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1939-1945 - Slovak Republic - World War II

The relatively peaceful conduct of the first decade of Czechoslovakia had severe shocks in the second decade. The international security of Czechoslovakia was built on the postwar international treaties and relied on the guarantee of Great Britain and France. Germany and Russia, however, were increasingly starting to enter the international scene. The greatest threat to Czechoslovakia was the accession of Hitler to power and his increasing aggression. He did not dissemble that he wants to liquidate the Czechoslovakia. With the assistance of the political leaders of the German minority, conducted by Conrad Heinlein, they continuously increased the pressure against Czechoslovakia.

The plan of breaking up the Czechoslovakia had a name: the Green case - Fall Grn. Hitler's pretext for action against Czechoslovakia was the protection of the German population. On 15th of September in 1938 Hitler met with British Prime Minister Chamberlain, who said at the meeting that he has no fundamental objection to the resignation of Czech border to Germany. German requirements were solved on conference in Munich, where on 29th of September in 1938 representatives of Germany, Italy, Great Britain and France - Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier were meeting.

Here, without the participation of Czechoslovakia, they decided that the Czechoslovak Republic has to give border regions of Bohemia and Moravia to Germany. The agreement of states from Munich, however, intervened also Slovakia - Vienna Arbitration on 2nd of November in 1938 cut off the southern parts of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia and annexed them to Hungary.

On March 14, 1939, Slovakia declared its independence, causing itself the Slovak Republic. Monsignor Tiso was elected president of this new republic. A clerical nationalist, Tiso opposed the Nazification of Slovak society and hoped instead to establish Slovakia as a nationalist, Christian, corporative state. His plan conflicted with that of Slovak radicals who were organized into the paramilitary Hlinka Guards. The latter cooperated closely with the Nazi-oriented German minority led by Franz Karmasin. Radicals dominated the Slovak government. Vojtech Tuka, recently released from prison, became prime minister; his associate, Ferdinand Durcansky, was named foreign minister. Alexander Mach, head of the Hlinka Guards, was propaganda minister. German "advisory missions" were appointed to all Slovak ministries, and German troops were stationed in Slovakia beginning March 15, 1939.

The conflict between Tiso and the radicals resulted in the Salzburg Compromise, concluded between Slovakia and the Reich in July 1940. The compromise called for dual command by the Slovak Populist Party and the Hlinka Guards. The Reich appointed storm trooper leader Manfred von Killinger as the German representative in Slovakia. While Tiso successfully restructured the Slovak Populist Party in harmony with Christian corporative principles, Tuka and Mach radicalized Slovak policy toward the Jews (130,000 in the 1930 census). In September 1941, the Slovak government enacted a "Jewish code," providing a legal foundation for property expropriation, internment, and deportation. In 1942 the Slovak government reached an agreement with Germany on the deportation of Jews. The same year, when most of the deportations occurred, approximately 68,000 Slovak Jews were sent out of Slovakia to German-run concentration camps. Many Jews escaped deportation under a provision that allowed Tiso to exempt Jews whose services were considered an economic necessity.

Tiso's power was strengthened in October 1942, when the Slovak Diet proclaimed him leader of the state and Slovak Populist Party, giving him rights of intervention in all affairs of state. The HG was effectively subordinated to party control. The new German representative, Hans Elard Ludin, concentrated his energies on war production. German banks acquired a controlling interest in all Slovak industries. With the aid of German investments and technical advice, Slovakia experienced a considerable economic boom, especially in the armaments industry, which had been controlled by the German government since December 1939. To some extent, Slovakia served as a showcase for Hitler's new order.

The population was not satisfied with the government. Dissatisfaction was gradually growing to revolt. The government with the help of an extensive organized police apparatus monitored the suspects. At that time, the revolt was particularly pronounced in foreign countries. Many Slovaks came into active combat on the side of anti-Hitler bloc. Edvard Benes, who immigrated after Munich to London, tried to organize foreign resistance, as at the time of World War I. At the same time he wooed for recognition of this government by the States of anti Hitler bloc.

In the aftermath of Munich, Slovak politicians from the democratic parties (Republican Party of Farmers and Peasants, Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, and Czechoslovak National Socialist Party) organized a resistance movement. Individual underground cells sprang up in towns and villages throughout Slovakia. A campaign of "whispering" propaganda was initiated to alert the acquiescent Slovak population to the true nature of the Tiso regime. The goal of the democratic resistance was the restoration of the Czechoslovak Republic, but with greater participation for Slovakia. In the spring of 1939, the "Zeta" headquarters was established in Bratislava to coordinate with the Czech resistance and to transmit intelligence information to the liberation movement abroad. Party Communists remaining in Slovakia formed the underground Communist of Slovakia (Komunisticka strana Slovenska--KSS) and until 1943 favored the creation of an independent "Soviet Slovakia."

The shortage of qualified personnel enabled resistance members to infiltrate all levels of the Tiso administration, where they promoted economic sabotage. Mutiny within the Slovak army (marshaled by the Axis powers for combat against Poland and, later, the Soviet Union) was encouraged and became commonplace. At Kremnica, on September 15, 1939, approximately 3,500 Slovak soldiers abandoned their transport train and marched into the city. Members of the underground Slovak Revolutionary Youth set fire to machinery in factories, emptied the fuel tanks of locomotives, and exploded munitions in warehouses. Slovak youth turned increasingly against the Tiso regime. After Winston Churchill became the British prime minister he signed the official recognition of the Benes foreign government, which in the summer of 1941 was confirmed by the Soviet Union. In his Christmas broadcast of 1942, Benes called for resistance groups in Slovakia to increase their activity in preparation for a seizure of power. The groups worked to unify their efforts. The following November, negotiations between democratic and communist resistance leaders culminated in the signing of the Christmas Agreement of 1943. The agreement called for the creation of the Slovak National Council to represent the political will of the Slovak nation. The Slovak National Council would act in concert with the Czechoslovak government and liberation movement abroad. The postwar Czechoslovak state would be democratic and organized on the basis of national equality. The Christmas Agreement provided also for a close association with the Soviet Union in foreign policy and military affairs. Benes endorsed the agreement on March 27, 1944.

The Allied powers agreed that Slovakia would be liberated by Soviet armies. In March 1944, with Benes's approval, the Slovak National Council authorized Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Golian to prepare for a national coup to be coordinated with the arrival of Soviet troops. Golian organized a secret military center at Banska Bystrica and created Slovak partisan units composed of escaped prisoners of war and army deserters. The Slovak National Uprising of August 29, however, was premature. The Soviet government, regarding the Slovak resistance as politically suspect, failed to inform the Slovaks of a change in Soviet strategy.

Despite American efforts to assist the uprising, the German Wehrmacht occupied Slovakia, and Banska Bystrica fell on October 27. Nonetheless, local partisan warfare continued up to the liberation. On 6th of October in 1944 the Red Army as well as her Czechoslovak Army Corps entered the Slovak territory. On 4th of April in 1945 German troops were displaced from Bratislava and most of the Slovak territory was reclaimed from Germans.

President Edvard Benes came to Kosice on 3rd of April. On 5th of April new government appointed by Benes, proclaimed the program known as Kosice's government program.

While direct denial of the Holocaust are not common, expressions of support for the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Slovak Jews, Roma, and others to their deaths in German concentration camps, still occurr. On 14 March 2009 approximately 250 persons gathered in front of the presidential palace in Bratislava to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the wartime fascist Slovak state in 1939 and pay respect to its president, Jozef Tiso, who was executed for treason after World War II. The participants planned to march from the palace to the presumed grave of president Tiso, but police disbanded the march after arresting a marcher for calling out "Na Straz!" (On Guard!). The law forbids use of that phrase, which was the greeting of the Hlinka Guard, an official World War II-era paramilitary organization responsible for internal security and the deportation of thousands of Slovak Jews and Roma.





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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:10 ZULU