* September 14, 1886 Prague
† March 10, 1948 Prague
Czechoslovak diplomat and politician
Son of the first Czechoslovak President. Having graduated from the Academic Grammar School in Prague and worked and studied in USA (1907 to 1913), experienced the World War I as an officer in the Austrian-Hungarian army. Following the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic he entered the diplomatic service and was first engaged at the embassy in USA and then in London, initially as a legation councillor, from 1925 to 1938 as ambassador. As a gesture of protest against the Munich Agreement he resigned from this post in 1938. After the War he was hailed from the very beginning as a prominent representative of the foreign resistance movement, for at home he was well-known and popular due to his commentaries broadcast by the BBC. In the London exile government he held the post of Foreign Minister from the very beginning; he conducted several significant negotiations and also participated in the founding of the United Nations Organization. He was, however, more of an executive of the concept of foreign policy devised by President Benes rather than the actual deviser of a Czechoslovak foreign policy.
After the end of the War he remained Foreign Minister and in the spirit of an orientation of Czechoslovakia to an alliance with USSR he acted in a disciplined fashion on the international stage. At home nick-named "Honza Masaryk" he was extremely popular for his jovial, pithy humour and unpretentious manner. In February 1948, however, he did not join the democratic ministers in resigning he remained as minister in Gottwald's government and even went as far as making some pro-government statements thereby significantly contributing to the Czechoslovak Communist Party's rise to power and to confusing the public abroad. Yet he could not have held any illusions about the new state of affairs on returning from Moscow in July 1947, when the Czechoslovak delegation was forced to refuse participation in the Marshall Plan. According to I. Herben he stated:"I went to Moscow as a Czechoslovak Minister and I returned as Stalin's servant".
Probably we will never gain convincing evidence whether the fall from the window of his apartment in the Cernin Palace was a case of suicide which was the official result of the investigation, or murder, as others assumed. It is for sure, however, that the establishment of a totalitarian Communist regime was in conflict with Jan Masaryk's democratic convictions and that he could not identify with this on a permanent basis. His death then led those abroad to understand what had actually taken place in Czechoslovakia (mch)