

After graduating, Milada married a fellow student, Bohuslav Horák. Bohuslav worked for Czechoslovak Radio as an editor, then as program director. In 1933, their only child, Jana, was born. Milada, who joined the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party in 1929, worked for the City of Prague, at the Central Social Office. Later, she headed the Department of Youth.

With the Munich Agreement and Nazi rule, Milada joined the underground movement. She and Bohuslav were arrested on July 2, 1940; Milada was held in Prague’s Pankrác district for two years before being sent to the concentration camp Terezín. Sentenced to death, then to life imprisonment, she was moved to one prison after another in Germany.

In 1942, her friend and colleague Františka Plamínková was executed, as part of Hitler’s vicious reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

Following the liberation, Milada returned to Prague, where she continued her political activities. She was elected to the Constituent National Assembly of Czechoslovakia, in addition to working on behalf of liberated political prisoners. In February 1948, the Communists took power, and she resigned her position.

On September 27, 1949, Milada was arrested on trumped-up charges of plotting to overthrow the government. The trial (broadcast on the radio) began May 31, and the verdict (declared after just eight days of trial) was clear from the start: Guilty. The verdict was protested internationally, with such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein petitioning for clemency.

Milada Horáková and three co-defendants were hanged at Pankrác Prison on June 27, 1950. Her last words were, “I leave without hatred to you.” A street in Prague 7 is named for her, and the day of her death is now Commemoration Day of Victims of the Communist Regime.

Erin Naillon

Erin Naillon

I am an American living and working in Prague. I freelance in various areas, including photography/film, voice work, and, of course, writing.
Erin Naillon