On 4.8.1915 a warrant was issued for Masaryk’s arrest

After the outbreak of the war, the anti-Russian political groups had no idea how to work and pinned all their hopes on the negotiating powers. At first it was also believed that the war would be short and the Russians would soon occupy the Czech lands. This idea was especially indulged in by K. Kramář, a representative of the Young Czech Party.

Before the war, he even elaborated the project of a Slavic federation under Russian hegemony. Another trend was represented by T. G. Masaryk, the chairman of the Czech Progressive (Realist) Party, a prominent figure in scientific and political life, respected at home and abroad. Masaryk was oriented towards the Western powers and believed in their victory, which he intended to use for the Czech nation’s struggle for independence.

In September 1914, Masaryk travelled to neutral Holland, where he wrote to his friends, the French historian E. Denis, the English journalist H. W. Steed and the historian R. W. Seton-Watson, asking them to ascertain the opinion of the highest circles of the Allied Powers on the future of Austria-Hungary. On a second trip to the Netherlands in October 1914, he discussed his views on the creation of a future Czech state with Seton-Watson, who drafted a memorandum for the government of Great Britain.

Due to the growing danger of arrest, Masaryk decided to go into exile at the end of 1914. In January 1915, he reached Geneva via Italy, where, under his leadership, a Czech political emigration was formed with the aim of persuading the statesmen of the Agreement to agree to the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary and the creation of an independent Czech (Czechoslovak) state. Masaryk, however, was alone and needed help. He urged that other Czech politicians should emigrate, that it was necessary to speak out at home with an opposition position. But he seemed to be speaking to the deaf.

Masaryk officially launched the foreign resistance on 4 July 1915 in Zurich with a public speech on the occasion of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the burning of Jan Hus. In this speech he described Austria-Hungary as representing the Counter-Reformation and the Reformation as a Czech idea, between which no reconciliation was possible.

He expressed his conviction that the war would bring both freedom and independence to the Czech nation, and stressed that it was the duty of every Czech to do everything in his power for the freedom of his nation. Two days later he declared war on Austria-Hungary in the Swiss press on behalf of the Czech nation. On 4 August 1915, the High Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army issued a warrant for Masaryk’s arrest for treason and espionage against the war power of the state for these speeches. In wartime, this meant nothing but the death penalty.


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