Emil Hácha [em-ill haa-kha] - Czechoslovak lawyer, translator, and politician (12.7.1872 - 27.6.1945).

Emil Hácha is perhaps the most controversial person in modern Czech history. His name is synonymous with "collaboration" to many, but I personally think there are many people who deserve it more than him.

Hácha became a doctor of law at the Charles University in Prague in 1895 and subsequently served at the Supreme Court in Vienna. After World War I, he was employed at the Supreme Administrative Court of the newly constituted Czechoslovakia, and President Masaryk named him the Chairman of the Senate of that institution in 1925. Hácha was also a respected expert on English law and served as a judge at the International Court in Haag for some time.

In October 1938, after the Munich Pact and the emigration of Edvard Beneš, Czechoslovakia became Czecho-Slovakia. And Emil Hácha became the President. He had to be persuaded to accept the function, as there were no candidates. It was a major sacrifice from Hácha, as both his health and the health of the country was beginning to get worse - the Munich Pact had undermined the country's economy and democratic spirit.

On March 14, 1939, Hácha arrived to Berlin for a lengthy meeting with Hitler and Göring. There he was informed that Slovakia had declared independence in his absence (to become Hitler's puppet state). He was brutally threatened with fierce military action against the remainder of the Czech lands if he didn't allow Germany to annex them peacefully. Physically exhausted and seeing the situation as utterly hopeless, he gave in and the remnants of Bohemia and Moravia were incorporated into Germany under the name "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" on March 15.

This was a clear breach of the Munich Pact, but France and Britain did nothing. It was only the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 that finally prompted them to take action against Germany.

During the Protectorate, Hácha remained in power. The Protectorate had two parallel administrations - Czech (with the "State President" maintaining a government, a police force and gendarmerie) and German (with the "Reichsprotektor" commanding the SA, SS and Gestapo and officially adjacent to the State President). Hácha's competences were limited, but crucial: he maintained contact with resistance forces both home and abroad, regulated the transports of non-Aryans to concentration camps, and could stick up for Czech politicians when they got in trouble with the German administration. Gradually, however, he succumbed to pressure from the Nazis and collaborators; mainly because of his deteriorating health (both physical and mental) and particularly the Führer's fury after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942.

The interior resistance ceased cooperation with Hácha already in 1940, when he issued a speech wishing Hitler "Sieg und Heil". He continued to show such signs of support to the Nazis on certain occassions. But in private, he referred to these acts as "swallowing toads", and the exile government in London continued to maintain contact with him.

It was the "Heydrichiade", the German retaliations for the assassination of Heydrich which included the destruction of Lidice and Ležáky, that finally broke him. It was then that he irrevokably became a servant to the Germans, and a puppet in Hitler's hands. He never earned his trust, though. And he had already lost the trust of the resistance and the Czech people.

After the war, Hácha was jailed and tried as a Nazi collaborator. The court decided that he couldn't be held responsible for his actions from 1943 on, but Hácha died in hospital before the final verdict could be issued.