Valuable sources of information concerning Jan Palach’s self-immolation have been preserved in the police case file from 1969. The first page of protocol informs about his mother’s interrogation from 3 March 1969. (Source: ABS)
The resolution of the police investigators to halt the criminal prosecution relating to Jan Palach’s case, 24 June 1969 (Source: ABS)
The StB record on finding photographs of Jan Palach on the ČKD company notice board, 15 January 1970 (Source: ABS)
The StB report concerning a flyer seized during the first anniversary of Jan Palach’s death in January 1970 (Source: ABS)
A document informing about the creation of a case file on Jan Palach’s suicide, 5 February 1970 (Source: ABS)
The StB was monitoring the personal correspondence of Libuše Palachová for several years. Among other things, they seized a letter expressing her thanks for condolences (Source: ABS)
An StB propaganda newspaper article, 25 January 1972 (Source: ABS)
Capt. Josef Bín’s proposal concerning the closing of the “Palach” case (Source: ABS)
The cover of the Kde končí svět phonograph record was designed by Jaroslav Šerých. The record was released by Ariston a few weeks after Jan Palach’s death. In 1970, StB members were investigating the circumstances of its release. (Source: Jaroslav Šerých’s archives)

Operation “Palach”

“In the course of investigation, a number of interesting pieces of information and facts were discovered that helped to reveal the activities of mostly right-wing oriented people who were using the attractiveness of this act for their own profit and glorification. Furthermore, the act was misused for commercial interests. Appropriate conclusions and measures were drawn from these facts.”

From Capt. Josef Bín’s proposal concerning the closing of the “Palach” case, 6 July 1973

Police investigators were examining the circumstances of Jan Palach’s suicide in detail for several months. They were especially interested in the potential involvement of other people in his self-immolation. They interrogated a number of witnesses, required several expert opinions, and wrote many reports for the Ministry of the Interior. In June 1969, Capt. Jiří Ryant and Maj. Miroslav Novák, both from the Investigation Directorate, stopped the prosecution for a criminal offence against an unknown person, on the grounds that it failed to obtain any concrete evidence of the group mentioned in Jan Palach’s last letters. They came to the conclusion that it was just a statement intending to intensify his appalling act.

Chief StB representatives were also interested in the investigation but probably did not affect its proceedings or conclusions. However, the first anniversary of Jan Palach’s death rekindled their interest in the matter. In February 1970, Maj. Jiří Dvořák proposed further elaboration and documentation of Jan Palach’s suicide. A few weeks later, a case file with the code name “Palach” was registered. It was designated for newly acquired relevant documents. StB members focused not only on inspection of the former investigation, but they also tried to gain material that could be later used for their intentional political anti-propaganda. They contacted some of the witnesses and secretly recorded their testimonies.


Moreover, they examined the circumstances of release and subsequent distribution of the phonograph record called Kde končí svět (Where the World Ends) which in addition to poems also contained several addresses delivered at Jan Palach’s funeral. Every year, the StB tried to prevent any public commemoration of Jan Palach’s act. In October 1973, they forced his relatives to approve the exhumation of his body and the removal of his grave from the Olšany Cemetery .

In spite of StB members’ obsession with the idea of the “living torches” group, they did not find any decisive evidence proving its existence. The approaching anniversary of Jan Palach’s suicide always entailed a precautionary alert of the Czechoslovak security units. The situation in Všetaty was also monitored. However, fears of possible street demonstrations were not confirmed until “Jan Palach Week” twenty years after his death.