Biographical profile – Jiří Sedmík (1893–1942)
Jiří Sedmík, a legionnaire, diplomat, politician, freemason and member of the anti-Nazi resistance, was born on 9 April 1893 in Prague. He finished a high-school graduation course at the Czechoslovak Business Academy in the Czech capital and also completed eight semesters at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. On 14 July 1914, he enlisted with the Austro-Hungarian army. He was sent to the Russian front, where he was captured. In May 1916, he was involved in the formation of the Czechoslovak Legions. (He was an active member of the legions from 20 May 1916 to 30 November 1920.) With the Serbian army, he also participated in battles in Dobruja. In 1917, he was an officers’ delegate at the Kiev Congress and worked as secretary to T.G. Masaryk during his sojourn in the Ukrainian capital. At the end of September 1917, he went with Masaryk to St. Petersburg and was assigned as a representative for Czech units in Russia for a mission that endeavoured to transfer Czechoslovak legionnaires to the Western Front in France. He was also Czechoslovak attaché with Polish military staff in the Novo-Nikolayev district. He reached America via the trans-Siberian railway and Japan. He worked there as a military attaché until 1920. (At the same time, he was appointed in 1918 as the head of the political mission of the Russian legions at the peace conference in Paris.) Sedmík did not continue his military career after returning to Czechoslovakia. He entered the service of the newly established Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs (as a short-term contractual clerk from 1 May 1921), and he became secretary to Edvard Beneš, whom he was both politically and personally close to. He adhered to Masaryk and Beneš’s brand of politics and he held both presidents in very high regard. Beneš even introduced him to the society of freemasons. (He was inducted into the Comenius lodge on 19 February 1927.) He himself was considered to be the principal reformer of Czechoslovak freemasonry during the era of the First Republic. He was also active in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. In the interwar period, Sedmík’s career continued its upward trajectory. He went from being a short-term contractual clerk to a contractual-type official with the title of vice-consul, first for a minister and later as a senior ministerial commissar and ultimately a departmental councillor. After the end of the Second World War (26 June 1946), he was made a senior departmental and ministerial councillor in memoriam. As regular descriptions of his competence indicate, he constantly moved forward over the years, and his own industriousness and tenacious character turned him into an outstanding member of the Czechoslovak diplomatic corps. Sedmík knew several foreign languages and had a command of French, German, Russian, Polish and Serbian. His superiors were not sparing in their use of superlatives to praise him, e.g. phrases such as “very talented, clever, intelligent and enterprising”, “very industrious, conscientious and reliable”, very punctilious”, “absolute reliability and a character of high quality” were some of the terms used to describe him in regular appraisals. Sedmík’s flair for cultural issues was also appreciated in the evaluations. They emphasised his collaborative work with the Anglo-Saxon world as well as his perfect knowledge of English and understanding of the mentality of other nations (particularly America, Poland and Russia). They also cited his political sensitivity and aptitude for Czechoslovak political life and social issues. In addition to this, he made excellent use of his practical experience during his tenure in office with the intelligence department as head of the news-information section (III/3) and later the literary section (III/5). Besides this work, Sedmík also intensively pursued writing and lecturing activities. He wrote and “Introduction to Political Thought”, which was published in 1932. In the same year, he co-authored (together with Josef Macek and Lev Winter) a publication entitled “The Contemporary Global Economic, Political and Social Crisis: Its Causes, Effects and Solutions,” which dealt with topical international events. Both books were published by the Prague branch of the Workers’ Academy, which was affiliated to the Social Democratic Party. Sedmík was a member of this party and he also stood for parliament on its behalf in 1935. A radical turning point in Sedmík’s life (as well as in the life of the entire nation) occurred after the events in Munich in 1938, with the subsequent occupation of the remainder of the Czech and Slovak lands by German forces and the proclamation of a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. As part of the disbandment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jiří Sedmík was placed on leave on 31 May 1939 and subsequently permanently retired on 31 March 1941. He decided to become involved in the anti-Nazi resistance movement. He was present at the inception of the Political Centre (Politické ústředí) grouping, which maintained close ties with Edvard Beneš. This had been formed as early as the end of 1938 among the president’s close collaborators. One of the initiators was Beneš’s former employee from his office at Prague Castle, Prokop Drtina, and a circle of friends who came together over the course of the 1930s as a result of their involvement with the “Present” (Přítomnost) debating club. Besides Drtina and Jiří Sedmík, the group included the plenipotentiary Jan Jína, the lawyer Jaroslav Drábek and the National Democratic MP Ladislav Rašín, who joined despite his party’s attitude to Beneš. Their ranks were extended further by the college lecturer Vladimír Krajina, Professor Vladimír Klecanda, Dr. Bohuslav Kratochvíl and the editor Antonín Pešl. On Beneš’s instructions in the summer of 1939, they began cooperating more closely with a group based around the former president’s chancellor at Prague Castle Přemysl Šámal. They effectively comprised the basis for the Political Centre. Jiří Sedmík was also involved in the resistance group led by the police councillor Karel Jaroš, which was linked with the underground military organization National Defence, composed primarily of officers from the Czechoslovak Army. Jaroš’s people cooperated with it via the staff captain Václav Morávek and the lieutenant colonel Josef Balabán, who established a group involved in sabotage and intelligence gathering within the framework of National Defence. They obtained information for it from Nazi security forces, along with lists of detainees, Gestapo agents and officers as well as other valuable data. Profesor Václav Černý has also called Jaroš’s group “The Sedmíkites” (“Sedmíkovci”). Besides those mentioned above, the group also included MUDr. Hlaváč, Truhlář, the manager of a health insurer (through Jaroš) and, above all, the mayor of Prague Dr. Otakar Klapka (executed on 4 October 1941), who helped obtain important resources for the resistance from Prague’s discretionary fund in conjunction with the city’s finance officer Kinkal. The main objective of the group of people around Karel Jaroš (which included Jiří Sedmík) was to contribute to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the concomitant restoration of an independent Czechoslovak state. This is what they were also accused of subsequently in an indictment before the People’s Court in Berlin. During the spring of 1940, German security forces arrested 10 members of Jaroš’s group in connection with uncovering and liquidating Czech resistance organizations. They were accused of treason and divulging state secrets. Jiří Sedmík was detained on 8 April 1940, and was successively held in prisons in Pankrác (until 28 September 1940), Dresden (until the end of May 1941), Golleniów (until May 1942) and Berlin-Moabit. On 12 June 1942, he was sentenced to death by the German People’s Court in Berlin and stripped of his civil rights. On the same day the judgement took legal effect, he also lost his entitlement to retirement pay and pension provisions for his heirs. But his wife Růžena and their two daughters – Jiřina (born in 1921) and Alena (born in 1930) – suffered their greatest loss with the execution of Jiří Sedmík on 18 December 1942 in Berlín-Plötzensee. Jiří Sedmík, an important albeit now little known figure, is commemorated with a memorial plaque at Na Valech 10 in Prague, in the house where he lived until he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940. It displays Sedmík’s portrait along with the inscription “Through the Eternal Spirit of Truth” (“Skrze Věčného Ducha Pravdy”), which reflects his approach to life. The plaque was ceremonially unveiled on 9 April 2006, which was the day on which Jiří Sedmík was born in Prague in 1893.
- Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Personal File of Jiří Sedmík.
- Security Services Archive, Collection of Documents (“Fond”) 141: German Courts in the Reich, reference code 141-325-2 (indictment file of Karel Jaroš’s resistance group).
- ČECHUROVÁ, Jana: Čeští svobodní zednáři ve 20. století, Prague, 2002.
- ČERNÝ, Václav: Paměti II (1938–1945), 3rd edition, Brno 1992.
- ŽMOLÍKOVÁ, Jana: Památka na Jiřího Sedmíka v Tróji, No. 99/2007, p. 11.
- Ottova encyklopedie, source: http://encyklopedie.seznam.cz/heslo/433420-sedmik-jiri downloaded: 9 June 2008.
- Šestka, newspaper of the city district of Prague 6, May 2006, source: http://www.sestka.cz/index.php?clanek=1459, downloaded 9 June 2008.
- Family archive of Jana Žmolíková