Rudolf Margolius

Rudolf Margolius

Rudolf Margolius (born August 31 1913, Prague, died December 3 1952, Prague), Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade, Czechoslovakia 1949-1952, co-defendant in the Slánský trial (November 1952)

The 1952 Slánský trial involved the Communist Party General Secretary, Rudolf Slánský, and his thirteen co-defendants. They were arrested, unjustly accused, tried, and executed as traitors and western spies. The trial was orchestrated by Soviet advisors, sent to Prague by Stalin, and who were assisted by Czechoslovak Secret Service interrogators and the members of Czechoslovak Communist Party Central Committee. The destruction of the Czechoslovak Communist high-ranking party officials by their own colleagues has defied attempts to explain it, and our understanding of the affair remains superficial to this day. One of the people who were thrown into the alleged conspiracy was JUDr Rudolf Margolius. He is unknown to most people, and those who remember him at all automatically connect him with Slánský, a hard-core Stalinist.

However, the Slánský group consisted of a large range of personalities. On one side was Slánský, an extremist and one of those who helped to usher Czechoslovakia into the Stalinist era. At the centre stood Vladimír Clementis (Minister of Foreign Affairs), a Communist and one of the conductors of the February 1948 Communist Coup, but also a man who had dared to criticize the Stalin-Hitler Pact. On the other extreme of the scale was Margolius. Unlike others in the Slánský group, he joined the Communist Party late – in December 1945 – and acquired faith in socialism as a result of his experience in Hitler’s concentration camps.

Rudolf Margolius had much more in common with Milada Horáková, a Czech democratic politician executed by the Communists in 1950, than with the Stalinist Slánský. He experienced the First Republic, the war and the after-war period differently than Gottwald, Slánský and other Stalinists.


Rudolf Margolius was born in Prague into a patriotic Czech, middle-class milieu. As a law student in the thirties at Charles University, studying together with the Czech poet Hanuš Bonn, he devoted much of his time to the YMCA travelling in Western Europe, Middle East and America. During Czechoslovakia’s Munich crisis with Nazi Germany he was an Army reserve officer serving together with his friend, music composer, Jan Hanuš. In 1939, while Czechoslovakia was already occupied by the Third Reich he married Heda Margolius Kovaly (née Bloch).

In 1941 he was deported to the Lodz Ghetto and subsequently to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau. In May 1945 after escaping from Dachau he was made a leader of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen camp for the war refugees. In December 1945 he joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party influenced by his war experiences and murder of his parents and relatives in the concentration camps and hope of instituting better future for the country. Between 1945 and 1948 he worked for the Association of Czechoslovak Industry in Prague. Afterwards he was promoted to a Chief of Staff of the Minister of Foreign Trade (1948-49) and subsequently became Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade responsible for the sector trading with Western countries (1949-52). Together with his colleague, Evžen Löbl, Margolius was the author of dollar offensive in the Czechoslovak economic policy. In 1949 in London Margolius negotiated and signed several important economic and financial agreements with Ernest Bevin and Sir William Strang who represented the British Government. Margolius was a lawyer and economist and was not involved in the contemporary Communist Party machinations or politics.

JUDr. Rudolf Margolius was arrested on January 10, 1952. After months of physical and psychological coercion and having been forced to sign false confession, Margolius met for the first time his alleged co-inspirators led by Rudolf Slánský at the Czechoslovak High Court attached to the Pankrác Prison in Prague in November 1952. Margolius was chosen as a member of the ‘conspiracy’ because in his capacity as Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Trade he made trade agreements with capitalist countries against the wishes of the Soviet Union to increase trade with other socialist countries and he dealt with large sums of money. That had great impact on the contemporary public opinion. As had been determined in advance in Moscow and by the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s Central Committee, the court sentenced Margolius and ten others to death, three received life sentences. On December 3, 1952, at the execution, Margolius did not pronounce any last words.


“Czech ‘Martyr’ Honoured, Executed in 1952”

Czechoslovak President Ludvík Svoboda has awarded the Order of the Republic posthumously to Rudolf Margolius, former Deputy Foreign Trade Minister executed in 1952 after the Stalinist Slánský trial. Margolius was accused of being a member of the “anti-party conspiratorial centre,” and was sentenced to death along with former Party Secretary Rudolf Slánský and nine others on November 27, 1952. Slánský and the others were judicially rehabilitated by the Supreme Court in 1963. All had been accused of high treason, espionage and sabotage and organizing a Jewish plot to bring down the régime."Scotsman", May 16, 1968

Memorial Plaque

Memorial plaque dedicated to JUDr Rudolf Margolius is located on the family tomb at New Jewish Cemetery, Izraelská 1, Prague 3, sector no. 21, row no. 13, plot no. 33, directly behind Franz Kafka’s grave.


* Margolius Kovály, Heda (1997): "Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968", New York: Holmes & Meier, ISBN 0841913773
"Na vlastní kůži", Academia, Praha 2003

* Margolius, Ivan (2006): "Reflections of Prague: Journeys through the 20th Century", London: Wiley, ISBN 0470022191
"Praha za zrcadlem: Putování 20. stoletím", Argo, Praha 2007, ISBN 9788072039470

* London, Artur (1971): "The Confession", New York: Ballantine Books, ISBN 0345221702.


*Igor Lukes (2002): "Rudolf Margolius: A Clean Man in a Filthy Time", Boston University 2002, []
*cite book | author=James, Clive | title=Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts | location=New York | publisher=W. W. Norton | year=2007 | id=ISBN 0393061167
*cite book | author=Kaplan, Karel | title=Report on the Murder of the General Secretary | location=London | publisher=I. B. Tauris & Co | year=1990 | id=ISBN 1850432112

See also

* Heda Margolius Kovály
* Artur London
* Milada Horáková
* Jan Hanuš
* Slánský trial
* List of Czech and Slovak Jews

External links

* [ Margolius website]

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