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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
© Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families


I got into national politics very early after my arrival in Prague in 1919. The political system was still in a fluid state after the revolution. Originally geared to opposition to the government in Vienna, it suddenly had to take responsibility for a new state of some 14 million people at a time of new upheavals all around Czechoslovakia, a beaten Germany, a Bolshevik Russia and a bevy of new succession states.

All in all, the Czech political parties (there were so far no Slovak ones) adapted to the new realities pretty well. Very early there formed a coalition of the five major parties, with occasionally some smaller ones, to lead the country. In fact for the rest of the first republic, which lasted 20 years, all major decisions were taken by the five men leading the five parties, known in Czech as "petka," i.e., the fivesome.

Some of us, including me, regarded the emerging system as essentially not quite democratic. I was one of the first who tried -- but failed -- to revive Masaryk's Progressive party, with its orientation to humanism, real democratism and cooperation among people. There were two leading lights in the leadership, Professor Emanuel Rádl and another Professor, Zdenek Nejedly. I was to be the head of the youth movement and was in very close contact with those two. The effort failed, partly because President Masaryk did not give it his silent support.

Perhaps wisely he voted for an efficient, if not always entirely democratic, system. Subsequently, Rádl became perhaps the most influential Czech philosopher after Masaryk. His important book called "The War of Czechs against Germany" ["Válka Cechu proti Nemcum"] warned of the threat of national intolerance, anticipating not only the scourge of Nazism, but also the inhuman expulsion of all 2 1/2 million Germans from Czechoslovakia at the conclusion of WWII.

Nejedly later joined the Communist party. After its seizure of power in 1948 he became Minister of Education and perhaps the most hated man in the country for many years, responsible for the purging of universities and for intellectual Gleichschaltung.

I was soon attracted to my professor of economics, Josef Macek, a Social Democrat and one of the administrators of land reform, which took land from the aristocracy and distributed it to the peasants. He influenced me not only intellectually by being a strong Keynesian, but more directly by recommending me for a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the United States, where I spent two years (1931-1933) at Harvard and Columbia. Without this scholarship I could not have become a professor in this country.

Like Macek, I was for a time interested in an idea promoted by another Social Democrat, Senator Frantisek Modrácek, who advocated an economic system based on cooperatives owned by employees. It did not get off the spot either. At about the same time Masaryk's old daily CAS [TIME] was restarted with silent support and some financing from the President and I became editor of its student department. It was an easy job for me because I had by that time become one of the student leaders, as described elsewhere in these memoirs.

At the end of the 1920s, I finally joined a real and important political party, known successively as the National Social Party, the National Socialist Party and the Czech Socialist Party. The latter incarnation was of course caused by the desire not to be confused with the Nazis. There were at the time three different parties, broadly of the left, namely the Communists on the extreme left, next the Social Democrats and then our party. President William Clinton would have had no difficulty joining it.

I became chairman of the Economic committee of the party and exerted some limited influence on its policies, primarily by initiating two devaluations of the national currency, the Czechoslovak Crown, together with my Social Democratic counterpart, later a leading Communist, Zdenek Fierlinger. Both devaluations led to increasing exports and thus an improvement in the economy. When I left Czechoslovakia in 1939 I was carrying messages from the party.


The books listed below provide additional background on this period of history to help illustrate this portion of my grandfather's memoirs.


The Spirit of Thomas G. Masaryk 1850-1937: An Anthology; George J. Kovtun


Tomas Masaryk: President of Czechoslovakia; Gavin Lewis


Talks With T.G. Masaryk; T. G. Masaryk, et al


Defender of Democracy: Masaryk of Czechoslovakia; T. G. Masaryk, Emil Ludwig


The Ideals of Humanity and How to Work; Thomas Masaryk



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