Introduction to Rescue in Slovakia


Slovakia was created after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in April 1938.  Slovakia was led by dictator Dr. Josef Tiso, who was a Catholic priest. 

There were approximately 90,000 Jews living in Slovakia during the war.  This comprised about three percent of the total population of Slovakia, which was three million.  Eighty-seven percent were Catholic, and 13% were Protestant.  Slovakia was one of the most predominantly Catholic countries in Central Europe.  Many of the Slovak leaders were priests.

Slovakia was the first German satellite created as a nation state. 

The first of the antisemitic laws was passed by the Slovak government on April 18, 1939.  It defined a Jew not be religion, but by race.  Even baptized Jews were still considered Jews.

Slovakia agreed to formalize and agreement with Germany to arrest, detain, and deport its Jews.  The Slovak government even agreed to pay for the deportation of its Jews.  They paid 500 Reichsmarks for every Jew deported.

In 1942, 66,000 Slovakian Jews were deported, more than 58,000 of these to the death camp at Auschwitz.  By October 1942, two out of every three Slovakian Jews were deported to their deaths. 

There were a number of Jewish organizations that sprung up in Slovakia that helped alleviate the suffering and helped Slovak Jews escape.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was particularly active in Slovakia in helping to provide funds.  Both Josef Blum and Bertrand S. Jacobson were officials representing the JDC.  They were also responsible for much of southeastern Europe.  Blum was a Slovak Jew who operated out of both Bratislava and Budapest, where he had offices.  Blum also was responsible for the JDC in Poland and Romania.

A committee rose up in Slovakia to help the Jews survive.  It was a group that called itself The Working Group.  They came up with a bold initiative to bribe Nazi officials to allow Jews to escape the deportations.  The group was headed by Rabbi Michael Ben Dov Weissmandel and Gisi Fleischman. 

There were a number of non-Jewish forces that helped Jews in Slovakia.  Particularly notable were the Catholic nuncio Giuseppe Burzio and members of the Slovakian episcopate.  Both groups protested to Slovak authorities against the deportation of Jews.

Giuseppe Burzio sent the Vatican numerous reports on actions being taken against Jews.  He reported on the confiscation of Jewish businesses and assets, and Jews being forced to register and declare their personal property.  He wrote about Jews being forbidden to attend schools.  He was particularly concerned about protecting Jews who had converted to Catholicism to protect themselves.

Because of the work of these brave individuals, and because the war went badly for the Nazis, the deportations were halted in July 1943.

Approximately 30,000 Slovakian Jews survived the war.  Slovakia was liberated by the Soviet army in April 1945.



Survival of Jews in Slovakia


Jews of Slovakia – 20-24% (17,950-20,950 survived, 68,000-71,000 lost).  Pre-deportation Jewish population was 88,950.[1]  Jewish rescue, aid and relief organizations were established by the Jewish community.  The first was the Committee of Six, out of which was created the Pracovná Skupina (Working Group).  The leaders of these groups appealed to Slovak political leaders and prominent citizens, who were able to halt a planned deportation in October 1942.  10,000 Slovak Jews escaped to Hungary before the German occupation in March 1944.[2]  572 Slovakians have been honored for rescuing Jews.[3]





[1] Bauer & Rozett, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Estimated Losses in the Holocaust,” p. 1799; Jelinek, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Yugoslavia,” p. 706, states prewar Jewish population of Yugoslavia was between 71,000-82,000 Jews, and the number of Jews murdered was 11,000 in Serbia, 20,000 in Croatia and Slavonia, 17,000 in Vojvodina, 1,300 in Slovenia, 10,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 7,000-7,200 in Macedonia; Hilberg, 1985, p. 1220, Rothkirchen, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Slovenia” p.597

[2] Jelinek & Rozett, in Kerem, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Slovakia,” and “Slovak Jewish Rescue Committee,” pp. 1364-1370; Fuchs, 1984; Dagan, 1968-1984; Rothkirchen, 1961

[3] Fatran, in Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Slovakia: Historical Introduction,” pp. xcii-cx; Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Slovakia,” 423-512



Updated November 5, 2017