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1941: Karel Treybal, Grand Master

October 2nd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1941, chess grand master Karel Treybal was shot in occupied Czechoslovakia as a suspected subversive for illegally stockpiling weapons.

The Bohemia-born Treybal was one of the great Czech players from the turn of the century.

Competing as an amateur — his day job was as a barrister — his attacking play made him one of the world’s best for most of his adult life. (Chess aficionados can browse his big matches here and here, or take in some Treybal chess puzzles. It says here that Treybal once played countryman Franz Kafka.)

Like everyone else standing between the great imperial powers come wartime, grand masters were just so many pawns.

The particulars of Treybal’s death seem murky: whether or not he received a nominal Nazi trial before his execution; whether there was anything to the weapons charges against him. Word, nonetheless, got right around.

According to a UP report datelined this very day that ran in the New York Times on Oct. 3,

German occupation forces have executed nearly 1,000 persons in Europe, in some cases shooting them by the carloads, in reprisal for a mounting tide of violence in the occupied countries, a compilation showed tonight.

German dispatches said eighteen persons were executed in Bohemia-Moravia today [Thursday, Oct. 2 -ed.], and thirty-nine yesterday. Six were executed Sunday, twenty Monday and fifty-eight Tuesday, according to earlier German announcements, making the total so far this week 141.

Those executed today were said to include Josef Benes, manager of the Farmers’ Association at Raudnitz; Anton Kvarda, manager of the trades school at Rakonitz; Karel Treybal, salesman; Josef Smrkovsky, business man, and Manzel Svoboda, former Czech Army lieutenant.

From Norway to Greece the executions have been Germany’s answer to all forms of opposition — sabotage, espionage, armed resistance, murder, treason, arson, aiding the enemy, listening to the foreign radio, operating illegal markets, dynamiting and the ill-inclusive “Communist” activity.

A postwar tournament was played in tribute of Treybal and the great Czech women’s champion Vera Menchik.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Athletes,Capital Punishment,Czechoslovakia,Death Penalty,Entertainers,Execution,Germany,History,Lawyers,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions

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