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Slovenský štát¹
Slovak State
Client state of Germany

1939–1945
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem
Nad Tatrou sa blýska / Hej, Slováci
Capital Bratislava
Language(s) Slovak
Government Republic
President Jozef Tiso
Historical era World War II
 - Secession 14 March 1939
 - Slovak National Uprising 29 August 1944
 - Fall of Bratislava 4 April 1945
 - Capitulation 8 May 1945
Area
 - 1940 38,055 km2 (14,693 sq mi)
Population
 - 1940 est. 2,653,053 
     Density 69.7 /km2  (180.6 /sq mi)
Currency Slovak koruna
¹ Slovenský štát (semi-official; until 21 July 1939)
Postage stamps of Slovakia, including a stamp of Czechoslovakia with an overprint reading: "Slovak State 1939"
Territorial changes of Slovak Republic from 1938 to 1947 (changes on border with Poland are missing)

The Slovak State (Slovak: Slovenský štát), also known as first Slovak republic (Slovak: Prvá slovenská republika) was a quasi-independent national Slovak state which existed from 14 March 1939 to 8 May 1945 as an ally and client state of Nazi Germany. It existed on roughly the same territory as present-day Slovakia (with the exception of the southern and eastern parts of present-day Slovakia). The Republic bordered Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, General Government (German-occupied remnant of Poland), and Hungary.

The Slovak State was recognized by Germany and several other states including the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, Croatia, El Salvador, Estonia, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Manchukuo, Mengjiang, Romania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, and Vatican City. The first Slovak Republic's legal existence was retroactively nullified by the World War II victorious allies through the nullification of the Munich Agreement and all its consequences.

It is also called the First Slovak Republic (Slovak: prvá Slovenská republika) or Slovak State (Slovak: slovenský štát or Slovenský štát) to distinguish it from the contemporary (Second) Slovak Republic, Slovakia, which is not considered its legal successor state. The name "Slovak state" was the form used by almost all history texts during the time of Communist Czechoslovakia (1948–1989). Another name that was used was the Independent State of Slovakia.

Contents

Creation

After the Munich Agreement, Slovakia gained autonomy inside Czecho-Slovakia (as the former Czechoslovakia had been renamed) and returned its southern territories to Hungary under the Vienna Award. As Adolf Hitler was preparing an invasion of the Czech lands and creation of Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, he had various plans for Slovakia (German officials were initially misinformed by the Hungarians that the Slovaks wanted to join Hungary). Finally it was decided to make of it a separate state under the strong influence of Germany, and a potential strategic base for German attacks on Poland and other regions.

On 13 March 1939, Hitler invited Monsignor Jozef Tiso (the Slovak ex-prime minister who had been deposed by Czech troops several days earlier) to Berlin and urged him to proclaim Slovakia's independence. Hitler added that if Tiso didn't do so, he would disinterest himself in Slovakia's fate. During the meeting, Joachim von Ribbentrop passed on a (false) report saying that Hungarian troops were approaching Slovak borders. Tiso refused to make such a decision himself, after which he was allowed by Hitler to organize a meeting of the Slovak parliament ("Diet of the Slovak Land"), which would approve Slovakia's independence.

On 14 March, the Slovak parliament convened and heard Tiso's report on his discussion with Hitler as well as a declaration of independence. Some of the deputies were sceptical of making such a move, but the debate was quickly quashed when Franz Karmasin, leader of the German minority in Slovakia, said that any delay in declaring independence would result in Slovakia being divided between Hungary and Germany. Under these circumstances, Parliament unanimously declared Slovak independence. Jozef Tiso was appointed the first Prime Minister of the new republic. The next day, Tiso sent a telegram (which had actually been composed the previous day in Berlin) asking the Reich to take over the protection of the newly minted state. The request was readily accepted.

Slovak military

War with Hungary

On 23 March 1939, Hungary, having already occupied Carpathian Ruthenia, attacked from there, and the newly established Slovak Republic was forced to cede 1697 km² of territory with about 70,000 people to Hungary. See Slovak-Hungarian War for more information.

Slovak Axis Forces during the Campaign against Poland, 1939

Slovakia was the only Axis nation other than Germany to take part in the Polish Campaign. With the impending German invasion of Poland planned for September 1939, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) requested the assistance of Slovakia. Although the Slovakian military was only six months old, it formed a small mobile combat group consisting of a number of infantry and artillery battalions. Two combat groups were created for the Campaign in Poland for use alongside the Germans. The first group was a brigade sized formation that consisted of six infantry battalions, two artillery battalions, and a company of combat engineers, all commanded by Antonín Pulanich. The second group was a mobile formation that consisted of two battalions of combined cavalry and motorcycle recon troops along with nine motorized artillery batteries, all commanded by Gustav Malár. The two groups were organized around the HQ of the 1st and 3rd Slovakian Infantry Divisions. The two combat groups saw fighting while pushing through the Nowy Sącz and Dukla Mountain Passes, advancing towards Dębica and Tarnów in the region of southern Poland.

The Slovak Expeditionary Army Group in Russia

Slovak Army units and armored cars in Sanok, summer of 1941.

Four days after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa, Slovakia sent its own units forward against the Soviet lines in the form of the Slovakian Expeditionary Army Group. The Slovak Army Group was commanded by the Slovak Minister of Defense, Ferdinand Čatloš.

As the Campaign in the East drew on, the Slovak forces began to fall behind the massive German sweep across the Soviet Union. This was mainly because of a general lack of mobile forces able to transport the 45,000 strong Slovak Army Group alongside the German advance.

Brigade Pilfousek

As a result of the inability of the Slovak Army Group to keep up with the German advance, it was decided to create a mobile unit that would be capable of doing so. This was done by forming all the motorized units of the former Slovak Army Group into a single formation termed the Slovak Mobile Command, otherwise known as Brigade Pilfousek, commanded by the former commander of the 2nd Slovak Division, Rudolf Pilfousek.

Brigade Pilfousek consisted of the I/6 Mot.Inf.Bn., I/11 Mot.Art.Bn., the 1st Tank Bn. with the 1st and 2nd Tank Co. and the 1st and 2nd Anti-Tank Co., 2nd Recon.Bn., 1st Weapons Co., 2nd Motorcycle Co., and the I/3/I Mot.Eng. Platoon.

Brigade Pilfousek advanced through Lvov and towards Vinnitsa. Around 8 July 1941, the Brigade had advanced beyond the tactical control of the Slovak command, so control of the unit was handed over to the German 17.Armee. It was at this time that the remaining forces of the former Slovak Army Group (no longer an independent formation), were used behind the German lines in conjunction with the 103rd Rear Area Command of Army Group South in security duties and helping to eliminate pockets of Soviet resistance. By 22 July, the Brigade, now under German control, had advanced to Vinnitsa and had pushed on towards Lipovets. The Brigade experienced heavy fighting against the Soviets during this time. Next, the Brigade moved north through Berdichev, Zhitomir, and on towards the region of Kiev.

The 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division

In the beginning of August, 1941, the Slovak Army Group was pulled out of the lines when it was decided to form two new units that would be better suited to the actions they would be taking part in. The best units of the former Slovak Army Group were now organized into two new divisions, the 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division and the 2nd Slovak (Security) Infantry Division. The 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division was also known as the Slovak Fast Division.

The Slovak Fast Division was originally commanded by Gustav Malar, one of the original commanders from the Slovak advance into Poland back in 1939. By the middle of September 1941, the 1st Slovak (Mobile) Division was back in the front lines, this time near Kiev. After the fighting near Kiev ended with its final capture, the Slovak Mobile Division was transferred to the reserves of Army Group South. Here the unit moved along the Dnieper River, through Gorodishche, Kremenchug, and Magdalinowka, where heavy fighting took place. As of 2 October, the Mobile Division was a part of the 1.Panzer-Armee fighting on the eastern side of Dnieper River near the region of Golubowka and Pereshchino. The Mobile Division was then moved on to the areas of Maripol and Taganrog, after which it spend the Winter of 1941-42 along positions on the Mius River. Later, the Mobile Division took part in the German advance into the Caucasus Region where it played a vital role in the assault and capture of the vital Soviet city of Rostov. Late in the Summer of 1942, the Divisional commander became Jozef Turanec. He led the Mobile Division across the Kuban River all the way to the region of Taupze. In late 1942, the 31st Artillery Regiment from the 2nd (Security) Infantry Division was transferred to the 1st Mobile Division. Command of the Mobile Division changed again in January 1943, when Lt.Gen Jurech took over command.

After the horrible loss at Stalingrad in the Winter of 1942/1943, the entire position of the Germans in the Caucasus region was altered, as now any further advance south would only insure the complete loss of all forces south of the Mius River if and when the Soviets reached Rostov in the North, thus trapping them. As direct result of the losses in the north, the forces in the Caucasus region were quickly pulled back north to escape possible entrapment. The 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division, as a part of the German forces fighting in the Caucasus region, was pulled back. The Mobile Division was nearly encircled and trapped near Saratowskaya, but managed to escape. The remaining portions of the Mobile Division were then airlifted out of the Kuban, but in so doing were forced to leave behind all their heavy equipment and weapons. The Mobile Division was then used to help cover the retreat of over the Sivash and Perkop land bridges. From here, the Division's history becomes unsure for the next few weeks, as a specific record of its operations could not be located for this section. What is known though is that it later ended up being commanded once again by a new commanding officer, Elmir Lendvay. It looks as if the Division was pulled from the lines for a short while, until it was again thrown into action, this time near the area of Melitopol. Soon after, the Division was caught by a massive Soviet surprise attack that had managed to break through the German lines. The Mobile Division was routed and over 2000 men were taken by the Soviets. The Mobile Division, routed and destroyed, was then pulled from the lines.

A hollow shell of the former Mobile Division was created in the early part of 1944. It consisted of II/20 Inf.Reg., III/20 Inf.Reg., a few 150 mm howitzers from the I/11 Art.Bn., some 37 mm anti-tank guns, the 9th and 13th light Flak Companies, and the 45 Construction Company. The new formation was dubbed the Tartarko Combat Group, and it contained 12 officers, 13 NCOs, and 775 men. It was sent back to the region of the Crimea for defensive operations, while the remainder of the Mobile Division was used in security operations behind the lines of Army Group South. Finally, in June 1944, the Division was pulled from the lines a final time and disarmed, being formed into a construction brigade for use in Rumania as a result of its continued unreliability in combat.

The 2nd Slovak (Security) Infantry Division

The 2nd Slovak (Security) Infantry Division was used mainly in security and anti-partisan operations in the rear areas of the German lines. Originally, the Security Division was used to clean up pockets of Soviet resistance that the Germans had passed up in the advance eastwards. Later, the Slovak Security Division was used in anti-partisan operations in the region of Zhitomer. A number of the Security Divisions units were removed from its ranks and transferred to the 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division, including the 31st Artillery Regiment. After the defeat at Stalingrad, as the morale of the Slovak troops began to fall, it was moved to the area of Minsk, a much more quiet sector of the front. Soon after, on 1 November 1943, as a result of continued problems with desertion in the unit, the Security Division was heavily disarmed and transferred to Ravenna, Italy to act as a construction brigade.

Slovenská domobrana

During the Slovak Uprising against Germany, the new Slovak Army was rebuilt under the name Domobrana (Home Guard).

The 12th Engineer Battalion

As a result of the heavy partisan actions against the German lines in 1943, the Slovak 12th Engineer Battalion was sent to the rear area of Army Group South where it took part in vital rail repair operations to fix lines cut by the Soviet partisans. It was later merged with the 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division when it was formed into a construction brigade in June 1944.

Slovak air force

The Slovenské vzdušné zbrane ("Slovak Air Force") (SVZ) was the air force of the short-lived World War II Slovak Republic. Its mission was to provide air support at fronts, and to protect Bratislava and metropolitan areas against enemy air strikes. These units supported Axis Powers' offensives in Ukraine and Russian Central front under the lead of Luftwaffe in the Stalingrad and Caucasus operations.

International relations

From the beginning, the Slovak Republic was under the influence of Germany. The so-called "protection treaty" (Treaty on the protective relationship between the German Empire and the Slovak State), signed on 23 March 1939, partially subordinated its foreign, military and economic policy to that of Germany (formally at least). The Slovak-Soviet Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was signed at Moscow on 6 December 1940.[1]

The most difficult foreign policy problem of the state were the relations with Hungary, which, after all, had annexed one third of Slovakia's territory by the First Vienna Award and had tried to occupy the remaining territory. Slovakia tried to achieve a revision of the Vienna Award, but Germany did not allow that. There were also constant quarrels concerning Hungary's treatment of Slovaks living in Hungary.

Characteristics

85% of the inhabitants of the Slovak Republic were Slovaks, the remaining 15% were made up of Germans, Hungarians, Jews and Roma. 50% of the population were employed in agriculture. The state was divided in 6 counties ("župy"), 58 districts ("okresy") and 2659 municipalities. The capital Bratislava had over 140,000 inhabitants.

The state continued the legal system of Czechoslovakia, which was modified only gradually. According to the Constitution of 1939, the "President" (Jozef Tiso) was the head of the state, the "Assembly/Diet of the Slovak Republic" elected for 5 years was the highest legislative body (no general elections took place, however), and the "State Council" performed the duties of a senate. The government with 8 ministries was the executive body.

The Slovak Republic was an authoritarian state marked by elements of fascism. It is characterized by some as a clerical fascist state - this is the definition officially coined by the Communists. The leading political party was the "Hlinka's Slovak People's Party- Party of Slovak National Unity. All other political parties, with the exception of parties representing national minorities (Germans and Hungarians) had been forbidden (this happened before the creation of the state, however). The government issued a number of antisemitic laws, prohibiting the Jews to participate in public life, and later supported their deportations to German concentration camps. See also Jozef Tiso for some details.

The existence of the republic had positive effects on Slovak economy, science, education and culture. The Slovak Academy of Sciences was founded in 1942, a number of new universities and high schools were established, Slovak literature and culture flourished.

Administrative divisions

Slovak Republic in 1944

The Slovak Republic was divided into 6 counties and 58 districts since 1 January 1940. (statistics as of 1 January 1940):

The Slovak Republic and the Holocaust

Soon after independence, the Slovak Republic began a series of measures aimed against the Jews in the country. The Hlinka's Guard began to attack Jews, and the "Jewish Code" was passed in September 1941. Resembling the Nuremberg Laws, the Code required that Jews wear a yellow armband, and were banned from intermarriage and many jobs. By October 1941, 15,000 Jews were expelled from Bratislava; many were sent to labor camps.

The Slovak Republic was one of the countries to agree to deport its Jews as part of the Nazi Final Solution. Originally, the Slovak government tried to make a deal with Germany in October 1941 to deport its Jews as a substitute for providing Slovak workers to help the war effort. After the Wannsee Conference, the Germans agreed to the Slovak proposal, and a deal was reached where the Slovak Republic would pay for each Jew deported, and, in return, Germany promised that the Jews would never return to the republic. The initial terms were for "20,000 young, strong Jews", but the Slovak government quickly agreed to a German proposal to deport the entire population for "evacuation to territories in the east".

The deportations of Jews from Slovakia started on 25 March 1942, but halted on 20 October 1942 after a group of Jewish citizens, led by Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl, built a coalition of concerned officials from the Vatican and the government, and, through a mix of bribery and negotiation, was able to stop the process. By then, however, some 58,000 Jews had already been deported, mostly to Auschwitz, as forced labourers for German armament factories, at least this was what Tiso and the Slovak government presumed it to be. Slovak government officials filed complaints against Germany, when it became clear that many of the previously deported Slovakian Jews had been gassed in mass executions.

Jewish deportations resumed on 30 September 1944, when the Soviet army reached the Slovak border, and the Slovak National Uprising took place. As a result of these events, Germany decided to occupy all of Slovakia and the country lost its independence. During the German occupation, another 13,500 Jews were deported and 5,000 were imprisoned. Deportations continued until 31 March 1945. In all, German and Slovak authorities deported about 70,000 Jews from Slovakia; about 65,000 of them were murdered or died in concentration camps. The overall figures are inexact, partly because many Jews did not identify themselves, but one 2006 estimate is that approximately 105,000 Slovak Jews, or 77% of their prewar population, died during the war.[2]

Two wings of the ruling party

Since 1939, a conflict between two wings arose within the party. The conservative and moderate wing led by the Roman Catholic priest Msgr. Jozef Tiso, the president of Slovakia and chairman of the party, wanted to create a specific authoritarian and religious state of Estates. This wing controlled the leading posts of the country, party and the clerics.

The other wing were more radical persons, who were inspired by the German National Socialist model, were strong Anti-Semites, wanted to remove all Czechs and to create a radically fascist state (Slovak National Socialism) based on blood and soil principles and collectivization. Their main organization was the Hlinka Guard (Hlinkova garda), which was controlled by the HSLS-SSNJ. The main representatives were the Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka and the Minister of the Interior Alexander Mach.

The problem of the extremist-fascist wing was that the general population supported Tiso's moderate wing, because the fascist wing was visibly demagogic, the fascist ideology was not compatible with most of the Slovak largely Catholic population of peasants and small businessmen and that the country was still doing very well economically compared to the neighbouring countries (even compared to Germany itself). The Nazi and the moderately Catholic wings were mutually kept together however by their common aversion from and fear of Bolshevism.

Germany initially supported Tuka, but since 1942 when deportations of Jews started and a Germany-inspired act identifying Tiso and the HSLS-SSJN with the country itself (the "Führer"-principle) was forcibly adopted, Tiso's temperate wing had full support of Germany, whose only concern was the Jewish question and no problems whatsoever at German borders. This even enabled Tiso's wing to stop the deportations of Jews after some time of compromising with the German Nazis.

History of Slovakia
Coat of arms of Slovakia
This article is part of a series
Samo's Empire
Principality of Nitra
Great Moravia
Kingdom of Hungary
(10th century-1918)
Realm of Máté Csák
Royal Hungary
Principality of Imre Thököly
Slovak Uprising
(1848-1849)
History of Czechoslovakia
Slovaks in Czechoslovakia
(1918–1938)
Slovak Soviet Republic
(1919)
Slovak Republic
(1939–1945)
Slovak National Uprising
(1944)
Slovaks in Czechoslovakia
(1960–1990)
Velvet Revolution
(1989)
Slovak Republic

Slovakia Portal
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Politicians and rulers

President

50 Slovak koruna silver coin on the occasion of 5 years anniversary of Slovak Republic (1939–1944) with an effigy of the Slovak president Josef Tiso.

Prime Ministers

Commanders of German Occupation Forces

  • 29 August 1944 – 20 September 1944 Gottlob Berger
  • 20 September 1944 – 3 April 1945 Hermann Höffle (not to be confused with Hermann Höfle)

Commanders of Soviet Occupation Forces

  • 6 August 1944 – 24 March 1945 Ivan Yefimovich Petrow
  • 25 April 1945 – July 1945 Andrey Anreyevich Yeremenko

End of the Slovak Republic

After the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, the Germans occupied the country (from September 1944), which thereby lost much of its independence. The German troops were gradually pushed out by the Red Army, by Romanian and by Czechoslovak troops coming from the east. The liberated territories became de facto part of Czechoslovakia again.

The First Slovak Republic definitely ceased to exist de facto on 4 April 1945 when the Red Army captured Bratislava and occupied all of Slovakia. De jure it ceased to exist when the exiled Slovak government capitulated to General Walton Walker leading the XX Corps of the 3rd US Army on 8 May 1945 in the Austrian town of Kremsmünster.

See also

References

  1. ^ National Archives, document reference FO 371/24856
  2. ^ Rebekah Klein-Pejšová (2006). "An overview of the history of Jews in Slovakia". Slovak Jewish Heritage. Synagoga Slovaca. http://www.slovak-jewish-heritage.org/history-of-jews-in-slovakia.php. Retrieved 2007-08-02.  

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