Klement Gottwald

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Klement Gottwald, 1949

Klement Gottwald (born November 23, 1896 in Dieditz near Wischau , Moravia , Austria-Hungary , † March 14, 1953 in Prague , Czechoslovakia ) was a communist Czechoslovak politician and dictator .

In the mid-1920s he was responsible for the so-called "Bolshevization" of the CPC, i. H. for their subordination to the Communist International (and thus the CPSU). He was chairman of the KSČ (1929-1948). From 1928 he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (KI, Comintern for short). In 1929 Gottwald was elected to the Central Committee and Politburo and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia . 1929-1939 and 1945-1948 Gottwald was a member of the National Assembly. After the Second World War he was first prime minister (1946–1948) and after the February coup the first communist state president of Czechoslovakia (1948–1953).

Gottwald's Stalinist regime is considered to be the most repressive period of the communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia. Between 1948 and 1954, 178 people were executed on political grounds. Others died in labor camps and uranium mines or were murdered by the StB secret police without trial . In addition, Gottwald took rigorous action against religious institutions and against - actual or supposed - internal party rivals.


Gottwald's birthplace in Dědice (Dieditz)

Klement Gottwald, an illegitimate child of agricultural worker Marie Gottwaldová, attended elementary school and learned to be a carpenter in Vienna. He soon oriented himself towards social democratic youth associations. From 1914 to 1918 he served in the Austro-Hungarian army , from which he finally deserted. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918, he served two years in the new Czechoslovak Army . After 1920 Gottwald was active in the union of the workers gymnastics clubs and as an editor of local communist newspapers. At this time he held his first functions in the Communist Party, partly in Slovakia.

Gottwald was married to Marta Gottwaldová, née Holubová, with whom he had the daughter Marta; she later married the Minister of Justice and Defense Alexej Čepička .

Olšany cemetery in Prague: common grave of communist politicians, including Klement Gottwald

Gottwald succumbed to alcohol in the last years of his life and suffered from syphilis . He died of an aortic aneurysm ruptured a few days after his return from Moscow, where he had attended Stalin's funeral ceremonies . His body was of Soviet experts - along the lines of Lenin - mummified and in a glass coffin in the originally for Thomas Garrigue Masaryk provided mausoleum at the " National Memorial at Vitkov Hill " (Czech Národní památník na Vítkově ) in Prague's Zizkov issued. In 1962, Gottwald's body was cremated due to the changed political situation and the abolition of the " personality cult " ( de-Stalinization ). His urn was removed from the mausoleum after 1989 and buried in the Olšany Cemetery in Prague.

Political activity

After 1920 Gottwald was active in the Union of Workers' Gymnastics Clubs and as an editor of local communist newspapers in Moravia and Slovakia such as Pravda chudoby , Hlas ľudu and other proletarian press organs. At this time he held his first functions in the Communist Party, partly in Slovakia. From 1926 Gottwald worked in the Prague party secretariat and from 1926 to 1929 was head of the agitation and propaganda department of the Central Committee of the CPTsch. During this time he began to form a Moscow-oriented opposition in the party, which until then was considered relatively independent. From 1928 Gottwald was a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (KI, Comintern for short).

At the peak of his career, after the February revolution of 1948, Gottwald established a communist party dictatorship in Czechoslovakia and asserted himself as a dictator against his former comrades-in-arms; the historian Karel Kaplan called him the "dictator without sovereignty".


Memorial plaque on the building where the 5th CPC Congress took place

Gottwald is responsible for the Stalinist orientation of the KPTsch. The Czechoslovak Communist Party was one of the largest and strongest communist parties in Europe, but it retained a certain degree of independence and was unwilling to follow all the directions and orders of the Comintern and Moscow. From 1926 onwards, Gottwald, who saw Stalin as a role model, formed a Moscow-loyal opposition within the party. At the 5th party congress of the Communist Party of Czech Republic in February 1929, he completed the so-called Bolshevization: he and his followers, the so-called boys of Karlín (Czech "karlínští kluci" - Josef Guttmann , Jan Šverma , Rudolf Slánský , Václav Kopecký , Pavel Reiman and others), took over power in the CPC and subsequently oriented the party rigorously along the lines of the Comintern and the CPSU. Gottwald became a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo and was elected Secretary General.

In order to distinguish himself accordingly, Gottwald showed on various occasions what he was thinking and planning. In his party congress speech he described - in the spirit of the theses of VI. Congress of the Comintern - the then Czechoslovakia as an "imperialist state" and the social democrats as "social fascists" and further claimed that the domestic bourgeoisie under the leadership of President Masaryk was planning a fascist overthrow. A few months later, in his first speech in parliament on December 21, 1929, he announced: “Yes, we are learning from Moscow how to get your neck turned on”.

The consequences were grave: 14 MPs and 14 senators left the party, the Trotskyist faction with Gottwald's former friend, Július Verčík , said goodbye. From 1928 to 1930 a total of 125,000 party members left the KPC, i.e. H. five sixths. The trade union movement split. Highly valued communist intellectuals such as Ivan Olbracht , Stanislav Kostka Neumann and Vladislav Vančura wrote the Manifesto of Seven, which was highly regarded at the time, in protest against the new line .

Emigration to Moscow

After the Munich Agreement of 1938, when Czechoslovakia had to cede its border areas (Sudetenland) to Germany, the KPTsch was banned under pressure from Berlin and Gottwald went into exile in Moscow. Here he was at the head of the leadership bodies of the CPC until the end of the war and planned to return and take power in the future Czechoslovakia. The following decisions helped him:

  • In 1943, Beneš signed an alliance agreement with Stalin in Moscow with Gottwald's assistance, which among other things enabled the establishment of the Czechoslovak Liberation Army in the Soviet Union - analogous to the Czechoslovak Army in Exile , which was founded by Beneš's Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London
  • In December 1943 he agreed with Beneš and his government-in-exile that the Czechoslovak resistance at home would cooperate with actions planned abroad (London and Moscow)
  • In April 1945, the first Czechoslovak government for the post-war period, the government of Zdeněk Fierlinger I , also known as the Kosice government, was agreed in Moscow in April 1945 between the London government in exile under Beneš and the Moscow CPTsch leadership under Gottwald .

After the end of the war, Gottwald was indeed able to have a decisive influence on the shaping of Czechoslovakia.

post war period

After the end of World War II and the liberation of Czechoslovakia, Gottwald took over the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the Fierlinger I government and then in the Fierlinger II government in April 1945 ; After the parliamentary elections in 1946 , from which the KPTsch emerged as the strongest party, Gottwald installed the Gottwald I government , which ruled until the February revolution of 1948. The foundations of this development, in particular the project of the unified National Front and the Kaschau program , stem from Gottwald's negotiations with the London government in exile. The National Front de facto excluded from the elections (and thus also from participation in the government) all parties that the Communist Party did not like, including participants in the resistance. “Beneš and his non-communist friends overlooked the fact that the 'limited plurality' of the national front harbors the germ of development towards totality”, or as the Czech historian Kaplan judged: The purpose of the Gottwald National Front was to provide access to communist autocracy to level. Among other things, the decision as to which parties would be admitted in the future fell within the competence of the National Front. The government program of 1945, known as the Kaschau program, already envisaged profound social changes, which ended with the establishment of a people's democracy; as a foreign policy concept it envisaged the orientation of Czechoslovakia towards the Soviet Union.

After the end of the war and up until the February revolution in 1948, the CPC concentrated on carefully preparing for the Communist takeover. In addition to the Kaschau government program and the National Front, the following specific projects were involved:

  • The Czechoslovak social democracy , with which the CPC worked in government, was increasingly weakened from outside until it was forcibly united with the CPC in June 1948; Gottwald himself tried to win the Social Democrat (and Prime Minister 1945 to 1946) Zdeněk Fierlinger on his side, which succeeded.
  • The infiltration of other parties in the National Front with the aim of dividing them and moving their parts in support of the CPC was carried out by members of the CPC, some of whom were conspiratorial. Klement Gottwald declared this procedure on November 27, 1947 at a meeting of the Central Committee as the party's official political line; however, the infiltration started in summer 1945. (A similar, thoroughly effective infiltration took place within the security apparatus and the police, which played an essential role in the February revolution.)
  • In addition, Gottwald ensured that some key ministries in the first post-war governments fell to the CPC. Apart from the post of Prime Minister (or Deputy Prime Minister), there were five communist ministers in the Zdeněk Fierlinger I government (including the Ministry of the Interior and Information), and five communist ministers in the Fierlinger II government (also here in the Ministry of the Interior and Information) , in the Gottwald I government there were then six communist ministers (including the interior, information and finance ministries).

In some cases, even in this phase, targeted actions against political “opponents” that were supposed to be eliminated. This included in particular the case of the “conspiracy in Slovakia”, as the cause of the Demokratická strana (Democratic Party) was called. This party, which in the parliamentary elections in Czechoslovakia in 1946 gained twice as many votes as the Slovak communists in the Slovak part of the state with 62 percent, was accused of conspiracy and, at Gottwald's behest, gradually overthrown and liquidated.

February coup, show trials

In early 1948 there was a government crisis. The communist interior minister Nosek wanted to replace eight non-communist police functionaries in Prague with communists. On February 20, 1948, the twelve non-communist members of the government resigned in protest in the hope that this would lead to new elections. However, since the government consisted of 26 ministers, it could not be formally dismissed because the resigning ministers were only a minority, and President Beneš was also reluctant to accept the resignation. Gottwald took advantage of the situation to initiate the communist takeover, later known as the February coup. From Sunday, February 22, 1948, Beneš received reports that arming the so-called People's Militia had a number of violent consequences. These paramilitary combat units made up of members of the CPC formed from the former workers' militias. They took part in the occupations of the party headquarters of non-communist, democratic parties and in the arrests of their members, which happened under the pretext of an impending counter-revolution. On February 24, 1948, Gottwald threatened to arrest the resigned ministers in the event that their resignation by President Beneš - constitutionally - should not be accepted; At noon a one-hour general strike took place to emphasize Gottwald's demands. On February 25, 1948, Gottwald visited the president and gave him a list of ministers whom he selected for the new government. Meanwhile, a large demonstration was being prepared and around 6,000 armed militiamen stood ready to march into the center. At 4.30 p.m. Gottwald visited the president again, who accepted the resignation of the non-communist ministers - unconstitutionally - and appointed a new government that complied with Gottwald's proposals. Gottwald went to Wenceslas Square, where a crowd of around 100,000 demonstrators cheered him.

With the establishment of his Gottwald II government , which was accepted by Beneš on February 25, 1948, Gottwald laid the last cornerstone for the establishment and consolidation of communist sole rule in Czechoslovakia. After that, only the logical consequences happened:

  • the adoption of a new constitution by parliament on May 9, 1948, which did not come into force until July 14, 1948,
  • on June 7, 1948, the resignation of President Beneš, who had refused to sign this constitution (which only came into force later), as well as
  • the election of Gottwald as the new President on June 14, 1948.

In addition, the so-called action committees of the National Front (akční výbory Národní fronty) dominated by communists, which Gottwald launched on February 21, became the actual power-political center in the country: Their primary task was to add the so-called "anti-communist elements" eliminate.

In the period that followed, under Gottwald's state and party leadership and responsibility, a rigorous apparatus of repression was launched and expanded. On the basis of the “Law for the Defense of the Republic” (Law 231/1948 Coll.), 232 people were sentenced to death in political show trials between 1948 and 1954 before the so-called and for this purpose established Státní soud (State Court), both from October 1948. 178 people were executed (the largest number of executions in the countries of the then Eastern Bloc at the time); Another estimated 100,000 people were sentenced to several years' imprisonment (some without trial), tens of thousands of people were taken to labor camps, and tens of thousands more were obliged to do forced service in the so-called camps for military forced labor - the Pomocný technický prapor . The best-known political show trials included the trial of General Heliodor Píka , Milada Horáková and the Slansky trial of Rudolf Slansky and 13 other high party officials and members of the government, as well as crackdown on opponents of collectivization, such as the Babice and Jan Bula cases .

During Gottwald's presidency alone (June 14, 1948 - March 14, 1953) 234 people were executed, 189 of them for alleged "political crimes"; Most of the death sentences were passed by the Gottwald state court.

Honors and reception

Banknote with picture of Gottwald


  • From 1949 to 1990 the Moravian town of Zlín Gottwaldov was called after Klement Gottwald.
  • Before 1990 the main train station in Plzeň was called Gottwaldovo nádraží .
  • The Prague metro station Gottwaldova (line C) was renamed Vyšehrad in 1990 .
  • Today's Námestie slobody ( Freedom Square ) in Bratislava was called Gottwaldovo námestie until 1989 .
  • The new 100 Kčs banknotes, introduced in October 1989 shortly before the Velvet Revolution , bore the portrait of Gottwald. However, they were quickly withdrawn in the following period and the original edition from 1962 remained in circulation.




  • The Silesian mine Grube Eminenz in Poland has been known as Bergwerk Gottwald since 1953 .

In 2005, Gottwald was voted the most unpopular Czech in an opinion poll conducted by the Czech television station Česká televize .


  • Spisy. 15 volumes. Státní nakladatelství politické literatury, Prague 1951–1961 (German: Selected speeches and writings 1925–1952. Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 1974)


  1. The exact place of his birth is unclear. According to one report, he was born in Heroltice u Vyškova , but the village of Dědice is recorded in the birth matrix ; see. brno.idnes.cz / ...
  2. Some historians name the period from 1948 to 1953 as the main period of the show trials, others, such as Karel Kaplan , then from 1948 to 1954.
  3. The name is derived from the Prague district of Karlín, where the secretariat of the KPTsch was located, in which Gottwald worked.
  4. The constitution valid at that time stipulated that the majority of ministers had to resign so that the president could accept it.

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Marejka: Politické procesy v Československu (1948-1954) , In: Studia iuridica Cassoviensia , 2/2018, ISSN 1339-3995, Bratislava, p. 88, online at: sic.pravo.upjs.sk / ... ( Slovak)
  2. "The head of the conspirators sits in the presidium" , In: Spiegel online March 23, 1970, online at: spiegel.de / ...
  3. a b Hledání nepřítele - politické procesy v Československu , portal of the NGO project Političtí vězni.cz, online at: politictivezni.cz / ...
  4. ^ Dušan Kováč: Dějiny Slovenska. Nakladatelství lidové noviny, Prague 2000, ISBN 80-7106-268-5 , pp. 264-265, (History of Slovakia).
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k l Klement Gottwald , curriculum vitae of the portal of the office of the President of the Czech Republic, online at: hrad.cz / ...
  6. a b c d e Klement Gottwald , Osobnosti.cz portal, online at: panovnici.cz / ...
  7. První soudružka na Hradě: Marta Gottwaldová si nechala říkat milostpaní , news portal eurozpravy.cz, online at: eurozpravy.cz / ...
  8. Karel Kaplan , Pavel Kosatík: Gottwaldovi muži. Paseka, Praha u. a. 2004, ISBN 80-7185-616-9 , pp. 11-77, especially pp. 46-47.
  9. a b Nejzápornější postavou českých dějin depending podle ankety Gottwald. Nelíbí se ani Havel a Zeman , short report of the online news portal Reflex.cz from June 13, 1915, online at: reflex.cz / ...
  10. Karel Kaplan, Pavel Kosatík: Gottwaldovi muži, Paseka, Praha / Litomyšl 2004, 336 pages; quoted here from a German review, available online at: bohemia-online.de / ... , page 266, there note no. 3.
  11. a b Komunistická strana Československa (KSČ), bolševizace KSČ , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  12. ^ H. Gordon Skilling: Gottwald and the Bolshevization of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (1929-1939) , in: Slavic Review 4/1961, online at: JSTOR 3004097
  13. a b Václav Drchal: Malý vítězný únor. Na pátém sjezdu komunistů Gottwald stranu "zbolševizoval" , Euro.cz portal, published under the patronage of Mladá fronta , March 10, 2019, online at: euro.cz / ...
  14. ^ A b Jacques Rupnik: Dějiny Komunistické strany Československa. Od počátků do převzetí moci , Academia, Praha 2002, ISBN 80-200-0957-4 , p. 78ff. or 236ff .; from the French Helena Beguivonová (Original edition: Histoire du parti communiste tchécoslovaque , Paris, Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, Paris 1981)
  15. Klement Gottwald - Stalin's devoted apprentice , material from the Czech radio station Český rozhlas (Radio Prague International, in German) from February 15, 2014, online at: radio.cz / ...
  16. Karel Kaplan: Die Nationale Front 1945-1948 , in: Nikolaus Lobkowicz, Friedrich Prinz (Ed.): Schicksalsjahre der Czechoslovakia , R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich / Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-486-50571-8 , p. 103ff.
  17. Národní fronta Čechů a Slováků (NF) , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  18. a b c Karel Kaplan, The fatal alliance. Infiltration, conformity and annihilation of the Czechoslovak Social Democracy 1944–1954, Pol-Verlag, Wuppertal 1984, ISBN 3-9800905-0-7 (Chapter I, pp. 25ff. Or Chapter II, esp. 130ff.)
  19. Únor 1948 , encyclopaedic keyword of the Totalita.cz portal, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  20. Karel Kaplan: Pět capitol o únoru , Doplněk, Brno 1997, ISBN 80-85765-73-X , page 13f. as well as 28f .; quoted according to Lenka Janovská: Systém národní fronty v Československu v letech 1945-1948 , Palacký University, Olomouc 2011, p. 42, notes 120 and 121, online at: adoc.tips / ...
  21. Únor 1948, dlouhodobá příprava komunistů na převzetí moci , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  22. Vláda Zdeňka Fierlingera I. (April 5, 1945 - November 6, 1945) , overview of the portal of the Government of the Czech Republic, online at: vlada.cz / ...
  23. Vláda Zdeňka Fierlingera II. (11/06/1945 - 07/02/1946) , overview of the portal of the government of the Czech Republic, online at: vlada.cz / ...
  24. Vláda Klementa Gottwalda I. (July 2, 1946 - February 25, 1948) , overview of the portal of the government of the Czech Republic, online at: vlada.cz / ...
  25. a b Karel Kaplan: The political processes in Czechoslovakia 1948-1953 , R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1986, here: Chapter I, The political processes and their function in the struggle for the monopoly of power 1945-1948 , p. 11ff.
  26. Demokratieická strana (DS) (Strana slovenské obrody) , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  27. Till Janzer: "Victorious February" - how the takeover of power began in 1948 , material from the Czech radio station Český rozhlas (Radio Prague International, in German) from February 21, 2008, online at: radio.cz / ...
  28. Jakub Šiška: The communists seize power , material from the Czech radio station Český rozhlas (Radio Prague International, in German) from February 25, 2006, online at: radio.cz / ...
  29. Únor 1948 začal demisí 12 ministrů: Této "fatální chyby" Gottwald využil , TV station Česká televize ČT24, February 20, 2013, online at: ct24.ceskatelevize.cz / ...
  30. Karel Kaplan: Únor 1948 , Epocha, Praha 2018, online at: books.google.de / ...
  31. František Čapka, Jitka Lunerová: 1948: Vítězný únor , CPress, Albatros Media, 2017, online at: books.google.de / ...
  32. Únor 1948 - středa 25. února 1948 , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz / ...
  33. Constitutional Law of May 9, 1948 concerning the Constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic , online at: verfassungen.net / ...
  34. a b Edvard Beneš podepsal abdikační listinu , TV station Česká televize ČT24, June 2, 2008, online at: ct24.ceskatelevize.cz/
  35. akční výbory Národní fronty , encyclopedia of the Totalita.cz portal, online at: www.totalita.cz / ...
  36. Michal Škerle: Státní soud a Státní prokuratura a jejich role v politických procesech , Brno 2009/2010, p. 24, online at: is.muni.cz / ...
  37. Zákon na ochranu Lidove demokratické republiky (Law for the Defense of the Democratic People's Republic of) Zákon č. 231/1948 Sb. , Zákony pro lidi portal, online at: zakonyprolidi.cz / ... ; Zákon o státním soudu (Law on the State Court), Zákon č. 232/1948 Sb. , Zákony pro lidi portal, online at: zakonyprolidi.cz / ...
  38. Zdeněk Hejzlar, K politice a vnitřnímu vývoji KSČ po roce 1948 , in: Systémové změny, anthology, Index, Cologne 1972, p. 69ff.
  39. Politické procesy v ČSR v 50. letech , encyclopedic keyword of the portal Totalita.cz, online at: totalita.cz/
  40. Jan Bula (1920–1952) , a biography of the ÚSTR , online (archived) at: ustrcr.cz / ...
  41. Markéta Doležalová: Jan Bula (1920–1952) , a publication by the ÚSTR , online at: ustrcr.cz / ...
  42. Jaroslav Vorel, Alena Šimánková, Lukáš Babka: Československá justice v letech 1948–1953 v dokumentech , Part II., Sešity No. 9, series of publications by the ÚVD (Authority for Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism), Prague 2004, ISBN 80- 86621-05-7 , page 237, online at: policie.cz / ...
  43. The second end of Klement Gottwald , in: Potsdamer Latest News from January 5, 2010, online at: pnn.de / ...
  44. Walter Blaha et al. a .: Erfurt street names in their historical development (= Erfurt Chronicle. 3). Verlags-Haus Thuringia, Erfurt 1992, ISBN 3-86087-054-8 , p. 94.
  45. ^ Dresden (= values ​​of our homeland . Volume 42). 1st edition. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1984., p. 193


  • Karel Kaplan: Kronika komunistického Československa. Klement Gottwald and Rudolf Slánský , Barrister & Principal, Brno 2009
  • Rudolph Kroll: Gottwald a jeho doba , XYZ, 2019. EAN 9788075975614

See also

Web links

Commons : Klement Gottwald  - Collection of images, videos and audio files