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History - Jozef Tiso and The Slovak State


The Munich Agreement on September 29, 1938, betrayed Czechoslovakia. Military alliances of the First Czechoslovak Republic with France were not upheld and the United Kingdom and France allowed Hitler’s Nazi Germany to occupy Sudetenland (mostly German-speaking north of the Czech lands). Thinking that this would satisfy Hitler, the powers were mistaken in believing that appeasement would get them very far. Shortly after Munich, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš immigrated and on October 6, 1938, the leading Slovak parties met and declared autonomy of the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia. Jozef Tiso was named prime minister. There were various efforts by those supporting Czechoslovakia to preserve its territorial integrity (“Homola´s Coup” on March 9, 1939 – a coup d’état deposing and replacing prime minister Tiso). However, after negotiating with Hitler in Munich on March 13, 1939, Tiso and other Slovak officials assembled the parliament and declared independence on March 14, 1939. This date marks the founding of the First Slovak State (it was officially a republic after October 1, 1939, when a constitution was ratified and Tiso became president). The Czech part became a protectorate of Nazi Germany. Hitler invaded it on March 15.


Monsignor Jozef Tiso 

Jozef Tiso was a Roman-Catholic priest. He also served as chaplain in the Hungarian army in World War I. At that time, church officials were often educated better than most people, so it was not uncommon to see priests in politics and public life. Tiso entered the Slovak People’s Party (later called Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party) in 1918 – a party fighting for Slovak autonomy since its founding by Andrej Hlinka (also a priest). He was a member of the Czechoslovak Parliament as well as a government minister. After Andrej Hlinka died in 1938, Tiso practically became the leader of Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party. 

The Slovak State and WWII 

The First Slovak Republic was an authoritarian regime with government censorship and single-party political spectrum. Almost immediately after declaring independence, the Slovak State signed a friendship treaty with Germany. The Slovak Republic declared war on many states including, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. It was the only Axis nation besides Germany to participate in the Blitzkrieg – the attack on Poland. Besides this attack, Slovak units fought especially on the Eastern front in the Soviet Union On August 29, 1944, the Slovak National Uprising began. It was an armed revolt against the government of Jozef Tiso. Its units consisted of rebel units of the Slovak Army, Slovak partisans, communist partisans, as well as some international forces. Though it did not achieve much militarily (especially due to lack of coordination and organization) – like in Yugoslavia or Poland, the Slovak National Uprising illustrated that not everyone unanimously supported the regime and remains one of the key positives of the Slovak military in World War II. After the Slovak National Uprising was suppressed by German and Slovak forces, the Slovak State remained under German occupation until it was liberated by the Soviet Army in 1945. 

The Jewish Question 

Shortly after independence, the Slovak State began taking measures against Jews. Known as the Jewish Code, the law defined Jews on racial grounds and specified their social, economic and political rights (or lack of rights, rather). It was the last step before deportations took place. Almost 60,000 Jews were deported to German concentration camps from Slovakia during the year 1942. Another nearly 14,000 were deported during German occupation in 1944. The anti-Jewish laws were in many ways more severe than those in Nazi Germany. What remains horrifying yet fascinating is that the Jewish Code was passed by the Slovak government and that the laws for deportations were passed by the entire Slovak Parliament. The Slovak State was officially a Christian country; its president was a Catholic priest. But this excerpt from his speech from August of 1942 summarizing the stance of most Slovaks shows how the horrors were possible: “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.“ The Vatican, as well as other church and civic authorities spoke out against the harsh measures against Jews and against the deportations in Slovakia. But Jozef Tiso, under immense pressure from Germany and other radical Slovak politicians (though not without a conscience) remained adamant. Slovak participation in the Holocaust is an ineffaceable stain on Slovak history and Jozef Tiso remains a very controversial figure. Even today there are influential personages like Ján Sokol, an important Slovak archbishop, and many historians who do not condemn his actions.

Frantisek Butora
CS Lewis Bilingual High School




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Contact : Richard Jones-Nerzic