Prague (Dec. 18)
It seems as if every country must, sooner or later, have a “Dreyfus case”, or something that resembles it. The latest addition to the list is Czechoslovakia. The only difference between the original Dreyius case and this one is that in France an innocent person was exonerated whereas in Czechoslovakia the guilty ones were set at liberty.
The story started in July, 1919, when a war was going on between Czech troops and the Hungarian communistic army. In the district of Kaszu, in eastern Slovakia, seven innocent Jews, the brothers Fleischer and the brothers Leikowitch, were arrested on the charge that they informed the Hungarians of the movements of the Czechoslovakian army. The seven Jews were given in the custody of four soldiers, who were ordered to take the prisoners to the military prison, where a thorough investigation was to have taken place. On the way the soldiers and their prisoners were met by an officer, Karl Parak. Parak placed himself in command of the four soldiers, pocketed some 600 dollars, as well as the watches which he found on the persons of the Jews, following which he and the soldiers shot and killed the Jews on the spot. The judge of the village where this dastardly crime was perpetrated witnessed the whole scene and he begged the officer not to kill the Jews, explaining that they were innocent, but his pleas were not heeded.
When this matter came up in court it became evident at once that the entire judicial machinery was working for the defendants. The officer and the four soldiers were allowed to go about with absolute freedom, which of course gave them the opportunity to meet and plan out the course of action to be followed in court. As a matter of fact, the soldiers made a complete about-face in their tactics of defense. At first they had thrown the whole responsibility on Parak, claiming that they merely followed the orders of a superior officer. But when they met Parak later and discussed things with him they stated on oath that the arrested Jews attacked Parak so that they, the soldiers, fired on the Jews to save the officer (miraculously, of course, none of the bullets hit Parak, who was in the very midst of the attacking Jews!) The prosecutor’s indictment was framed with an obvious intent to clear the soldiers and the officers. Every fact or statement that might have been taken as evidence of the innocence of the murdered Jews, was supressed, and constant mention was made of the “seven murdered Jews” in a tone that was calculated to influence the judges in favor of the soldiers. Furthermore, the representative of the war ministry who attended the trial gave the judges to understand quite clearly that the war ministry did not desire a heavy penalty for the accused.
As a result of all this the officer and the soldiers were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. But they appealed the case to a higher court which freed the four soldiers, while the officer was given an opportunity to “escape” and did not appear at the trial because he could not be “found”.
The matter is not yet settled as the case has been appealed.
But it is noteworthy that this has taken place not in Poland or in Germany or in some other country known to be anti-Semitic, but in Czechoslovakia, a country which pretends to be liberal and which is held in good esteem by the Jews the world over, the country of which the famed scholar and liberal Dr. Massaryk is president and Benesh, equally know as a liberal-minded statesman, is premier.