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Slovenské Národné Povstanie - the Slovak national uprising

A timeline of key SNP events:

29 September 1938: British PM Neville Chamberlain, French PM Eduard Daladier, Italian PM Benito Mussolini and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler meet in Munich and surrender the Sudetenlands of the Czech lands to Germany.

2 November 1938: The Vienna Arbitration is signed, forcing Slovakia to give up more than 10,000 square kilometres of land, 779 villages, and 859,000 inhabitants (276,280 of whom were ethnic Slovak) to Hungary. The Munich Treaty and the Vienna Arbitration combined saw the former Czechoslovakia surrender one third of its land and five million of its people to Germany and Hungary. Thus the formerly formidable Czechoslovak state was divided and significantly weakened by Hitler’s manoeuvring.

14 March 1939: With Nazi backing, the Slovak Provincial Assembly declares Slovak independence; the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia is formed in the Czech lands the next day. Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest, becomes president of the first independent Slovakia. The reaction among the citizenry is mixed. The country understands that Slovak independence is only guaranteed by German troops and the Treaty of Protection signed between the two countries. However there is little opposition and the country prospers economically under Tiso.

23 March 1939: The ‘Little War’ begins, whereby Hungary invades and occupies much of eastern Slovakia.

28 March 1939: Under German pressure, Hungary withdraws. But it remains in possession of parts of the Snina, Sobrance and Michalovce regions.

1 September 1939: World War II begins. Three Slovak army divisions fight alongside German troops in Poland.

July 21, 1940: The Allied Forces recognise the exiled Czechoslovak government in Britain. The decision means that the Slovak state will only continue if the Nazis win the war.

22 June 1941: The Nazis invade the Soviet Union. Slovak soldiers are also involved in the campaign, albeit reluctantly. Dissension in the Slovak army ranks begins fomenting.

9 September 1941: Slovakia passes the Jewish Code, depriving Jews of their property and basic human rights. The law allows for the ensuing deportation of the country’s Jews to concentration camps.

1942: The partisan movement begins in earnest. Anti-fascist groups use secluded mountain cottages to hold clandestine meetings aimed at developing a plan to undermine the Nazis.

March - October 1942: Nearly 58,000 Jews are deported. By October 1944, the total climbs to 78,800. Nearly 70,000 are believed to have been killed in the camps. Slovakia actually pays Germany for the deportations, making it the only country in World War II to do so.

October 1943: As anti-Nazi sentiments increase in the Slovak army, the Germans lose faith in their fighting capability. The first demonstrable sign of this comes when Slovak troops are withdrawn from Minsk and sent to Italy to dig ditches.

12 December 1943: The Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Cooperation between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union is signed in Moscow.

Christmas 1943: The underground Slovak National Council is formed with the signing of the so-called ‘Christmas Treaty’. Backed by the exiled Czechoslovak government in London, the council is responsible for creating the preparatory phase of the Uprising.

March 1944: Approximately 3,200 Slovak soldiers desert and join partisan groups or the Red Army.

April 1944: Two Slovak Jews escape from Auschwitz and tell the world of the horrors in the death camps.

Summer 1944: Partisan warfare against German occupying forces breaks out mainly in the mountains of central Slovakia.

July 1944: Red Army troops begin heading for Slovakia from the Soviet Union and Poland.

27 August 1944: Around 30 German diplomats are murdered in Martin.

28 August 1944: More Nazi troops arrive in Slovakia with orders to put down the rebellion.

29 August 1944: The Slovak National Uprising officially begins when Defence Minister Ferdinand Čatloš announces on state radio that Germany has occupied Slovakia. The rebel Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia, formed to fight the Nazis, has an estimated 18,000 soldiers, a total which first increases to 47,000 after mobilisation on 9 September 1944, and later to 60,000, plus 12,000 partisans. The Slovaks are aided in the Uprising by soldiers and partisans from the Soviet Union, France, the (current) Czech Republic and Poland. In total, 32 nations are involved in the SNP.

31 August 1944: German troops disarm the Eastern Slovak Army. Many are sent to camps in the Third Reich, others escape and join partisan units or return home.

8 September 1944: The Red Army begins an attack on the Dukla Pass on the Slovak-Polish border, where Hitler has placed 55 troops. Two months later, the Russians win the battle and enter Slovakia. But the toll is tremendous: 85,000 Red Army soldiers are dead, plus several thousand Germans and Czechoslovaks.

19 September 1944: General Berger, the German in charge of ending the Uprising, is replaced after the partisans put up a stronger battle than the Nazis had anticipated. General Hofle takes charge of the German troops, which number 48,000 soldiers (six German divisions and one pro-Nazi Slovak unit).

1 October 1944: The rebel army of the Slovak National Uprising is renamed the 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia, signifying the beginning of the Czech-Slovak reunification recognised by the Allied forces.

17 October 1944: The Nazis mount a massive counter-attack, sending 35,000 troops north from Hungary.

27 October 1944: The Nazis take Banská Bystrica. The rebel army retreats to the mountains, marking a shift in strategy to guerrilla warfare. Although the main leaders of the movement are captured in Pohronský Bukovec, the partisans continue fighting in the hills till the end of the war.

30 October 1944: In Banská Bystrica, General Hofle and President Tiso award Nazi soldiers with medals for their suppression of the Uprising.

November 1944 - March 1945: Nazi troops begin searching for remaining partisans. Anyone suspected of aiding the rebels is killed; villages suspected of having collaborated with the movement are burnt to the ground. In total, 5,304 citizens are murdered; 211 mass graves are discovered; 93 villages are completely destroyed. The worst mass murders occur in Kremnička (747 killed) and Nemecká (900 killed).

December 1944: Much of southern Slovakia is liberated during the Budapest Operation, a joint effort of the Red Army and Romanian army.

19 January 1945: Eastern Slovakia’s Bardejov, Svidník, Prešov and Košice are all liberated by the Red Army.

3-5 March 1945: North-west Slovakia is liberated.

25 March 1945: Banská Bystrica is liberated.

4 April 1945: Bratislava is liberated.

9 May 1945: Prague and Berlin are liberated, the Nazis are defeated, and World War II ends in Europe.

Sources: The Slovak National Uprising museum in Banská Bystrica, the War Museum in Svidník, and ‘A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival’ by Stanislav Kirschbaum, a Slovak-Canadian historian.

World War II photographs: Courtesy the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) Museum in Banská Bystrica.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2002.

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