Look Out Below: The Bloody History Of Defenestration

Published February 16, 2016
Updated July 20, 2017
Published February 16, 2016
Updated July 20, 2017

Communism And Defenestration

Self-Defenestration Suicide

Jan Masaryk, accused at first of “self-defenestration.” Image Source: Pinterest

There is ample historical evidence to suggest that the Communist Party have been prone to using the occasional window shove to deal with opposition.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1968, Deng Pufang, the son of former communist leader Deng Xiaoping, was tortured and forced to admit to capitalist sympathies.

As a result, Chairman Mao’s guards imprisoned him and allegedly threw him out of a third-story window at Peking University. The fall didn’t kill him, but when he was taken to hospital, he was refused admittance. Pufang’s back was broken and he became a paraplegic, remaining in a wheelchair to this day.

Earlier, in 1948, there was a controversial episode in Czechoslovakia that opened up the idea of ‘self-defenestration.’ After the communists seized power in the post-war elections, the Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk, was found dead in his pajamas, beneath his bathroom window. The verdict was suicide, or, since he fell through a window, “self-defenestration.”

Subsequent analysis has suggested, in fact, that it was more likely murder (the so-called Third Defenestration of Prague) carried out by the Communist government.

This argument, historian Konrad explains, is based around three distinct pieces of evidence. Firstly, it would have been quite difficult for Masaryk to navigate the window ledge and throw himself out of that particular window (the Czechs have a saying: “Jan Masaryk was such a tidy man that when he jumped, he shut the window after himself.”) Secondly, there was evidence of scratched nail marks on the window frame; and thirdly, the pajamas taken from the crime scene showed that Masaryk had “soiled himself.”

Either way, it is yet another example of windows being used to bring about horrific death in Prague, and acts as a startling warning to us all: If you ever find yourself on a visit to the Czech capital, consider declining an offer to tour the top floors of any tall buildings.

Enjoyed this? Find out about the most horrific methods of execution throughout history or discover the eight most painful torture devices of the Middle Ages.

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