Patriots of opportunism. Who were the people who expelled others from Brno?

Vlastenci z oportunismu. Kdo byli lidé, kteří vyháněli z Brna?

Violence against German-speaking inhabitants broke out immediately after the war front swept through Brno. The shocking scenes took place in the streets and especially in internment camps all around the city; the culmination of these excesses, however, was the Death March, which began on 30 May 1945. It was ordered by the Brno National Committee, where Communists played a leading role. The so-called Košice Program of the National Front, an association of the only permitted political parties in the post-war Czechoslovakia, imposed their equitable representation in national committees, but the Communists in the Brno National Committee – contrarily to the above mentioned program – occupied as many as twelve seats of thirty.

The organization of the "lead-out" of twenty-five to twenty-seven thousand Brno citizens was entrusted to the National Security Service (NBS), an improvised police force, which was created from the gendarmerie, the state police and other security forces just after the liberation. Most of its members served in uniform already during the Protectorate, and all the more so diligently fulfilled orders in the tumultuous  post-war era, when accusations of collaboration were never far away.

Always on the side of the winners

Commander of the NBS, and therefore one of the main actors of the Brno Death March, was Captain Bedřich Pokorný. Before the war, he served as an intelligence officer in the Czechoslovak Army, then in March 1939, he immediately joined the anti-Nazi resistance. Allegedly he sought after information for it and handed out leaflets; his actual activity during the war, however, is obscured by question marks. A number of more or less credible witnesses came about with substantiated suspicion that he was an informer of the Gestapo, in addition to rumours of his horrible cowardice. The fact is that from the position of a commander-in-chief of the post-war security forces in the city, Pokorný could easily let disappear sensitive documents that might confirm the above indicated facts

At the end of the war, Pokorný was hiding in Maloměřice, where after the liberation he proclaimed himself a partisan and chairman of the local National Committee, after which he joined the Communist Party. After his Brno anabasis he was appointed section commander of the Intelligence Service of the Ministry of Interior. He also led investigations of Nazi war criminals and did not hesitate to falsify K.H. Frank's testimony just to discredit non-Communist politicians. Later, he contributed to the February coup by spying on them, after which he became deputy commander of the StB (secret political police), and from October 1949 the head of its administration of forced labour camps.

Pokorný eventually paid for the shadows of the war years with his  career. In 1951, he was stripped of all his assignments and two years later he was convicted of conspiracy along with former Gestapo agent in a sham trial and sentenced to sixteen years of imprisonment. The sentence was abolished in November 1956 and Pokorný was rehabilitated, including the restoration of his membership in the Communist Party. The political thaw of the late 1960s was such an emotional burden for him  that he hanged himself in the woods near Brno in March 1968.

Bad conscience

When in the evening of 30 May 1945, a crowd of  about twenty-five thousand people who had to be escorted to the Austrian border started to flow in from thirteen marshalling yards, the procession was accompanied, alongside with the NBS, also by "Revolutionary Guards" composed of young, often barely twenty-year-old Zbrojovka workers. In fact, earlier that day a delegation of Zbrojovka unions turned to the Communist chairman of the Brno National Committee threatening that if the Germans were not dealt with more vigorously, the workers would take over the initiative. Zbrojovka workers and representatives of the Communist Party agreed that the campaign would start the very same evening.

This all in spite of the fact, that Zbrojovka workers produced weapons for the Nazis until the last moment, for superior rewards that were recognized only to workers in the war industry. Given that Klement Gottwald on the radio several times unsuccessfully called for sabotage and disruption of the production,  Zbrojovka workers were afraid of being branded as collaborators after the war. Therefore, they had to demonstrate their patriotism as unambiguously as possible. And survivors of the march have the worst memories particularly of these "patriots".

Jaroslav Ostrčilík