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|Slovak National Uprising|
|Part of the Eastern Front of World War II|
Convoy of Slovak insurgent army vehicles near Kelemeš (today part of Prešov)
|Commanders and leaders|
|40,000, later increased to 83,000||18,000 initially, later increased to 78,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|4200 killed, 5,000 wounded, 300 captives||12,000 KIA and murdered in reprisals|
Part of a series on the
|History of Slovakia|
The Slovak National Uprising (Slovak : Slovenské národné povstanie, abbreviated SNP) was an armed insurrection organized by the Slovak resistance movement during World War II. This resistance movement was represented mainly by the members of the Democratic Party, but also by social democrats and Communists, albeit on a smaller scale. It was launched on 29 August 1944 from Banská Bystrica in an attempt to resist German troops that had occupied Slovak territory and to overthrow the collaborationist government of Jozef Tiso. Although the resistance was largely defeated by German forces, guerrilla operations continued until the Soviet Army, Czechoslovak Army and Romanian Army liberated Fascist Slovakia in 1945.
In the post-war period, many political entities, mainly the Communists, attempted to "hijack" the uprising to their credit. The Communist regime in Czechoslovakia presented the Uprising as an event initiated and governed by Communist forces.Slovak ultranationalists, on the other hand, claim that the uprising was a plot against the Slovak nation, as one of its main objectives was to oust the regime of the puppet Slovak state and reestablish Czechoslovakia, in which Slovaks were dominated by Czechs. In fact, many factions fought in the uprising, the largest of which were units of the Slovak Army, Democratic resistance, Communist partisans, and international forces. Given this factionalization, the Uprising did not have unambiguous popular support. Yet the participants and supporters of the Uprising represented every religion, class, age, and anti-Nazi political faction of the Slovak nation.
Edvard Beneš, leader of the Czechoslovak government in exile in London, initiated preparations for a possible revolt in 1943 when he contacted dissident elements of the Slovak Army. In December 1943, various groups that would be involved in the uprising—the government in exile, Czechoslovak democrats and Communists, and the Slovak army—formed the underground Illegal Slovak National Council , and signed the so-called "Christmas Treaty", a joint declaration to recognize Beneš' authority and to recreate Czechoslovakia after the war. The council was responsible for creating the preparatory phase of the uprising.
In March 1944, Slovak army Lieutenant Colonel Ján Golian took charge of the preparations. Conspirators stockpiled money, ammunition and other supplies in military bases in central and eastern Slovakia. The rebelling forces called themselves Czechoslovak Forces of the Interior and the First Czechoslovak Army. Approximately 3,200 Slovak soldiers deserted and joined partisan groups or the Soviet Army. In April 1944, Slovak Jews Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escaped from Auschwitz and published a detailed report about the operation of the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
In summer 1944, the partisans intensified their war against German occupation forces, mainly in the mountains of north-central Slovakia. In July, Soviet troops in Poland began to advance towards Slovakia. By August 1944, Soviet troops were at Krosno, Poland, within 40 kilometres (25 mi) of the northeastern Slovak border.
Two heavily armed divisions of the Slovak Army, together with the entire eastern Slovak Air Force, were deliberately relocated to Prešov in north-eastern Slovakia in the summer of 1944 to execute one of two planned options to begin the uprising. The two options were:
Colonel Viliam Talskýwas the chief of staff of the two divisions. He had agreed in advance with the insurrection's army leadership and the uprising planning committee of the Slovak National Council to execute either of these two plans, depending on the circumstances. On 23 August 1944, Romania, initially Slovakia's ally, changed sides in favor of the Allies. On 28 August 1944 in Martin, a group of Communist partisans under Soviet direction killed 24 German soldiers returning from Romania. The next day, German troops began to occupy Slovakia to put down the rebellion. German arrangements for the occupation were completed a few weeks earlier.
At 19:00 hours on 29 August 1944, Slovak Defence Minister General Ferdinand Čatloš announced on state radio that Germany had occupied Slovakia. At 20:00, Golian sent the coded message to all units to begin the uprising. But instead of adhering to the agreed plan, on 30 August Colonel Talský and the entire eastern Slovak Air Force flew to a prearranged landing zone in Poland to join the Soviet Army, and abandoned the two divisions at Prešov. The two divisions, left in chaos and without leadership, were quickly disarmed on the afternoon of 30 August without a single shot. Consequently, the uprising commenced prematurely and lost a crucial component of their plan, as well as the two most heavily armed divisions.
Accounts of the exact numbers of combatants vary. At first, the rebel Slovak partisan forces consisted of an estimated 18,000 soldiers. The total increased to 47,000 after mobilization on 9 September 1944, and later to 60,000, plus 18,000 partisans from over 30 countries. The Slovak Insurgent Air Force had a small number of mostly obsolete planes.
In addition to Slovak forces (First Czechoslovak Army), the combatants included various other groups: escaped French prisoners of war, Soviet partisans, and Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operatives. The Slovak side had to use mostly biplanes and improvised armored trains to fight against the better equipped German weapons. In addition to Soviet aid, United States B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, escorted by North American P-51B Mustang's landed at Tri Duby airfield on 7 October 1944 and brought supplies and three OSS teams, headed by a naval officer, Lieutenant James Holt Green. They also took out 18 Allied pilots shot down over Slovakia and five French partisans.
After the uprising started, Czechoslovak officials in exile discussed the possibility of bringing in Czechoslovak units deployed on the Eastern Front with the Soviet Army. Two such units were brought in. On 15–17 September 1944, the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Regimentlanded at Zolná airfield near Zvolen with 21 Lavochkin La-5 fighters. Later the 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Brigade was transferred from the Carpathians, arriving 25 September to 15 October.
Rebels began the uprising on 29 August at 8:00 p.m. under the command of Ján Golian. They entered Banská Bystrica in the morning of 30 August and made it their headquarters. German troops disarmed the Eastern Slovak Army on 31 August. Many of the soldiers were sent to camps in Germany while others escaped and joined the Soviet-controlled partisans or returned home. On 5 September Ján Golian became the commander of all the rebel forces in Slovakia and was given the rank of General. Slovak forces in central Slovakia mobilized 47,000 men. His first analysis of the situation predicted that insurgents could resist German attacks for about two weeks.
Guards at the three main labor camps, Sereď, Nováky, and Vyhne, fled at the beginning of the uprising and most Jewish prisoners left.About 1,600 to 2,000 Jews fought as partisans, ten percent of the total insurgent force. Fifteen percent of Jewish partisans were killed. Many Jewish partisans hid their religious affiliation due to antisemitism in the partisan movement.
By 10 September the rebels had gained control of large areas of central and eastern Slovakia, including two airfields, which were used by the Soviet Air Force to fly in equipment.
The pro-German government of Tiso remained in power in Bratislava. Germany moved 40,000 SS soldiers under Gottlob Berger to suppress the uprising, which detained and disarmed two Slovak divisions and 20,000 soldiers that had been supposed to secure the mountain passes to help the Red Army. Beneš had met with Stalin and Molotov in Moscow in December 1943 to secure Soviet support for the uprising, but Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and the Soviet military command Stavka failed to deliver the needed support on time to the insurgent army and even blocked Western offers of military aid, as they had done only a few weeks earlier during the Warsaw uprising. Meanwhile, General Konev and the Soviet partisan headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine, continued to undermine the Slovak insurgent army by ordering partisan groups operating in forward positions in Slovakia to conduct operations independently of the Slovak insurgent army and avoid coordination. The Soviet-led partisans even demanded and took desperately needed weapons and munitions that had been stored for the Slovak uprising. The vast majority of Soviet airdrops of weapons over insurgent-held territory in Eastern and Northern Slovakia were quickly confiscated by Soviet partisans and little ended up in the hands of the much stronger and better trained Slovak insurrectional army.[ citation needed ]
On 8 September, the Red Army began an offensive on the Dukla Pass on the Slovak-Polish border and tried to fight through the Carpathian Mountains to penetrate into Slovakia. This poorly planned and late action resulted in tremendous casualties on both sides and became bogged down for nearly two months.
Beneš, the Soviet partisans, and various Slovak factions began to argue among themselves, each seeking operational control. Despite repeated efforts, General Golian could not persuade the different sides to coordinate their efforts. General Rudolf Viest flew in and took command on 7 October, with Golian becoming his second-in-command. Viest could not control the situation when political rivalries resurfaced in the face of military failure.
The uprising also coincided with the stalling of the Soviet summer offensive, the failure of the Warsaw Uprising, and other troubles on the side of the Western allies. The Red Army and its Czechoslovak allies failed to quickly penetrate the Dukla Pass despite fierce fighting between 8 September and 28 October; they suffered 85,000 casualties (21,000 dead). The Czechoslovak government in exile failed to convince Western allies to ignore Stalin's obstructionism and send more supplies to the area.
On 17 September two B-17 Flying Fortresses flew in the OSS mission of Lieutenant James Holt-Green. The SOE team of Major John Sehmer followed the next day on its way to Hungary. Their reports confirmed the suspicions of Western Allies that the situation of the uprising was worsening.
On 19 September, German command replaced SS-Obergruppenführer Berger, who had been in charge of the troops fighting the Uprising, with General Höfle. By that time Germans had 48,000 soldiers; they consisted of eight German divisions, including four from the Waffen-SS and one pro-Nazi Slovak formation.
On 1 October the rebel army was renamed the First Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia, in order to symbolize the beginning of the Czech-Slovak reunification that would be recognized by the Allied forces.
A major German counteroffensive began on 17–18 October when 35,000 German troops entered the country from Hungary, which had been under German military occupation since 19 March 1944. Stalin demanded that his advancing Second Ukrainian Front led by General Malinovsky be immediately diverted from Eastern Slovakia to Budapest. The western advance of Soviet forces came to a sudden halt in late October 1944, when Stalin's interests focused on Hungary, Austria and Poland rather than Slovakia or the Czech lands. By the end of October, Axis forces (six German divisions and one pro-Nazi Slovak unit) had taken back most of the territory from the insurgents and encircled the fighting groups. Battles cost at least 10,000 casualties on both sides.
Insurgents had to evacuate Banská Bystrica on 27 October just prior to the German takeover. SOE and OSS agents retreated to the mountains alongside the thousands of others fleeing the German advance. The rebels prepared to change their strategy to that of guerrilla warfare. On 28 October, Viest sent London a message that said the organized resistance had ended. On 30 October, General Höfle and President Tiso celebrated in Banská Bystrica and awarded medals to German soldiers for their part in the suppression of the uprising.
The main OSS team, along with two British officers and a soldier, a Czech officer, two American civilians and war correspondent Joseph Morton were cornered near the village of Polomka by Christmas 1944, under heavy winter conditions, and captured on 26 December by a 300-man strong German SS anti-partisan unit.All of them were taken to Mauthausen concentration camp, where the agents and soldiers were executed in January 1945. Morton's life was not spared, and he was also shot to death on 24 January 1945.
Nonetheless, partisans and the remains of the regular forces continued their efforts in the mountains. In retaliation, Einsatzgruppe H and the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions executed many Slovaks suspected of aiding the rebels as well as Jews who had avoided deportation until then, and destroyed 93 villages on suspicion of collaboration. Several villages were burned to the ground and all their inhabitants were murdered, as in Ostrý Grúň and Kľak (21 January 1945) or Kalište (18 March 1945). A later estimate of the death toll was 5,304 and authorities discovered 211 mass graves that resulted from those atrocities. The largest executions occurred in Kremnička (747 killed, mostly Jews and Roma) and Nemecká (900 killed).
On 3 November, the Germans captured Golian and Viest in Pohronský Bukovec; they later interrogated and executed them.
SOE and OSS teams eventually united and sent a message in which they requested immediate assistance. Germans surrounded both groups on 25 December and captured them. Some of the men were summarily executed. Germans took the rest to Mauthausen concentration camp where they were tortured and executed.
The German victory only postponed the eventual downfall of the pro-Nazi regime. Six months later, the Red Army had overrun Axis troops in Czechoslovakia. By December 1944 Romanian and Soviet troops had driven German troops out of southern Slovakia in the Battle of Budapest. On 19 January 1945, the Red Army took Bardejov, Svidník, Prešov and Košice in Eastern Slovakia. On 3–5 March they had taken over northwest Slovakia. On 25 March they entered Banská Bystrica and on 4 April marched into Bratislava.
The main military objectives were not achieved due to the bad timing of the uprising and lack of cooperation by Soviet partisans. This undermined the plans of the insurrectional Slovak army. The guerrilla struggle, however, tied up significant German forces that could otherwise have reinforced the Wehrmacht on the eastern front against the advancing 1st Ukrainian Front to the north and south of Slovakia. Nevertheless, much of Slovakia was left devastated by the Uprising and the German counter-offensive and occupation.
29 August is a national holiday in Slovakia. Starting in 1947 various Commemorative coins of Czechoslovakia were minted in remembrance of the uprising.
The Hlinka Guard was the militia maintained by the Slovak People's Party in the period from 1938 to 1945; it was named after Andrej Hlinka.
Ján Golian was a Slovak Brigade General who became famous as one of the main organizers and the commander of the insurrectionist 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia during the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis.
Haviva Reik (1914–1944) was one of 32 or 33 parachutists sent by the Jewish Agency and Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) on military missions in Nazi-occupied Europe. Reik went to Slovakia in fall 1944 and worked with local Jewish people to resist the German occupation there. She established a camp for Russian prisoners of war who had escaped, and helped organize a Jewish resistance unit. The Germans organized forces to put down the Jewish resistance, and Reik and the other parachutists escaped with about 40 local Jews into the mountains. In November 1944, however, Reik and the other parachutists were captured, killed, and buried in a mass grave.
The history of the Jews in Slovakia goes back to the 11th century, when the first Jews settled in the area.
Rudolf Viest was a Slovak military leader, member of the Czechoslovak government in exile, member of the Slovak National Council and the commander of the 1st Czechoslovak army during the Slovak National Uprising. He was the Slovak with the highest military function and the only Slovak general during the interwar period in the first Czechoslovak Republic.
The Topoľčany pogrom was an antisemitic riot in Topoľčany, Slovakia, on 24 September 1945 and the best-known incident of postwar violence against Jews in Slovakia. The underlying cause was resurgent antisemitism directed at Jewish Holocaust survivors who demanded the return of property that had been stolen during the Holocaust. Rumors spread that a local Catholic school would be nationalized and the nuns who taught there replaced by Jewish teachers.
Slovak partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Slovak resistance movement, including against Nazi Germany and collaborationism during World War II.
During World War II, Slovakia was a client state of Nazi Germany and a member of the Axis powers. It participated in the war against the Soviet Union and deported most of its Jewish population.
Joseph Morton was an American war correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) in the European Theater during World War II. On December 26, 1944, a Nazi counter-partisan unit named "Edelweiss" stormed a log cabin high on Homolka Mountain in today's Slovakia which housed 15 Allied intelligence officers, a Slovak officer, a Slovak-American interpreter, two Slovak civilian resistance fighters, and Morton himself, covering an OSS operation in the country for a story. Although the Allied officers were duly uniformed and Morton had a war correspondent ID in order to be treated as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Convention (1929), the SS headquarters, in compliance with Commando Order, which stated that all Allied commandos should be killed immediately without trial, even those in proper uniforms, ordered the summary execution of Allied officers and others caught in the act. On January 24, 1945, Joseph Morton, along with 13 Allied officers, was executed at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. He was the only Allied correspondent to be executed by the Axis during World War II.
The Holocaust in Slovakia was the systematic dispossession, deportation, and murder of Jews in the Slovak State, a client state of Nazi Germany, during World War II. Out of 89,000 Jews in the country in 1940, around 69,000 were murdered in the Holocaust.
The Ústredňa Židov was the Judenrat in Bratislava that was imposed on the Jewish community of the Axis-aligned state of Slovakia to implement Nazi orders during the Holocaust. It was formed on the advice of SS (Schutzstaffel) official Dieter Wisliceny; the first leader, Heinrich Schwartz, was removed after refusing to cooperate with Nazi demands and replaced by the ineffectual Arpad Sebestyen. The collaborationist Department of Special Affairs run by Karol Hochberg aided the authorities in confiscating Jewish property and collecting information that was used to arrest and deport Jews. Nevertheless, most of the ÚŽ members focused on providing opportunities for emigration and improving the social welfare of Jews remaining in Slovakia, although they were hampered by the dwindling resources of the community. In addition, the ÚŽ attempted to resist deportation by bribing Slovak officials, retraining Jews who had been expelled from their previous profession, and improving and expanding labor camps for Jews in Slovakia. The underground resistance organization that ran under its auspices, the Working Group, took over the ÚŽ leadership in December 1943. Since its formation in early 1942, the Working Group had used the ÚŽ as cover for its illegal rescue activities. After the German invasion of Slovakia in August 1944, the ÚŽ was disbanded and many of its members were arrested and deported to concentration camps.
The Kremnička and Nemecká massacres were a series of massacres committed between 5 November 1944 and 19 February 1945 in Kremnička and Nemecká, Slovakia by the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions and Einsatzkommando 14 following the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising. During the uprising, many Jews fled to Banská Bystrica, a partisan stronghold; when the town fell, Jews, actual or suspected Slovak partisans, and Romani people captured during roundups were temporarily held in the town's jail. The victims were then trucked to the murder sites at Kremnička and Nemecká, where they were shot. The majority of the 747 people shot at Kremnička were Jewish. Exact figures are not known for the Nemecká massacres, because the bodies were burned, but historians estimate a death toll of around 900, of whom most of the known victims were Jewish or Romani.
Einsatzgruppe H was one of the Einsatzgruppen, the paramilitary death squads of Nazi Germany. A special task force of more than 700 soldiers, it was created at the end of August 1944 to deport or murder the remaining Jews in Slovakia following the German suppression of the Slovak National Uprising. During its seven-month existence, Einsatzgruppe H collaborated closely with the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions and arrested 18,937 people, of whom at least 2,257 were murdered; thousands of others were deported to Nazi concentration camps. The victims included Jews, Romani people, actual or suspected Slovak partisans, and real or perceived political opponents. One of its component units, Einsatzkommando 14, committed the two largest massacres in the history of Slovakia, at Kremnička and Nemecká.
The Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions or Flying Squads of the Hlinka Guard were Slovak paramilitary formations set up to counter the August 1944 Slovak National Uprising. They are best known for the role they played in murdering Jews, Romani people, and actual or suspected Slovak partisans in conjunction with Einsatzgruppe H, especially for their participation in the Kremnička massacre.
In August 1942, Jozef Tiso, president of the Slovak State and a Catholic priest, gave a speech in Holič, Slovakia, in which he defended the deportation of Jews from Slovakia. Referring to Jews as "parasites" and "the eternal enemy", Tiso claimed that their deportation was both economically necessary and congruent with Christian moral principles. The speech has been recognized as a key part of Tiso's moral legacy, emblematic of his complicity in the Holocaust.
Presidential exemptions were granted by President of the Slovak State Jozef Tiso to individual Jews, exempting them from systematic persecution through anti-Jewish legislation introduced by Tiso's Jewish Code,, during the Holocaust. The exemptions were exchanged for arbitrary monetary fees. From an estimated 20,000 requests, 600 documented exemptions covering 1,000 people were granted, but only after 1942, when deportations to Auschwitz death camp had already stopped. Following the German invasion of 1944, when deportations resumed, all exemptions were nullified.
Anton Vašek (1905–1946) was the head of Department 14 in the Slovak State's Central Economic Office. He is known for accepting bribes in exchange for reducing deportation of Jews from Slovakia.
From 4 to 7 November 1938, thousands of Jews were deported from Slovakia to the no-man's land on the Slovak−Hungarian border. Following Hungarian territorial gains in the First Vienna Award on 2 November, Slovak Jews were accused of favoring Hungary in the dispute. With the help of Adolf Eichmann, Slovak People's Party leaders planned the deportation, which was carried out by local police and the Hlinka Guard. Conflicting orders were issued to target either Jews who were poor or those who lacked Slovak citizenship, resulting in chaos.
Eduard Nižňanský is a Slovak historian who specializes in the study of the Slovak State and the Holocaust in Slovakia. Since 2002, he works for the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University in Bratislava.
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