The secret police chief behind one of Europe’s most heart-wrenching post-war deceptions has died recently. EvženAbrahamovič’s passing at the age of 92 deprives Czechoslovakian survivors of his Cold War ruse any answers, as the man who was considered a criminal under both Soviet, and modern Czech law was never brought to trial for his crimes.
He was most infamous for conceiving Operation Stone, which rounded up many Czechoslovakian refugees seeking shelter in Allied controlled Western Germany. Most were separated from their families, and arrested, in many cases being manipulated in order to bring other Czechs to the attention of authorities. The details of the operation are as infamous as they are astounding.
Beginning in 1948 the StB, Czechoslovakia’s Soviet secret police force, constructed multiple phony American military posts along the Czech-German border. Constructed just on the inside of Czech territory, they went so far as hoisting American flags and employing StB officers speaking American accented English in order to further cement the illusion among Czechs, who, fleeing the Communist regime, believed they had finally arrived at safety.
The measures taken in order to give credibility to the scheme have fascinated the Czech public ever since. A refugee caught in Operation Stone began their journey in deception, as StB officers posed as human smugglers would guarantee freedom for the escapee upon their arrival beyond the border. They were then herded beyond the familiar stones demarcating the border, which gave Operation Stone its name, through barbed wire, into what appeared to be American hands. What followed delivered nothing but heartbreaking disappointment to survivors, the Radio Prague reports.
Once taken in by the StB’s “American” officers, the escapees were often comforted and coaxed into delivering useful intelligence. Oft-repeated tales include American officers offering whiskey to unnerved Czech’s in a bid to soothe them. Once they became comfortable, the escapees were often fooled into informing the disguised authorities of who else might be contemplating flight from Communist Czechoslovakia. The final portion of the debriefing required unsuspecting Czech’s to give up their money and valuables before being shepherded deeper into German territory.
Operation Stone never did deliver any of those who were trapped to safety, instead the aim was to arrest its victims, and discover more potential defectors. One famous Czech historian, Libor Svoboda, has asserted that relieving sanctuary-seeking Czechs of their belongings had been the primary purpose of Operation Stone all along, with victims then being blackmailed into becoming StB informants.