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The Arrest of the CPCz CC Presidium Members, as Recalled by Josef Smrkovský´s Personal Secretary H. Maxa
Our Source: Navratil, Jaromir.
"The Prague Spring 1968". Hungary: Central European Press, 1998, pp. 418-419
Original source: ŮSD, Sb. KV, A-D. Bárta and V. Holá, eds., "Sbírka dokumentu a svédectví z let 1968-69," pp. 60 et seq.
Translated by: Mark Kramer, Joy Moss and Ruth Tosek
Comment: This is H. Maxa’s testimony about what happened the night of the 21 August, 1968, when Dubček and a couple of other CPCz CC Presidium members were arrested by Soviet troops and StB agents.
At about half past eight a group arrived, though there was already quite a commotion all around. The group was led by a Soviet colonel, followed by two plainclothesmen, who appeared to be some of our people. They were wearing tweed jackets and open-neck shirts, and they came into the room and started looking for Cde. Dubček. I was standing some two meters from the door, and a young soldier with a machinegun stood on the other side. He was policing the area, and the moment the others saw Dubček, they immediately went up to him and said: “Cde. Dubček, you are to come with us straight away.” And Dubček asked him: “Who are you, what do you want?” They replied: “The revolutionary committee.” And Dubček again asked: “What and who are you?” And they again replied: “The revolutionary security committee.” There was again confusion in the room. One of the two was fairly young; the older one was perhaps 1.7 m or 1.75 m tall. He had graying hair and was stocky, whereas the younger one was taller and thin. Then the colonel came in behind the two security agents and shook hands with everyone. He went up to Dubček and wanted to shake hands with him, too, but Dubček did not even speak to him, so be simply grabbed hold of Dubček’s hand. He then went up to Smrkovský, who was standing opposite him with clenched fists, and the colonel tried twice to shake hands with him, but Smrkovský refused.
At that point they indicated who was to go with them: Dubček, Smrkovský, Špaček, and Kriegel. /.../
Question: It was also said that these plainclothesmen, when they came to make the arrests, uttered just one sentence: that they were arresting Dubček, Smrkovský, and Kriegel in the name of the revolutionary workers' and peasants' government headed by Cde. Indra. /.../
Answer: No, that's not where it happened. Later on I heard and saw and read reports about the testimony of a comrade from State Security who had concluded a bit too much from what preceded their entry into Cde. Dubček’s office. He said that in the outer office there were two groups of six people each from our security officials, and that they bad been chosen to arrest Dubček and the others. And that is where some official of the NKVD taught them the formula of arresting people: “In the name of the revolutionary workers' and peasants' government headed by Cde. Indra we hereby arrest you.” /… /
But when they actually went inside, and only two of them and the Soviet official were present, they said what I just told you. I am absolutely certain of this, I was quite near them. Later on it was revealed that because they were so excited – those two who came in to take away the group of leading officials – that they forgot to recite the formula.
At that moment Dubček, Smrkovský, Kriegel, and Špaček were in Dubček’s office and they were all taken away.