Lev Prchala (* 23. March 1892 in Silesian Ostrava; † 11. June 1963 in Feldbach) was a general of the Czechoslovak army, and after World War II became an important British intelligence asset in the Czechoslovakian emigré community.
Lev Prchala was born the son of a miner in the Silesian Ostrava. After attending grammar school in Friedeck, he began studying theology at the Philosophisch-Theologischen Hochschule des Bistums Breslau in Weidenau, Austria-Silesia, where he dropped out and volunteered to join the Austrian army.
As commander of a rifle unit, he was taken prisoner of war in Russia in 1916 and joined the Czech legions in Russia who fought against Austria-Hungary. At the end of the war he was division commander there.
According to a FOIA document,
Shortly thereafter he established a Czech Legion in cooperation with White Russians and with it fought against the Bolshevics until 1920. Only after he was forced to admit that his fight was definitely hopeless did he flee to Vladivostok, the USA, and Paris, whence he returned to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia he was first assigned a brigade in the now Czech Army, then became a division commander, an inspector of war colleges and, eventually, corps commander and commandant of Kaschau.1
After the independence of Czechoslovakia he studied at the Military Academy in St. Cyr. In 1938 he was commander of the 4th Army in South Moravia. One year later he was charged with the evacuation of Carpathian Ukraine, which was awarded to Hungary by the Vienna arbitration. From 6 March 1939 to 15 March 1938 he was briefly Minister of Finance in the Government of Awgustyn Voloschyn III in Carpathian Ukraine.
“His good relationships to the Nazis are beyond doubt. His wife is a Sudeten German and his brother-in-law ascended to high honors in the NSDAP under Hitler. With help of their mediation the by then Czechoslovakian general maintained good relations to the German Abwehr and to Colonel von Oster in the 1930s, who as general was later liquidated by Hitler. (unreadable) that Prchala at the time delivered information about the Czechoslovak army to the German Abwehr.
However when in spring 1939 the protectorate of Bohemia was created, the collaboration with Prchala was renounced by the explicit order of Hitler. The official reasoning was, that former Czechoslovakian legionnaires, being deserters of the old Austro-Hungarian army could not be incorporated…. After Prchala had for two months tried in vain to arrive at a good understanding with the National Socialists, he emigrated on May 26, 1939 to Poland and formed the Czechoslovakian Brigade against the Führer there. This Brigade was not deployed during the Invasion of Poland, because Prchala had lead his soldiers Eastwards into the arms of the Soviets. All ended up being captives and spent several years in Russian concentration camps.
Strangely, only Prchala along with his chief of staff was released by the NKVD after his interrogation and reached Romania via the Carpathian Mountains, and moved on from there to France.
In London, Prchala connected then with Dr. Karel Locher, the former member of the Central Committee of the “Czech Fascist Party”, who at the time had been excluded by Rudolf Gayda on the base of intransparent activities. Strangely, his second closest collaborator was Vladimir Losak-Borin, the former editor-in-chief of the Communist newspaper “Halo-Noviny. (?)
It is known that Prchala had commanded the Czech Legion during the war.”2
After the Munich Agreement, Lev Prchala emigrated to neighboring Poland, where he offered the Polish army the formation of a Czechoslovak Revolutionary Army (Legion) from Czechoslovak refugees. In August 1939 the first Czechoslovak units were deployed, but after the German Wehrmacht attacked Poland they were no longer armed. Most of the units were interned by the Soviet army. Lev Prchala was able to set off for Great Britain. Here there was a final break with the exile Prime Minister Edvard Beneš and the establishment of the Czech National Committee, which he chaired.
Central European Federal Club
When Prchala finally reached England, he became an important figure in the Czechoslovakian exile community in London, and headed successively several exile “national councils”, such as the “Ceskoslovenska narodni rada” (CSNR- Csechoslovak National Council) in 1940.
"The purpose of this organisation was to gather into one group all Czechoslovak non-Communist elements who were opposed to the policy of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile of Dr. Eduard Benes…The small active membership was recruited largely from members of former rightist Czech and Slovak parties."3
Prchala was chairman of the CEFC as of 1951,4 according to a document of his rather lengthy US intelligence dossier, and would later serve as the vice president of the Presidium of the People’s Council of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which superseded the CEFC.5
A FOIA document from 19 Marc 1951 reads:
General PRCHALA is chairman of the "Central European Federal Club" in London and of the federalistic movement of the government-in-exile in Great Britain. He has several loose ties to personalities in the Foreign Office, although such connections are private because, according to PRCHALA, "The English government will not support basically emigrant groups from countries with which the English Government maintains diplomatic relations".6
Prchala died during a recreational stay in Feldbach (Styria). At the request of his family, he was buried at the Waldfriedhof in Munich on 22 June 1963.
- 1. Background and Present Status of the Prchala Movement. 28 May 1951. https://archive.org/details/PRCHALALEV-0100
- 2. FOIA Document. https://ia801305.us.archive.org/12/items/PRCHALALEV-0115/PRCHALA%2C%20LEV_0115.pdf.
- 3. PEKELSKY, VLADIMIR VOL. 1_0054
- 4. FOIA documents pertaining to Lev Prchala. https://archive.org/search.php?query=“prchala%2C+lev”. - FOIA document. 19 March 1951. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/PRCHALA%2C%20LEV_0091.pdf.
- 5. “LETTER TO JAROSLAW STETZKO FROM (Sanitized)”, September 13, 1958. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp80b01676r003900010031-7.
- 6. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/PRCHALA%2C%20LEV_0091.pdf