French intelligence planned to 'kidnap' Czechoslovak president
French military intelligence and exiled Czechs hatched a daring plot in 1948
4 December 2007
French military intelligence and exiled Czechs hatched a plot to fly out Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes from under the noses of his communist guards in 1948, the Czech daily Lidove Noviny reported on Monday.
The plan, to take Benes and his wife in a three-seater plane across the border to Austria, is described in an interview with one of its main participants, former lawyer and partisan, Radomir Luza.
Luza says he and a French military intelligence officer came up with the idea of "kidnapping" the Czechoslovak president and former World War II exiled leader during a meeting in the French-occupied zone of Austria in March 1948.
The communists had taken power in Czechoslovakia a month earlier and the non-communist Benes was under close guard.
The plan to profit from a breakdown in the president's car during one of his daily trips to get him on to the plane waiting nearby collapsed after Benes' health worsened, Luza explained.
Benes resigned as president in June due to his failing health, to be succeeded by communist leader Klement Gottwald, and died in September.
Luza later escaped across the border to Austria and then moved on to Paris where he worked for French intelligence until he left for the United States in 1953.
"It would not have taken much for Czechoslovak history in 1948 to have taken a completely different turn," Lidove Noviny commented.
(copyright AFP 2007)