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History - The Slovak National Uprising


Initial plan for a revolt was set by Edvard Beneš in 1943, where the first contacts with dissident elements were established – this included the Slovak Army and various other groups such as the government in exile, Czechoslovak democrats and communists. They formed the Slovak National Council and agreed to recognize Beneš and to recreate Czechoslovakia.

In 1944, charge was taken by Lieutenant Colonel Ján Golian and the planning progressed. Conspirators proceeded with preparations for uprising. The rebels called themselves Czechoslovak Forces of the Interior and the First Czechoslovak Army. Soldiers that deserted the army joined either the partisans or the Soviet Red Army. Two Slovak Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, in the meantime managed to escape from Auschwitz and spoke of the horrors in German extermination camps. This fuelled the need of an armed rebellion against Germany.

There were two options set for the course of the uprising and had been agreed upon by the Slovak National Council in August 1944. Two heavily armed divisions of Slovak Army and the entire eastern Slovak Air Force were relocated to Prešov to be able to follow one of the two plans.

Colonel Viliam Talský had agreed to both procedures - however he would choose one of the options according to the nature of the situation. After the German troops began their occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Colonel abandoned the plan and two divisions and joined the Soviet Army, leaving the rebels in confusion. They were immediately disarmed before the uprising took its place and therefore, the uprising lost its true potential due to premature commencement.

The Uprising

On August 29, Banská Bystrica became the headquarters for further action. The soldiers that were captured by Germans were sent to camps while those who managed to escape joined the partisans or returned home. During the beginning, the rebels managed to capture large areas of central and eastern Slovakia, which included two airfields. The distribution of equipment for insurgents was organized by the Soviets. However, the government allied under Tiso still held power in Bratislava and Germany had increased number of soldiers by moving 40,000 additional men, led by Gottlob Berger, to suppress the insurrection.

Beneš had arranged a meeting with Stalin and Molotov where the support of the Soviets was discussed. This resulted in failure since Stalin and STAVKA failed to deliver supplies and also blocked Western military aid. The Slovak insurgent army was also undermined by Soviet partisans in order to prevent communication between them and partisans. Soviet air drops of weapons were quickly confiscated by Soviet partisans from the Slovak insurgent army. An attack on the Dukla Pass was initiated on September 8 in order to seize it and gain access to Slovakia. This action resulted in casualties on both sides. An argument between Beneš, Soviet partisans and Slovak factions arose, where the issue was the operational control. General Golian was unable to bring the sides together and he was replaced by General Rudolf Viest. He was unable to control the situation, also due to the fact that the uprising overlapped with the failure of Warsaw Uprising, the troubles of Western allies and the stalling Soviet summer offensive. The Red Army and Czechoslovak allies failed to gain their access to Dukla, where the result was around 85,000 casualties.

The rebel army was renamed as 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia - this symbolised the Czech-Slovak reunification, which earned recognition from the Allied forces. This was followed by a counter-attack from Germans – the troops entered Slovakia from Hungary, which was occupied by Germans. Stalin moved his focus of interest from Eastern Slovakia to Hungary, Austria and Poland before finally turning back to Czech and Slovak lands. The Axis forces therefore managed to seize the territory from the insurgents and encircled their fighting groups.

Insurgents had to evacuate Banská Bystrica just prior to the German takeover. SOE and OSS agents retreated to the mountains alongside the thousands of others fleeing 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 Höffle and President Tiso celebrated in Banská Bystrica and awarded medals to German soldiers for their part in the suppression of the uprising.


Partisans with the remains of the regular forces continued their efforts in the mountains. Einsatzgruppen executed many Slovaks suspected of aiding the rebels and destroyed 93 villages for suspicion of collaboration. 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 and Nemecká. Germans captured Golian and Viest in and they interrogated and executed them. SOE and OSS teams eventually united and requested immediate assistance. Germans surrounded both groups and captured them. Germans took the rest to Mauthausen concentration camp where they were tortured and executed.     The victory of Germans served to post-pone the downfall of pro-Nazi regime. However, by December 1944, Romanian and Soviet troops have driven German troops out of southern Slovakia. In January 1945, the Red Army took towns in Eastern Slovakia. By the end of the March, northwest of Slovakia had been taken and they proceeded to Bratislava and Banská Bystrica.


Lucia Suhanyiova
British International School of Bratislava


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Bratislava History Project
British International School of Bratislava
Peknikova 6, 841 02 Bratislava
+ 421 2 6930 7081 info@bisb.sk


Contact : Richard Jones-Nerzic