Looking for a Traitor

České století (r. Robert Sedláček, 2013) / The Czech Century (dir. Robert Sedláček, 2013)



  • What are the characters talking about? How is their conversation affected by the international political situation of the period of the clip?
  • What can you tell about the relationship between the two characters on a personal level? What about on a professional level?
  • How could the situation that the characters are discussing be dangerous for each of them? What is the atmosphere like in the clip?


In the 1950s, the show trials concept, originally developed in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s, also began to be used in other Eastern bloc countries under pressure from the Soviet Union.

The effort to create and exemplarily punish a group of “traitors” in every communist party was also related to the international situation. Yugoslavia was excommunicated from the Soviet Bloc in June 1948. The cohesion of the Soviet Bloc was supposed to be maintained at all costs. The clip shows the situation when the Czechoslovak Communists received the task from the Soviet side, that a trial with a group of “traitors” had to take place even in Czechoslovakia. The group, later called a “seditious conspiracy centre”, was created artificially, and in many respects its formation was subject to connections “discovered” during the investigation of individual detainees. The Jewish origins of many of the accused played a role.

The clip presents an imaginary conversation between the President of Czechoslovakia and of the Communist Party, Klement Gottwald, and Communist Party General Secretary Rudolf Slánský. The interview captures the atmosphere of paranoia and fear, which was among the intended results of the show trials. The clip is courtesy of Czech Television and is a excerpt from  the Czech Century series.  The Czech Century cycle is an open series of author-adapted television dramas that return to the key events of Czech 20th century history from the perspective of their main actors.

After a lengthy investigation, it was determined that Rudolf Slánský, as the head of the circle of traitors, would be executed along with ten other convicts on 3 December 1952, which would have been a few months after this fictitious conversation.