Jan Syrový

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Jan Syrový
Jan Syrový.jpg
Jan Syrový in 1938
Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
In office
22 September 1938 – 1 December 1938
Preceded byMilan Hodža
Succeeded byRudolf Beran
Personal details
Born(1888-01-24)24 January 1888
Třebíč, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Died17 October 1970(1970-10-17) (aged 82)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Military service
Branch/serviceAustro-Hungarian Army
Czechoslovak Legions
Czechoslovak Army

Jan Syrový (24 January 1888 – 17 October 1970) was a Czechoslovak general and the prime minister of Czechoslovakia during the Munich Crisis.

Early life and military career[edit]

Jan Syrový studied building at a technical school. Following his graduation in 1906, he became a one-year volunteer in the Austro-Hungarian army. After that, he studied at a technical college in Russia. During World War I, he fought in the Czechoslovak Legions of the Russian army and lost his right eye in the Battle of Zborov.[1] By the end of the war he commanded the Legions and anti-Bolshevik forces on the Trans-Siberian railway. A well-known veteran commander, he served as Chief of Staff of the Czechoslovak Army from 1926 to 1933 and as its general inspector from 1933 to 1938.[2] During this time, helped to prepare the Czechoslovak Air Force with the collaboration of Jan Antonín Baťa and moved military personnel and materials away from Nazi Germany.[citation needed]

Premiership and the "Munich Crisis"[edit]

When Milan Hodža's government resigned on 23 September 1938, President Edvard Beneš appointed Syrový to head a national unity government. Syrový demurred at first, insisting he was just a soldier, not a politician, and that he lacked the qualifications and relevant experience for such an important post. Beneš told Syrový that the nation needed him. The president added that as a soldier, Syrový should not consider it an offer but an order. With some reluctance, Syrový then accepted, and also took the defence portfolio as well.

As Prime Minister, he was forced to accept the terms of the Munich Agreement on 30 September. Announcing the acceptance of the agreement in a nationwide radio address, he stated that Czechoslovakia was not in a position to turn the agreement down because without British or French support, the country was outnumbered and that any conflict would result in severe casualties. "We were abandoned", he said. "We stand alone.".[3] Following the resignation of President Edvard Beneš on 5 October, Syrový assumed most presidential duties, in accord with the Czechoslovak Constitution, until Emil Hácha was duly elected President on 30 November 1938.

He resigned the premiership on 1 December 1938, remaining as Minister of National Defence until 27 April 1939. He did not join the anti-German resistance since he was too well-known a figure for his involvement to be anything other than a liability. However, he arranged the transfer of substantial sums from a Legionary relief fund to assist the resistance and people facing persecution.


On 14 May 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the war, Syrový was arrested and charged with collaboration (although he had consciously steered clear of that as far as his office allowed). In a show trial of alleged collaborators in 1947, the National Court found him guilty (along with Rudolf Beran) and sentenced him to 20 years of imprisonment in severe conditions.

Released in 1960 by Antonín Novotný's amnesty, Syrový was left with no pension or any means of maintenance, and the communist regime barred him from employment. Eventually, he was allowed to work as a nightwatchman, guarding Luděk Marold's panorama of the Battle of Lipany. Not until late 1967 did the regime grant him a limited retirement pension.

Syrový was deeply wounded by the verdict of the National Court and remained so for the rest of his life. His own conscience was clear, and he never came to terms with the apparent injustice of the decision. He reviewed his trial in an interview for the Report Magazine in 1968 and stated that there were three critical pieces of evidence laid against him. The first was a snapshot of himself shaking hands with Adolf Hitler during a meeting that he was obliged to attend at the Prague Castle. Hitler had made a speech of reassurance as to Czechoslovakia's future under the 'protection' of the Reich and then held out his hand to Syrový, and the photographers immediately took a picture.

Another photo provided the second piece of evidence was a photograph taken at a government banquet that showed Syrový sitting alongside Konrad Henlein. Syrový stated that the picture was taken out of context, to be used for Nazi propaganda.

The third piece of critical evidence was an arms contract with the Nazis. Syrový stated the weapons sold had been obsolete items from the First World War, which were no longer of any use to Czechoslovakia and that the weapons had been sold to German private companies. He also stated that the decision to sell was made ultimately not by him alone but by the government as a whole. Syrový felt that if the allies of Czechoslovakia had offered their promised help, he would never have had to agree to the Munich dictate, but that under the circumstances, the Czechoslovak Army had no chance of success on its own.[4]

Syrový died on 17 October 1970.


Awarded by Belgium:

BEL Kroonorde Grootofficier BAR.svg Order of the Crown, in the grade of: Grand Officer[2]
BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-18[2]

Awarded by Czechoslovakia:

Czechoslovak War Cross 1918 (5x) Bar.png Czechoslovak War Cross 1918: with four linden branches [2]
Ribbon Czechoslovak Order of the Hawk.png Order of the Falcon: with swords [2]
TCH CS revolucni medaile BAR.svg Czechoslovak Revolutionary Medal 1914-18 with clasps: "Č.D.", "Zborov" and numbers "1", "2" [2]
Ribbon Czechoslovak Victory Medal 1918.png Czechoslovak Medal of Victory 1918 [2]

Awarded by Estonia:

EST Order of the Cross of the Eagle 1st Class BAR.png Military Order of the Cross of the Eagle, for the Protection of the Country: I. class [2]

Awarded by France:

Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Grand Officier [2]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Commandeur [2]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Officier [2]
Légion d'honneur, in the grade of: Chevalier [Knight] [2]
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-18: with palme [2]
From the right: Špidlík, Švec, Syrový
Image taken one day before Syrový lost his eye.

Awarded by Italy:

Grande ufficiale OCI Kingdom BAR.svg Order of the Italian Crown: II. class [2]
Croce di guerra al merito BAR.svg War Merit Cross[2]

Awarded by Japan:

Het lint van de Orde van de Schat Japan Order of the Sacred Treasure.jpg Order of the Sacred Treasure: II. class [2]

Awarded by Yugoslavia:

Ord.St.Sava-ribbon.jpg Order of St. Sava: I. class [2]
SRB Orden Belog Orla BAR.svg Order of the White Eagle: I. class [2]
Order of the White Eagle: II. class [2]
Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords rib.png Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords : II. class [2]

Awarded by Lithuania:

Vytautas komandoro didysis kryzius Ribbon.jpg Order of Vytis Cross: Cross, II. class [2]

Awarded by Latvia:

Lacplesis Military Order Ribbon.png Order of Lāčplēsis: II. class [2][5]
LVA Order of the Three Stars - Commander BAR.png Order of the Three Stars: II. class [2]

Awarded by Morocco:

MAR Order of the Ouissam Alaouite - Grand Cross (1913-1956) BAR.png Nischan el Quissam Alaouite: I. class [2]

Awarded by Poland:

POL Polonia Restituta Komandorski ZG BAR.svg Order of Polonia Restituta: II. class [2]

Awarded by Romania:

ROM Ordinul Steaua Republicii Populare Române clasa I BAR.svg Order of the Star of Romania: I. class [2]
Romanian Kruunuritarikunnan suurupseeri.png Order of the Crown: II. class [2]
Order of Faithful Service (Romania) - ribbon bar.gif Order of Loyal Service: I. class [2]
Ribbon Crucea Comemorativă a Războiului 1916-1918.png Remembrance Cross 1916-19: with the clasp: "Siberia" [2]

Awarded by Imperial Russia:

RUS Order św. Włodzimierza (baretka).svg Order of St. Vladimir: IV. class [2]
Order of Saint Anna ribbon bar.svg Order of St. Anne: IV. class [2]
RUS Order św. Stanisława (baretka).svg Order of Saint Stanislaus (Imperial House of Romanov): III. class [2]
RUS Order of Saint George 4th class ribbon 2000.svg Cross of St. George: IV. class [2]

Awarded by Greece:

GRE Order of the Phoenix - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Phoenix: I. class [2]
Greek Medal of Military merit ribbon.png Medal of Military Merit[2]

Awarded by Tunisia:

Ordre du Nichan Iftikhar GC ribbon (Tunisia).svg Order of Nischan el Iftikchar: I. class [2]

Awarded by Great Britain:

Order of the Bath (ribbon).svg Order of the Bath, in the grade of: Knight Commander [KCB] [2]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Preclík, Vratislav. Masaryk a legie (Masaryk and legions), váz. kniha, 219 pages, first issue vydalo nakladatelství Paris Karviná, Žižkova 2379 (734 01 Karvina, Czech Republic) ve spolupráci s Masarykovým demokratickým hnutím (Masaryk Democratic Movement, Prague), 2019, ISBN 978-80-87173-47-3, pages 35 – 53, 106 - 107, 111-112, 124–125, 128, 129, 132, 140–148, 150 - 180, 184–199.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak (in Czech) Vojenské osobnosti-Jan Syrový
  3. ^ (in Czech) Projev předsedy vlády Syrového 30. září 1938
  4. ^ [1] | (in Czech) Interview in the Report Magazine
  5. ^ Priedītis, Ērichs Ēriks (1996). Latvijas Valsts apbalvojumi un Lāčplēši (in Latvian). Riga: Junda. ISBN 9984-01-020-1. OCLC 38884671.
Government offices
Preceded by Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Defence of Czechoslovakia
Succeeded by
Ludvík Svoboda
(after World War II)
Preceded by Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of Czechoslovakia (acting)
Succeeded by