Former Czech puppet premier executed (6-19-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (June 20, 1942)

Nazis execute former Czech puppet premier

London, June 20 (UP) –
General Alois Eliáš, former Premier of the German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia who narrowly escaped one wave of reprisal killings, has finally been executed in another eight months later, the German radio announced today.

The death sentence which a German court gave Eliáš last Oct. 1 for “preparation for high treason and abetting the enemy” was carried out yesterday, a Prague dispatch broadcast from Berlin revealed. It said he “confessed” at his trial to being in touch with “the enemy” and supporting plots against the Reich.

Eliáš, one-time minister of transportation in the Czechoslovak Republic and a close friend of President Edvard Beneš, had been Premier of the protectorate since April 1939, when he was seized by the Germans last fall.

Eliáš was one of the first victims seized by Reinhard Heydrich’s Gestapo squads last year when “the Hangman” was sent to Prague with orders to crush a rising tide of unrest by whatever means necessary. He plunged Bohemia-Moravia into a reign of terror comparable only to that which followed his assassination in Prague months later.

Odd twist to sentence

Eliáš apparently had a hairline brush with death after a People’s Court of the Germans held him guilty of plotting against the Reich. His sentence was not only death, but included a provision depriving him of his civil rights for life – a strange decree against a man presumably about to die.

But his case dragged on through a murk of propaganda uncertainty. He was believed taken to Berlin for his “trial,” and there were reports that after the death sentence was not carried out immediately, he was held in a German prison awaiting final disposition of his case.

Nazis distrust him

As premier, Eliáš told the Czechs they would have to work harder for the Nazis, but he won the distrust of his overlords by his effort to bring about a compromise on antisemitic legislation instead of using the iron fist.

Through turbulent months, he skated the thin ice of doubtful collaboration with the Germans, the puppet cabinet all the time becoming more unpopular with both the German masters and the people.

Then came Heydrich and the arrest of Eliáš.