Slovak Republic (1939–45)

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Slovak Republic
Slovenská republika
Client state of Nazi Germany

1939–1945
Flag Coat of arms
Motto
Verní Sebe, Svorne Napred
"Faithful to Ourselves, Together Ahead"
Anthem
Nad Tatrou sa blýska
Lightning over the Tatras

Also used: Hej, Slováci
Hey, Slovaks
Capital Bratislava
Languages Slovak, Hungarian
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Clerico-fascist Single-party republic
President
 -  1939–1945 Jozef Tiso
Prime Minister
 -  1939 Jozef Tiso
 -  1939–1944 Vojtech Tuka
 -  1944–1945 Štefan Tiso
Historical era World War II
 -  Indep. declared 14 March 1939
 -  Slovak–Hun. War 23 March 1939
 -  Constitution adopted 21 July 1939
 -  Invasion of Poland 1 September 1939
 -  National Uprising 29 August 1944
 -  Fall of Bratislava 4 April 1945
Area
 -  1940 38,055 km² (14,693 sq mi)
Population
 -  1940 est. 2,653,053 
     Density 69.7 /km²  (180.6 /sq mi)
Currency Slovak koruna
Today part of  Slovakia
 Poland
Postage stamps of Slovakia, including a stamp of Czechoslovakia with an overprint reading "Slovak State 1939".
Territorial changes of Slovak Republic from 1938 to 1947 (Red indicating areas with a Hungarian majority. Changes on border with Poland are missing).

The (First) Slovak Republic (Slovak: [prvá] Slovenská republika) otherwise known as the Slovak State (Slovak: Slovenský štát) was a client state of Nazi Germany which existed between 14th March 1939 to 4th April 1945. It existed on the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia, without its current southern and eastern parts, which were then part of Hungary. The Republic bordered Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, General Government (German-occupied remnant of Poland), and Hungary.

The Slovak State was recognized by Germany and several other states including the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, Croatia, El Salvador, Estonia, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Manchukuo, Mengjiang, Romania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, and Vatican City. The first Slovak Republic's legal existence was retroactively nullified by the World War II victorious allies through the nullification of the Munich Agreement and all its consequences.

Name[edit]

The country is often called historically the First Slovak Republic (Slovak: prvá Slovenská republika) or Slovak State (Slovak: slovenský štát or Slovenský štát) to distinguish it from the contemporary (Second) Slovak Republic, Slovakia, which is not considered its legal successor state. The name "Slovak state" was the official name until the adoption of the Constitution on July 21, 1939. The name "Slovak state" was used colloquially, but the name "first Slovak republic" was used even in encyclopedias written during the communist rule.[1][2]

Creation[edit]

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 Vienna Award. As Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler was preparing an invasion of the Czech lands and creation of 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 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 of Poland. During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a (false) report saying that Hungarian troops were approaching Slovak borders. Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organize 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 a declaration of independence. Some of the deputies were sceptical of making such a move, but the debate was quickly quashed 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. 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.[3]

Slovak military[edit]

Hlinka Guard[edit]

Main article: Hlinka Guard

War with Hungary[edit]

Main article: Slovak-Hungarian War

On 23 March 1939, Hungary, having already occupied Carpatho-Ukraine, attacked from there, and the newly established Slovak Republic was forced to cede 1697 km² of territory with about 70,000 people to Hungary.

Slovak forces during the campaign against Poland (1939)[edit]

Slovakia was the only Axis nation other than Germany and the Soviet Union 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 motorized artillery batteries, all commanded by Gustav Malár. The two groups were organized around 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.

The Slovak military played a prominent role throughout the War on the Eastern Front, participating in Operation Barbarossa, Case Blue, and other key operations. 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.

International relations[edit]

Slovak Ambassador to Croatia, Karel Murgaš (in the middle) with Croatian Poglavnik Ante Pavelić and Foreign Minister Mladen Lorković

From the beginning, the Slovak Republic was under the influence of Germany. The so-called "protection treaty" (Treaty on the protective relationship between the German Empire and the Slovak State), signed on 23 March 1939, partially subordinated its foreign, military, and economic policy to that of Germany.[citation needed] The German Wehrmacht established the so-called "protection zone" in Western Slovakia in August 1939. The Slovak-Soviet Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was signed at Moscow on 6 December 1940.[4]

The most difficult foreign policy problem of the state were the relations with Hungary, which had annexed one third of Slovakia's territory by the First Vienna Award, Slovakia tried to achieve a revision of the Vienna Award, but Germany did not allow it.[citation needed] There were also constant quarrels concerning Hungary's treatment of Slovaks living in Hungary.

Characteristics[edit]

85% of the inhabitants of the Slovak Republic were Slovaks, the remaining 15% were made up of Germans, Hungarians, Jews and Romani. 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 an authoritarian 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.

On the other hand, the existence of the Slovak Republic had some noticeable positive effects for the country's economy, science, education and culture. The Slovak Academy of Sciences was founded in 1942, a number of new universities and high schools were established, and Slovak literature and culture flourished[citation needed].

Administrative divisions[edit]

Slovak Republic in 1944

The Slovak Republic was divided into 6 counties and 58 districts as of 1 January 1940. (statistics as of 1 January 1940):

The Slovak Republic and the Holocaust[edit]

Further information: History of the Jews in Slovakia

Soon after independence and along with 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 that Jews wear a yellow armband, and were banned from intermarriage and 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".

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.[5]

Two wings of the ruling party[edit]

From 1939, a conflict between two wings arose within the party. The conservative and moderate wing led by the Roman Catholic priest Msgr. Jozef Tiso, the president of Slovakia and chairman of the party, wanted to create a specific authoritarian and religious State of Estates. This wing controlled the leading posts in the country, party and the clergy.

The other wing contained more radical people, who were inspired by the German National Socialist model, were strong antisemites, wanted to remove all Czechs and to create a radically fascist state (Slovak National Socialism) based on blood and soil principles and collectivization. Their main organization was the Hlinka Guard (Hlinkova garda), which was controlled by the HSLS-SSNJ. The main representatives were the Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka and the Minister of the Interior Alexander Mach.

A majority of the population[citation needed] supported Tiso's views, because the National Socialist wing was seen as not compatible with a largely Catholic population of peasants and small businessmen. The Nazi and the clerical fascist wings were mutually kept together, however, by their common aversion to and fear of Bolshevism.

Germany initially supported Tuka, but from 1942 when deportations of Jews started and a Germany-inspired act identifying Tiso and the HSLS-SSJN with the country itself (the "Führer"-principle) was forcibly adopted, Tiso's moderate wing had the full support of Germany, whose only concern was the Jewish Question and no problems whatsoever on Germany's borders. This even enabled Tiso's wing to stop deportations of Jews after some time of compromising with the German Nazis.

SS plans for Slovakia[edit]

Although the official policy of the Nazi regime was in favour of an independent Slovak state dependent on Germany and was 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.[6] 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.[6] Pancke recommended that action should be taken to fuse the racially valuable part of the Slovaks into the German minority and remove the Gypsy and Jewish populations.[6] He stated that this would be possibly by "excluding" the Hungarian minority of the country, and by settling some 100,000 ethnic German families to Slovakia.[6] 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.[6]

Politicians and rulers[edit]

President[edit]

50 Slovak koruna silver coin on the occasion of 5 years anniversary of Slovak Republic (1939–1944) with an effigy of the Slovak president Josef Tiso.

Prime Ministers[edit]

Commanders of German occupation forces[edit]

Commanders of Soviet occupation forces[edit]

End of the Slovak Republic[edit]

After the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, the Germans occupied the country (from September 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vladár, J. (Ed.), Encyklopédia Slovenska V. zväzok R – Š. Bratislava, Veda, 1981, pp. 330–331
  2. ^ Plevza, V. (Ed.) Dejiny Slovenského národného povstania 1944 5. zväzok. Bratislava, Nakladateľstvo Pravda, 1985, pp. 484–487
  3. ^ William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Touchstone Edition) (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990)
  4. ^ National Archives, document reference FO 371/24856
  5. ^ Rebekah Klein-Pejšová (2006). "An overview of the history of Jews in Slovakia". Slovak Jewish Heritage. Synagoga Slovaca. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Longerich, P. (2008), Heinrich Himmler, p. 458, ISBN 0-19-161989-2

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°08′N 17°06′E / 48.133°N 17.100°E / 48.133; 17.100