860F.00/2–748: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

secret   urgent

227. In conversation with Masaryk1 this afternoon he said that the President was not informed of intention of twelve ministers to resign and that their action had come as a suprise to him. He was disposed to question the President’s competence during the past few days, saying that he had been subjected to such pressure and to such physical strain that he was surprised that he had survived the past week. Masaryk said that Beneš first contemplated resigning without accepting the resignations or approving the new government but was loath to do so as he feared that chaos would result and had finally made up his mind to accept the new government and then resign. Masaryk added that having regard to Beneš’ tired and confused state of mind and dangerous physical condition, he may well have failed to resign at the critical moment because of his extreme dislike of Fierlinger2 or Nejedlý3 as his probable successor. He said the President was leaving for his country place this afternoon and that he expected him to resign. He also expressed opinion that Beneš would not live long and said he was a broken man.

In response to my inquiry as to whether Beneš had been denied the use of the radio, he said there was no evidence that Beneš would have been denied the use of radio but that his physical condition, particularly his difficulty in articulating, had made it impossible for him to speak.

Masaryk had tears in his eyes while seeking to justify his own continuance in a government of which he frankly admitted the Communists had seized control. He said he had already “saved” about 250 [Page 742] people and intimated that his decision to remain in the government, as he put it “temporarily” had been prompted by the faint hope that he would be able to soften the impact of Communist ruthlessness for a short time and perhaps aid others in leaving the country.

Please pass immediately to Army.

  1. Jan Masaryk, Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Zdeněk Fierlinger, Deputy Premier and a leader in the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party.
  3. Zdeněk Nejedlý, Minister of Education and a leader in the Czechoslovak Communist Party.