Cross the bridge over the railway line, take the first left (Španělská) and then the second right (Na Smetance).
František Kriegel (1908-1979), a doctor and politician, lived on the fifth floor of this functionalist house for the last thirty years of his adventurous life. He was born into a poor family from Stanislaviv, Galicia, then still part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, and in 1926 arrived in Prague to study medicine at the German part of Charles University.
In December 1936, he worked as a physician on the front line with the international brigades in Spain, fighting against General Franco’s troops. After the defeat of the Spanish Republicans in February 1939, he went to France, again as a military doctor. Through the Red Cross, with other physicians he went to work at the Chinese-Japanese front. His nine years of military experience ended in Burma (today’s Myanmar) where he worked as a contracted doctor for the US Army. He returned to Prague in the fall of 1945 and, as an ardent communist, participated in organizing the Communist coup as a deputy commander of the People’s Militia (Lidové Milice) and subsequently became the deputy Minister of Health. (He was never forgiven for this and and in 2014 Prague 2 district city councilors refused to grant him honorary citizenship.) In the early fifties, however, anti-Semitism and suspicion of interbrigadists was growing and Kriegel fitted the image of the enemy. He was dismissed from his post at the ministry and returned to medical practice. In the early 1960s, he helped build the Cuban health care system and, after returning to Prague, gradually returned to high-level politics in addition to continuing his medical career – for four years he served as the head of internal medicine at Thomayer Hospital.
During the 1968 Prague Spring he was a member of parliament, chairman of the National Front Committee and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. As a supporter of the ongoing reforms of “socialism with a human face,” he made lots of enemies among the Soviet leaders, but also among domestic conservatives. In the early hours of August 21, Kriegel was one of six politicians arrested by the Soviet KGB and flown to Moscow. He was not allowed to participate in the Czechoslovak-Soviet negotiations, but he was, however, asked to sign the so-called Moscow Protocol, restricting the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and compelling the country to “normalize” political conditions. Kriegel, alone among the twenty-six invited Czech and Slovak politicians, refused to sign the protocol, explaining his actions in the following way:
„I refused because in this protocol I saw a document that tied my country’s hands. I refused to sign it because the signing took place in the atmosphere of military occupation of the Republic, without consulting the constitutional authorities and contrary to the people’s wishes... the treaty was signed not with a pen but with cannons and submachine guns.“¨
Upon his return from Moscow, Kriegel voted against the “temporary residence” of the Soviet troops. He was subsequently expelled from the Central Committee, from the Communist Party and from the Parliament. Until the end of his life, František Kriegel and his wife, Riva, were watched and harassed by the State Security services. He became involved in dissent and was one of the first to sign Charter 77. František Kriegel died on December 3, 1979, and the regime refused him a public funeral, fearing Kriegel’s legacy. In 1987, he was honored by Charter 77 in Stockholm with the setting up of the František Kriegel Prize. Every year on his birthday (March 10) it is presented to individuals or civic institutions which have shown exemplary bravery in their efforts to uphold human rights, civil liberty and political tolerance.
- Günter Bischof, Stefan Karner, Peter Ruggenthaler: The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968. Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
From the Kriegels’ apartment it’s only about five minutes to the next stop on the trail. Keep walking straight down Italská street, at the end make a left –and you will be on Náměstí Míru (Peace Square).
If you want to save energy, skip the following stop on the trail (Náměstí Míru) and go along Na Smetance street, walk down to the tram tracks, make a left and then cross the bridge to Museum metro and take the red C line for two stops to Vyšehrad. As you leave Vyšehrad metro station, keep the Kongresové centrum on your left and go straight ahead until you reach Táborská Brána. Walk through it and on the left is the Jedlička Institute.