Slovak National Uprising

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Slovak National Uprising
Part of World War II
Povstalecka kolona.jpg
Convoy of Slovak insurgent army vehicles near Kelemeš (today part of Prešov)
DateAugust 29 – October 28, 1944
Location
Result

German and collaborator victory

  • Continued partisan resistance
Belligerents

Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of First Slovak Republic 1939-1945.svg Slovak Republic

Flag of the Czech Republic.svg 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia

Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Soviet Air Force
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg US Army Air Force
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Gottlob Berger
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Hermann Höfle
Flag of First Slovak Republic 1939-1945.svg Ferdinand Čatloš
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Ján Golian  
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Rudolf Viest  
Strength
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

The Slovak National Uprising (Slovak : Slovenské národné povstanie, abbreviated SNP) or 1944 Uprising 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.

Slovak language language spoken in Slovakia

Slovak or less frequently Slovakian is a West Slavic language. It is called slovenský jazyk or slovenčina in the language itself.

Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda, to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as The Underground.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Contents

In the post-war period, many political entities, mainly the Communists, attempted to "hijack" the uprising to their credit. The Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia presented the Uprising as an event initiated and governed by Communist forces. [1] 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 and 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. [2] [3]

Czechoslovak Socialist Republic republic in Central/Eastern Europe between 1960 and 1990

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic ruled Czechoslovakia from 1948 until 23 April 1990, when the country was under communist rule. Formally known as the Fourth Czechoslovak Republic, it has been regarded as a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Czechs European nation and an ethnic group native to the Czech Republic

The Czechs or the Czech people, are a West Slavic ethnic group and a nation native to the Czech Republic in Central Europe, who share a common ancestry, culture, history, and Czech language.

Preliminaries

Jan Golian, one of the main organizers and commander of the rebel forces. Jan Golian2.jpg
Ján Golian, one of the main organizers and commander of the rebel forces.

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 uprisingthe government in exile, Czechoslovak democrats and Communists, and the Slovak armyformed the underground 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.

Edvard Beneš 20th-century Czechoslovak politician

Edvard Beneš, sometimes anglicised to Edward Benesh, was a Czech politician and statesman who was President of Czechoslovakia from 1935 to 1938 and again from 1945 to 1948. He also led the Czechoslovak government-in-exile 1939 to 1945, during World War II. As President, Beneš faced two major crises which both resulted in his resignation.

A government in exile is a political group which claims to be a country or semi-sovereign state's legitimate government, but is unable to exercise legal power and instead resides in another state or foreign country. Governments in exile usually plan to one day return to their native country and regain formal power. A government in exile differs from a rump state in the sense that a rump state controls at least part of its former territory. For example, during World War I, nearly all of Belgium was occupied by Germany, but Belgium and its allies held on to a small slice in the country's west. A government in exile, in contrast, has lost all its territory.

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.

Ján Golian Czechoslovak general

Ján Golian was a Slovak Brigadier 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.

Soviet Army name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992

The Soviet Army is the name given to the main land-based branch of the Soviet Armed Forces between February 1946 and December 1991, when it was replaced with the Russian Ground Forces, although it was not fully abolished until 25 December 1993. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the Red Army, established by decree on 15 (28) January 1918 "to protect the population, territorial integrity and civil liberties in the territory of the Soviet state." The Strategic Missile Troops, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces were part of the Soviet Army in addition to the Ground Forces.

The History of the Jews in Slovakia goes back to the 11th century, when the first Jews settled in the area.

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.

Poland republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Krosno Place in Subcarpathian, Poland

Krosno is a town and county in Subcarpathian Voivodeship, Poland with 47,140 inhabitants, as of 30 June 2014.

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:

Prešov City in Slovakia

Prešov is a city in Eastern Slovakia. It is a seat of the administrative Prešov Region and Šariš as well as the historic Szepes County of the Kingdom of Hungary. With a population of approximately 91,352, it is the third-largest city in Slovakia. It lends its name to the Eperjes-Tokaj Hill-Chain. There are many tourist attractions in Prešov such as castles, pools and the old town.

  1. Capture Dukla Pass (joining Poland and Slovakia through the Carpathian Mountains) when the Soviet (1st Ukrainian Front under Marshal Ivan Konev) arrived.
  2. As ordered by Golian, capture Dukla Pass immediately and hold the pass against any German forces until the Soviet Army could arrive.

Colonel Viliam Talský was 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, neighboring Romania 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. [4] 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.

Forces

Slovak mutineer forces in 1944 Nastupeni povstalci.jpg
Slovak mutineer forces in 1944

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 in Slovakia), 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 OSS agents, headed by a naval officer, Lieutenant James Holt Green. They also took out 15 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 Regiment landed at Zolná airfield near Zvolen with 21 Lavochkin La-5 fighters. [5] Later the 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Brigade was transferred from the Carpathians, arriving 25 September to 15 October.

Course of the uprising

Uprising begins

Situation map in first days of Slovak National Uprising Map SNP1 en.svg
Situation map in first days of Slovak National Uprising

Rebels began the uprising on August 29 at 8:00 p.m. under the command of Ján Golian. They entered Banská Bystrica in the morning of August 30 and made it their headquarters. German troops disarmed the Eastern Slovak Army on August 31. Many of the soldiers were sent to camps in Germany while others escaped and joined the Soviet-controlled partisans or returned home. On September 5 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. [6]

Guards at the three main labor camps, Sereď, Nováky, and Vyhne, fled at the beginning of the uprising and most Jewish prisoners left. [7] [8] About 1,600 [9] to 2,000 [10] Jews fought as partisans, ten percent of the total insurgent force. [11] Fifteen percent of Jewish partisans were killed. [10] Many Jewish partisans hid their religious affiliation due to antisemitism in the partisan movement. [12]

By September 10 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.

Momentum lost

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 Koniev 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 air drops 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 September 8, 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 October 7, 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 September 8 and October 28; 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 September 17 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.

Counteroffensive

On September 19, 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 October 1 the rebel army was renamed the 1st 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 October 17–18 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 October 27 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 October 28, Viest sent London a message that said the organized resistance had ended. On October 30, General Höfle and President Tiso celebrated in Banská Bystrica and awarded medals to German soldiers for their part in the suppression of the uprising.

Aftermath

Memorial of the Slovak National Uprising in Banska Bystrica Banska Bystrica.Denkmal, 2006.jpg
Memorial of the Slovak National Uprising in Banská Bystrica
Armored train Hurban (replica) preserved in Zvolen Pancierovy vlak-Zvolen.jpg
Armored train Hurban (replica) preserved in Zvolen

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 (January 21, 1945) or Kalište (March 18, 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 November 3, 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 December 25 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 January 19, 1945, the Red Army took Bardejov, Svidník, Prešov and Košice in Eastern Slovakia. On March 3–5 they had taken over northwest Slovakia. On March 25 they entered Banská Bystrica and on April 4 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.

See also

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Joseph "Joe" 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.

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Kremnička and Nemecká massacres

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.

References

  1. Plevza, V. (Editor): History of Slovak National Uprising 1944 - 5. vol. Bratislava, Nakladateľstvo Pravda, 1985, pp. 488-496 (In Slovak)
  2. Mičev, S. (Ed.), 2009, Slovak National Uprising 1944. Múzeum SNP, Banská Bystrica, p. 123 (In Slovak)
  3. Lacko, M.: Slovak National Uprising 1944. Bratislava, Slovart, 2008 (In Slovak)
  4. Slovak language article about the event in Martin
  5. Fajtl, F. První doma ("First at home"), Naše vojsko, Prague, 1980, 291 pp. (in Czech)
  6. Nosko J.: Thus insurgent army fought (Takto bojovala povstalecká armáda). Bratislava, NVK International, spol. s.r.o. 1994, p. 77 (In Slovak)
  7. Nižňanský, Rajcan & Hlavinka 2018, pp. 876, 882.
  8. Nižňanský & Rajcan 2018, pp. 888.
  9. Bauer 2002, p. 139.
  10. 1 2 Rothkirchen 2001, p. 600.
  11. Kubátová 2014, p. 516.
  12. Fatran 1996, p. 119.

Sources

Further reading