Emil Hacha

Emil Hacha

* July 12, 1872 Trhove Sviny
† June 27, 1945 Prague

Czech lawyer and statesman, President of the Czechoslovak Republic and State President of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

When Emil Hacha left for Berlin on March 14, 1939 he was still Czechoslovak President, even though truncated and in his heart transformed by the Munich Agreement and the arbitration in Vienna in the autumn of 1938. When he began to negotiate with Hitler the Czechoslovak state actually no longer existed, because the parliament in Bratislava declared its independence at noon of that day. Following brutal pressure on the night of March 14 to 15, exhausted, almost "half dead" Hacha committed Bohemia and Moravia into "the protection of the Reich". On March 16 Hitler declared in Prague the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and Hacha became its State President.

In 1894 he graduated from the Faculty of Law of Prague University, in 1895 he gained his doctoral degree in law and then was mostly employed as a clerk in the Royal Czech Land Committee and the council of the Supreme Administrative Legal Court in Vienna. Here he collaborated during the World War I with Dr. Ferdinand Pantucek, a man with connections to the Mafia, who was appointed after the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic President of the Senate of the Supreme Administrative Court. Hacha became one of its members and following Pantucek's death T.G. Masaryk appointed him as President of this body in 1925. Hacha published scientific papers on issues of international law, he was an expert in Anglo-Saxon law and also a connoisseur of English literature; together with his brother he translated the well known humorous novel "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. As a highly regarded lawyer he was a judge at The Hague Court and before the Munich Agreement was signed he spent some years as a member of the Legislative Council, a government counselling organ.

1938 was not a fortunate year for Hacha. February saw the death of his wife Marie with whom he had had a happy and harmonious married life and her death (likewise the divorce of his daughter) caused him to feel lonely.

Following Munich, the abdication of E. Benes as President, the adoption of the constitutional law concerning the autonomy of Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia and the alteration of the name of the state to Czech-Slovakia he was elected as an independent to be President of the Republic on November 30, 1938. E. Benes congratulated him on his election and Hacha did not hesitate for long in replying. He also forwarded the reply to P. Drtina, official of the President's Office at the time. When he spent Christmas after his election as Czech-Slovak President in Slovakia he gained a promise from J. Tiso that the achievement of Slovak autonomy constitutes the height of Slovaks' endeavours.

Following the declaration of the Protectorate Hacha found himself in a very difficult position. He regarded the occupiers and Gestapo as "beasts and hyenas", K.H. Frank as a "disgusting crocodile". As long as he could collaborate with A. Elias that is to say until the arrival of Heydrich in Prague - his actions corresponded to a premier's policy of procrastination. In October 1939 the President refused to pledge fidelity to Hitler, he submitted a protest against Germanization to the Reich's Protector K. von Neurath, he demanded the release of imprisoned patriots including the undergraduates. He was in contact with Benes via Elias and Z.B. Dohalsky. Still as late as April 12, 1941 he reported to Benes: "I agree to a joint procedure and will submit to it." Within five days Benes replied to Prague: "I received the answer from Hacha and Elias. I thank them sincerely. This is a bold, courageous and dignified answer. It will not be forgotten."

The situation changed after Heydrich came to Prague. Following the arrest of Elias the representatives of the Reich's Protectorate tried to break Hacha by unleashing terror (according to martial law) and exterminating people close to him. When J. Havelka was arrested Hacha threatened to resign and so gained his release from prison and the order was commuted to house arrest, but he did not succeed in saving Elias. Moreover Heydrich uncovered Hacha's connection to Z.B. Dohalsky and so increased the pressure. Moreover, the pressure on the "home" front became ever more potent on the part of genuine collaborators who sensed their chances. Still in January 1942 Hacha refused to nominate E. Moravec to a government position, but in the end he gave in. Then Heydrich was assassinated.

On June 9, 1942 during Heydrich's funeral Hacha negotiated again with Hitler in Berlin. The Fuhrer was hysterical. He overtly threatened with the liquidation and the evacuation of what was left of the Czech nation while the war was still going on. At the events unfolded: the Heydrich assassination, followed by the raising to the ground of Lidice, the mass executions and Hitler's threats, Hacha broke down. In addition he suffered from a fast progression of arteriosclerosis and as after the War he told the National Court, which by no means favoured him, as of January 1943 he was actually not responsible for his actions. The lonely, sick and mentally broken man did not have the trust of the occupiers nor the Czech fascists, but also no longer of the resistance movement at home and abroad "Hachaism" became synonymous with collaboration.

On May 13, 1945 the Minister of the Interior Vaclav Nosek ordered Hacha's arrest at the Castle in Lany and he was taken to the prison hospital at Pankrac where he died in the evening of June 27 (not on June 1 as is falsely claimed in many dictionaries and other publications). The funeral took place three days later at the Vinohrady cemetery under strict security supervision. The Minister of the Interior gave orders forbidding Hacha's name to be engraved on his tombstone.

In April 1939 Hacha, while in Prague Castle, described to writer K. Horky his experiences of Berlin on the night prior to March 15, 1939 - how Goring looked into his eyes "tenderly" … "like a woman" and at the same time threatened that within a few hours everything will go flying into the air. "Hradcany (the Castle) and the Cathedral, in brief everything, everything." Hacha then went on: "And then I signed ....And I signed it on my own behalf and only my own honour was at stake, because, as you know, neither our parliament, nor our nation had anything to do with it." It is remarkable that those who condemned him most harshly held similar opinions regarding themselves. In May 1942 Benes's political secretary and the faithful spokesman of his opinions, P. Drtina, in his broadcasts from London explained that everything that happened from September 21, 1938, including Benes's abdication, was the result of coercive intimidation, and is therefore neither legally nor politically valid: "This was why Dr. Benes never requested the approval from any constitutional parliamentary organ, so that the nation should not feel bound!" (tp)

Libri Publishing house: "Who was who in our 20th century history"
Quoted with the consent of the publisher.
The President's Office does not take responsibility for the contents of the text.