Dr. Alois Rašín, 33°

Svatopluk Studeny, 33°
Grand Chancellor
Supreme Council for The Czech Republic

Following the demise of communism, Ill. Alois Rasin became a model for Czech economists building a free nation.

At the birth of the Czech Republic in October 1918, following the dissolution of the Austro–Hungarian empire, Dr. Alois Rašín, 33°, became the Minister of Finance. A politician and economist of note, Ill. Rašín’s reforms guided the new state from post-war waves of confusion and inflation, not unlike the disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1989. He has become a model for Czech economists following the demise of Communism. In fact, Rašín’s portrait occupied a place of honor in the office of Vaclav Klaus, the former Prime Minister who is primarily responsible for the economic reforms of Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic.

The development of Alois Rašín’s personal and conceptual ideas is important for placing him in historical perspective. Most importantly, the creation of Austria–Hungary in 1867 and, thereby, the establishment of state dualism led to the end of independent ideas. Under this system, justified efforts for independence on the part of Czechs were blocked, particularly by the German citizens of the kingdom who at the time, much as in 1939, saw their ethnic future in assimilation with greater Germany.

During his student days at the Charles University in Prague, Rašín joined several youth movements. His humor, sharp wit, and faultless memory led to his assuming the forefront in efforts for national independence. At the age of 24, he had already published a brochure, with the characteristic title of "The Rights of the Czech Nation." Though the work was often censored, 15,000 copies were reprinted, an unusual number for that time. In 1894, as one of the intellectual leaders of youth, Rašín was arrested. Following a lengthy trial, together with 68 members of the Omladina youth movement group, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment served in the notorious Bory prison in Pilsen.

After serving his time, Rašín became the heart and soul of the contemporary political scene, and in June 1911, Rašín was elected Deputy of the Austrian Parliament. At this time, leading Czech politicians carried out positive pro-Austrian politics. Their thinking followed Rašín’s determined logic. German-oriented citizens of the Czech kingdom were interested in undermining the Austrian monarchy since their goal was the annexation of a large part of the Austrian monarchy to Germany, including the Czech lands.

During World War I, Rašín became one of the leaders of the anti-Habsburg resistance. Domestic resistance maintained contact with the resistance in exile led by Prof. T. G. Masaryk. Together with Dr. Kramar, Rašín was arrested on January 12, 1915. Following a huge trial lasting six months, he was sentenced to death, with the Supreme Court confirming the sentence. The remaining days for both condemned men were dramatically short, but so was the life of the aging emperor, Franz Josef. The new emperor, Charles, commuted the death sentence to a 10-year imprisonment. Amnesty followed six months later in the summer of 1917.

Following the death of Ill. Rašín, in a letter addressed to the Czechoslovak government, the then president, T.G. Masaryk wrote: "Dr. Rašín was a true Czech—simple, hard-working, a man of steel and heart. When he was released from prison in 1917, he immediately took up his leading political role. I yearned for his release while away in exile. Knowing he was at the head of resistance at home gave me the feeling of security. Austria had sentenced him to death, but he remained a leader to a new life, the life of a nation."

The first act of law of the Czechoslovak Republic was in the handwriting of Rašín, and it is with emotion that to this very day we observe the inserts, deletions, and corrections leading to the definitions of the first Czechoslovak law and this, in turn, leading to the strenuous building of the new nation safeguarded in its economic stability and future. Thanks to Ill. Rašín, from 1922 onward, Czechoslovakia enjoyed a firm currency favorable to the foundation of economic development of the republic.

Despite the fact that Ill. Rašín always acted on his stated creed "what is done for the country, is done for free," a vicious anti-Rašín campaign developed in the leftist press, primarily fed by communists. As a result, while on his way to work, in front of his home on the morning of January 5, 1923, a young communist by the name of Soupala attempted to assassinate Ill. Bro. Rašín by firing two rounds at point-blank range into his chest.

From January 5 to February 18, Ill. Rašín fought for his life, but he died at the age of 55. Thus, as early as 1923, Ill. Alois Rašín was to become the first Czechoslovak victim of communist terror. In the years following 1948, further hundreds, even thousands, of Czechoslovak patriots and fighters for freedom and democracy were to meet torture, execution, and inhuman confinement in prisons and uranium mines right up to the fall of communism and the victory of democracy in 1989.

Svatopluk Studeny
is a film director currently producing programs for Czech television. During his lifetime, he has created over 300 documentaries, 60 of which dealt with cultural topics, especially the era of Charles IV, Roman Emperor and Czech King. This article was translated for the Journal by Bro. Peter Henman-Laufer, a founding member of Aviation Lodge No. 8471, E.C., and Past Master of Witwatersrand Lodge No. 3745, E.C., in South Africa. He is a member of Lodge Dilo No. 2, Praha, Czech Republic, presently residing in Beverly Hills, California.