The ChurchinHistory Information Centre
Fr. Tiso, Slovakia and Hitler
Throughout Europe prior to the war, small Jewish minorities held power out of all proportion to their size. By dominating the banks, professions, publishing houses, industry and some of the political movements, they controlled the economic and cultural life of the countries in which they lived. In Czechoslovakia as a whole, 30 - 40% of invested capital was Jewish owned. ((EJ vol. 5, 1192)).
In Slovakia there were 90,000 Jews, so forming 3.35 % of the population ((MSDJ 3)), yet they owned almost half the entire wealth, and occupied most of the economically and civically important public functions ((MSDJ)). 72% of lawyers, 64% of doctors, 58% of restaurant owners and 37% of merchants were Jewish. They controlled 12,000 industrial enterprises including 90% of the textile industry. Tavern owners were proverbially Jewish so were blamed for spreading alcoholism ((AXS 88)). They had the same reputation regarding brothels and the distribution of pornography ((GLO 284)). As owners of large factories they were blamed for what were considered poor wages. They formed one of the major intellectual groups in the towns identified with materialism, communism and scepticism ((AXS 88)). As the media relied on Jewish businesses for advertising revenue, it was often accused of being subservient to Jewish interests. Czechs and Hungarians owned many of the remaining enterprises, so the Slovaks felt themselves to be servants in their own land. The Slovaks, as other peoples of Eastern Europe, saw anti-Semitism as a form of self-defence.
For most people at this time the expression 'anti-Semitism' merely indicated a desire to reduce Jewish power and influence so as to enable each nation to control its own destiny and develop its own culture. Demands to break Jewish power were very strong and many people wished the Jews would emigrate to Palestine or another country.
Extreme anti-Semites saw Jewish power as a facet of a conspiracy for world domination, but the answer to the historical and sociological questions as to why and how a small minority wielded such immense influence, was more complex than this simplistic view.
Many Catholics, as well as others, considered that governments had a moral right to limit Jewish economic and cultural domination. But insisted that this be achieved in a gradual, just and legal manner while respecting the human rights of Jews. This was a completely different attitude to that expressed in the pagan eugenic theories of the Nazis.
In February 1939, while still Prime Minister, Tiso said: "The Jewish Problem in Slovakia shall be solved justly, socially and humanely". ((MSDJ 5)). And in 1947 he agreed that he had set out to limit Jewish economic power, but that it was never: "brutal, inhuman, or . . . done out of racial hatred". He maintained that he wanted to give the Slovak nation only what rightfully belonged to it. ((AXS 89)).
During his first speech after taking power in October 1938, Tiso stressed that there should be no anti-Semitic arbitrary acts ((MSDJ 3 and 17)). On February 21st 1939 in an official pronouncement he declared: "It is proof of the maturity of our nation that despite all incitements the Slovak nation waited for the legal solution of the Jewish question ((MSDJ 18)), and in a broadcast on March 15th 1939 he threatened that anyone guilty of anti-Jewish acts would be prosecuted ((MSDJ 17)). So, unlike the rest of Europe, Slovakia was free from anti-Jewish outbursts ((GLO 284)).
On October 26th 1939 regulations were issued stipulating that Slovaks were to own 51% of Jewish firms. The 51% was not to be confiscated. Shares were to be purchased in the normal manner and the Jewish owner could choose to whom to sell ((MSDJ 6)). The Jewish owner would normally remain manager of the company ((MSDJ 5)). The percentage of Jews in the professions was to be reduced to their proportion of the general population ((MSDJ 6)). Tiso applied the same principle to other minorities, limiting the Germans for example to 5% of state positions ((MSDJ 21)). Tiso also supported the call by local Zionists for voluntary emigration to Palestine ((MSDJ 6)).
In February 1940 a further more precise law, regarding the reduction of Jewish participation in the professions to 4%, was passed. Although it is thought that this law was introduced due to German pressure, it still kept to the same principles ((MSDJ 6)). This law was too moderate for the Germans but Tiso and his government would not introduce nazi-type legislation. It was his refusal to pass harsh anti-Semitic laws that, amongst other matters, led to the critical Saltzburg meeting when Tiso had to agree to appoint Tuka as Prime Minister ((See Section iii of this chapter)). So it could be said that the Slovaks lost part of their independence because of Tiso's obstinate refusal to persecute the Jews. Despite delaying tactics by Tiso and his allies, Tuka passed the 'Jewish Code 198' on the 10th September 1941. It was similar to the German Nuremburg Laws with the additional item that all Jews were to move to the new Jewish state being established in the Lublin area of Poland ((GLO 287)). Tiso as said he would rather resign as President than sign the law.
Archbishop Kmetko, Fr. Tiso`s religious superior, at first supported this stand ((FV 53)), but then realised that this would lead to Tuka becoming President and the establishment of a Nazi style regime. Many religious and political leaders, including those of the Jewish Community, therefore urged Tiso to stay ((AXS 90, GLO 287-8)). Although he was sympathetic to their arguments, he still refused to put his name to the law. Eventually it was promulgated without his signature. ((MSDJ 7, AXS 89 and GLO 287)).
'The inner circle of Tiso's camp was composed of Church leaders, indeed the Catholic Church was the main buttress of Tiso's regime' ((AXS 90)). The bishops had no sympathy with Nazism but saw that some co-operation with Germany was an unavoidable evil. Tiso made few important decisions without first consulting his own bishop ((AXS 90-91)), and the protests of the bishops and of the Holy See aided Tiso in his struggle against Tuka. The bishops` pastoral letter of October 7th, 1941 vigorously condemned the 'Jewish Code 198' ((GLO 290)). On November 12th the Holy See protested through its diplomatic mission, especially with regard to the forbidding of mixed marriages, the expulsion of Jewish children from schools and the separation of families by forced deportation ((GLO 290)). Accepting that the law had been promulgated the note ended:
'The Holy See hopes that the Slovak Government, as long as the government regulations are not repealed or amended, will try to explain and validate the issued regulations in such a measure and in such a manner, so that they might become as far as possible least harmful to the demands of the Catholic conscience'. ((GLO 290)).
Tiso did all he could, by using delaying tactics, to carry out this desire of the Holy See. He sent an investigator to Poland ((AXS 89-90)) where he was shown the new Jewish city of Sosnowitz in the province of Opel. It had its own city administration and police force, with all the appearances of a new Jewish Homeland. The investigator was assured that families would be kept together ((GLO 289)). Yet unease persisted regarding how humane the Germans would be, so for seventeen months little was done to implement the law. Then the Germans threatened that if the Slovaks didn't solve their 'Jewish Problem', they would intervene to do it for them ((GLO 290)). So on March 7th 1942 all Jews were ordered to stay in their homes and deportation to Poland commenced on March 10th. This brought further protests from Tiso's supporters and the Church, but to no effect ((GLO 291)).
On March 14th 1942, The Holy See protested that the human rights of Jewish deportees were not being respected ((AXS 89-90)). Rabbis in Slovakia were now even reporting that: 'deportation meant physical extermination'. ((EJ vol. 5, page 1196)).
By April, more rumours of harsh treatment were circulating, and Tiso insisted that another inspection team be sent to Poland. When the Germans refused to permit this, Tiso's supporters on May 15th 1942 passed a constitutional law overruling Tuka's control of Parliament ((GLO 291)). It widened the exceptions the President could make. It also provided that Jews still affected were to be held in camps within Slovakia ((GLO 291)). Up till this time 52,000 Jews had left for ‘resettlement’ in Poland, but 35,000 remained. In July 1942 the Holy See told Tiso that it had information that Jews sent to Poland were all being murdered. ((GLO 292)).
So in August Tiso made the German representative in Slovakia visit Berlin to obtain permission for another inspection team. In Berlin the representative was confidentially informed that the suspicions of the Holy See were correct. On his return to Slovakia he gave such evasive replies that Tiso refused to allow any more Jews to leave for Poland ((GLO 292)). A few had left during June and July but from the end of July, until Tiso officially stopped all deportations in September, there were no movements to Poland due to 'technical difficulties' (i.e. delaying tactics whilst the report from the Holy See was being checked).
The Germans went to great lengths to camouflage the European-wide plan to exterminate the Jewish race. They used, 'sophisticated methods of deception, fraud and camouflage'. ((EJ vol. 8 page 856)). It was not until the latter half of the war that suspicions turned to near certainty. The Slovak Jews themselves were asking non-Jewish travellers to take food, money and clothing to the deportees newly 'settled' in Poland ((EJ vol. 16 page 418)). According to Dr. Abeles, one of the leaders of Slovak Jewry, who testified at the 1961 Eichmann trial in Israel, the rumours of mass extermination were not confirmed until the spring of 1943 ((TRJ)).
So Tiso's attempts to prevent Jews being resettled on reservations in Poland during early 1942, was not due to knowledge that they were being systematically murdered. It was due to his growing suspicion that they were being badly treated and separated from their families. This indicates the respect Tiso had for the normal rights and dignity of Jews. The use of the word 'reservations' to describe a Jewish Homeland, allegedly being established in former Polish territory, was widely used. ((EJ vol. 8 pages 854 and 857)).
By 1943, after some Jews had crossed into Hungary, there were about 25,000 left in Slovakia. Many of the 3-4,000 in various Slovak camps, had false papers stating that they were Aryans, while others were in hiding in the countryside. ((EJ vol. 5 pages 1188 and 1197)).
It is difficult to calculate exact statistics, but Tiso used his Presidential right to exempt Jews from the stipulations of the Code 198 Law on at least 9,000 occasions. German documents mention 35,000 ((MSDJ 21)), but figures in such Nazi documents often prove to be exaggerations.
The International Red Cross inspected the camps within Slovakia and reported that: ' . . . the camps provided acceptable conditions of food and housing, the internees were permitted to work for a moderate wage in conditions nearing that in the free economy'. ((MSDJ 20 quoting RCICR vol. 1 page 674)). This body also stated that: 'At definite periods Slovakia was actually regarded as a relative asylum for Jews, especially those from Poland'. ((MSDJ 13 and GLO 293)). This was remarkable considering that Auschwitz was only 65 kilometres from the Slovak frontier. Bishop Skrabik testified in 1947 that Tiso was afraid that if he did more to help the Jews, the Germans would invade and so leave them with little chance of being saved. ((PSN 42)).
In May 1944 German troops occupied the whole country in order to fight Soviet armed partisans who had been landed by air to provoke a revolt. The Jews were now in very great danger. On February 5th Tuka and his associates resigned their positions and Stephan Tiso, a cousin of the President, became Premier ((GLO 301)). He rescinded all Tuka's laws and released all Jews from camps ((GLO 293)). On 16th November 1944 Hitler's personal representative forced the country to pass new regulations so as to place all the Jews in camps again but: 'The Authorities warned the Jews so they hid themselves'. ((RCICR vol. 1. page 674)). 'The hidden Jews could be aided not only by the population but also by the International Red Cross with the help of the Slovak Red Cross and the Catholic Church'. ((RCICR vol. 1 page 675)).
As the 'character assassination' of Fr. Tiso, was carried out mainly by the Communists, it is enlightening to read:
'Communists in Slovakia regarded persecution of the Jews as a minor evil . . . They equated Jewry with capitalism'. During the deportations to extermination camps, the Communists abstained from assisting the left-wing Zionists who contemplated armed resistance . . . Assistance to deported Jews was on a personal basis, and not a matter of policy' ((YAJ 108)).
Also see addendum at end of booklet.
vi). THE SPEECH AT HOLIC
There is a passage from a speech made by Tiso at Holic on August 15th 1942 that is produced as 'proof' that he hated Jews. It was reported:
'As regards the Jewish question, people ask if what we do is Christian and humane. I ask that too: is it Christian if the Slovaks want to rid themselves of their eternal enemies the Jews? Love for oneself is God's command, and this love makes it imperative for me to remove anything harming me'. [A version of this extract giving its date as the 28th and reading: 'and His love' instead of 'and this love', is in error].
This one paragraph from one speech is produced out of context from a period lasting six years. It is then set forth as if it proved that Tiso wished to send all Jews to their deaths. But the timing of this speech needs to be carefully noted.
As recorded in section v of this chapter, the Holy See informed Tiso in July 1942 that it was coming to believe the astounding rumours that genocide was being practised on the whole Jewish race. In September Tiso stopped all movement of Jews to Poland. The Holic speech was made between these dates, so we need to carefully consider what was happening between these dates. To stop co-operating with the German 'resettlement' plan would involve the risk of provoking a German invasion and the establishment of a Nazi regime. Tiso was willing to take this risk in September because by then knew that genocide was taking place, but in July he was not yet sure that the reports were true. In August three things occurred:
(1).......Tiso insisted that a top ranking German officer visited Berlin to obtain permission for an inspection team to visit the new Jewish Homeland. ((MSDJ 12)).
(2).......'From the end of July to the middle of September the transports were suspended due to various "technical difficulties"' ((EJ vol. 5 pages 1196-7)).
(3).......Tiso spoke at Holic.
Attempts had to be made to allay any German suspicion that the, 'technical difficulties' were not genuine. It was at this precise juncture that Tiso included in his Holic speech a show of determination to send all Jews from the country.
It must be remembered that German agents reported back to Berlin every word Tiso spoke. The Germans suspected Tiso of being pro-Jewish. From documents in Hitler's 'Sicherheitsdienst' we read such statements regarding Tiso as: 'Totally under Jewish and Catholic influence'; 'inimical to Germans and a hater of the Germans'; 'For ideological reasons determined with all possible means to paralyse German influence in Slovakia'. ((UGD)).
We know that the non-Nazi German Minister in Slovakia, Hans Elard Ludin, advised Tiso to publicly speak up against the Jews so as to counter the information being sent by the agents to Berlin ((UGD)).
In this scenario the passage in Tiso's speech falls into place. Within a few days the German officer returned from Berlin without the permission for a team to visit Poland. Tiso then, at the risk of provoking his political overthrow, officially stopped all movement of Jews to Poland. Such action taken within a couple of weeks of his Holic speech clearly indicates that the words he used were part of a bluff to deceive the Germans.
The Germans knew that the Jewish Community was held responsible for helping the Hungarian attempts, during previous generations, to destroy Slovak culture ((EJ vol. 5 page 1193)). They also knew that since 1918 many Jews had co-operated with the Czechs to achieve the same objective ((AXS 88)), and had become part of the Czech establishment ((EJ vol. 5 page 1193)). So Tiso's use of the words, 'eternal enemies' and his desire to, 'remove anything harming' Slovakia, would have added authenticity to his bluff.
Dr. Imrich Karvas, a Lutheran freemason opposed to Slovak autonomy and thus not having any sympathy with Tiso's religious and political beliefs, was present at the speech and testified at Tiso's 'trial' in 1947. He said: "I doubt that from this could be deduced his support or agreement with the deportation action. As I knew him, I consider this with him as absolutely impossible”. ((PSN 61)).
The writer of a section in a reference book states that Tiso in August 1942 at Holic justified deportations as: 'for the good of the Slovak nation, to free it of its pests'. To give such a false translation indicates that the writer was too blinded by his hatred of Tiso's politics to check his sources or consider the context of the speech.
As the Germans retreated westwards, the Slovaks had to make plans to avoid the destruction of their country and at the same time achieve complete freedom. Slovakia was a very mountainous area, so it could be presumed that as Soviet forces advanced across the Polish and Hungarian plains, Slovakia would be left behind. Tiso planned to overthrow Tuka when Soviet troops reached Cracow in Poland or Miscovec in Hungary. ((See Map 1)). An all-party government would declare itself to be on the Allied side, as Italy had done ((GLO 297)). It was unlikely that the Germans would move forward into Slovakia. Having freed their own country, the Soviets would have no reason to invade and the Slovaks would possess a status at any post-war conference. The Slovaks informed both the Soviets and the Czechoslovaks in London, of their plans.
In May 1944 Soviet partisans were dropped by air into the country to start an uprising against Tiso. General Malar appealed over the radio to the army and people not to be fooled by the partisans. "Our time has not arrived . . . when it does come, we shall all pull at the same end of the rope". But Slovak Communists and others joined the uprising and this led to the Germans occupying the whole country. Once the Germans had arrived the partisans returned by air to the USSR. By this manoeuvre Stalin had destroyed all hopes of Tiso freeing his country from the Germans, and the Slovaks had to wait for the Red Army to 'liberate' them and establish a Communist dictatorship.
In the spring of 1945 the Red Army chased the Germans from the country and sent 150,000 people to prison or slave camps ((GLO 305-6)). Benes became President of a Communist dominated administration ((JFNB 169)). In May 1946 the Communists and Marxist Socialists, after excluding a considerable number of people from voting, gained a small majority in Parliament, but as the 1948 elections approached they realised they would be defeated ((JFNB 175)). To prevent this, the Marxists used their existing majority to establish a dictatorship. It may be noted that in 1946 the secular Marxist parties (Communist and Socialist) had received 56% of the Czech vote, but only 34% from the more religious and freedom-loving Slovaks ((KCA 7944)).
Tiso refused a Soviet proposal to become President of a Slovak Soviet Republic ((LGN 34)), so retreated into Germany hoping to obtain assistance from Cardinal Faulhaber ((AXS 96)). But he fell into American hands ((FV 60)) and was handed to the Czechoslovak Communist dominated government. He was put before a Court of Communists, pro-Communists and Centralist Slovaks. He was not permitted to choose his own defence counsel, but witnesses were permitted to be heard. The Communist Party was calling for the death penalty ((FV 64)) and the President of the Court and two out of the three prosecuting judges were Communists ((FV 72)).
The bishops issued a letter on January 8th 1946 pointing out that: "Dr. Tiso was always a zealous priest of exemplary life. In his extensive activity he worked and laboured for the common good . . . The majority of the Slovak people agree with us that the intentions of Dr. Tiso in the execution of his public activity were always the best". ((FV 65-66)). Archbishop Kmetko declared that 90% of Slovaks welcomed independence and in Tiso's person saw a safeguard against the assaults of the Nazi ideology ((FV 67)). The Press published edited accounts only of the proceedings and gave the impression that Kmetko had criticised Tiso, but the full transcript shows this not to be true ((FV 67-8)).
Tiso declared: "If God allowed me to carry out my policy again under similar circumstances, I would do exactly as I have done". There were large-scale demonstrations and tanks were sent to Slovakia to prevent riots ((AXS 96-97)).
Considering the nature of the, 'trial' it was not surprising that he was found 'guilty' of 97 'crimes'. So Fr. Tiso, who had been the President of his country and credited by his Court-appointed defence counsel with having saved countless thousands of Jews and Christians from death, was hanged on April 18th 1947 as he said his rosary ((GLO 315)). As soon as his death was announced bells tolled all over Slovakia ((FV 76)).
The Catholic Church detested the establishment of a democratic, liberal and socialist Czechoslovakia and used all her influence to destroy it.
Both Czech and Slovak Catholics strove very hard to establish the new state. The Catholic organisations in America, to a great extent led by the clergy, also provided immense financial and political support during the struggle for independence.
Between April 1920 and September 1938 Czecho-Slovakia was ruled, apart from two periods of non-party administration, by eleven coalition governments. The Czechoslovak Peoples Party, led by clergy, had a minimum of two Ministers in ten of them ((AXS 127-131)).
Many Germans refused to take part in the new state, but the German Catholic led `Christian Social Party` was an, 'Activist party’, i.e. one that cooperated with the Czechoslovak state and had two Ministers in the two governments which ruled from October 26th 1926 till December 29th 1929. ((EW 132)).
Tiso, as a representative of the Slovak Peoples Party, joined the Cabinet in January 1927 and his party had two Ministries in the government that ruled from February 1927 to December 1929. This government had five Ministers from the three Catholic parties in a 15 member Cabinet ((AXS 127-131)).
'In 1926, when the Fascists planned a coup, they were defeated by Masaryk, the Agrarians and the Catholics'. ((VO 159)).
It was not religious issues as such which caused the Slovak Peoples Party to refuse to take part in more Ministries, but the dispute over autonomy.
The Church did object to the anti-religious and anti-Catholic policies of the secular Communists, Socialists and National Socialists, but worked for peace and stability by means of a Concordat, which was signed on the 2nd of September 1928.
The Vatican and the German Nazis co-operated for years in encouraging Slovak demands for independence, as this would thereby destroy Socialist Czechoslovakia.
Bishops and priests in Slovakia held differing political views. Several bishops and many priests supported the right of Slovakia to autonomy. But Archbishop Kmetko, Tiso's immediate superior ((AXS 91)), was associated with the Czechoslovak Peoples Party ((AXS 101)). This Catholic inspired party was opposed to Slovak autonomy ((See Chapter IV section 4)) and its leader, Fr. Sramek, was one of the strongest opponents of Slovak autonomy ((AXS 59)). At no time did a bishop encourage agitation for Slovak independence, but one bishop did regret the break with Hungary ((AXS 90)),
Captured German documents indicate that Hitler did not favour Slovak independence until February 1939 ((GLO 241)).
The devout Catholic Konrad Henlein led the devout Catholic Sudetenlanders to demand union with Hitler's Germany.
Konrad Henlein left the Catholic Church as a young man to become a Protestant ((EW 231)). Although not a supporter of the pagan Nazis, he wished to exclude Christian principles from public life ((EW 222, 230 and 231)). The Catholic inspired German Christian Social Party fought Henlein's party at every election.
When in February 1938, Frs. Hlinka and Tiso favoured co-operation with the Hungarian, German and Polish minorities, it was merely as a tactical move to co-ordinate opposition to the government's centralist policies ((AXS 63)).
The threats of Catholic Hungary were part of the Vatican's aim to destroy Czechoslovakia.
Admiral Horthy, ruler of Hungary, was a Protestant ((NEB vol. 6 page 75)). During the 1930s the Catholic Church in Hungary was distributing millions of leaflets attacking Nazi paganism ((JM 5)), and publicising the Pope's encyclical of 1937 which condemned Nazi ideology and its policies ((JM 5)).
The Papal Nuncio in 1933 published a letter encouraging the Slovaks to claim independence.
His letter was a sharp criticism of the anti-Catholic bigotry he was meeting in Czech Government circles ((See Appendix G)). Not one word in the letter advocated Slovak autonomy or independence.
Tiso showed his fascist views when he established a one-party state and banned Socialists, Communists, Jews and Liberals.
After the Munich Agreement, Hitler was seeking a pretext to invade the remains of Czecho-Slovakia. He loudly pointed to the 1935 pact with the Soviet Union and the strong Socialist and Communist parties together with their Trade Unions. His radios daily repeated that the Czechs were planning to allow the Soviet airforce to use Czech bases near the German frontier. He said that Czech politicians were under the control of Jews, and that democratic regimes were too weak to resist a Communist seizure of power.
As Czecho-Slovakia was at the mercy of the large German army, steps were taken to remove any pretext Hitler might use as an excuse to invade.
In Slovakia democracy was replaced by a strong National Unity Party, the Communists and marxist Socialists were banned, as was the Jewish Party. Efforts were also made to avoid offending Germany in foreign policy.
The largest parties in Czechia also decided to form a National Unity Party ((KCA 3371)), and democratic elections were abolished when the President assumed authoritarian powers ((KCA 3366)). The Czechs promised to adopt a loyal attitude towards Germany ((KCA 3300)) and agreed that its future lay with Italy and Germany ((KCA 3316)). The marxist Socialist party withdrew from the Socialist International, took a new name and changed its policy so as not to give offence to Hitler ((KCA 3300)). The Communist party was banned in October ((ZZ 163)) and all Jewish teachers in German speaking schools suspended. ((WS 438)). Similar action, including the formation of a National Unity Party, was also taken in Ruthenia.
So the Czech anti-Catholic leaders acted in basically the same way as the Catholic leaders of Slovakia. The motivation in both cases was fear, not a sudden conversion to Nazism or fascism.
A party called 'Liberal' did not exist in Slovakia. When Tiso attacked 'liberalism' he was not thinking of a party like the British one of that name, but of the philosophy of uncontrolled capitalism which permitted financial institutions to control the destiny of countries without concern for their common good or for social justice ((AXS 108)).
The Jewish Party was bitterly opposed by half the Jewish population, especially those who were religious. These and other Jews voted for parties such as the Agrarians. The Zionists sponsored the Jewish Party which was closer to the teachings of Karl Marx than to that of the rabbis. In 1935 it had an election pact with the Socialists ((EJ vol. 5 page 1191)). To permit an extreme left-wing party dedicated to increasing Zionist strength would have certainly provoked an intervention by Hitler.
As a firm adherent of Catholic Social teachings, which insist on the rights of free Trade Unions, Tiso would view any limitations on them as a temporary measure in a time of crisis.
The impression is sometimes given that the Communist party was banned because it continued to oppose Slovak autonomy. But this is not correct. When the eight parties gathered on October 6th 1938 to proclaim autonomy, the Communist Party's Regional Executive was meeting in the same town, and 'hastened to endorse autonomy' ((YAJ 33)).
The previous day the Czechoslovak Communists had urged: "Let us give the Slovaks everything necessary". ((YAJ 33)). The Communists approved Slovakia's autonomy and wished to be included in discussions with the Unity Party ((YAJ 137)). But the Unity Party did not trust their last minute change of heart and offer of assistance. They knew that they were ultimately under orders from Moscow. On December 26th the leader of the Party, now in Moscow, publicly admitted:
"We Communists represented in Slovakia the national interests of the Czech nation, while Slovak national interests were better represented by the Hlinka Party . . . Only at the last moment, as the Czechoslovak crisis was reaching a climax, did we put forward a demand for the democratic solution of the Slovak problem, i.e. the granting of full autonomy" ((YAJ 33 and 34)).
By Slovakia declaring independence it became impossible for Czechoslovakia to defend itself against Germany.
Once Austria became united with Germany in March 1938, Hitler's army could advance north from Vienna to easily cut Czechoslovakia in two. The defences built in the mountainous Sudetenland had been surrendered in October 1938 and most of the army had been demobilised due to German threats. Britain, France and the USSR were not willing to assist, while Poland and Hungary were threatening to invade. So the forced acceptance of independence by Slovakia had no military implications.
Fr. Tiso was on Hitler's side during the war and so tarnished the reputation of the Church.
Slovakia was not a willingly ally of Hitler. Tiso did not wish to see Slovaks die for Hitler or Stalin, so sometimes had to compromise. The critics of Tiso judge him by criteria that were not applied to others. All countries were willing to compromise so as to protect their self-interests in their desperate attempts to avoid becoming involved in the war.
Britain and France were the only countries to fight without first being attacked, and even they had compromised in 1938. America and the Soviet Union, two strong nations, both put their peoples' immediate welfare first. So is it just to criticise Tiso and his tiny country? Let us look at two other small countries; Denmark and Sweden.
1) The Danish government ordered its troops not to resist when invaded and undertook a policy of 'loyal co-operation'. Its king and government continued in power, while part of Hitler's Europe. It became known as 'the model Protectorate' ((WS 698-700)). Danes were permitted to join the SS and go to fight in Russia.
2) In 1940 Sweden allowed 140,000 fresh German troops and supplies to cross their country to relieve German army units in northern Norway. The troops thereby avoided the risky sea route along the coast. Later a fully armed division was allowed to pass through on its way to invade Russia in June 1941. All during the war Sweden supplied valuable and vital raw materials to Germany ((WS 709711)). The alternative was to face a German invasion to obtain these essential deposits.
The compromising policies of these governments are very understandable and we do not hear condemnations of the aid their leaders thereby gave Hitler. If Sweden had refused to co-operate, many German troops would have been needed to occupy such a mountainous area. We do not hear their leaders called, 'Pro-German fascists'. Such selective condemnation raises questions. Possibly it is because Sweden and Denmark were Protestant countries with Social Democratic governments, whereas Slovakia was Catholic with a non-Socialist government. Swedish Socialism was greatly admired at the time by the ‘intellectual' authors and writers of the British Labour Movement.
We might also bear in mind that the threat to Slovakia, with its Slavonic 'racially inferior' people, was much greater than that faced by Aryan Denmark and Sweden. As Aryans they would have been treated, even as enemies, with respect and not have been exposed to mass genocide.
As for the Church, Her actions in advising and supporting Tiso did not 'tarnish' Her reputation. Any 'tarnish' has come from her enemies spreading the sort of falsehoods being considered in this Publication.
Tiso saw himself as a demigod like Hitler and Mussolini.
There is no evidence that Tiso adhered to Hitler's or Mussolini's concept of being 'The Leader'. At public political meetings he never invoked the kind of mass hysteria Hitler did ((AXS 92)). He allowed his Ministers a great deal of personal judgement in their departments ((AXS 91)). He did not force his will on the Slovak people but was their popular President. He offered Mass every day and remained Parish Priest of Banovce to where he had been appointed in 1924 ((AXS 34)). When possible he drove to Banovce on Saturdays so as to be with his parishioners on Sunday ((AXS 92)). There was little aloofness about him or affectation in his manner ((AXS 92)). He walked freely about his capital city Bratislava without a bodyguard, and when asked about this, he only replied "Why should I be afraid, these are my people." ((AXS 92)).
Tiso established the SS type Hlinka Guard.
The Hlinka Guard was established the year before Tiso became President and was mainly under the leadership of Sidor (the man Czecho-Slovak President Hacha appointed Slovak Prime Minister in March 1939). He was a moderate man and anti-German. Due to German threats he was sent out of the country in July 1941 as Ambassador to the Holy See. At the same time German threats caused Mach, who was pro-Tuka, to be appointed Minister of the Interior. This brought the Hlinka Guard under his control ((AXS 70-71)). It then came into collision with Tiso's policies and was guilty of excesses against Jews and Czechs ((AXS 70)).
Tiso continued to receive support from the Academic Guard, but under German pressure this student organisation was dissolved in March 1942 ((AXS 86)). Tiso managed to retain control of the Party with his policy of Christian Socialism, while the Hlinka Guard promoted Tuka's brand of National Socialism. 'The contest between Tuka and Tiso, which continued to the end of the war, was played out in a struggle between the party and the Hlinka Guard'. ((AXS 86)). Tiso considered that to install the Hlinka Guard in power would be an attack against the basic fabric of the Slovak nation ((AXS 110)).
Tiso was a racist.
Tiso was certainly very proud of his Slovak culture, but also respected the rights of those with other cultures. The history of the Magyar (Hungarian) minority within Slovakia is instructive.
Between the two world wars the centralist Socialist Czechoslovak governments discriminated against the Hungarians to the point of actual persecution (See Chapter IV, 3). On Slovakia gaining autonomy the Hungarians were allowed to open schools and develop their cultural activities. But during 1944, the anti-Tiso uprising, the left-wing authorities outlawed these schools in the area of southern Slovakia they controlled ((YAJ 111)). Later that year German troops drove out the left-wing pro-Czech partisans, enabling Tiso's government to have some control over civilian administration. The Hungarian schools were opened again during the winter of 1944-45 but, once Tiso was forced to leave Slovakia, they were closed ((YAJ 112)). Persecution then entered an even worse phase.
All Hungarian speakers had their citizenship cancelled and 325,000 'requested' to become Slovaks so as to rescue their livelihood and property ((YAJ 114)). 68,000 were expelled to Hungary: a figure that would have been much larger if the Paris Peace Conference had not intervened ((YAJ 114)). Thousands more were compelled to move to the Sudetenland ((YAJ 115)), which was being cleared of three million people by forcible expulsion to Germany ((JFNB 170)). Brutality was not absent from the treatment of both the German and Hungarian deportees being uprooted from their homes and culture ((YAJ 114-5)).
History thus shows that it was Tiso's enemies who were racist, not him. It is instructive to compare the lack of interest in these mass movements of population, while Tiso's agreement in 1941 for 52,000 Jews to be humanely resettled, as he thought, in a new Jewish Homeland is presented as a great crime.
In 1944 the Pope condemned Tiso's treatment of the Jews.
In September 1944 Burzio, Papal Nuncio to Slovakia, informed Rome that the police were rounding up the Jews. On the 19th the Holy See instructed him to intervene with the Slovak Foreign Ministry and Tiso on their behalf. The following day the Holy See appealed to Sidor, Slovak Ambassador to the Vatican, for action to protect the Jews.
A few days later Burzio reported that the Slovak government had declared it 'would not consent to their deportation', and Sidor was able to state that Tiso had personally protested to the Germans on the basis of the Constitution and had been promised that such activity would cease ((RAG 28)).
But on October 26th Burzio informed the Vatican that the search for Jews was continuing and that the Slovak government had lost its independence. By not resigning it appeared that Tiso was acting as a willing accessory to German actions. As Tiso was not only the President but also a priest, the situation was providing the Church's enemies with an opportunity to slander Her. A further telegram instructed Burzio to go immediately to Tiso and tell him that: 'the information had stricken His Holiness with deep sorrow because of the suffering caused to many people of Slovakia because of their nationality or race against the principles of humanity and justice. In the name of the Sovereign Pontiff, come back to the sentiments and policies conforming to his dignity and priestly conscience.' It continued to declare that the injustices committed by Tiso's government were injuring the prestige of his country and that enemies were taking the opportunity for discrediting the clergy and the Church throughout the world ((SSVG 54 and 462)).
Burzio saw Tiso on the 4th of November and spoke to him not as a President but as a priest. Tiso replied that he would draw up a personal answer for the Holy Father, which was handed to Burzio five days later. Being a private letter, not a telegram, it did not arrive in Rome until December 19th. In the meantime more alarming reports were being received in Rome. One said that Slovak police had placed 400 Jews in a camp and then handed them over to the Germans for deportation. So in November the Holy See despatched another telegram to Burzio urging him and the Slovak bishops to exert all possible influence on the government 'so that any Jews still in Slovak territory may be treated in a humane and Christian way'. ((RAG 29-30)).
On the same day Sidor was informed of the indignation of the Holy See at the failure of the Slovak government to maintain its pledge. The Vatican note concluded with: ‘This news, in contradiction with the assurances received above, has been learned with deep sorrow by the Holy See which, once more, finds itself in the painful necessity of expressing its regret. The Holy See hopes that the Slovak government, in accordance with the principles of the Catholic religion, to which the vast majority of the people belong, will leave no stone unturned in order that the Jews who are still in the territory of the Republic may not be subjected to even more severe sufferings’. ((RAG 30))
From the wording of this telegram and the note, it can be seen that Rome did not possess at that time a clear picture of the confusing and fast changing situation within Slovakia. The Germans claimed that their troops were merely helping the Slovak government to restore order. The Left-wing rebels and the Soviet Union claimed the Slovak government was still the enemy. So the telegram had been composed on the presumption that the government administered the country and was therefore responsible for the unjust events taking place there. But the real situation was quite different.
Tiso and his ministers had not resigned but were endeavouring to maintain their legal and moral right to represent the sovereignty of the Slovak people. But: ‘From September 1944 Tiso's authority extended only to Bratislava and its environs’ ... for all practical purposes the German army was the real authority in the country until the end of the war'. ((AXS 95)). German Einsatzgruppen Units (specially formed to hunt and murder Jews) killed thousands during the uprising and afterwards, as well as deporting 13,500 ((EJ Vol. 5 page 1197)). On January 2nd 1945 the President of the International Red Cross Committee wrote to Tiso asking that the deportations be ended. With much sadness Tiso answered on the 10th that everything possible had been done until the revolt. From then on it was impossible to help the Jews officially. ((LGN 28)).
The full story regarding the group of 400 Jews was that they had been taken under the special care of the Slovak Foreign Ministry and guarded by Slovak police because they possessed American or South American passports. But the Germans seized the camp and declared that all but four of the passports were forgeries. They then deported the others to Germany. ((RAG 30)).
On December 19th Tiso's letter arrived in Rome and he took the opportunity to defend his record since 1938. He asserted that he and Slovakia had been the object of vilification by their enemies. Regarding the current situation he explained that since August, when the Germans had arrived to put down the uprising, they had been in command of the military operations.
He wrote that the Slovak government was not responsible for the ensuing events, and the Germans refused to listen to the Slovak protests that the Jews were protected by the Constitution. He affirmed that he had always kept the dignity of the priesthood before his eyes and that it was hypocrisy for his enemies to express concern for the reputation of the clergy. He had not acted on the basis of his own judgments, but had consulted the best advisors within the Church. ((SSVG 54-55 and 475-477)).
AN EXTRACT FROM A REPORT FROM THE U.S. LEGATION ON 9 MARCH 1939.
‘It is not clear why these two questions, namely of finance and defence, which have been chronic causes of conflict ever since the inception of the new political system in Czechoslovakia, should now suddenly have led to a minor crisis in the relations between the regional and the central governments, accompanied by threatening hints of complete secession of Slovakia from the Czechoslovak republic. Some observers are inclined to suspect that the real reason is that the Czechs, who were compelled by the magnitude of their reverses on other frontiers, to play more or less a passive role throughout the fall and early winter, have now gained courage and are talking to the Slovaks as well as to the Ruthenians in a much more vigorous and confident tone. In doing so they doubtless have reason to believe, or to suspect, that there is a certain amount of bluff involved on both sides in the relations between the Slovaks and the Germans and that Berlin is not actually going to raise any serious objections if the Czechs insist on increased political control in Slovakia as a condition for their financial support.
If this supposition is correct, it is not difficult to understand why the most radical wing of the present Slovak regime, composed of people who are still hostile in the extreme to the Czechs and to the idea of a Czechoslovak state and have consistently advocated the complete independence of Slovakia, should have taken alarm in no uncertain way and begun to cry out that Slovakia must secede at once or the Czechs would soon re-establish their domination. This applies particularly to Professor Tuka and to Slovak Propaganda Chief, Mach, together with their hot-blooded followers in the ranks of the Hlinka Guard.
In any case, talk of, complete independence became rife in Bratislava last week just at the time when the deliberations of the Slovak ministers were in progress in Berlin and in Prague.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES, U.S. DEPT. OF STATE 860F.00/736, PRAGUE, 9 MARCH 1939
TELEGRAM FROM U.S. LEGATION ON 13 MARCH 1939 REPORTING CONVERSATION WITH FOREIGN MINISTER CHVALKOVSKY
His [Chvalkovsky] explanation of the occurrences was that a group of Slovaks in and out of the government purporting to represent the majority of the Slovaks attempted to set up an independent government under the protection of Germany. This was prevented by the action taken the night of the ninth and subsequently. Tiso, though probably not implicated in the movement, was too weak to prevent it. While Germany does not appear to have been directly supporting the enterprise it was admitted confidentially (repeat confidentially) that there is no doubt that Germany was looking upon it sympathetically and that German authorities in Vienna had probably been given to understand that they were free to encourage the disaffected Slovaks.
The Minister claims that Sidor and the members of the new government represent the majority of the Slovaks and that they do not wish to separate from the Czechoslovak state. This is undoubtedly true as to Sidor whose present personal ambitions are inconsistent with an independent Slovakia under German protection.
The Foreign Minister was clearly under a heavy strain and it seemed pretty clear that his principal preoccupation was the exact attitude of Germany respecting which he professes to be still in ignorance.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES, U.S. DEPT. OF STATE 860F.00/606 PRAGUE 13 MARCH 1939
Extract from the 35-minute conversation between Hitler and Tiso on 13 March 1939. Hitler's first 'disappointment' was the renewal of what he called "the intolerable Benes spirit".
Our second disappointment had been the attitude of Slovakia. Last year the Fuhrer had been faced with a difficult decision as to whether or not to allow Slovakia to be occupied by the Hungarians. In thinking that Slovakia wanted union with Hungary, the Fuhrer had misjudged the situation. The reason for this mistake was the distance separating Slovakia from Germany and the weight of the greater problems which at that time overshadowed this problem. It was only during the crisis that the Fuhrer had departed from this idea. Then for the first time he had heard and noticed that Slovakia wanted to lead an independent existence.
In his decisions at Munich the Fuhrer had taken not the course of power politics but that of ethnic principles [volkspolitische Wege]. He had done something which had alienated him from his friend Hungary, namely, put this principle into practice for Hungary, too. He had repeatedly explained this months before.
Now he had sent . . . his envoy to Pressburg [Bratislava] and Sidor had told the latter that he . . . would oppose a withdrawal of Slovakia from the Czechoslovak union. If the Fuhrer had known earlier, he need not have fallen out with his friend Hungary but could have left matters as they were at the time.
He had now summoned Minister Tiso in order to clear up this question in a very short time. Germany had no interests east of the Carpathians. It was a matter of complete indifference to him what happened there. The question was, did Slovakia want to lead an independent existence or not? He wanted nothing from Slovakia. He would not stake his people, or even a single soldier, for something which the Slovak people did not want at all. He wanted a final confirmation as to what Slovakia really wanted. He did not want Hungary to reproach him for preserving something which did not want to be preserved. . . . It was a question not of days but of hours. He had previously said that if Slovakia wished to become independent he would support and even guarantee her efforts in that direction. He would keep his promise as long as Slovakia clearly expressed the desire for independence. If she hesitated or refused to be separated from Prague, he would leave the fate of Slovakia to events for which he was no longer responsible. Then he would look after German interests only, and they did not extend east of the Carpathians. Germany had nothing to do with Slovakia. She had never belonged to Germany.
The Fuhrer asked the Reich Foreign Minister if he had anything further to add . . . He handed to the Fuhrer a report just received announcing Hungarian troop movements on the Slovak frontier. The Fuhrer read this report, told Tiso of its contents, and expressed the hope that Slovakia would reach a decision soon.
DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY, U.S. DEPT. OF STATE, WASHINGTON, PAGES 244-245
THE HUNGARIAN THREAT
On March 13th 1939, the day Slovakia was offered 'protection' by Hitler, the Regent of Hungary, Nicholas Horthy, had sent the following telegram to Hitler: "Your Excellency — my sincere thanks, I can hardly tell you how happy I am because this Carpathian Head Water Region — I dislike using big words — is of vital importance to the life of Hungary. In spite of the fact that our recruits have only been serving five weeks, we are going into this affair with eager enthusiasm. The dispositions have already been made. On Thursday, the sixteenth of this month, a frontier incident will take place which will be followed by the big blow on Saturday. I shall never forget this proof of our friendship, Your Excellency may rely on my unshakeable gratitude at all times. Your devoted friend — Horthy."
N.B. Horthy called Slovakia the 'Carpathian Head Water Region'. From: 'Slovakia and its People', by G.L. Oddo, page 248
THE RECOGNITION OF SLOVAKIA BY BRITAIN
Bratislava, May 4, 1939
On the instructions of the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs, I have the honour to inform you that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom proposes to appoint me as Consul for Slovakia with residence in Bratislava. Pending preparation of my Commission I have the honour to request provisional recognition by the Slovak Government of myself as His Majesty's Consul for Slovakia. I avail myself of this opportunity to express to Your Excellency the assurance of my highest consideration.
PARES, M.P. Consul
From: 'Slovakia and its People' by G.L. Oddo, page 259
THE RECOGNITION OF SLOVAKIA BY THE U.S.S.R.
On September 17th, 1939, the Soviet Union, through its ambassador to Berlin, announced its de facto and de jure recognition of the Slovak Republic.
Statement made by the first Soviet ambassador to Bratislava, G. Puskin, on presenting his credentials to President Tiso:
"Presenting to you the documents which accredit me as Envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, appointed by the Presidency of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, I can announce to you with joy that the nations of the Soviet Union have taken cognizance of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic with deep satisfaction. Because of the war in Europe the establishment of these relations transcends the framework of mutual interests of both our states."
From: 'Slovakia and its People' by G.L. Oddo, page 259
During 1933 the Czech press, especially 'Venkow', which was the organ of the Prime Minister's Party, published a series of articles and strong press attacks on the Vatican and the Papal Nuncio, Mgr Ciriaci. Although the Prime Minister disassociated himself from the attacks, they reflected the anti-Catholic attitude dominating the 'left-wing' government at that time.
As a way of publicly protesting at this situation, the Nuncio wrote a letter to 'Slovak', the organ of the Slovak People's Party, which was printed on September 15th.
"While his Holiness is being treated in Prague, either directly or through his representative, in a manner altogether disregarding international courtesy, you Slovaks have shown due reverence to the high authority of the Holy Father. For this you and yours deserve to be praised.
I also thank you and yours for having brought solace to the Papal Nuncio, who in obedience to the Holy Father, is obliged to live in Prague in bitter affliction. This I shall never forget. I shall always remember the noble Slovak nation. It is a pleasure to me to represent the Holy Father amongst these Slovaks.
This letter may be published."
Following the letter's publication, the Cabinet asked the Vatican to call Mgr Ciriaci to Rome for an official investigation. The Bishops of Czechoslovakia issued a statement supporting the Nuncio. The dispute continued for some time.
The London Times: 1933, September 18, October 26, and December 2.
AXS Dr. Josef Tiso and Modern Slovakia, by Anthony X Sutherland, 1978
DBFP Documents of British Foreign Policy, HMSO 1946
DEM The Slovak Autonomy Movement, by Dorothea El Mallakh, 1979
EJ Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971
EW Czechs and Germans, by Elizabeth Wiskemann, 1967
FV This is Josef Tiso, by Frantisek Vnuk, 1977
GLO Slovakia and Its People, by Gilbert L. Oddo, 1960
HPD Hansard Parliamentary Debates, HMSO, 1947
HSW The Pattern of Communist Revolution, by Hugh Seton Watson
JAM Slovakia: A Political History; 1918-1950, J. A. Mikus, 1963, p. 131.
JFNB Czecho-Slovakia, by J.F.N. Bradley, 1971
JM Four years struggle of the Church in Hungary, Josef Mindszenty 1949
JMK/MSD Slovakia in the 19th and 20th centuries, ed. by J. M. Kirschbaum, Toronto, Ont., 1973. p. 183, no. 112. (Section: Slovakia during World War II. The Slovak Republic by Milan S. Durica)
JT Die Wahrheit Ober die Slowakei, by Josef Tiso. Pb: Jan Sekara, München, 1948
KCA Keesings Contemporary Archives (In many Public Libraries)
LGN The Political Programme of President Tiso, by Lisa Guarda Nardini, Padova University, 1984
LND Lidove Noviny Daily, Czechoslovakia
MSDF The Foreign Policy of the Slovak Republic, by Milan S. Durica, Padova University, 1984
MSDJ Dr. Joseph Tiso and the Jewish Problem in Slovakia, by Milan S. Durica, Padova University, 1964
NEB The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989
NR Hitler's War Aims: Vol. II Slovakia section by Norman Rich, 1973
OB The Slovak Question, by Dr. Oktav Bazovsky (lecture), 1986
ON Im Schatten des Todes, by Dr. Oskar Newmann, Tel Aviv, 1956
PSN Pred súdom národa. Process Dr. J. Tisom . . . v Bratislave v dnoch 2. dec. 1946 - 15. april 1947. Bratislava 1947, Vol. 2
RAG Pius XII's Defense of Jews and Others, by Robert A. Graham, 1987
RCICR Rapport du Comite international de la Croix-Rouge sur son action pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, Geneve, 1948
RP National Minorities in Eastern Europe 1848-1945, Ray. Pearson 1983
SSVG Le Saint Siege et Les Victimes de la Guerre, 1944-1945, (Actes et Documents), Vatican City, 1980
TRJ Tribunal Régional de Jérusalem, Police d' Israel, Quartier Général, 6-ème Bureau, Mahane lyar, audience 49, - L III - .
TT The Times, London
UGD Unpublished German Documents /Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, Bonn /MSD
VO The Doomed Democracy, by Vera Olivova, 1972
WS The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, 1959
YAJ The Lust For Power, by Yeshayahu A. Jelinek, 1983
ZZ The Masaryks, by Zbynek Zeman, 1928
After completion of this booklet, a leaflet was composed to provide a summary:
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