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USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Slovakia

Established in 1994 to preserve the audio-visual histories of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: the Visual History Archive (VHA).

Slovakia

In Slovakia, Jews were not under direct German rule but were subject to a regime that strove to follow national socialist ideals. Beginning in 1939, a series of anti-Jewish measures were introduced; from 1941, Jewish men were sent to work for the Slovak Sixth Labor Battalion.

The mass deportation of Jews began in March 1942. Slovak Jews were some of the first prisoners to be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The archive includes testimonies of prisoners who survived from that time (e.g. Ria Elias, interview code 25023, Portuguese). Several testimonies discuss the Slovak escapees from Auschwitz, Rudolf Vrba (Walter Rosenberg), Josef Lanik (Alfred Wetzler).

A unique aspect of Slovak Holocaust history is the activity of the "Working Group" (Pracovná Skupina). This organization was made up of members of the Ústredna Zidov (the Slovak Judenrat) who, through a variety of methods including bribery, attempted to save Slovak Jews from deportation. Partly as a result of their efforts, the deportations were stopped in October 1942. The Working Group played a major role in getting the camps Sered', Nováky, and Vyhne designated as labor camps so that their Jewish specialist workforces would be safe from deportation.

The USC Shoah Foundation's archive includes interviews of Andrew Steiner (interview code 5154, English), the last living member of Working Group; Emanuel Frieder (interview code 7202, Hebrew), brother of rabbi Armin Frieder of the Working Group; and Gideon Frieder (interview code 22840, English), rabbi Frieder's son. Vladimír Bachnár (interview code 24550, Slovak), a member of the communist underground, discusses his activities in the Working Group as an insider in the deportations department of the Judenrat. The archive also includes the testimony of Ernest [Arnost] Rosin (interview code 32034, German), a Slovak Jew who escaped from Auschwitz in May 1944 and was one of the four contributors to the Auschwitz Protocols, a report on the mass killings at the camp.

Transit camps/deportation centers such as Nitra, Poprad, Zilina, and others are discussed in a number of testimonies. Interviews also relate the activities of the Hlinka Guard and the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel, the Slovak and ethnic-German militias.

At least 200 interviews include discussions of the Slovak National Uprising of 1944 and its subsequent collapse. The archive contains a number of interviews with partisans who fought in the uprising. Survivors who participated were able to remain in Slovakia until liberation, hiding in the mountains and forests.

The Slovak National Uprising is discussed especially in the Slovak-language interviews. Among them, Alexander Bachnár (interview code 14754, Slovak; cousin of the aforementioned Vladimír Bachnár) was one of the Jewish partisan commanders of the uprising; another Jewish partisan figure is Bernard Knezo (interview code 17272, Slovak).

Among the rarer experiences recounted in the testimonies are those of the wartime Slovakian administration of a small area of southern Poland, including the town of Jurgów.

Among the non-Jewish interviewees is Anton Rasla (interview code 20285, Slovak), who was the chief prosecutor in the postwar trial of Jozef Tiso. An example of a Slovak rescuer is Stefan Pancik (interview code 37777, Slovak), whose family protected Andrew Steiner and others.

Southern Slovakia (Felvidék)

Over 1,500 interviewees were born in the area of southern Slovakian border around Kosice that came under Hungarian rule after March 1939 and was known in Hungarian as Felvidék. Hungarian authorities immediately enacted several anti-Jewish laws. The Hungarian army began to draft men of age into the forced labor service (Munkaszolgálat), a section of the army that performed menial and dangerous tasks on the front lines without weaponry (at least 1,700 interviews in total describe this experience). Conscripts to the forced labor battalions often avoided deportation to Auschwitz, instead being marched to camps in Germany and Austria in late 1944-early 1945.

The first deportations took place in summer 1941. Hungarian authorities expelled a large number of Jews without Hungarian citizenship to the Skala and Kolomyja area of southwestern Ukraine (prewar Poland), an event described in over 250 testimonies. In August, they handed over 23,000 of these so-called alien Jews to German and Ukrainian forces, who massacred them in Kamenets-Podol'skii.

The area experienced the full force of the Final Solution after the German invasion of Hungary on March 19, 1944. Immediately, the Germans set about aggressively enacting the Final Solution, assisted by the Hungarian authorities and gendarmerie. Ghettos were established as early as the next month. In May 1944, Jews were being deported en masse to Auschwitz, and by that summer, the area was Judenrein.

Almost all of these interviews of witnesses born in the southern Slovakia (Felvidék) region were conducted in other parts of the world and in various languages, attesting to the widespread emigration of the surviving Jewish community from the area.

 

The Shoah Foundation Institute conducted 664 interviews in Slovakia and 573 in the Slovak language. Around 1,900 of the archive's interviewees were born in what is today Slovakia.

 

See also: Czechoslovakia

 

Selected Indexing Terms

Banské Belé (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Bratislava-Patronka (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Catlos, František

Fleishmann, Gisi

Freiwillige Schutzstaffel (FS)

Frieder, Armin

German invasion of Slovakia (August 28-29, 1944)

Hlinka Guard

Hlinka, Andrej

Hlinková Mladez

Ilava (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Jurgów (Poland)

Mach, Alexander

Nitra (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Nováky (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Poprád (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Pracovná Skupina

Senica (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Sered (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Slovak concentration camps (generic)

Slovak forced labor battalions

Slovak National Uprising (Aug 28 - Oct 27, 1944)

Slovak occupation conditions

Slovak police and security forces

Slovak resistance fighters

Slovak resistance groups

Slovak soldiers

Tiso, Jozef

Topolcany pogrom (September 1945)

Tuka, Vojtech

Ustredna Zidov

Vašek, Anton

Vyhne (Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

Weissmandel, Michael Dov

Wisliceny, Dieter

Zilina (Slovakia, Czechoslovakia : Concentration Camp)

 

 

Selected Bibliography

Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale?: Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933-1945, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Fatran, Gila. Boj o prežitie, Bratislava : SNM--Múzeum židovskej kultúry, 2007.

Nižňanský, Eduard. Nacizmus, holokaust, slovenský štát, Bratislava: Kalligram, 2010.

 

Visual History Archive Curator

Crispin Brooks's picture
Crispin Brooks
Contact:
DML 232, 213-740-5463
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