- Slovak National Uprising
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Slovak National Uprising
World War II
caption=Convoy of Slovak army vehicles near Kelemeš (today part of Prešov)
August 29, 1944– October 28, 1944
casus=Nazi influence in Slovakia
combatant1=flagicon|Nazi Germany| Germany
combatant2=flagicon|Slovakia|1938| 1st Czechoslovak Army
Gottlob Berger Hermann Höffle
Ján GolianKIA Rudolf ViestKIA
strength1=40,000, later increased to 83,000
strength2=18,000 initially, later increased to 78,000
casualties2=≈10,000 + 5,304 captured and executed
The Slovak National Uprising (Slovak: "Slovenské národné povstanie", abbreviated SNP) or 1944 Uprising was an armed
insurrectionorganized by the Slovakresistance movement during World War II. It was launched on August 29 1944from Banská Bystricain an attempt to oust the collaborationist government of Jozef Tiso. Although the rebel forces were defeated by Germany, guerrilla warfarecontinued until the occupation of Slovakia by the Soviet Armyin 1945.
In the post-war period, many political entities attempted to "hijack" the uprising to their credit. The communist regime in
Czechoslovakiapresented the Uprising as an event initiated and governed by communistforces. Slovak nationalists, on the other hand, claim that the uprising was a plot against the Slovak nation, as one of its main objectives was to oust the regime of the puppet Slovak state and reestablish Czechoslovakia, in which Slovaks were dominated by Czechs. In fact, many factions fought in the uprising, including large rebel units of the Slovak Army, Slovak partisans, communist partisans, and international forces. Given this fractionalization, the Uprising did not have unambiguous popular support. Yet, the participants and supporters of the Uprising represented every religion, class, gender, age, and anti-Nazi political fraction of the Slovak nation.Fact|date=July 2008
Edvard Beneš, leader of the Czechoslovak government in exilein London, had initiated the preparations for the possible revolt in 1943 when he made first contacts with the dissident elements of the Slovak Army. In December 1943, various groups that would be involved with the uprising—the government in exile, Czechoslovak democrats and communists and Slovak army—formed the underground Slovak National Council, and signed the so-called "Christmas Treaty", a joint declaration to recognize Beneš' authority and to recreate Czechoslovakia after the war. The council was responsible for creating the preparatory phase of the Uprising.
In March 1944, Slovak army
Lieutenant Colonel Ján Goliantook charge of the preparations. Conspirators stockpiled money, ammunition and other supplies in military bases in central and eastern Slovakia. The rebelling forces called themselves Czechoslovak Forces of the Interiorand the First Czechoslovak Army. Approximately 3,200 Slovak soldiers deserted and joined partisan groups or the Soviet Red Army. In April 1944 Slovak Jews, Rudolf Vrbaand Alfred Wetzlerescaped from Auschwitzand eventually spoke about the horrors in German death camps.
In summer 1944 partisans intensified their war against German occupation forces mainly in the mountains of north-central Slovakia. In July, Red Army troops in the
Soviet Unionand Polandbegan to advance towards Slovakia. By August 1944 the Red Army was at Krosno, Poland and within 40 kilometers of the North-Eastern Slovak border.
Two heavily armed divisions of the Slovak Army together with the entire eastern Slovak Air Force were deliberately relocated to
Prešovin north-eastern Slovakia in summer 1944 to execute one of two preplanned options to begin the uprising. The two options were:
# the two divisions would start the uprising by coordinating their capture of
Dukla Pass(joining Poland and Slovakia through the Carpathian Mountains) with the arrival of the Soviet Army ( 1st Ukrainian Frontunder Marshall Ivan Konev), or
# respond to insurrectional army leader Ján Golian's orders to start resistance by immediately confronting any invading German forces and hold the pass until the Soviet Army could arrive.
Colonel Viliam Talskýwas Chief of Staff over the two divisions. He had agreed in advance with the insurrectional army leadership and the uprising planning committee of the Slovak National Council to execute either of these two plans, depending on the circumstances he faced. On August 27, 1944in Martin, a group of communist partisans under Soviet command in Kiev killed 30 members of a German military mission "en route" from Romania, a country that had just changed sides to support the Allies. German troops began to occupy Slovakia the next day to put down the rebellion. German arrangements for such occupation were done few weeks later.
At 19:00 hours on
August 29 1944Slovak Defence Minister General Ferdinand Čatlošannounced on state radio that Germany had occupied Slovakia. Golian sent the coded message to all units at 20:00 hours to begin the Uprising. Instead of adhering to the agreed plan, Colonel Talský gathered the entire eastern Slovak Air Force on August 30and abandoned the two divisions flying to a prearranged landing zone in Poland to join the Soviet Army. The two divisions, left in chaos and without leadership, were quickly disarmed on the afternoon of August 30 without a single shot. Consequently, the uprising commenced prematurely and lost a crucial component of their plan as well as their two most heavily armed divisions capable of resisting any German advance.
Accounts of the exact numbers of combatants vary. At first, the rebel forces consisted of an estimated 18,000 soldiers. The total increased to 47,000 after
mobilizationon September 9, 1944, and later to 60,000, plus 18,000 partisans from over 30 countries. The Slovak Insurgent Air Forcehad a small number of mostly obsolete planes.
In addition to Slovak forces, the combatants included various other groups from escaped French POWs to
Soviet partisans and SOE and OSS operatives. The Slovak side had to use mostly bi-planes and improvised armored trains to fight against the better equipped German weapons. In addition to Soviet aid, U.S. B-17 Flying Fortressbombers landed at Tri Duby airfield on October 7 1944and brought supplies and OSS agents. Before returning they embarked 25 Allied pilots shot down over Slovakia in past few month and also five French partisans.
Course of the uprising
Rebels began the uprising on
August 298:00 p.m. under the command of Ján Golian. They entered Banská Bystricain the morning of August 30and made it their headquarters. German troops disarmed the Eastern Slovak Army on August 31. Many of the soldiers were sent to camps in Germany while others escaped and joined the Soviet-controlled partisans or returned home. On September 5Ján Golian became the commander of all the rebel forces in Slovakia and was given the rank of General. Slovak forces in central Slovakia mobilized 47,000 men. His first analysis of the situation predicted that insurgents could resist German attacks for about two weeks.
September 10the rebels gained control of large areas of central and eastern Slovakia. That included two airfields, and the Soviet Air Force began to fly in equipment.
The pro-German government of Tiso remained in power in
Bratislava. Germany moved 40,000 SS soldiers under Gottlob Bergerto suppress the uprising. They detained and disarmed two Slovak divisions and 20,000 soldiers that had been supposed to secure the mountain passes to help the Red Army. Beneš had met with Stalin and Molotov in Moscow in December 1943 to secure Soviet support for the uprising. However, Stalin and the STAVKAfailed to timely deliver the needed support to the insurgent army and even blocked Western offers of military aid as they did only a few weeks earlier in the Warsaw uprising. Meanwhile, General Koniev and the Soviet partisan headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine continued to undermine the Slovak insurgent army by ordering partisan groups operating in forward positions in Slovakia to conduct operations and avoid coordination with the Slovak insurgent army. The Soviet led partisans even demanded and took desperately needed weapons and munitions from the insurgent Slovak army that were stored for the uprising. The vast majority of Soviet air drops of weapons over insurgent-held territory in Eastern and Northern Slovakia were quickly confiscated by Soviet partisansand little ended up in the hands of the much stronger and better trained Slovak insurrectional army.
September 8the Red Army began an offensive on the Dukla Pass on the Slovak-Polish border and tried to fight through the Carpathian Mountainsto penetrate into Slovakia. This poorly-planned and late action resulted in tremendous casualties on both sides and became bogged down for nearly two months.
Beneš, the Soviet partisans and various Slovak factions began to argue among themselves for operational control. Although he tried on repeated occasions, General Golian could not bring the sides together to coordinate their efforts. General
Rudolf Viestflew in and took command on October 7. Golian became his second-in-command. Viest could not control the situation when political rivalries resurfaced in the face of military failure.
The uprising also coincided with the stalling of the Soviet summer offensive, the failure of the
Warsaw Uprising, and other troubles on the side of the Western allies. The Red Army and its Czechoslovakian allies failed to quickly penetrate the Dukla Pass despite the fierce fighting between September 8and October 28; they suffered 85,000 casualties (21 000 dead). The Czechoslovak government in exile failed to convince western allies to ignore Stalin's obstruction and send more supplies to the area.
September 17two B-17 Flying Fortresss flew in the OSS mission of LieutenantJames Holt-Green. SOE team of major John Sehmer followed the next day on its way to Hungary. Their reports confirmed the suspicions of Western Allies that the situation of the uprising was worsening.
September 19German command replaced SS-Obergruppenführer Berger, who had been in charge of the troops fighting the Uprising, with General Höffle. By that time Germans had 48,000 soldiers; they consisted of eight German divisions, including four from the Waffen-SSand one pro-Nazi Slovak formation.
October 1the rebel army was renamed the 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia, in order to symbolize the beginning of the Czech-Slovak reunification that would be recognized by the Allied forces.
A major German counteroffensive began on October 17–18 when 35,000 German troops entered the country from
Hungary, which had been under German military occupation since 19 March 1944. Stalin demanded that his advancing Second Ukrainian Front led by General Malinovsky be immediately diverted from Eastern Slovakia to Budapest. The western advance of Soviet forces came to a screeching halt in late October 1944, as Stalin's interests focused on Hungary, Austria and Poland before he was interested in Slovakia or the Czech lands. By the end of October, Axis forces (six German divisions and one pro-Nazi Slovak unit) had taken back most of the territory from the insurgents and encircled the fighting groups. Battles cost at least 10,000 casualties on both sides.
Insurgents had to evacuate Banská Bystrica on
October 27just prior to the German takeover. SOE and OSS agents retreated to the mountains alongside the thousands of others fleeing German advance. The rebels prepared to change their strategy to that of guerrilla warfare. On October 28, Viest sent London a message that said the organized resistance had ended. On October 30, General Höffle and President Tiso celebrated in Banská Bystrica and awarded medals to German soldiers for their part in the suppression of the uprising (claimed by some to have been done by Tiso as to save the lives of Slovak soldiers captured by German forces in the uprising, who were deported to concentration camps, and to save three Slovak cities from German bombardment).
However, partisans together with the remains of the regular forces continued their efforts in the mountains. In retaliation,
Einsatzgruppenexecuted many Slovaks suspected of aiding the rebels and destroyed 93 villages for suspicion of collaboration. A later estimate of the death toll was 5,304 and authorities discovered 211 mass graves that resulted from those atrocities. The largest executions occurred in Kremnička(747 killed) and Nemecká(900 killed).
November 3Germans captured Golian and Viest in Pohronský Bukovec; they later interrogated and executed them.
SOE and OSS teams eventually united and sent a message in which they requested immediate assistance. Germans surrounded both groups on
December 25and captured them. Some of the men were summarily executed. Germans took the rest to Mauthausen concentration campwhere they were tortured and executed.
The German victory only postponed the eventual downfall of the pro-Nazi regime. Six months later, the Red Army had overrun Axis troops in Czechoslovakia. By December 1944 Romanian and Soviet troops had driven German troops out of southern Slovakia in the
Battle of Budapest. On January 19, 1945, the Red Army took Bardejov, Svidník, Prešovand Košicein Eastern Slovakia. On March 3–5 they had taken over northwest Slovakia. On March 25 they entered Banská Bystrica and on April 4 marched into Bratislava.
Although the main military objectives were not achieved due to improper timing of the uprising and discoordinate actions of Soviet partisans that often undermined the plans and objectives of the insurrectional Slovak army--if occurred later when preparations were complete could theoretically have reverted the whole of Slovakia to the allied side and allowed the Red Army to quickly pass through Slovakia (though it is questionable whether the Soviet leadership would have preferred such an option because this would have significantly empowered the democratic forces in Slovakia)--the guerrilla struggle bound significant German forces that could otherwise have reinforced the
Wehrmachton the eastern front lines against the advancing Ukrainian Fronts to the north and south of Slovakia. Nevertheless, much of Slovakia was left devastated by the Uprising and the German counter-offensive and occupation.
*Downs, Jim. "World War II: OSS Tragedy in Slovakia"
*Lettrich, Jozef. "History of Modern Slovakia" (F.A. Praeger 1955)
*Vlcko, Peter. "In the Shadow of Tyranny: A History in Novel Form" (Vantage Press 1973); ISBN 0-533-00363-6
*Martin D. Brown. "The SOE and the failure of the Slovak National Uprising" ("History Today" December 2004)
Slovak Insurgent Air Force
* [http://www.muzeumsnp.sk/english/ Slovak National Uprising Museum] in Banská Bystrica
* [http://www.duklapass.org/ Friends of Dukla Pass Association]
* [http://www.czechpatriots.com/csmu/ Czechoslovak military units in USSR] (1942–1945)
* [http://www.snp.sk/index_eng.php Slovak National Uprising Anniversary website]
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