Slovak invasion of Poland

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Slovak invasion of Poland
Part of the Invasion of Poland of World War II
Date1–16 September 1939
Result Slovak victory
Slovakia takes the disputed territories.
Flag of First Slovak Republic 1939-1945.svg Slovakia
Supported by:
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Poland
Commanders and leaders
War ensign of the First Slovak Republic.svg Ferdinand Čatloš Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Kazimierz Fabrycy
3 infantry divisions (main)
German 14th Army (support)
6 infantry divisions
Casualties and losses
37 killed
114 wounded
11 missing
2 aircraft destroyed
Unknown human losses
1 aircraft shot down
Disputed border areas with Poland. Areas marked here in red were given to Poland in 1920, green areas to Czechoslovakia. Slovakia borderPoland.png
Disputed border areas with Poland. Areas marked here in red were given to Poland in 1920, green areas to Czechoslovakia.

The Slovak invasion of Poland occurred during Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939. The recently created Slovak Republic joined the attack, and the Slovak Field Army Bernolák contributed over 50,000 soldiers in three divisions. As the main body of the Polish forces were engaged with the German armies farther north of the southern border, the Slovak invasion met only weak resistance and suffered minimal losses.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Invasion of Poland invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent

The Invasion of Poland, known in Poland as the September Campaign or the 1939 Defensive War, and in Germany as the Poland Campaign (Polenfeldzug), was an invasion of Poland by Germany that marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September following the Molotov–Tōgō agreement that terminated the Soviet and Japanese Battles of Khalkhin Gol in the east on 16 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.

Slovak Republic (1939–1945) republic in Central-Eastern Europe between 1939–1943

The (First) Slovak Republic, otherwise known as the Slovak State, was a client state of Nazi Germany which existed between 14 March 1939 and 4 April 1945. It controlled the majority of the territory of present-day Slovakia but without its current southern and eastern parts, which had been ceded to Hungary in 1938. The Republic bordered Germany, constituent parts of "Großdeutschland", the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Poland – and subsequently the General Government – along with independent Hungary.



March 14, 1939, saw the Slovak State established as a client state of Germany within the area of Slovakia. Before this, on November 2, 1938, a part of Slovakia containing a substantial Hungarian population (Slovakia having been part of the Kingdom of Hungary for centuries) was taken by the Hungarian Army as a result of the First Vienna Award of November 2, 1938. Small parts of these disputed areas with mixed Polish and Slovak inhabitants belonged to Germany and to Poland.

A client state is a state that is economically, politically, or militarily subordinate to another more powerful state in international affairs. Types of client states include: satellite state, associated state, puppet state, neo-colony, protectorate, vassal state, and tributary state.

Slovakia Republic in Central Europe

Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the west, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia's territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) and is mostly mountainous. The population is over 5.4 million and consists mostly of Slovaks. The capital and largest city is Bratislava, and the second-largest city is Košice. The official language is Slovak.

Hungarians Ethnic group

Hungarians, also known as Magyars, are a nation and ethnic group native to Hungary and historical Hungarian lands who share a common culture, history and language. Hungarians belong to the Uralic-speaking peoples. There are an estimated 14.2–14.5 million ethnic Hungarians and their descendants worldwide, of whom 9.6 million live in today's Hungary. About 2.2 million Hungarians live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the Treaty of Trianon and are now parts of Hungary's seven neighbouring countries, especially Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. Significant groups of people with Hungarian ancestry live in various other parts of the world, most of them in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina. Hungarians can be classified into several subgroups according to local linguistic and cultural characteristics; subgroups with distinct identities include the Székelys, the Csángós, the Palóc, the Matyó and the Jász people, the last being considered an Iranic ethnic group being closely related to the Ossetians.

The official political pretext for the Slovak participation in the Polish Campaign was a disagreement over a small disputed area on the Poland-Slovakia border. Poland had appropriated this area on December 1, 1938, in the aftermath of the Munich Agreement of September 1938. In addition, some Polish politicians supported Hungary in their effort to include into their state parts inhabited mostly by Hungarians.[ citation needed ]

Munich Agreement 1938 cession of German-speaking Czechoslovakia to the Nazis

The Munich Agreement or Munich Betrayal was an agreement concluded at Munich on 29 September 1938, by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy. It provided "cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory" of Czechoslovakia. Most of Europe celebrated because it prevented the war threatened by Adolf Hitler by allowing Nazi Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland, a region of western Czechoslovakia inhabited by more than 3 million people, mainly German speakers. Hitler announced it was his last territorial claim in Europe, and the choice seemed to be between war and appeasement.

During secret discussions with the Germans on July 20–21, 1939, the Slovak government agreed to participate in Germany's planned attack on Poland. The Slovaks also agreed to allow Germany to use its territory as the staging area for its troops. On August 26, the Slovak Republic mobilized its armed forces and established a new field army, codenamed "Bernolák", which comprised 51,306 soldiers. Additionally, 160,000 reservists were called up, with 115,000 entering service until September 20, 1939.

Field army military formation in many armed forces

A field army is a military formation in many armed forces, composed of two or more corps and may be subordinate to an army group. Likewise, air armies are equivalent formation within some air forces. A field army is composed of 100,000 to 150,000 troops.

The Field Army Bernolák was a field army of the Axis Slovak Republic during World War II. It was named after Anton Bernolák, the first codifier of the literary Slovak language.

Reservist military personnel in a reserve capacity (not employed on full-time active duty)

A reservist is a person who is a member of a military reserve force. They are otherwise civilians, and in peacetime have careers outside the military. Reservists usually go for training on an annual basis to refresh their skills. This person is usually a former active-duty member of the armed forces, and they remain a reservist either voluntarily, or by obligation. In some countries such as Israel, Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland, reservists are conscripted soldiers who are called up for training and service when necessary.

Order of battle

The Bernolák army group was led by the Slovak Minister of Defense Ferdinand Čatloš, and had its initial headquarters in Spišská Nová Ves, though after September 8 this was moved to Solivar near Prešov. It consisted of:

Ferdinand Čatloš slovak minister of defence of the Slovakia and general

Ferdinand Čatloš was a Slovak military officer and politician. Throughout his short career in the administration of the Slovak Republic he held the post of Minister of Defence. He was also the commanding officer of the Field Army Bernolák during the Invasion of Poland and Operation Barbarossa. At the conclusion of World War II, he was imprisoned for three years by the National Court of Bratislava and released in 1948. He spent the remainder of his life working as an ordinary clerk in Martin, Czechoslovakia.

Spišská Nová Ves Town in Slovakia

Spišská Nová Ves (pronunciation ; is a town in the Košice Region of Slovakia. The town is located southeast of the High Tatras in the Spiš region, and lies on both banks of the Hornád River. It is the biggest town of the Spišská Nová Ves District. The population is around 37,000 inhabitants.

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 89,000, 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.

Juraj Jánošík Slovak outlaw

Juraj Jánošík was a famous Slovak highwayman. Jánošík has been the main character of many Slovak novels, poems and films. According to the legend, he robbed nobles and gave the loot to the poor, a deed often attributed to the famous Robin Hood. The legend is also known in neighbouring Poland and the Czech Republic. The actual robber had little to do with the modern legend, whose content partly reflects the ubiquitous folk myths of a hero taking from the rich and giving to the poor. However, the legend was also shaped in important ways by the activists and writers in the 19th century when Jánošík became the key highwayman character in stories that spread in the north counties of the Kingdom of Hungary and among the local Gorals tourists in the Podhale region north of the Tatras. The image of Jánošík as a symbol of resistance to oppression was reinforced when poems about him became part of the Slovak and Czech middle and high school literature curriculum, and then again with the numerous films that propagated his modern legend in the 20th century. During the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising, one of the partisan groups bore his name.

August Horislav Škultéty Slovak writer

August Horislav Škultéty was a Slovak writer, pedagogue ethnographer and director of a first Slovak Gymnasium in Revúca.

Brezno Town in Slovakia

Brezno is a town in central Slovakia, with a population of 20,953 (2018).

The group was part of the German Army Group South and was subordinated to the 14th Army led by Wilhelm List, contributing to the 14th Army's total of five infantry divisions, three mountain divisions, two panzer divisions and one Luftwaffe division. Bernolák's task was to prevent a Polish incursion into Slovakia and to support German troops.

Their opposition was the Polish Karpaty Army (Carpathian Army), which consisted of mainly of infantry units with some light artillery support and no tanks.


The attack started on September 1, 1939, at 5:00 a.m. The 1st division occupied the village of Javorina and the town of Zakopane, then continued toward Nowy Targ, protecting the German 2nd Mountain Division from the left. [1] :50 During September 4–5, it engaged in fighting with regular Polish Army units. On September 7 the division stopped its advance, 30 km inside Polish territory. Later, the division was pulled back, with one battalion remaining until September 29 to occupy Zakopane, Jurgów and Javorina.

The 2nd division was kept in reserve and participated only in mopping-up operations. In this it was supported by the Kalinčiak group. The 3rd division had to protect 170 km of the Slovak border between Stará Ľubovňa and the border with Hungary. It fought minor skirmishes, and after several days moved into Polish territory, ending its advance on September 11.

Two or three Slovak air squadrons (codenamed Ľalia, Lily) were used for reconnaissance, bombing and close support for German fighters. Two planes were lost (one to anti-aircraft fire, one to an accidental crash), and one Polish plane was shot down. Total Slovak losses during the campaign were 37 dead, 114 wounded and 11 missing.


All Slovak units were pulled back until the end of September 1939. On October 5, a victorious military parade was held in Poprad. The mobilized units were gradually demobilized and the Army Group Bernolák was disbanded on October 7.

The Slovak Army took around 1,350 civilian prisoners in Poland. In February 1940, around 1,200 of these were handed to Germans, and some of the remainder to the Soviets. The rest were kept in a Slovak prison camp in Lešť.

All the disputed territory, whether part of Poland from 1920 or from 1938, was given to Slovakia (this was confirmed by a Slovak parliamentary resolution on December 22, 1939). This arrangement lasted until 20 May 1945, when the border line was returned to its 1920 position.

See also

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  1. S.J. Zaloga: Poland 1939, Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2002. ISBN   9781841764085.

Further reading