Slovak Republic (1939–1945)
The (First) Slovak Republic (Slovak: [Prvá] Slovenská republika), otherwise known as the Slovak State (Slovenský štát), was a partially-recognized client state of Nazi Germany which existed between 14 March 1939 and 4 April 1945. The Slovak part of Czechoslovakia declared independence with German support one day before the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. The Slovak Republic controlled the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia but without its current southern parts, which were ceded by Czechoslovakia to Hungary in 1938. It was the first time in history that Slovakia had been a formally independent state.
Coat of arms
Motto: Verní sebe, svorne napred!
"Faithful to Ourselves, Together Ahead!"
Anthem: Hej, Slováci
English: "Hey, Slovaks"
The Slovak Republic in 1942
|Status||Client state of Germany|
|Common languages||Slovak, Hungarian|
|Government||Clerical fascist one-party republic under a totalitarian dictatorship|
|Historical era||World War II|
|14 March 1939|
• War with Hungary
|23 March 1939|
• Constitution adopted
|21 July 1939|
• Invasion of Poland
|1 September 1939|
|22 June 1941|
• National Uprising
|29 August 1944|
• Fall of Bratislava
|4 April 1945|
|1940||38,055 km2 (14,693 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| Slovakia|
A one-party state governed by the far-right Hlinka's Slovak People's Party, the Slovak Republic is primarily known for its collaboration with Nazi Germany, which included sending troops to the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. In 1942, the country deported 58,000 Jews (two-thirds of the Slovak Jewish population) to German-occupied Poland, paying Germany 500 Reichsmarks each. After an increase in the activity of anti-Nazi Slovak partisans, Germany invaded Slovakia, triggering a major uprising. The Slovak Republic was abolished after the Soviet occupation in 1945 and its territory was reintegrated into the recreated Third Czechoslovak Republic.
The current Slovak Republic does not consider itself a successor state of the wartime Slovak Republic, instead tracing its lineage to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. However, some nationalists continue to celebrate 14 March as a day of independence.
The official name of the country was the Slovak State (Slovak: Slovenský štát) from 14 March to 21 July 1939 (until the adoption of the Constitution), and the Slovak Republic (Slovak: Slovenská republika) from 21 July 1939 to its end in April 1945. The country is often referred to historically as the First Slovak Republic (Slovak: prvá Slovenská republika) to distinguish it from the contemporary (Second) Slovak Republic, Slovakia, which is not considered its legal successor state. The name "Slovak State" was used colloquially, but the term "First Slovak Republic" was used even in encyclopedias written during post-war Communist period.
After the Munich Agreement, Slovakia gained autonomy inside Czecho-Slovakia (as the former Czechoslovakia had been renamed) and lost its southern territories to Hungary under the First Vienna Award. As the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler was preparing a mobilisation into Czech territory and creation of his Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, he had various plans for Slovakia. German officials were initially misinformed by the Hungarians that the Slovaks wanted to join Hungary. Germany decided to make Slovakia a separate puppet state under the influence of Germany, and a potential strategic base for German attacks on Poland and other regions.
On 13 March 1939, Hitler invited Monsignor Jozef Tiso (the Slovak ex-prime minister who had been deposed by Czechoslovak troops several days earlier) to Berlin and urged him to proclaim Slovakia's independence. Hitler added that, if Tiso did not consent, he would have no interest in Slovakia's fate and would leave it to the territorial claims of Hungary and Poland. During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a report claiming that Hungarian troops were approaching the Slovak borders. Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organise a meeting of the Slovak parliament ("Diet of the Slovak Land") which would approve Slovakia's independence.
On 14 March, the Slovak parliament convened and heard Tiso's report on his discussion with Hitler as well as on a possible declaration of independence. Some of the deputies were skeptical of making such a move, among other reasons due to the fact that some worried that the Slovak state would be too small and with a strong Hungarian minority. The debate was quickly brought to a head when Franz Karmasin, leader of the German minority in Slovakia, said that any delay in declaring independence would result in Slovakia being divided between Hungary and Germany. Under these circumstances, Parliament unanimously declared Slovak independence, thus creating the first Slovak state in history. Jozef Tiso was appointed the first Prime Minister of the new republic. The next day, Tiso sent a telegram (which had actually been composed the previous day in Berlin) asking the Reich to take over the protection of the newly minted state. The request was readily accepted.
War with Hungary
On 23 March 1939, Hungary, having already occupied Carpatho-Ukraine, attacked from there, and the newly established Slovak Republic was forced to cede 1,697 square kilometres (655 sq mi) of territory with about 70,000 people to Hungary before the onset of World War II.
Slovak forces during the campaign against Poland (1939)
Slovakia was the only Axis nation other than Germany to take part in the Polish Campaign. With the impending German invasion of Poland planned for September 1939, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) requested the assistance of Slovakia. Although the Slovak military was only six months old, it formed a small mobile combat group consisting of a number of infantry and artillery battalions. Two combat groups were created for the campaign in Poland for use alongside the Germans. The first group was a brigade-sized formation that consisted of six infantry battalions, two artillery battalions, and a company of combat engineers, all commanded by Antonín Pulanich. The second group was a mobile formation that consisted of two battalions of combined cavalry and motorcycle recon troops along with nine motorised artillery batteries, all commanded by Gustav Malár. The two groups reported to the headquarters of the 1st and 3rd Slovak Infantry Divisions. The two combat groups fought while pushing through the Nowy Sącz and Dukla Mountain Passes, advancing towards Dębica and Tarnów in the region of southern Poland.
Slovak forces during the campaign against the Soviet Union
The Slovak military participated in the war on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. The Slovak Expeditionary Army Group of about 45,000 entered the Soviet Union shortly after the German attack. This army lacked logistic and transportation support, so a much smaller unit, the Slovak Mobile Command (Pilfousek Brigade), was formed from units selected from this force; the rest of the Slovak army was relegated to rear-area security duty. The Slovak Mobile Command was attached to the German 17th Army (as was the Hungarian Carpathian Group also) and shortly thereafter given over to direct German command, the Slovaks lacking the command infrastructure to exercise effective operational control. This unit fought with the 17th Army through July 1941, including at the Battle of Uman.
At the beginning of August 1941, the Slovak Mobile Command was dissolved and instead two infantry divisions were formed from the Slovak Expeditionary Army Group. The Slovak 2nd Division was a security division, but the Slovak 1st Division was a front-line unit which fought in the campaigns of 1941 and 1942, reaching the Caucasus area with Army Group B. The Slovak 1st Division then shared the fate of the German southern forces, losing their heavy equipment in the Kuban bridgehead, then being badly mangled near Melitopol in southern Ukraine. In June 1944, the remnant of the division, no longer considered fit for combat due to low morale, was disarmed and the personnel assigned to construction work, a fate which had already befallen the Slovak 2nd Division earlier for the same reason.
Slovak National Uprising
In the 1944 Slovak National Uprising, many Slovak units sided with the Slovak resistance and rebelled against Tiso's collaborationist government, while others helped German forces put the uprising down.
From the beginning, the Slovak Republic was under the influence of Germany. The so-called "protection treaty" (Treaty on the protective relationship between Germany and the Slovak State), signed on 23 March 1939, partially subordinated its foreign, military, and economic policy to that of Germany. The German Wehrmacht established the so-called "protection zone" in Western Slovakia in August 1939. In July 1940 at the Salzburg Conference, the Germans forced a reshuffle of the Slovak cabinet by threatening to withdraw their protection guarantees.
The most difficult foreign policy problem of the state involved relations with Hungary, which had annexed one third of Slovakia's territory by the First Vienna Award of 2 November 1938. Slovakia tried to achieve a revision of the Vienna Award, but Germany did not allow it. There were also constant quarrels concerning Hungary's treatment of Slovaks living in Hungary.
Following Slovak participation in the Axis invasion of Poland in September 1939, border adjustments increased the Slovak Republic's geographical extent in the areas of Orava and Spiš, absorbing previously Polish-controlled territory.
2.6 million people lived within the 1939 borders of the Slovak State, and 85 percent had declared Slovak nationality on the 1938 census. Minorities included Germans (4.8 percent), Czechs (2.9 percent), Rusyns (2.6 percent), Hungarians (2.1 percent), Jews (1.1 percent), and Romani people (0.9 percent). Seventy-five percent of Slovaks were Catholics, and most of the remainder belonged to the Lutheran and Greek Catholic churches. 50% of the population were employed in agriculture. The state was divided in six counties (župy), 58 districts (okresy) and 2659 municipalities. The capital Bratislava had over 140,000 inhabitants.
The state continued the legal system of Czechoslovakia, which was modified only gradually. According to the Constitution of 1939, the "President" (Jozef Tiso) was the head of the state, the "Assembly/Diet of the Slovak Republic" elected for five years was the highest legislative body (no general elections took place, however), and the "State Council" performed the duties of a senate. The government with eight ministries was the executive body.
The Slovak Republic was a totalitarian state where the German pressure resulted in the adoption of many elements of German Nazism. Some historians characterized the Slovak regime from 1939 to 1945 as clerical fascism. The government issued a number of antisemitic laws, prohibiting the Jews from participation in public life, and later supported their deportation to concentration camps erected by Germany on Polish territory. The only political parties permitted were the dominant Hlinka's Slovak People's Party and two smaller openly fascist parties, these being the Hungarian National Party which represented the Hungarian minority and the German Party which represented the German minority.
The Slovak Republic was divided into 6 counties and 58 districts as of 1 January 1940. The extant population records are from the same time:
- Bratislava county (Bratislavská župa), 3,667 km2, with 455,728 inhabitants, and 6 districts: Bratislava, Malacky, Modra, Senica, Skalica, and Trnava.
- Nitra county (Nitrianska župa), 3,546 km2, with 335,343 inhabitants, and 5 districts: Hlohovec, Nitra, Prievidza, Topoľčany, and Zlaté Moravce.
- Trenčín county (Trenčianska župa), 5,592 km2, with 516,698 inhabitants, and 12 districts: Bánovce nad Bebravou, Čadca, Ilava, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Myjava, Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Piešťany, Považská Bystrica, Púchov, Trenčín, Veľká Bytča, and Žilina.
- Tatra county (Tatranská župa), 9,222 km2, with 463,286 inhabitants, and 13 districts: Dolný Kubín, Gelnica, Kežmarok, Levoča, Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš, Námestovo, Poprad, Ružomberok, Spišská Nová Ves, Spišská Stará Ves, Stará Ľubovňa, Trstená, and Turčiansky Svätý Martin.
- Šariš-Zemplín county (Šarišsko-zemplínska župa), 7,390 km2, with 440,372 inhabitants, and 10 districts: Bardejov, Giraltovce, Humenné, Medzilaborce, Michalovce, Prešov, Sabinov, Stropkov, Trebišov, and Vranov nad Topľou.
- Hron county (Pohronská župa), 8,587 km2, with 443,626 inhabitants, and 12 districts: Banská Bystrica, Banská Štiavnica, Brezno nad Hronom, Dobšiná, Hnúšťa, Kremnica, Krupina, Lovinobaňa, Modrý Kameň, Nová Baňa, Revúca, and Zvolen.
Soon after independence and along with the mass exile and deportation of Czechs, the Slovak Republic began a series of measures aimed against the Jews in the country. The Hlinka's Guard began to attack Jews, and the "Jewish Code" was passed in September 1941. Resembling the Nuremberg Laws, the code required Jews to wear a yellow armband, and banned them from intermarriage and from many jobs. By October 1941, 15,000 Jews were expelled from Bratislava; many were sent to labour camps.
The Slovak Republic was one of the countries to agree to deport its Jews as part of the Nazi Final Solution. Originally, the Slovak government tried to make a deal with Germany in October 1941 to deport its Jews as a substitute for providing Slovak workers to help the war effort. After the Wannsee Conference, the Germans agreed to the Slovak proposal, and a deal was reached where the Slovak Republic would pay for each Jew deported, and, in return, Germany promised that the Jews would never return to the republic. The initial terms were for "20,000 young, strong Jews", but the Slovak government quickly agreed to a German proposal to deport the entire population for "evacuation to territories in the East" meaning to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The deportations of Jews from Slovakia started on 25 March 1942, but halted on 20 October 1942 after a group of Jewish citizens, led by Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl, built a coalition of concerned officials from the Vatican and the government, and, through a mix of bribery and negotiation, was able to stop the process. By then, however, some 58,000 Jews had already been deported, mostly to Auschwitz. Slovak government officials filed complaints against Germany, when it became clear that many of the previously deported Slovak Jews had been gassed in mass executions.
Jewish deportations resumed on 30 September 1944, when the Soviet army reached the Slovak border, and the Slovak National Uprising took place. As a result of these events, Germany decided to occupy all of Slovakia and the country lost its independence. During the German occupation, another 13,500 Jews were deported and 5,000 were imprisoned. Deportations continued until 31 March 1945. In all, German and Slovak authorities deported about 70,000 Jews from Slovakia; about 65,000 of them were murdered or died in concentration camps. The overall figures are inexact, partly because many Jews did not identify themselves, but one 2006 estimate is that approximately 105,000 Slovak Jews, or 77% of their pre-war population, died during the war.
SS plans for Slovakia
Although the official policy of the Nazi regime was in favour of an independent Slovak state dependent on Germany and opposed to any annexations of Slovak territory, Heinrich Himmler's SS considered ambitious population policy options concerning the German minority of Slovakia, which numbered circa 130,000 people. In 1940, Günther Pancke, head of the SS RuSHA ("Race and Settlement Office") undertook a study trip in Slovak lands where ethnic Germans were present, and reported to Himmler that the Slovak Germans were in danger of disappearing. Pancke recommended that action should be taken to fuse the racially valuable part of the Slovaks into the German minority and remove the Romani and Jewish populations. He stated that this would be possible by "excluding" the Hungarian minority of the country, and by settling some 100,000 ethnic German families to Slovakia. The racial core of this Germanization policy was to be gained from the Hlinka Guard, which was to be further integrated into the SS in the near future.
Leaders and politicians
- Jozef Tiso (26 October 1939 – 4 April 1945)
- Jozef Tiso (14 March 1939 – 26 October 1939)
- Vojtech "Béla" Tuka (26 October 1939 – 5 September 1944)
- Štefan Tiso (5 September 1944 – 4 April 1945)
Commanders of German occupation forces
- Ogruf. Gottlob Christian Berger (29 August 1944 – 20 September 1944)
- Ogruf. Hermann Höfle (20 September 1944 – 3 April 1945)
Commanders of Soviet occupation forces
- G.A. Ivan Yefimovich Petrov (6 August 1944 – 24 March 1945)
- G.A. Andrey Ivanovich Yeryomenko (25 April 1945 – July 1945)
After the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, the Germans occupied the country (from October 1944), which thereby lost much of its independence. The German troops were gradually pushed out by the Red Army, by Romanian and by Czechoslovak troops coming from the east. The liberated territories became de facto part of Czechoslovakia again.
The First Slovak Republic ceased to exist de facto on 4 April 1945 when the Red Army captured Bratislava and occupied all of Slovakia. De jure it ceased to exist when the exiled Slovak government capitulated to General Walton Walker leading the XX Corps of the 3rd US Army on 8 May 1945 in the Austrian town of Kremsmünster. In summer 1945, the captured former president and members of former government were handed over to Czechoslovak authorities.
Several prominent Slovak politicians escaped to neutral countries. Following his captivity, the deposed president Jozef Tiso authorized the former foreign minister Ferdinand Ďurčanský as his successor. Ďurčanský, Tiso's personal secretary Karol Murín, and cousin Fraňo Tiso were appointed by ex-president Tiso as the representatives of the Slovak nation, however they failed to create a government-in-exile as no country recognized them. In the 1950s with fellow Slovak nationalist they established Slovak Action Committee (later Slovak Liberation Committee) which unsuccessfully advocated the restoration of the independent Slovak State and the renewal of war against the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the creation of the Slovak republic, the Slovak Liberation Committee proclaimed Tiso's authorization as obsolete.
Some Slovak nationalists, such as the Kotleba party, celebrate 14 March as the anniversary of Slovak independence, although 1 January (the date of the Velvet Divorce) is the official independence day. The issue of 14 March commemorations divided the Christian Democratic Movement in the early 1990s.
- Views differ on Slovakia's relation to Germany. 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". 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'." Ivan Kamenec, however, emphasizes German influence on Slovak internal and external politics and describes it as a "German satellite".
- Deák 2015, pp. 35–36.
- Hutzelmann 2016, p. 168.
- Kamenec 2011a, pp. 180–182.
- Doe, Norman (4 August 2011). "Law and Religion in Europe: A Comparative Introduction". OUP Oxford – via Google Books.
- Vladár, J. (Ed.), Encyklopédia Slovenska V. zväzok R – Š. Bratislava, Veda, 1981, pp. 330–331
- Plevza, V. (Ed.) Dejiny Slovenského národného povstania 1944 5. zväzok. Bratislava, Nakladateľstvo Pravda, 1985, pp. 484–487
- Dominik Jůn interviewing Professor Jan Rychlík (2016). "Czechs and Slovaks - more than just neighbours". Radio Prague. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Touchstone Edition) (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990)
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- Ward 2013, pp. 211–212. sfn error: no target: CITEREFWard2013 (help)
- National Archives, document reference FO 371/24856
- Piotrowski, Tadeusz (1998). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. Science Publications. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 294. ISBN 9780786403714. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
Between 1920 and 1924, some areas of Orawa and Spisz fell to Poland, others to Slovakia. With Germany's support, on the basis of the November 1 and 30, 1938 agreements between Poland and Czechoslovakia, Poland annexed 226 square kilometers (and 4,280 people) of Orawa and Spisz. The following year, on the basis of an agreement (November 21, 1939) between Germany and Slovakia, these territories, along with some previously Polish sections of Orawa and Spisz (a total of 752 square kilometers of land with 30,000 people) were transferred to Slovakia.
- Third Axis Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, by Mark Axworthy, Cornel Scafeş and Cristian Crăciunoiu, page 73
- Kamenec 2011a, p. 175.
- Rothkirchen 2001, p. 596. sfn error: no target: CITEREFRothkirchen2001 (help)
- Branik Ceslav & Carmelo Lisciotto, H.E.A.R.T (2008). "The Fate of the Slovak Jews". Holocaust Research Project.org. Sources: G. Reitlinger, Avigdor Dagan, Raul Hilberg, Israel Gutman, Yitzhak Arad, OMDA Archives. Retrieved 20 January 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Rebekah Klein-Pejšová (2006). "An overview of the history of Jews in Slovakia". Slovak Jewish Heritage. Synagoga Slovaca. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
- Longerich, P. (2008), Heinrich Himmler, p. 458, ISBN 0-19-161989-2
- Nedelsky, Nadya (10 November 2016). ""The Struggle for the Memory of the Nation": Post-Communist Slovakia and its World War II Past". Human Rights Quarterly. 38 (4): 969–992. doi:10.1353/hrq.2016.0053. ISSN 1085-794X. S2CID 151419238.
- "Kotleba: Slovak Extremist Who Made Far Right Fashionable". Balkan Insight. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
- Cohen, Shari J. (1999). Politics without a Past: The Absence of History in Postcommunist Nationalism. Duke University Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-8223-9067-1.
- Deák, István (2015) . Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution during World War II. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8133-4790-5.
- Hutzelmann, Barbara (2016). "Slovak Society and the Jews: Attitudes and Patterns of Behaviour". In Bajohr, Frank; Löw, Andrea (eds.). The Holocaust and European Societies: Social Processes and Social Dynamics. London: Springer. pp. 167–185. ISBN 978-1-137-56984-4.
- Kamenec, Ivan (2011). "The Slovak state, 1939–1945". In Teich, Mikuláš; Kováč, Dušan; Brown, Martin D. (eds.). Slovakia in History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 175–192. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511780141. ISBN 978-1-139-49494-6.
- Nedelsky, Nadya (7 January 2003). "The wartime Slovak state: a case study in the relationship between ethnic nationalism and authoritarian patterns of governance". Nations and Nationalism. 7 (2): 215–234. doi:10.1111/1469-8219.00013.
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