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The Holocaust in Slovakia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Man kissing feet of another man with hooked nose, dropping money on his head
A Slovak propaganda poster exhorts readers not to "be a servant to the Jew".

The Holocaust in Slovakia was the systematic dispossession, deportation, and murder of Jews in the Slovak State, a client state of Nazi Germany. Out of 89,000 Jews in the country in 1940, around 68,000 to 71,000 were murdered during the Holocaust.

In 1938, Slovakia lost significant territory to Hungary according to the First Vienna Award; the following year, the ruling ethnonationalist Slovak People's Party declared independence from Czechoslovakia with German protection. Slovak propaganda blamed the Jews for the territorial losses. Jews were targeted for discrimination and harassment, including the confiscation of property and businesses. The exclusion of Jews from the economy impoverished the community and caused social problems, which encouraged the government to conscript them for forced labor. In 1941, the Slovak government negotiated with Nazi Germany for the mass deportation of Jews to German-occupied Poland.

Between March and October 1942, 58,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp and the Lublin district of the General Governorate in German-occupied Poland; only a few hundred survived. The persecution of Jews resumed after August 1944, when Germany invaded Slovakia and triggered the Slovak National Uprising. Another 13,500 Jews were deported and hundreds to thousands were murdered in Slovakia by Einsatzgruppe H and the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions.

Survivors faced renewed antisemitism and difficulty regaining stolen property; most emigrated. The postwar Communist regime banned discussion of the Holocaust, the ban was only removed after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. The participation of the Slovak State in the Holocaust remains a contentious issue in the country.

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  • ✪ The Story of the Jewish Community in Bratislava
  • ✪ "The Working Group" - The Attempt by Jewish Activists to Rescue the Jews of Slovakia
  • ✪ Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Yisaschar Dov Goldstein
  • ✪ Holocaust Survivor Testimony: Viola Torek
  • ✪ A Law that Defined the Darkest Era of Slovak History

Transcription

It was a beautiful country, it was a big democracy, especially under President Masaryk, it's just a shame that it had to fall to Hitler. Bratislava was on the Danube on 3 borders - Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Practically everybody spoke German, Hungarian and Slovak or Czech. On the eve of WWII, the Jewish community in Bratislava, Slovakia was a center of religious, cultural and Zionist activity. 15,000 Jews lived in the city, approximately 12 percent of the total population. Most of Bratislava's Jews were Orthodox, but the community also included Jews from many different streams of Judaism. For the most part, relations between the Jews and their neighbors were good, but occasionally they did encounter anti-Semitism. We were pretty Orthodox. My father wasn't, but my mother was pretty Orthodox. We went to synagogue frequently just like most of the people. In the afternoon, after the regular school, we went to Cheder and there we had rabbis who taught us Jewish education. When we finished 5th grade, there was a choice - to go to high school, call it "high school", or you could go to Yesod HaTorah, that means the base of the Yeshiva. First the preparation for Yeshiva, there were 6 grades in this one. So 6 years you could go there. I remember tennis courts near the university building and I remember playing with my school friends and teachers, even. I remember particularly one teacher I was very keen on, his name was Weiner, I think, and we played tennis and then swimming: I belonged to the Bar Kokhba and I swam in the local swimming pool, an indoor pool, and then I used to go to the Lido in the summer and I used to participate in races. Independent Slovakia, a state under the patronage of Nazi Germany, was established in March 1939, 6 months before the outbreak of WWII, and with its establishment the situation of the country's Jews deteriorated. Bratislava became the seat of the government institutions and the Jews there were the first Slovak Jews to suffer humiliation and persecution. They were subjected to economic sanctions and were conscripted for forced labor. In January 1940, Jews and gypsies were forbidden by law to be drafted into the Slovak army. Instead, they were meant to report for physical labor in special units. Life started to change very drastically. First of all, when the Anschluss came in Austria, the border, the Bratislava, the Danube goes through Bratislava and the other side of the Danube was all the way occupied by the Germans. When the Anschluss came for Austria. So, the first thing is, you saw big signs there, "Jews, go to Palestine." In '39 I had to go to the army, I was drafted and every Jewish boy was drafted. But we didn't go anymore with weapons, they gave us shovels instead of weapons. We had to be as a unit Šiesty prápor , that means 6th Brigade, we had to be all together and do slave work. The deportation of the Jews of Slovakia to Lublin and to the Auschwitz death camp, Poland, began in the spring of 1942. The Working Group, a group of community activists who attempted to stop the deportations by bribing Slovak and German government officials, commenced activity at the height of the deportations. After some 58,000 Jews had been deported, the deportations stopped, in some measure due to the actions of the Working Group. And then they started to send Jews with the transports. First they started with us, we went to the army and there we were in working camps, and then they started even the young girls to send to Germany. And then after that, slowly they started to deport people. The people were very scared, very, very scared. In 1942 they started to take the single people, single girls, single boys, we didn't know where to. Everybody over 16. And then later the families left. And especially in Bratislava either they shipped them out to a village some place, or they also erected some work camps in 2 or 3 places. Some of my relatives were there before going to Auschwitz. Armed cells of the Jewish resistance existed in the 3 labor camps for Jews in Slovakia - Novaky, Sered and Vyhne. These were set up mainly as resistance units in the eventuality of further deportations from Slovakia. In August 1944, the Slovak National Uprising broke out and these armed cells, as well as other Jews, joined the insurrection. The uprising was suppressed by the Germans and the deportations from Slovakia were renewed. Some 12 thousand Jews were deported to Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and camps in Germany. A week before that an uprising is prepared so we started with two friends of mine to move and prepare ourselves to go there. We went by train 2 days earlier, no control after we came to... I don't remember what city, where we will stop and the first time the partisans stopped the train, looked through them, who happened to maybe a Fascist or whatever they talk about and we went further to Banská Bystrica Together, as soon as we came there, we were immediately introduced to the battalion of the... under the name... Vysokoškolská jednota that is the battalion of the university students. I came in there too. I never went to university but I came, all the rest did university, whatever. Immediately we came in and 2 days later we were involved in fighting. That was exactly the night when the Slovaks were left out but the Germans took over and that's when they came to get us. And what do you remember of that night? We were woken up around 3 o'clock in the morning with lots of noise and banging and we were told to pack and come and immediately, no hiding and no nothing, there were 4 or 5 big, tall guys, one in each room, watching us and that was the opportunity, the occasion when that guy told us, told my father how happy he is that he finally could catch him. Then they took us to some kind of a building, I don't remember which one, I remember the neighborhood, where we got processed or something before they took us to the railroad station. The Jews of Slovakia were deported to camps in Poland and Germany in 2 waves: In 1942 and in the last months of the war, between October 1944 and March 1945. Out of the 70,000 Jews deported, some 4000 survived. In addition, approximately 3000 Jews were murdered in Slovakia in the course of the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising. Of the 90,000 Slovak Jews, only some 20,000 survived - some in hiding and in the ranks of the partisans.

Contents

Background

The New Synagogue in Žilina shortly after completion, c. 1931
The New Synagogue in Žilina shortly after completion, c. 1931

Before 1939, Slovakia had never been an independent country. It had been part of the Kingdom of Hungary for a thousand years; after World War I, it became part of Czechoslovakia.[1][2] Following Jewish emancipation in 1896, many Jews had adopted Hungarian language and customs in order to advance in society. Many Jews moved to cities and joined the professions; others remained in the countryside, mostly working as artisans, merchants, and shopkeepers.[2][3] Their multilingualism helped them advance in business, but put them in conflict with the Slovak national revival.[2][4][5] Traditional religious antisemitism was joined by the stereotypical view of Jews as exploiters of poor Slovaks (economic antisemitism), and a form of "national anti-Semitism" accusing Jews of sympathizing with Hungarian and later Czechoslovak national aims.[6][7][8]

In the 1930s, economic underdevelopment and perceptions of discrimination in Czechoslovakia[9] led a plurality (about one-third) of Slovaks[10] to support the conservative, ethnonationalist Slovak People's Party (Slovak: Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana: HSĽS).[9][11] HSĽS viewed minority groups such as Czechs, Hungarians, Jews, and Romani people as a destructive influence on the Slovak nation,[11] and presented Slovak autonomy as the solution to Slovakia's problems.[10] The party began to emphasize antisemitism during the late 1930s following a wave of Jewish refugees from Austria after its 1938 annexation by Nazi Germany and anti-Jewish laws passed by the neighboring states of Hungary, Poland, and Romania.[12]

Slovak independence

Map of Slovakia reflecting southern losses to Hungary
Slovak territorial losses to Hungary in 1938 and 1939
Color-coded map of the Slovak Republic
Administrative regions of the Slovak State (1939–1945)

The September 1938 Munich Agreement ceded the Sudetenland, the German-speaking region of the Czech lands, to Germany. HSĽS took advantage of the ensuing political chaos to declare Slovakia's autonomy on 6 October 1938. Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest and HSĽS leader, became prime minister of the Slovak autonomous region.[9][13] Under Tiso's leadership, the Slovak government opened negotiations in Komárno with Hungary regarding their border. The dispute was submitted to arbitration in Vienna by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Hungary was awarded much of southern Slovakia on 2 November 1938, including 40 percent of Slovakia's arable land and 270,000 people who had declared Czechoslovak ethnicity.[14][15] HSĽS consolidated its power by passing an enabling act, banning opposing political parties, shutting down independent newspapers, distributing antisemitic and anti-Czech propaganda, and founding the paramilitary Hlinka Guard.[9][16] Parties for the German and Hungarian minorities were allowed under HSĽS hegemony, and the German Party formed the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel militia.[9][17] HSĽS imprisoned thousands of its political opponents,[18][19] but never carried out an execution.[20] Un-free elections in December 1938 resulted in a 95-percent vote for HSĽS.[21][22]

On 14 March 1939, the Slovak State proclaimed its independence under German protection.[21] Germany annexed and invaded the Czech rump state the following day, and Hungary seized Carpathian Ruthenia with German acquiescence.[21] In a treaty signed on 23 March, Slovakia renounced much of its foreign-policy and military autonomy to Germany in exchange for border guarantees and economic assistance.[21][23] It was neither fully independent nor a German puppet state, but occupied an intermediate status.[a] In October 1939, Tiso (leader of the conservative/clerical branch of HSĽS) became president; Vojtech Tuka, leader of the party's radical/fascist wing, was appointed prime minister. Both wings of the party struggled for Germany's favor.[21][27] The radical wing of the party was fascist and pro-German, while the conservatives favored autonomy from Germany;[28][27] the radicals relied on the Hlinka Guard and German support,[27][29] while Tiso was popular among the clergy and the population.[30][31] A 1940 census found that 89,000 Jews lived in the Slovak State, 3.4 percent of the population.[32] The largest number of Jews lived in the eastern Šariš-Zemplín region,[33] and 15,000 lived in Bratislava.[34][35] Around 5,000 and 6,000 Jews emigrated between 1938 and 1940, and 45,000 lived in the areas ceded to Hungary.[36][37]

Anti-Jewish measures (1938–1941)

Overview

HSĽS' anti-Jewish measures were based on the party's institutional antisemitism.[38] Immediately after it came to power in 1938, the autonomous government began firing Jewish government employees.[39] The Committee for the Solution of the Jewish Question was founded on 23 January 1939 to discuss anti-Jewish legislation.[40][41][18] The state-sponsored media demonized Jews as "enemies of the state" and of the Slovak nation.[40][42] Jewish businesses were robbed,[43] and physical attacks on Jews occurred both spontaneously and at the instigation of the Hlinka Guard and Freiwillige Schutzstaffel.[44] On his first radio address following the establishment of the Slovak State in 1939, Tiso emphasized his desire to "solve the Jewish Question";[45] anti-Jewish legislation was the only concrete measure that he promised.[46] The persecution of Jews was a key element of the state's domestic policy.[40][47] Discriminatory measures affected all aspects of life, to isolate and dispossess Jews before deporting them.[40]

1938 deportations and emigration

In the days after the announcement of the First Vienna Award, antisemitic rioting broke out in Bratislava; newspapers justified the riots because of Jews' alleged support for Hungary during the partition negotiations. Adolf Eichmann, who had been sent to Bratislava, coauthored a plan with Tiso and other HSĽS politicians to deport impoverished and foreign Jews to the ceded territory.[48][49] Meanwhile, Jews with a net worth of over 500,000 Czechoslovak koruna (Kčs) were arrested to prevent capital flight.[48][40] Between 4 and 7 November,[40] 4,000[50] or 7,600 Jews were deported, in a chaotic, pogrom-like operation in which Hlinka Guard, Freiwillige Schutzstaffel, and the German Party participated.[49] The deportees included young children, the elderly, and pregnant women.[51] The arrests did not prevent a spike in capital flight,[52] and worsened Slovakia's image abroad.[40] A few days later, Tiso canceled the operation and allowed most of the Jews to return home.[52][18] More than 800 were confined to makeshift tent camps at Veľký Kýr, Miloslavov, and Šamorín on the new Slovak–Hungarian border during the winter.[53] The deportations occurred just after Germany's Polenaktion, a similar event;[49][54] reduced British investment, increasing dependence on German capital;[55] and were a rehearsal for the 1942 deportations.[56]

See caption
Temporary passport issued in 1940 to a Jew who fled to Italy

Initially, many Jews believed that the measures taken against them would be temporary.[57] Nevertheless, some attempted to emigrate and take their property with them. Between December 1938 and February 1939, more than 2.25 million Kčs were transferred illegally to the Czech lands, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; additional amounts were transferred legally. Slovak government officials took advantage of the circumstances to purchase the property of wealthy Jewish emigrants at a significant discount, a precursor to the state-sponsored transfer of Jewish property (Aryanization).[58]

By early 1939, the British consulate in Bratislava was receiving 40 visa applications daily. Interest in emigration among Jews surged after the invasion of Poland, as Jewish refugees from Poland told of atrocities there. Although the Slovak government encouraged Jews to emigrate, it refused to allow the export of foreign currency, ensuring that most attempts remained unsuccessful. No country was eager to accept Jewish refugees, and the tight limits on legal emigration to Mandatory Palestine prevented Jews from seeking refuge there. In 1940, Bratislava became a hub for Aliyah Bet operatives organizing illegal immigration to Palestine, one of whom, Aron Grünhut, helped 1,365 Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, and Austrian Jews emigrate. By early 1941, further emigration was impossible; even Jews who received valid United States visas were not allowed transit visas through Nazi Germany.[57] The total number of Slovak Jewish emigrants has been estimated at 5,000 to 6,000.[36][37]

Aryanization

Non-Jewish man kicks a stereotypically dressed Orthodox Jew
Antisemitic government propaganda

Aryanization in Slovakia, the seizure of Jewish-owned property and exclusion of Jews from the economy,[59][60] was justified by the stereotype (reinforced by HSĽS propaganda) of Jews obtaining their wealth by oppressing Slovaks.[61][62][5] Between 1939 and 1942, the HSĽS regime received widespread popular support by promising Slovak citizens that they would be enriched by property confiscated from Jews and other minorities.[5][63] This was a significant amount of money; in 1940, Jews registered more than 4.322 billion Slovak koruna (Ks) in property (38 percent of the national wealth).[64][b] The process might more aptly be described as "Slovakization",[67][68] as the Slovak government took steps to ensure that ethnic Slovaks, rather than Germans or other minorities, received the stolen Jewish property. Due to the intervention of the German Party and Nazi Germany, ethnic Germans received 8.3 percent of the stolen property,[68][67] but most German applicants were refused, underscoring the freedom of action of the Slovak government.[67]

The first anti-Jewish law, passed on 18 April 1939 and not systematically enforced, was a numerus clausus four-percent quota of the numbers of Jews allowed to practice law; Jews were also forbidden to write for Christian publications.[32][69][70] The Land Reform Act of February 1940 turned 101,423 hectares (250,620 acres) of land owned by 4,943 Jews, about 40 percent of it arable, over to the State Land Office; the land officially passed to the state in May 1942.[64][c] The First Aryanization Law was passed in April 1940. Through a process known as "voluntary Aryanization", Jewish business owners could suggest a "qualified Christian candidate" who would assume at least a 51-percent stake in the company.[32] Under the law, 50 businesses out of more than 12,000 were Aryanized and 179 were liquidated.[72] HSĽS radicals[32] and the Slovak State's German backers believed that voluntary Aryanization was too soft on the Jews.[73]

Wall graffiti of a man with stereotypical Jewish facial feathres
Antisemitic graffiti in Bratislava, c. 1941; next to the caricature, "The Jew is our enemy" is painted on a wall.[74]

At the July 1940 Salzburg Conference, German negotiators convinced the Slovaks to replace several members of the cabinet with reliably pro-German radicals.[75][76] Ferdinand Ďurčanský was replaced as interior minister by Alexander Mach, who aligned the anti-Jewish policy of the Slovak State with that in Germany.[77][78] Another result of the Salzburg talks was the appointment of SS officer Dieter Wisliceny as a "Jewish adviser" for Slovakia; he arrived in Slovakia in August.[79][77] He aimed to impoverish the Jewish community so it became a burden on non-Jewish Slovaks, who would then agree to deport them.[80][81] At Wisliceny's instigation, the Slovak government created the Central Economic Office (ÚHÚ), led by Slovak official Augustín Morávek [cs; de; sk] and under Tuka's control, in September 1940.[82][77] The ÚHÚ was tasked with assuming ownership of Jewish-owned property.[32] Jews were required to register their property; their bank accounts (valued at 245 million Ks in August 1941)[d] were frozen, and Jews were allowed to withdraw only 1,000 Ks (later 150 Ks) per week.[32][64] Jews were forbidden from owning motor vehicles, sports equipment, or radios.[67] The 22,000 Jews who worked in salaried employment were targeted:[83] non-Jews had to obtain ÚHÚ permission to employ Jews and pay a fee.[32] By mid-1940, the position of Jews in the Slovak economy had been largely wiped out.[60]

A second Aryanization law was passed in November, mandating the expropriation of Jewish property and the Aryanization or liquidation of Jewish businesses.[32][84] In a corrupt process overseen by Morávek's office, 10,000 Jewish businesses (mostly shops) were liquidated and the remainder – about 2,300 – were Aryanized.[32][64][85] Liquidation benefited small Slovak businesses competing with Jewish enterprises, and Aryanization was applied to larger Jewish-owned companies which were acquired by competitors. In many cases, Aryanizers inexpert in business struck deals with former Jewish owners and employees so the Jews would keep working for the company.[86][87] The Aryanization of businesses did not bring the anticipated revenue into the Slovak treasury, and only 288 of the liquidated businesses produced income for the state by July 1942.[88] The Aryanization and liquidation of businesses was nearly complete by January 1942,[86] resulting in 64,000 of 89,000 Jews losing their means of support.[89][90] Manufactured Jewish impoverishment was a pressing social problem for the Slovak government, which it "solved" in early 1942 by deporting the unemployed Jews.[91][38]

Aryanization resulted in immense financial loss to Slovakia and great destruction of wealth. The state failed to raise substantial funds from the sale of Jewish property and businesses, and most of its gains came from the confiscation of Jewish-owned bank accounts and financial securities. The main beneficiaries of Aryanization were members of Slovak fascist political parties and paramilitary groups, who were eager to acquire Jewish property but had little expertise in running Jewish businesses.[88][92] During the republic's existence, the government gained 1,100 million Ks from Aryanization and spent 900–950 million Ks on enforcing anti-Jewish measures.[e] In 1942, it paid the German government an additional 300 million Ks for the deportation of 58,000 Jews.[93]

Jewish Center

When Wisliceny arrived, all Jewish community organizations were dissolved and the Jews were forced to form the Ústredňa Židov (Jewish Center, ÚŽ, subordinate to the ÚHÚ) in September 1940.[94][77] The first Judenrat outside the Reich and German-occupied Poland, the ÚŽ was the only secular Jewish organization allowed to exist in Slovakia; membership was required of all Jews.[32][95] Leaders of the Jewish community were divided about how to respond to this development. Although some argued that the ÚŽ would be used to implement anti-Jewish measures, more saw participation in the ÚŽ as a way to help their fellow Jews by delaying the implementation of such measures and alleviating poverty.[96] The first leader of the ÚŽ was Heinrich Schwartz, who thwarted anti-Jewish orders to the best of his ability by delaying their implementation. In particular, he sabotaged a census of Jews in eastern Slovakia which was intended to justify their removal to the west of the country; Wisliceny had him arrested in April 1941.[97][98][99] The Central Economic Office appointed the more cooperative Arpad Sebestyen as Schwartz' replacement.[100] Wisliceny set up a Department for Special Affairs in the ÚŽ to ensure the prompt implementation of Nazi decrees, appointing the collaborationist Karol Hochberg (a Viennese Jew) as its director.[97][100]

Forced labor

Long, low building with a pitched roof
Restored barracks at Sereď concentration camp

Jews serving in the army were segregated in a labor unit in April 1939, and were stripped of their rank at the end of the year. From 1940, male Jews and Romani people were obliged to work for the national defense (generally manual labor on construction projects) for two months every year. All recruits considered Jewish or Romani were allocated to the Sixth Labor Battalion, which worked at military construction sites at Sabinov, Liptovský Svätý Peter, Láb, Svätý Jur, and Zohor the following year.[32] Although the Ministry of Defense was pressured by the Ministry of the Interior to release the Jews for deportation in 1942, it refused.[101] The battalion was disbanded in 1943, and the Jewish laborers were sent to a number of work camps.[32]

The first labor centers were established in early 1941 by the ÚŽ as retraining courses for Jews forced into unemployment; 13,612 Jews had applied for the courses by February, far exceeding the programs' capacity.[102] On 4 July, the Slovak government issued a decree conscripting all Jewish men aged 18 to 60 for labor.[89][103] Although the ÚŽ had to supplement the workers' pay to meet the legal minimum, the Slovak historian Ivan Kamenec notes that the labor camps greatly increased the living standard of Jews impoverished by Aryanization.[104] By September, 5,500 Jews were performing manual labor for private companies at about 80 small labor centers,[89] most of which were dissolved in the final months of 1941 as part of the preparation for deportation. Construction began on three larger camps – Sereď, Nováky, and Vyhne – in September of that year.[104][105]

Jewish Code

See caption
Headline of 21 September 1941 propaganda-ministry publication: "We've dealt with the Jews! The strictest laws against Jews are Slovakia's."

Initially, antisemitic laws defined Jews by religion rather than ancestry; Jews who were baptized before 1918 were considered Christian.[32][73] The partial reliance on religious criteria was at the request of the Catholic Church, which opposed racism.[106] Local authorities had imposed anti-Jewish measures on their own; the head of the Šariš-Zemplín region ordered local Jews to wear a yellow band around their left arm from 5 April 1941, leading to attacks.[32][107] As the focus shifted to restricting Jews' civil rights rather than depriving them of their property, Department 14 of the Ministry of the Interior (headed by Gejza Konka) was formed to enforce anti-Jewish measures.[108]

The Slovak parliament passed the Jewish Code [cs; de; sk] on 9 September 1941, which contained 270 anti-Jewish articles.[89] Based on the Nuremberg Laws, the code defined Jews in terms of ancestry, banned intermarriage, and required that all Jews over six years old wear a yellow star. The Jewish Code excluded Jews from public life, forbidding them from traveling at certain times, using radios or phones, shopping at certain hours, or belonging to clubs or organizations.[89] In addition, Jews had to pay a 20 percent tax on all property.[107] Slovak propaganda boasted that the Jewish Code was the strictest set of anti-Jewish laws in Europe.[89][109] The president could issue exemptions protecting individual Jews from the law.[89] Employed Jews were initially exempt from some of the code's requirements, such as wearing the star.[110]

The racial definition of Jews was criticized by the Catholic Church, and converts were eventually exempted from some of the requirements.[111][112] The Hlinka Guard and Freiwillige Schutzstaffel increased assaults on Jews, engaged in antisemitic demonstrations on a daily basis, and denounced insufficiently antisemitic non-Jews as "white Jews".[113] The law enabled the Central Economic Office to force Jews to change their residence.[114] This provision was put into effect on 4 October 1941, when 10,000 of 15,000 Jews in Bratislava (who were not employed or intermarried) were ordered to move to fourteen towns.[114][115] The relocation was paid for and carried out by the ÚŽ's Department of Special Tasks.[116][117] Although the Jews were ordered to leave by 31 December 1941, fewer than 7,000 people had moved by March 1942.[118][119]

Deportations (1942)

Planning

The highest levels of the Slovak government were aware by late 1941 of mass murders of Jews in German-occupied territories.[120][121] In July 1941, Wisliceny organized a visit by Slovak government officials to several forced-labor camps run by Organization Schmelt for the Reichsautobahn that imprisoned Jews in East Upper Silesia. The visitors understood that Jews in the camps lived under conditions which would eventually cause their deaths.[122][84] Slovak soldiers participated in the German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union;[123] they brought word of the mass shootings of Jews, and participated in at least one of the massacres.[124] Some Slovaks were aware of the 1941 Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre, in which 23,600 Jews, many of them deported from Hungary, were shot in western Ukraine.[125][126] Defense minister Ferdinand Čatloš and general Jozef Turanec reported massacres in Zhytomyr to Tiso by February 1942.[120][127] Both bishop Karol Kmeťko and papal chargé d'affaires Giuseppe Burzio confronted the president with reliable reports of the mass murder of Jewish civilians in the Ukraine.[127][128] However, the Slovak government was not aware of the Nazi plan to murder all Jews.[129]

Hitler and five other men
Adolf Hitler (left) at a Wolf's Lair meeting, 1943

In mid-1941, the Germans demanded (per previous agreements) another 20,000 Slovak laborers to work in Germany. Slovakia refused to send gentile Slovaks and instead offered an equal number of Jewish workers, although it did not want to be burdened with their families.[130][34] A letter sent 15 October 1941 indicates that plans were being made for the mass murder of Jews in the Lublin Reservation of the General Government to make room for deported Jews from Slovakia and Germany.[131] On 23–24 October 1941, Tiso, Tuka, Mach, and Čatloš visited the Wolf's Lair (near Rastenburg, East Prussia) and met with Adolf Hitler. No record survives of this meeting at which the deportation of Jews from Slovakia was probably first discussed, leading to historiographical debate over who proposed the idea.[132][89] Even if the Germans made the offer, the HSĽS regime found deportation an attractive way to deal with the "Jewish problem",[133] and was not motivated by German pressure.[134][135][127] In November 1941, the Slovak government permitted the German government to deport the 659 Slovak Jews living in the Reich and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,[89][136] with the proviso that their confiscated property be passed to Slovakia.[137] This was the first step towards deporting Jews from Slovakia,[89][138] which Tuka discussed with Wisliceny in early 1942.[139] As indicated by a cable from the German ambassador to Slovakia, Hanns Ludin, the Slovaks responded "with enthusiasm" to the idea.[140]

Tuka presented the deportation proposals to the government on 3 March, and they were debated in parliament three days later.[89] On 15 May, parliament approved Decree 68/1942, which retroactively legalized the deportation of Jews, authorized the removal of their citizenship, and regulated exemptions.[127][141][142] Opposition centered on economic, moral, and legal obstacles, but, as Mach later stated, "every [legislator] who has spoken on this issue has said that we should get rid of Jews".[143] The official Catholic representative, Bishop of Spiš Ján Vojtaššák, only requested separate settlements in Poland for Jews who had converted to Christianity.[144] The Slovaks agreed to pay 500 Reichsmarks per Jew deported (ostensibly to cover shelter, food, retraining and housing)[144][145] and an additional fee to the Deutsche Reichsbahn for transport.[146] (The 500 Reichsmark fee was equivalent to about USD$125 at the time,[65] or $1,956 today).[66] The Germans promised in exchange that the Jews would never return, and Slovakia could keep all confiscated property.[142][124] Except for Croatia (which paid 30 Reichsmarks per person), Slovakia was the only country which paid to deport its Jewish population.[147][148]

First phase

Photograph of a restored train car, with its sliding door open, used to transport Slovak Jews
Restored train car used to transport Slovak Jews. SŽ stands for Slovenské Železnice (Slovak Railways).

The original deportation plan, approved in February 1942, entailed the deportation of 7,000 women to Auschwitz and 13,000 men to Majdanek as forced laborers.[149][150] Department 14 organized the deportations,[151][127] while the Slovak Transport Ministry provided the cattle cars.[152][153][142] Lists of those to be deported were drawn up by Department 14 based on statistical data provided by the Jewish Center's Department for Special Tasks.[150] At the border station in Zwardon, the Hlinka Guard handed the transports off to the German Schutzpolizei.[144] Slovak officials promised that deportees would be allowed to return home after a fixed period,[154] and many Jews initially believed that it was better to report for deportation rather than risk reprisals against their families.[155] On 25 March 1942, the first transport departed from Poprad transit camp for Auschwitz with 1,000 unmarried Jewish women between the ages of 16 and 45.[127] During the first wave of deportations (which ended on 2 April), 6,000 young, single Jews were deported to Auschwitz and Majdanek.[156]

Members of the Hlinka Guard, the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel, and the gendarmerie were in charge of rounding up the Jews, guarding the transit centers, and eventually forcing them into train cars for deportation.[127][157] However, there was a German captain stationed at each of the concentration centers.[158] Official exemptions were supposed to keep Jews from being deported, but local authorities sometimes deported exemption-holders.[159] The victims were given only four hours' warning, to prevent them from escaping. Beatings and forcible shaving were commonplace, as was subjecting Jews to invasive searches to uncover hidden valuables.[160] Although some guards and local officials accepted bribes to keep Jews off the transports, the victim would typically be deported on the next train.[161] Others took advantage of their power to rape Jewish women.[162] Jews were only allowed to bring 50 kilograms (110 lb) of personal items with them, but even this was frequently stolen.[158][163]

Family transports

SS leader Reinhard Heydrich visited Bratislava on 10 April, and he and Tuka agreed that further deportations would target whole families and eventually remove all Jews from Slovakia.[164][165] The family transports began on 11 April, and took their victims to the Lublin district.[166][167] During the first half of June 1942 ten transports stopped briefly at Majdanek, where able-bodied men were selected for labor; the trains continued to Sobibór, where the remaining victims were murdered.[166] Most of the trains brought their victims (30,000 in total)[168] to ghettos whose inhabitants had been recently deported to the Bełżec or Sobibór death camps. Some groups stayed only briefly before they were deported again to the death camps, while other groups remained in the ghettos for months or years.[166] Some of the deportees ended up in the forced-labor camps in the Lublin area (such as Poniatowa, Dęblin–Irena, and Krychów).[169] Unusually, the deportees in the Lublin area were quickly able to establish contact with the Jews remaining in Slovakia, which led to extensive aid efforts.[170] However, the fate of the Jews deported from Slovakia was ultimately "sealed within the framework of Operation Reinhard" along with that of the Polish Jews, in the words of Yehoshua Büchler.[171]

Some people sort a large pile of personal belongings
Linda Reich (center), deported on the first transport from Slovakia, and other prisoners sort confiscated property in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, 1944.

Transports went to Auschwitz after mid-June, where a minority of the victims were selected for labor and the remainder were killed in the gas chambers.[172][173] This occurred for nine transports, the last of which arrived on 21 October 1942.[173][174] From 1 August to 18 September, no transports departed;[175][174][173] most of the Jews not exempt from deportation had already been deported or had fled to Hungary.[176] In mid-August, Tiso gave a speech in Holič in which he described Jews as the "eternal enemy" and justified the deportations according to Christian ethics.[127][177] Three more transports occurred in September and October 1942 before ceasing until 1944.[178][174][173] By the end of 1942, only 500 or 600 Slovak Jews were still alive at Auschwitz.[142] Thousands of surviving Slovak Jews in the Lublin District were shot on 3–4 November 1943 during Operation Harvest Festival.[142][170]

Between 25 March and 20 October 1942, almost 58,000 Jews (two-thirds of the population) were deported.[172][179][180] The exact number is unknown due to discrepancies in the sources.[181] The deportations disproportionately affected poorer Jews. Although the Šariš-Zemplín region in eastern Slovakia lost 85 to 90 percent of its Jewish population, Žilina reported that almost half of its Jews remained after the deportation.[33][182] The deportees were held briefly in five camps in Slovakia before deportation;[158] 26,384 from Žilina,[183] 7,500 from Patrónka,[184] 7,000 from Poprad,[185] 4,463 from Sereď,[186] and 4,000 to 5,000 from Nováky.[187] Nineteen trains went to Auschwitz, and another thirty-eight went to ghettos and concentration and extermination camps in the Lublin district.[188] Only a few hundred survived the war,[127] most at Auschwitz; almost no one survived in Lublin.[189]

Opposition

Woman with short, dark hair and dark clothing, accented with a necklace
Gisi Fleischmann, leader of the Working Group.[190]

Acting on behalf of the Vatican[191] in April 1942, Giuseppe Burzio condemned the deportations; according to a SD (Sicherheitsdienst) report, he threatened Tiso with an interdict if he went through with them.[127][128] The Slovak Catholic bishops and the Lutheran Church issued statements which repeated antisemitic canards such as the accusation of deicide and the claim that Jewish prosperity was stolen from Slovaks, but argued that the methods used to suppress the Jews had to be "Christian".[192] Catholics were decisive in the implementation of anti-Jewish policy,[6] and the church did not strongly object to the deportations after being assured that converts would be settled separately from Jews.[193] Some clergy protested the actions of the government[194][195] but, according to Canadian historian Nina Paulovičová, none of the protests were effective.[196] Christian clergy baptized Jews (exempting them from deportation), and the Lutheran Church baptized twice as many as the Catholic Church despite its smaller size.[197]

Officials from the ÚŽ[198] and several of the most influential Slovak rabbis (both Orthodox and Neolog) sent petitions to Tiso, but he did not reply.[199][200] The ÚŽ set up a Claims Department, led by Tibor Kováč, to help Jews obtain exemptions from transport[201] and ensure that the Slovak government would honor exemptions already issued. These efforts did not halt (or delay) the deportations.[202][203] By March 1942, the Working Group (an underground organization which operated under the auspices of the ÚŽ) had formed to oppose the deportations. Its leaders, Zionist organizer Gisi Fleischmann and Orthodox rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl, bribed Anton Vašek, head of Department 14, and Wisliceny.[204][205] Due to Vašek's intervention, a 26 June transport of Jews was cancelled; Vašek presented Alexander Mach with a falsified report that all non-exempt Jews had already been deported. Mach was skeptical about the report, however, and the deportations resumed in July.[206]

Many Jewish communities heard about the mass deaths in Poland from the deportees during the first half of 1942, from letters or escapees.[207] Members of the banned Zionist youth movements traveled around the country to warn Jews to hide or flee,[208][100] and the ÚŽ inserted covert warnings into official circulars (despite increased censorship).[209] Several thousand[f] Jews fled to Hungary, aided by Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Ungar and the youth movements, in early 1942.[190] Most of those who were successful in crossing the border bribed the guards to let them through[212] or paid smugglers.[214] Many others were arrested at the border and were immediately deported to Poland.[213] Widespread resistance drove the Hlinka Guard to forcibly round up Jews to fill transports and deport Jews who had been promised immunity to labor camps.[215][216]

According to Kamenec, the brutality of the family deportations in April and May caused many Slovaks to doubt the regime's purportedly Christian character.[217] In June, Ludin reported that popular opinion in Slovakia had turned against the deportations because gentile Slovaks saw the Hlinka Guard's violence against Jews.[218] According to a 29 September SD report, however, "Half of Bratislava was on its feet this morning to watch the show of the Judenevakuierung ... so was the kick, administered by an S.S.-man to a tardy Jew received by the large crowd ... with hand claps and cries of support and encouragement".[219] Although many owners of Aryanized businesses applied for work exemptions for the Jewish former owners, their motivation is unclear.[124] Most Slovaks supported (or were indifferent to) the deportations,[121][194] and only individual acts of aid were reported.[220] Although Germany encouraged Slovakia to hand over the remaining Jews, it did not exert strong pressure[221] (possibly because the large population of Jews in German-occupied countries such as Poland could be exterminated with fewer political repercussions).[219][222]

Hiatus (1943)

At the end of the deportations, between 18,000 and 25,000 Jews were still in Slovakia.[223][224] Some 16,000 Jews had exemptions; there were 4,217 converts to Christianity before 1939, 985 Jews in mixed marriages,[225][226] and 9,687 holders of economic exemptions[225] (particularly doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians, engineers, and agricultural experts, whose professions had shortages).[227] One thousand Jews were protected by presidential exemptions, although three-quarters also had other exemptions.[141][228] In addition to the exempted Jews, 2,500 Jews were living in the Sereď, Nováky, and Vyhne labor camps. Additional Jews were living in smaller camps,[229] and about a thousand were serving in the Sixth Labor Battalion.[101] Eduard Nižňanský estimated that 2,000 Jews had false papers identifying themselves as Aryans,[87] and additional Jews had forged baptismal records making them ineligible for deportation.[230][g] When the deportations were halted, the government knew the whereabouts of only 2,500 Jews without exemptions.[234] Unlike German-occupied countries whose governments tried to kill every Jew, the exemptions prevented the full implementation of the Final Solution.[235]

The enforcement of anti-Jewish laws grew less severe with time, and many Jews stopped wearing the yellow star.[236] Nevertheless, the remaining Jews – even those with exemptions – lived in constant fear of deportation. Jews continued to flee to Hungary, with some desperate parents sending their children across the border unaccompanied.[237][238] Others obtained false papers or refused to register with the authorities.[236] The ÚŽ worked to improve conditions for laborers in the Slovak camps[239] and to convert the camps to productive industrial centers to create an incentive to keep their workers. The number of Jews in the camps increased, eventually totaling 4,000.[227][240] The labor camps earned 39 million Ks for the Slovak State.[241][h]

The halt in deportations from Slovakia enabled the Working Group to expand its bribery scheme to Jews outside the country.[242] In an operation known as the Europa Plan, the Working Group unsuccessfully tried to bribe SS chief Heinrich Himmler with $3 million to stop the transports of Jews from western and southeastern Europe to the death camps in Poland.[243][244] It also tracked the locations of the deportees,[245] smuggled aid,[246] and helped 2,000[247][248] to 2,500[249] Polish Jews escape to Hungary via Slovakia. In late April 1944 two Auschwitz escapees, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, reached Slovakia.[250] The Working Group sent a report to Hungary and Switzerland.[251]

With the deportation of the Jews, the Slovak State was left with a surplus of confiscated property which it tried to sell. Although the state had only limited success at recouping the value of Jewish businesses from Aryanizers and selling vacated houses,[252] many ordinary Slovaks bought discounted furniture and other items at auctions.[253] After the Battle of Stalingrad, Slovak politicians realized that their treatment of the Jews would not reflect well on them if Germany lost the war.[254] Some HSĽS politicians (especially those in the radical faction) blamed the economic setbacks on the Jews and agitated for the deportation of the remaining population.[255]

On 7 February 1943, HSĽS radical Alexander Mach announced at a rally in Ružomberok that the transports would soon resume.[256] In early 1943, the Hlinka Guard and Vašek's department prepared for the resumption of deportations: registering Jews, canceling economic exemptions, and hunting down Jews in hiding.[257] A plan to dispatch four trains between 18 and 22 April was not implemented.[258] In response to the threatened resumption, Slovak bishops issued a pastoral letter in Latin on 8 March condemning antisemitism and totalitarianism and defending the rights of all Jews.[259][260] Although Slovak priests had to read it from the pulpit, many altered the text.[261] The Working Group mobilized to prevent further deportations, increasing its bribes to Vašek and Wisliceny.[262] Germany put increasing pressure on the Slovak State to hand over its remaining Jews in 1943 and 1944, but Slovak politicians did not agree to resume the deportations.[263]

Resumption of deportations (1944–1945)

Prelude

A large number of people, with their belongings, getting off a train
Jews from Carpathian Ruthenia arrive at Auschwitz, May 1944

After the Battle of Stalingrad it was evident to the Slovaks that Germany would not win the war, and high casualties on the Eastern Front caused many to turn against the fascist regime.[264] In late 1943, leading army officers and intelligentsia formed the Slovak National Council to plan an insurrection against the regime;[265] other anti-fascists retreated to the Carpathian mountains and formed partisan groups. Preparations for the uprising evoked mixed feelings in the remaining Slovak Jews. Although they were eager to fight against fascism, they feared that an uprising would bring about a crackdown on their community.[264] By this time the Jews were aware that their deported relatives were no longer alive, although information on the causes of death was lacking.[266] The increased partisan activity led many Jews to escape from the labor camps and join the partisans; underground movements formed at Sereď[267] and Nováky.[268]

Slovak authorities began to re-register Jews in January 1944, prompting some to flee to Hungary.[269] According to Israeli historian Gila Fatran, there were about 22,000 Jews in Slovakia at the beginning of March 1944.[210] On 19 March 1944 Germany invaded Hungary, including Carpathian Ruthenia and the areas ceded by Slovakia in 1938.[270][271] The Slovak Jews who had fled to Hungary tried to return, but many were arrested at the border and deported.[264] The Slovak ambassador in Budapest, Ján Spišiak, issued documents to 3,000 Jews allowing them to legally cross the border,[272] bringing the total Jewish population to 25,000.[264] Between 14 May and 7 July 437,000 Jews were deported from Hungary, most to Auschwitz;[273] many of the trains passed through Slovakia.[274] In light of this, Germany placed increased pressure on Slovak politicians to resume the deportation of the country's remaining Jews.[275] To counter the perceived security threat of Jews in the Šariš-Zemplín region with the front line moving westward, the Slovak government proposed roundups. The Working Group convinced the government to resettle Jews in western Slovakia instead.[276][277] On 15 May 1944, the Slovak government issued that order; 451 Jews were exempt because they were doctors, pharmacists, or married to non-Jews. Others disobeyed the order in the hope that they would be liberated sooner.[278]

German invasion

Map showing the situation in the first days of the Slovak National Uprising.
Situation during the first days of the Slovak National Uprising

Concerned about the increase in resistance and suspicious about Slovak loyalty, Germany invaded Slovakia; this precipitated the Slovak National Uprising, which broke out on 29 August 1944.[279] The Germans forced a change in the Slovak government, replacing Vojtech Tuka with Jozef Tiso's cousin Štefan as prime minister; Jozef remained president. Under the new government, Jewish affairs were nominally controlled by the Ministry of Defense, which was led by pro-Nazi Hlinka Guardsman Otomar Kubala,[280][281] but in practice the Germans dictated policy.[281] German and Slovak authorities collaborated to round up and deport Jews.[282][283] During cabinet meetings on 11 and 15 September, the government decided that all Jews except for doctors, pharmacists, and those married to non-Jews would be concentrated at Sereď (the only one of the three large labor camps for Jews which had not fallen into rebel hands during the uprising).[284] German and Slovak propaganda blamed the Jews for the uprising,[285][286] providing the Germans with an excuse to implement the Final Solution.[287][288]

Nazi authorities were eager to murder Slovakia's remaining Jews before the Red Army advanced further into Poland; Auschwitz would shut down its gas chambers in November 1944.[289] Einsatzgruppe H, commanded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Josef Witiska [de; fr; sv] and consisting of Einsatzkommando 13 [sk], Einsatzkommando 14 [cs; sk] and a number of Sonderkommando ("special units"), was formed to suppress the uprising immediately after it began and round up Jews and Romani people. Einsatzgruppe H was aided by local collaborators, including SS-Heimatschutz (HS), Abwehrgruppe 218 and the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions (POHG).[280][290] These forces began by disarming the Slovak Army,[280] but quickly focused on rounding up Jews throughout Slovakia and sending them to Sereď for deportation.[291] According to Einsatzgruppe H records, 9,653 of the 9,937 people arrested by 9 December were Jews.[292] The success of Einsatzgruppe H was largely due to denunciations and the cooperation of the POHG and the HS,[293][294] who could impersonate partisans due to their local knowledge and ability to speak Slovak. Collaborators aided with interrogations and searched houses for Jews in hiding.[293] However, according to survivor testimony, the majority of arrests were made by German forces.[295] About 13,500 Jews were deported in the second round, of whom 10,000 died.[279][296] The exact number is unknown, because much of the documentation was destroyed by the perpetrators.[297][296][298]

Jewish reaction

Fearing that they would be rounded up and deported, many Jews fled to the mountainous interior and partisan-controlled areas around Banská Bystrica. They were not welcomed by the local population.[264] Guards at the three main labor camps (Sereď, Nováky, and Vyhne) fled during the uprising, and most of the Jewish prisoners left.[299][300] About 1,600[301] to 2,000[302] Jews fought as partisans, ten percent of the total insurgent force.[301] Fifteen percent of the Jewish partisans were killed.[302] Many Jewish fighters hid their religious affiliation, due to antisemitism in the partisan movement.[303]

Unprepared for the events, many Jews hastily attempted to arrange false papers or hiding places.[280] Going into hiding was not easy; one needed enough money for several months of living expenses, to arrange false papers and hiding places, and depend on non-Jews for food and assistance.[304] In September, it was announced that all gentile Slovaks caught assisting Jews would be killed.[305] The attitude of the local population varied; some risked their lives to hide Jews, and others turned them in to the police.[306][307] The majority of rescuers provided help for a fee, although there were also cases of selfless rescues.[308] Many Jews in essential occupations were deported or forced into hiding, leading to catastrophic shortages of doctors, veterinarians, and other specialists.[296] Jews who hid in the mountains over the winter of 1944–1945 were unprepared for the six to eight months they waited for liberation, and many faced a choice between starvation and surrender.[304] Some Jews who had gone into hiding re-emerged later in the winter even though they faced arrest and deportation.[309] About 10,850 Jews managed to evade arrest and survived in Slovakia.[303][310]

Roundups in western Slovakia

Most Jews who fell victim to the second wave of persecution were captured during roundups by Einsatzgruppe H or local collaborators. They were briefly imprisoned at local prisons or the Einsatzgruppe H office in Bratislava, from which they were sent to Sereď for deportation. In many cases, local authorities provided lists of Jews.[306] Over 1,000 Jews were at Sereď by 11 September 1944, including some who had returned to the camp after escaping; others were rounded up in surrounding areas. The number of prisoners increased to 1,500 three days later. Although there were no deportations during the first two weeks, the Jews experienced harsh treatment (including murder) and severe overcrowding as the population swelled to 3,000 – twice the intended capacity.[267][284] Alois Brunner, who had participated in the organization of transports of Jews from France and Greece,[311] took over the camp's administration in the final days of September and began to organize transports to Auschwitz, the first of which departed on 30 September.[267] Anton Vašek attempted to increase production in Sereď, claiming at his postwar trial that the Jews had asked him to. The Germans had no interest in production at Sereď because they intended to use it as a transit camp for Auschwitz.[312] After the deportations began, the Slovak government ineffectually protested against German interference with Slovak sovereignty and for arousing the ire of the Holy See and Switzerland.[313]

Meanwhile, the Jewish leadership in Bratislava was conflicted about how to react to the uprising. After it learned that Brunner was coming to Bratislava, the Working Group attempted to bribe Otto Koslowski (head of the SD in Slovakia) to stop the deportations.[314] The Working Group later tried to negotiate with Brunner (despite warnings from less-extreme elements of the SS),[315] and Brunner continued the negotiations to distract the group.[316] The largest roundup[306] was carried out in Bratislava during the night of 28–29 September by Einsatzkommando 29, aided by 600 HS and POHG collaborators and a Luftwaffe unit that guarded the streets. Between 1,600[294][317] and 1,800[318][319] Jews were arrested, including most of the ÚŽ and Working Group leadership.[315][319][317] The German security services used a list of Jews found in Gisi Fleischmann's office and searched the houses of Slovak gentiles suspected of hiding Jews.[316] Those arrested were held at the Jewish Council's headquarters until 6 am, when they were crowded into freight cars and transported to Sereď (arriving at 2 am on 30 September). The first transport from Sereď to Auschwitz, with 1,860 deportees, departed that day.[320]

After the September operation, Einsatzkommando 29 established an office in the former Jewish Center to hunt down Jews in hiding.[317][297] Half of the arrested Jews were found in Bratislava after 19 November, typically in hiding with false papers.[321] When Jews were captured, they were interrogated and tortured if they did not provide the names and addresses of other Jews in hiding.[317][297] Henri Dunand of the Red Cross provided funding for a clandestine group led by Arnold Lazar, which provided money, food, and clothing to Jews in hiding in Bratislava.[308] At Sereď, many Jews claimed marriage to non-Jews in the hope of being spared from deportation.[322] Eleven transports, with about 11,500 people, left from Sereď.[267] The first five transports (from 30 September to 17 October) went to Auschwitz, where most of the victims were gassed. The final transport to Auschwitz, on 2 November, arrived after the gas chambers were shut down. Later transports left for Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbrück, and Theresienstadt.[323][324] Aware of the extermination camps, Jews tried to jump from the trains.[298] Before November, most Jews were arrested at their registered address or workplace hours or days after German troops arrived in the area. Later, most of those arrested were in hiding or had false papers.[325]

Diplomatic protests

News of the German invasion of Slovakia spread quickly to the Western Allies, who (with the end of the war in sight) intervened to save the Slovak Jews. Yitzhak Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Palestine, made an impassioned plea to a papal representative in Cairo on 9 September. When his letter was not answered, Herzog requested an audience with Pope Pius XII.[326] Papal representative Giuseppe Burzio met with Tiso on 22 and 29 September, reportedly calling Tiso a liar when the president denied knowledge of deportations. Burzio determined that Tiso had no sympathy for the Jews, and further intervention would provide no benefits.[327][328] Pius XII sent a private message to Tiso condemning the persecution of individuals for their race or nationality.[308][328] Ireland, the JDC and Switzerland issued formal protests, and the Red Cross sent representative Georges Dunand.[329] In early November, Dunand met with Tiso and persuaded him to exempt the ill, the elderly, children of mixed marriages and doctors; however, the exemptions were ignored by the Germans.[330] The Czechoslovak government-in-exile protested on behalf of its Jewish citizens and the Czech minority in Slovakia, which was also persecuted because of alleged disloyalty.[329] The United States embassy organized protection for some 300 Jews with foreign citizenship,[331] housing them in Marianka (a castle near Bratislava). Brunner raided the castle on 11 October;[332] the prisoners (except for three Jews with American citizenship, but including several dozen other United States citizens) were taken to Sereď and deported to Auschwitz on 17 October.[331][332] This incident aroused stronger diplomatic protests, which only arrived weeks after the deaths of most of the victims.[331][333]

Roundups and massacres in eastern Slovakia

Group of soldiers in a hilly forest
Slovak partisans during the uprising

The roundup and murder of Jews in Eastern Slovakia was begun by SS-Heimatschutz, joined by units of the POHG in mid-November. When Banská Bystrica (the last opposition stronghold) fell on 27 October, Jews, Romani people, and actual and suspected partisans were rounded up and held in a prison with little food and water before being brought to Kremnička or Nemecká for execution. In a series of massacres at Kremnička, 747 people (including 211 women and 58 children) were murdered by Einsatzgruppe H and the POHG; half of the victims were Jewish. There were an estimated 900 victims at Nemecká, where the victims' bodies were burned after they were shot. Zvolen's Jewish cemetery was used as an execution site; 218 bodies were exhumed after the end of the war.[334] The massacres, some of which were public, created an atmosphere of terror.[280][335] In all, 211 mass graves with 5,304 victims shot by Axis forces in late 1944 and early 1945 were discovered after the end of the war. About 90 villages were razed.[303][335] Estimates of the number of Jewish victims range from several hundred[279] to 2,000,[303][336] and of Romani victims, from "as many as 1,000"[337] to 2,000.[338]

A number of small transports left Čadca for Auschwitz, the first on 1 September. Another transport left on 5 September; a third transport on 20 September contained 177 people, 146 of whom were gassed on arrival. The number of victims on the other transports is unknown, although Fatran estimates that the total of all three was about 400. In November, additional transports left Čadca for concentration camps in the Reich.[339] A transport with 100 people left Prešov for Auschwitz in November, from where the deportees were transferred to Ravensbrück.[340] An additional transport with 100 people departed from Ilava Prison.[303] During these roundups, gentiles caught sheltering Jews were deported with the Jews they attempted to rescue.[341]

Aftermath

A total of 68,000 to 71,000 Slovak Jews were murdered, more than 80 percent of the prewar population.[302] After the Red Army's conquest of Slovakia in 1945, it became part of the Third Czechoslovak Republic.[342] In addition to the 10,850 Jews who survived in Slovakia,[303][310] 9,000 Jews returned who had been deported to concentration camps or fled to Hungary, and 10,000 Jews survived in the annexed territories. By the end of 1945, 33,000 Jews were living in Slovakia. Many survivors had lost their entire families, and were in poor health.[342] Jews who tried to regain stolen property faced an uphill battle, because Aryanization was legally recognized by the postwar government.[343] Abandoned and heirless property was nationalized rather than given to Jewish organizations, as required by international law.[344] Those who had stolen Jewish property were reluctant to return it; former resistance members had also appropriated some stolen property, a just reward (in their view) for their opposition to Nazism. The two groups began an intimidation campaign to force Jews to leave and relinquish their property claims. Violent attacks also occurred; the most severe was the September 1945 Topoľčany pogrom, in which 47 Jews were injured.[345][346] At least 36 Jews were murdered and more than 100 injured in postwar violence.[347][348]

Tiso (who had fled to Austria during the Red Army's advance) was extradited to Czechoslovakia,[279][349] convicted of treason and collaboration, sentenced to death on 15 April 1947, and executed three days later.[279][350] According to the court, his "most immoral, most unchristian, and most inhuman" action was ordering the deportation of the Slovak Jews.[351] Other perpetrators, including Tuka and Kubala, were also convicted and executed.[352] All three perpetrators were tried under Decree 33/1945, an ex post facto law that instituted a mandatory death sentence for treason and collaboration.[353][354] In the cases of Tuka and Tiso, their roles in the Holocaust were a subset of the crimes for which they were convicted.[351][355] The authors of some of the more egregious antisemitic articles and caricatures were prosecuted after the war.[356] The trials painted Slovak State officials as traitors, thereby exonerating Slovak society from responsibility for the Holocaust.[352]

The Czechoslovak government, initially supportive of Zionism, insisted that Jews assimilate into Czechoslovak culture or emigrate to Israel.[357] Although a postwar law negated property transactions arising from Nazi persecution, the autonomous Slovak government did not enforce it.[358][359] Jews who had declared German or Hungarian nationality on a prewar census were accused of disloyalty to Czechoslovakia and stripped of their citizenship, losing any right to restitution, and were threatened with deportation.[360][361][362] Heirless property was nationalized in 1947 into the Currency Liquidation Fund.[363] Most Jews in Czechoslovakia emigrated to Israel or other countries in the years after the war. Emigration accelerated in 1948, due to the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which eliminated British restrictions on immigration. Between 14,000 and 18,000 Jews remained in Czechoslovakia at the end of 1950.[364][302] Many of those who chose to stay altered their surnames and abandoned religious practice in order to fit in with the Slovak middle class.[348] Thousands emigrated during the Communist era;[365] the 2016 Slovak Jewish population was estimated at 2,600, 0.05 percent of the total population.[366]

Legacy

Holocaust memorial in Bratislava, completed 1996
Jozef Tiso's grave in 2012

The government's attitude to Jews and Zionism shifted after 1948, leading to the 1952 Slánský trial in which the Czechoslovak government accused 14 Communists (11 of them Jewish) of belonging to a Zionist conspiracy.[367][368][369] The Communist government obliged historians to conform to Marxist historiography (preventing study of the Holocaust), and Communist memorials to the victims of fascism did not mention Jews or Romani people. In the 1960s, which were characterized by a liberalization known as the Prague Spring, discussion of the Holocaust begin in Slovakia.[370][371] The political climate was more favorable to exploration of the Holocaust in fiction than in academic history, leading to the publication of memoirs and novels by Holocaust survivors. The Academy Award-winning 1965 film, The Shop on Main Street, focused on Slovak culpability for the Holocaust.[371][372] During the normalization period after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, free expression was discouraged.[370][373] Following normalization and Israeli victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, anti-Zionist propaganda, much of it imported from the Soviet Union, intensified and veered into antisemitism.[374]

After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the Holocaust could be discussed openly by the public and in academia.[375][376] The Slovak government viewed remembering the Holocaust as a way of demonstrating the country's European identity before it joined the European Union in 2004.[377][378][379] Memorials were constructed in many Slovak cities during the 1990s to commemorate Holocaust victims,[380][381] and in October 2001 Slovakia designated 9 September (the anniversary of the passage of the Jewish Code) as Holocaust Victims and Racial Hatred Day.[i][383] The National Memory Institute was established in 2002 to provide access to the records of both the Slovak State and Communist state.[384] According to a 1991 survey, a great majority of Slovak people believe that the actions taken against the Jewish people were criminal and not deserved.[385] The post-Communist government enacted various laws for the restitution of Jewish property, but residency and citizenship requirements prevented emigrants from filing claims.[386] In 2002, ten percent of the value of the nationalized heirless property was released into a fund that paid for Jewish education and Holocaust memorials.[387] The Holocaust continues to be explored, and the 2004 documentary Miluj blížneho svojho was controversial in its depiction of Slovak perpetrators of the Topoľčany pogrom.[388] As of January 2019, Yad Vashem (the official Israeli memorial to the Holocaust) had recognized 602 Slovaks as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews.[389]

Holocaust relativism in Slovakia tends to manifest as attempts to deflect the blame for it onto Germans and Jews.[51][135] A 1997 textbook by Milan Stanislav Ďurica and endorsed by the government sparked international controversy (and was eventually withdrawn from circulation) because it portrayed Jews as living happily in labor camps during the war.[390][391][392] Jozef Tiso and the Slovak State have been the focus of Catholic and ultranationalist commemorations.[393] The neo-Nazi[394] Kotleba party, which is represented in the national parliament and the European Parliament and is especially popular with younger voters,[395] promotes a positive view of the Slovak State. Its leader, Marian Kotleba, once described Jews "devils in human skin".[396] Members of the party have been charged with Holocaust denial,[397][398] which has been a criminal offense since 2001.[397]

Notes

  1. ^ Views differ on this point. István Deák writes, "Despite the claims of some historians, [Slovakia] functioned not as a puppet state but as Nazi Germany’s first but not last Slavic-speaking military ally".[24] Tatjana Tönsmeyer, who maintains that the puppet-state narrative overstates German influence and understates Slovakia's autonomy, notes that Slovak authorities frequently avoided implementing measures pushed by the Germans when such measures did not suit Slovak priorities. According to German historian Barbara Hutzelmann, "Although the country was not independent, in the full sense of the word, it would be too simplistic to see this German-protected state (Schutzstaat) simply as a 'puppet regime'."[25] Ivan Kamenec, however, emphasizes German influence on Slovak internal and external politics and describes it as a "German satellite".[26]
  2. ^ Equivalent to USD$108 million at the time,[65] or $1,689,947,047 today.[66] All currency conversions are made from the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission's determination of wartime exchange rate.[65]
  3. ^ The Land Reform Act did not explicitly target Jews, but it was rarely enforced against non-Jewish landowners.[60][71]
  4. ^ Equivalent to USD$6.125 million at the time,[65] or $95,841,904 today.[66]
  5. ^ Gain equivalent to USD$27.5 million at the time,[65] or $430,310,591 today.[66] Loss equivalent to $22.5 million[65] or $352,072,301 today.[66]
  6. ^ Estimates vary widely because the illegal crossings were not recorded.[210] Rajcan, Vadkerty & Hlavinka (2018, p. 847) gave a figure of 5,000–6,000. In 1992 and 2011, the Slovak historian Ivan Kamenec stated that 6,000 Jews escaped to Hungary.[211][212] Bauer (1994, pp. 73–74) stated that 8,000 had escaped; in 2002, he revised the figure to 7,000.[190] In 1992 Fatran estimated that 5,000–6,000 Jews crossed the border,[213] but four years later she changed the estimate to 10,000.[210] Eduard Nižňanský estimates that 5,000 to 6,000 Jews made the crossing, many with help from Slovaks.[87]
  7. ^ Some false papers were purchased from the non-Jews to whom they had been issued,[231] others were bought from Slovak forgers,[232] and others created by Jewish forgers. Some priests edited parish records to pre-date baptisms.[233]
  8. ^ Equivalent to USD$975,000 at the time,[65] or $15,256,466 today.[66]
  9. ^ Slovak: Pamätný deň obetí holokaustu a rasového násilia[382]

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Bauer, Yehuda (2002). Rethinking the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09300-1.
Cichopek, Anna (2014). Beyond Violence: Jewish Survivors in Poland and Slovakia, 1944–48. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-03666-6.
Deák, István (2015) [2013]. Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution during World War II. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8133-4790-5.
Fatran, Gila (2007). Boj o prežitie [The Struggle for Survival] (in Slovak). Bratislava: SNM - Múzeum Židovskej Kultúry. ISBN 978-80-8060-206-2.
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Friling, Tuvia (2005). Arrows in the Dark: David Ben-Gurion, the Yishuv Leadership, and Rescue Attempts During the Holocaust. 1. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-17550-4.
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Kamenec, Ivan (2007) [1991]. On the Trail of Tragedy: The Holocaust in Slovakia. Translated by Styan, Martin. Bratislava: Hajko & Hajková. ISBN 978-80-88700-68-5.
Kornberg, Jacques (2015). The Pope's Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1-4426-2258-6.
Kubátová, Hana; Láníček, Jan (2018). The Jew in Czech and Slovak Imagination, 1938–89: Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Zionism. Leiden, Boston: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-36244-4.
Láníček, Jan (2013). Czechs, Slovaks and the Jews, 1938–48: Beyond Idealisation and Condemnation. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-31747-6.
Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280436-5.
Lorman, Thomas (2019). The Making of the Slovak People's Party: Religion, Nationalism and the Culture War in Early 20th-Century Europe. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-350-10938-4.
Sniegon, Tomas (2014). Vanished History: The Holocaust in Czech and Slovak Historical Culture. New York: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-78238-294-2.
Silberklang, David (2013). Gates of Tears: the Holocaust in the Lublin District. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. ISBN 978-965-308-464-3.
Sokolovič, Peter (2013). Hlinkova Garda 1938 – 1945 [Hlinka Guard 1938 – 1945] (PDF) (in Slovak). Bratislava: National Memory Institute. ISBN 978-80-89335-10-7.
Ward, James Mace (2013). Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-6812-4.

Book chapters

Book reviews

  • Cichopek-Gajraj, Anna (2018). "Nepokradeš! Nálady a postoje slovenské společnosti k židovské otázce, 1938–1945 [Thou shall not steal! Moods and attitudes of Slovak society toward the Jewish question]". East European Jewish Affairs. 48 (2): 253–255. doi:10.1080/13501674.2018.1505360.
  • Johnson, Owen V. (2005). "Židovská komunita na Slovensku medzi ceskoslovenskou parlamentnou demokraciou a slovenským štátom v stredoeurópskom kontexte, Eduard Nižnanský (Prešov, Slovakia: Universum, 1999), 292 pp., 200 crowns (Slovak)". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 19 (2): 314–317. doi:10.1093/hgs/dci033.

Theses

Journal articles

Büchler, Yehoshua (1991). "The deportation of Slovakian Jews to the Lublin District of Poland in 1942". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 6 (2): 151–166. doi:10.1093/hgs/6.2.151. ISSN 8756-6583.
Büchler, Yehoshua (1996). "First in the Vale of Affliction: Slovakian Jewish Women in Auschwitz, 1942". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 10 (3): 299–325. doi:10.1093/hgs/10.3.299. ISSN 8756-6583.
Bútorová, Zora; Bútora, Martin (1992). "Wariness Towards Jews as an Expression of Post-Communist Panic: The Case of Slovakia". Czechoslovak Sociological Review. 28: 92–106. ISSN 1804-9478. JSTOR 41133197.
Cichopek-Gajraj, Anna (2014). "Limits to "Jewish power": how Slovak Jewish leaders negotiated restitution of property after the Second World War". East European Jewish Affairs. 44 (1): 51–69. doi:10.1080/13501674.2014.904585.
Fatran, Gila (1994). Translated by Greenwood, Naftali. "The "Working Group"". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 8 (2): 164–201. doi:10.1093/hgs/8.2.164. ISSN 8756-6583.
Fatran, Gila (1996). "Die Deportation der Juden aus der Slowakei 1944–1945" [The deportation of the Jews from Slovakia 1944–45]. Bohemia: Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kultur der Böhmischen Länder (in German). 37 (37): 98–119. ISSN 0523-8587.
Fedorčák, Peter (2015). "Proces s Vojtechom Tukom v roku 1946" [The trial of Vojtech Tuka in 1946]. Človek a Spoločnosť (in Slovak). 18 (4): 41–52. ISSN 1335-3608.
Frankl, Michal (2019). "Země nikoho 1938. Deportace za hranice občanství" [No Man’s Land in 1938. Deportation beyond the Bounds of Citizenship]. Forum Historiae (in Slovak). 13 (1): 92–115. doi:10.31577/forhist.2019.13.1.7.
Hallon, Ľudovít (2007). "Arizácia na Slovensku 1939–1945" [Aryanization in Slovakia 1939–1945] (PDF). Acta Oeconomica Pragensia (in Czech). 15 (7): 148–160. doi:10.18267/j.aop.187. ISSN 1804-2112.
Heitlinger, Alena (2004). "Growing up Jewish in Communist Czechoslovakia". The Jewish Journal of Sociology. 46 (1–2): 5–34.
Kamenec, Ivan (2011). "Fenomén korupcie v procese tzv. riešenia "židovskej otázky" na Slovensku v rokoch 1938–1945" [The phenomenon of corruption in the so-called solutions to the "Jewish questions" in Slovakia between 1938 and 1945]. Forum Historiae (in Slovak). 5 (2): 96–112. ISSN 1337-6861.
Kubátová, Hana; Láníček, Jan (2017). "Jews and Gentiles in Central and Eastern Europe during the Holocaust in history and memory". Holocaust Studies. 23 (1–2): 1–16. doi:10.1080/17504902.2016.1209838.
Legge, Jerome S. (2018). "Collaboration, Intelligence, and the Holocaust: Ferdinand Ďurčanský, Slovak Nationalism, and the Gehlen Organization". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 32 (2): 224–248. doi:10.1093/hgs/dcy029. ISSN 8756-6583.
Lônčíková, Michala (2017). "Was the antisemitic propaganda a catalyst for tensions in the Slovak-Jewish relations?". Holocaust Studies. 23 (1–2): 76–98. doi:10.1080/17504902.2016.1209839.
Nižňanský, Eduard (2011). "The discussions of Nazi Germany on the deportation of Jews in 1942 – the examples of Slovakia, Rumania and Hungary" (PDF). Historický časopis. 59 (Supplement): 111–136. ISSN 0018-2575.
Nižňanský, Eduard (2014). "On Relations between the Slovak Majority and Jewish Minority During World War II". Yad Vashem Studies. 42 (2): 47–90. ISSN 0084-3296.
Paulovičová, Nina (2018). "Holocaust Memory and Antisemitism in Slovakia: The Postwar Era to the Present". Antisemitism Studies. Indiana University Press. 2 (1): 4–34. doi:10.2979/antistud.2.1.02.
Šindelářová, Lenka (2013). "Einsatzgruppe H na povstaleckém Slovensku (1944–1945) a poválečné trestní stíhání" [Einsatzgruppe H in Uprising-era Slovakia (1944–1945) and Postwar Prosecution] (PDF). Soudobé dějiny (in Czech). XX (4): 582–603. ISSN 1210-7050.
Ward, James Mace (2002). ""People Who Deserve It": Jozef Tiso and the Presidential Exemption". Nationalities Papers. 30 (4): 571–601. doi:10.1080/00905992.2002.10540508. ISSN 1465-3923.
Ward, James Mace (2015). "The 1938 First Vienna Award and the Holocaust in Slovakia". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 29 (1): 76–108. doi:10.1093/hgs/dcv004. ISSN 8756-6583.

Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos

  • Rajcan, Vanda; Vadkerty, Madeline; Hlavinka, Ján (2018). "Slovakia". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 842–852. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Rajcan, Vanda (2018). "Bratislava/Patrónka". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 854–855. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Hlavinka, Ján (2018). "Marianka". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. p. 871. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Nižňanský, Eduard; Rajcan, Vanda; Hlavinka, Ján (2018). "Nováky". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Translated by Kramarikova, Marianna. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 874–877. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Rajcan, Vanda (2018). "Poprad". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 878–880. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Nižňanský, Eduard; Rajcan, Vanda; Hlavinka, Ján (2018). "Sereď". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Translated by Kramarikova, Marianna. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 881–883. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Nižňanský, Eduard; Rajcan, Vanda (2018). "Vyhne". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Translated by Kramarikova, Marianna. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 887–888. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.
  • Rajcan, Vanda (2018). "Žilina". In Megargee, Geoffrey P.; White, Joseph R.; Hecker, Mel (eds.). Camps and Ghettos under European Regimes Aligned with Nazi Germany. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 3. Bloomington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 889–890. ISBN 978-0-253-02373-5.

Web

Further reading

External links

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