Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Mysterious Death of Charles Jordan

I received a copy of an email from Raymond Lloyd in my inbox today with this subject line: "2008 centenary of Charles Jordan: question to Czech President Vaclav Klaus":
Will the Czech Republic celebrate the 100th anniversary on 7 February 2008 of the birth of Charles Jordan, the Father of Refugees found dead in Prague on 20 August 1967, by highlighting the generosity of the nascent Czechoslovak democracy in permitting the transit of 250 000 Jews from 1945 to 1948, a noble role subsequently obscured by the soviets forcing your post-1948 communist regime to spearhead the worst state persecution of Jewish leaders in Europe after the holocaust?

Raymond LLOYD
Editor & Publisher The Parity Democrat Westminster

Note for the file: The Czechoslovak action was at least as generous as that of Austria in 1956-1957 in allowing the transit of 200 000 Hungarians fleeing soviet totalitarianism, a relief action on which I wrote the official report of the then League of Red Cross Societies.
Who was Charles Jordan? I wondered. Thanks to google, I found out in a few seconds--and think the information is well worth sharing. It turns out that there is a 2004 Czech documentary film produced by Petr Bok and written by Martin Smok, titled Between a Star and a Crescent--Father of the Refugees, that apparently has re-ignited interest in this case. Here is a link to an item on a Czech expatriate website that gives a hint of the unsolved mystery:
In what could only be termed a compelling whodunnit if it weren’t so true, the Jordan case — if you’ve never heard of it before — is replete with heaps of Cold War drama, irresistible honey traps, and all manner of no-man’s-land intrigue. The details of Jordan’s sudden disappearance and death read like a perfect spy novel, with the former ─îeskoslovensko living up to its reputation as the quintessential spook’s den.

On August 16, 1967, Charles Jordan was allegedly staying at the famous Esplanade Hotel just off today’s Wilsonova street at the head of Wenceslas Square. He told his wife that he would be stepping out to grab a newspaper, but never returned.
His body was found four days later floating in the Vltava River, the possible victim of a handful of potential perpetrators; some likely, others more fanciful.

A 2004 documentary co-authored by local Martin ┼ámok called “Between a Star and a Crescent — Father of the Refugees” gets into the shady details of Jordan’s disappearance.

It raises the controversial theory that Jordan had perhaps come to the former Czechoslovakia in 1967 as part of his efforts in attempting to ease the settling of Palestinian war refugees in Arab lands following the 1967 Six-Day War.

Recently, the US Joint Distribution Committe (JDC) lobbied US Secretary of State Condi Rice to assist in the JDC’s efforts to pressure the Czech government and several US Arab allies (namely, Egypt) into opening up the Jordan case files and making accessible the personalities from the era.
Here's a link to Dinah Spritzer's special investigation for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
At least one person alive today knew about the comings and goings of the Egyptians in Prague in 1967, and for the first time she spoke to a journalist during an extensive interview with JTA.

She was an StB informant who worked for Talaat, the Egyptian Embassy official and United Arab Airlines chief. According to her StB file, she was ordered by the Czech spy agency to seduce him and gather information on his activities.

As explained in the file, her mission was to provoke contacts between the Egyptians and Israelis in Prague by expanding operations "from the office of the object into the bedroom of the object." The informant was to offer the Egyptian secret service information about Israelis in Prague and then offer Israelis information about Czechoslovak arms shipments to Egypt.

The informant told JTA, on condition of anonymity, that she had no knowledge of Jordan until contacted by the UDV in 2004. That is surprising, as she worked for Arabs at the time of Jordan's death, when presumably there would have been much talk in Arab circles about a rare murder of an American Jew in Prague.

StB files also show that the spy agency briefly questioned the informant in 1967 about the whereabouts of her employer concerning the Jordan case.

According to Smok, since the questioning was cursory, it leaves open the possibility that the StB was aware of who was involved in Jordan's death. The JDC leader had visited the U.S. Embassy and the Prague Jewish Community during his stay, something that should not have gone unnoticed by the secret police.

Arguing against StB involvement in Jordan's death, the UDV says the spy agency would not have carried out such a significant act without the direction of the Soviet Union, which the UDV believes had no reason to eliminate Jordan and thus create further tension with the West.

Within this web of sex and spy agencies, is there more to be investigated?

Smok went so far as to assert that the United States and Israeli intelligence agencies knew much more about Jordan than they were sharing with their Czech counterparts, a conjecture that's hard to prove.

Michalkova of the UDV said the U.S. agencies had been cooperative, although oddly the FBI sent a note saying it had concluded Jordan had died as the result of an accident, a theory neither the UDV nor anyone even vaguely familiar with the case accepts.

Israel had not responded to repeated requests for information, according to Michalkova, who noted that as late as 2005 the Czech interior minister was asking for assistance from his Israeli counterpart, to no avail. The Israeli Prime Minister's Office, to whom the intelligence services report, told JTA it was looking into the matter.

Czech and Israeli intelligence sources told JTA they found the UDV claim bizarre, since the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, currently has an intensive and excellent relationship with its Czech counterpart.

The sources noted that although the Mossad may not have wanted to work directly with the UDV, it does not mean it didn't share what it knew about Jordan or Arab activity in Prague in 1967 with Czech authorities interested in the case.

On the Czech side Tomas Kraus, chairman of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, echoed the sentiment of many Czech, Israeli and American sources.

"There are a million theories," Kraus said, "but I don't think we can ever get to the bottom of it."

He added that "a U.S.-led investigation couldn't hurt."

Not since hearing about the Raoul Wallenberg mystery have I learned of such a strange disappearance of a Jewish rescuer in the midst of the Cold War. It would be nice if the Kremlin, CIA, and Mossad opened their files on Charles Jordan to help set the record straight.