Elaborate Soviet-Era Hoax Duped Czech Refugees

Officials set up fake border posts to trick people who were fleeing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2012 6:16 PM CDT
Elaborate Soviet-Era Hoax Duped Czech Refugees
The sun rises over the state of Saxony, Germany. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains run along the border between Saxony and the Czech Republic, with the river Elbe running through it.   (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)

They called it Operation Stone, and the elaborate ruse cost the lives or at least the freedom of scores of Soviet-era Czech refugees. As the Telegraph explains, Czech officials set up fake border posts near the border with Germany from 1948 to 1951. Those trying to flee the communist regime would come upon the posts and think they'd made it to safety. A Czech officer posing as an American officer would then come out and ask the refugees for their hometown contacts, which they would hand over to their supposed ally. After that, they'd get arrested, and their contacts would be rounded up, too.

"It was human tragedy," says one Czech official who investigates communist crimes. "There were American flags, American uniforms, and they were also asked to give the names of people cooperating with Western intelligence. They still feel ashamed that they were tricked, but you cannot deny how clever the operation was." A Czech-American historian tells a Czech newspaper that at least two organizers are still "living in luxury," and he thinks it's about time they faced justice. (More Czech Republic stories.)

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