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Aranka Sápos – Mikulaš Jančura

Characteristic features of anti-Semitism in the period of the first Czechoslovak Republic
(based on some contemporary political and ecclesiastic press publications and
documents)

Introduction

The domestic politics of the Czechoslovak Republic before Munich was mostly
characterised by conflicting interests of the Czechs and Slovaks. The conflict of the two
nations constituting the state stigmatized the ‘non-Slav’ national minorities living in the
country. The Slovak political life between the two World Wars was characterised by
autonomy efforts and the reduction of the rights of the national minorities although the peace
treaty signed in St. Germaine in 1919 obliged the new Czechoslovak State to ensure their
rights.
Assumed or real inequalities, grievances, advantages provided to the historical territories as
opposed to the periphery of the country and preference of companies close to the ruling
political parties when government orders were allocated, … etc. led to increasingly strong
conflicts.
The contradictory part played by Slovakia had become in the focus of domestic policy. After
the Parliamentary elections in 1925, the strength of the Slovak oppositional parties could
already be seen. The highest number of mandates was acquired by the Slovak Popular Party
fighting for autonomy, which entered the government in 1927 led by Andrej Hlinka. They
achieved their goal, the ‘acknowledgement’ of Slovak autonomy in 1938.
In the first period of its ‘independence’, the Slovak nation could not find a place within the
framework of the common state, it expected the new state to provide more than it was actually
able to.
The common state comprised of two partners unequal economically and socially. The Czech
party was conscious both of its leading role and the backward position of the Slovak nation
and abused its power on more than one occasions.
One of the reasons of conflicts between Czechs and Slovaks was the presence of over 100
thousand Czech civil servants in Slovakia. The Slovak population disliked the leading
positions and well-paid jobs held by the Czechs. They objected to the further ‘superfluous

inflow” of Czech administrators into different government agencies and expressed
disappointment because ‘ almost all Slovaks retire from several offices and now people from
Czechia are invited to fill the vacant positions.’ They did not only object to the Czech
administrators but ‘to Germans, Hungarians and Jews more compliant with the present
government.’1 The Czech employees coming from a better, more stable social environment or
the national minorities (Hungarians, Germans or Jews) mostly irritated the better educated but
unemployed or poorly paid Slovaks. 2
The different economic standards and cultural features of the parts of the country resulted in
major conflicts. The differences of religion and lifestyle of the two nations also caused
misunderstandings and discord. Some Czechs were insensitive to the traditional Slovak
lifestyle, religious beliefs, customs or emotions.3
Religious intolerance had been present in the attitudes of Czech and Slovak immigrants in
America even before the common state was declared. 4 The Catholic Slovak immigrants in
America had reservations regarding the common state established with the Czechs, because
the progressive Czech movements considered the Catholic Church to be the greatest enemy of
the Czech nation, so they wanted to ‘get rid of it’.5
Catholic Slovaks, on the other hand, were displeased by Czech liberalism. They believed its
open, profane lifestyle to be superficial and materialistic. They found it difficult to accept that
Czech historic personalities were taught at schools because they considered them foreigners.
The Slovak Catholic Church had to face several difficulties in the new state, such as:
- the Slovak Roman Catholic Church did not have a Slovak bishop immediately after
the declaration of the republic6
- open appearance of anti-Catholicism via Czech teachers who had removed the cross
from the walls of some Slovak schools

Žiadáme aby zbytočný príliv českých ľudí orstal. In. Slovak. Vol. XV., issue 147 (2 July, 1933)
ŠKVARNA, Dušan. Slovensko-české vzťahy v medzivojnovom (1918-38) období ovplyvnila
asynchrónnosť vývoja. ( Online access: www. voltaire.netkošice.sk)
3
ŠKVARNA, Dušan. Zvláštná cesta slovenských dejín a nachádzanie vlastnej identity. Od polarizácie
k sôpčasnej diferenciácii. http://blisky.cz/art/12796.html
4
The foundations of the common state were laid by Czech and Slovak immigrants in America. The
public at home was little aware of the movements in America. The Slovak political life was activated in May
1918 led by Andrej Hlinka Catholic priest.
5
HIŠWM, Cyril. Cirkev v novovzniknutej Československej republike. In. Církev v české a slovenské
historii.Spoločnosť pre dialog církve a státu. Olomouc, 2004. p.13.
6
The bishops at Nyitra, (Nitra) Vilmos Battyányi and Besztercebánya (Banska Bistrica), Wolfgang
Radnai were expulsed by the government due to their Hungarian sympathies. Bishops Sándor Parvay at
Szepesség (Spiŝ) and Lajos Balász at Rozsnyó (Rožňava) had died. Bishop Dr. Augustín Fischer-Colbrie of
German-Hungarian descent alone remained in position in Kassa (Kosice).
1
2

- the Czechoslovak Government introduced several measures rejected or considered
inimical by the Catholic Church, for instance: the termination of mandatory religious
education, which was changed later and remained in effect at every school in Slovakia
- the nationalisation of the schools of the Catholic Church 7
- termination of some Catholic church holidays 8
Despite the anti-Church steps of the state, the Slovak Catholic PM-s were able to achieve that
a move on the separation of the Church from the State submitted to Parliament was rejected.
The Slovak Roman Catholic Church did not only ‘fight a war’ with the state but also with the
Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church played a leading part among Slovak intellectuals, but
lost that position in the first decade of the 20th century. Its place was taken over by the
Roman Catholic Church, which was, naturally, difficult to accept . „ … using his PhariseeJesuit logic, Hlinka was unable to distort the fact that 95% of the Slovak patriotic
intelligentsia was Lutheran when the takeover of power took place and the majority Catholics
only made up a ridiculous 5% of the Slovak patriotic intelligentsia. …’9
Squabbles and accusations had been common between the two churches even before the first
Parliamentary elections (1920). Both sides had been trying to influence their followers and
present a positive image. ‘We, Lutherans do not take religion into politics, we do not establish
political parties on religious basis, we do not make a difference between Slovak Lutherans
and Slovak Catholics. An honest Slovak Catholic is better for us than a Hungarian Lutheran.
We dislike the Popular Party because it incites conflicts among Slovaks just because one of
them is Lutheran and the other is Catholic. Since we do not have our own Lutheran political
party, we have to think twice which political party to support as Lutherans.’10
The Lutheran Church had no confidence in the politics of the Catholic Popular Party ‘ ... the
Popular Party is led by Roman Catholic priests headed by Tiso who has proved several times

7

While all 20 Catholic grammar schools were nationalised, the schools of the Lutherans remained in the
management of the Church. Only 3 out of 17 Catholic teacher training institutions remained in possession of the
Church, one of them teaching in Hungarian. Church-managed elementary schools were not nationalised, but
lacking support, more and more Catholic schools had to close their gates and continued operating as government
schools.
8
The Prague Parliament terminated certain church holidays, e.g.: Days of Mary - 2 February, 25 March
and 8 September. On the other hand, 6 July, the Day of burning Ján Hus was declared a holiday.
9
Dr. SLÁVIK, Michal. Vallási gyűlölet. [Religious hatred.] Cirkevné listy. Vol. XLIII. , issue 17 (30
September, 1929)
10
Cirkevné listy. Kit választanak a szlovák evangélikusok? [Who should Slovak Lutherans vote for?]
1920

being a real Jesuit vis-à-vis the Lutherans and hostility is in his blood. The whole politics of
the Party is led in the same spirit. ... ‘11
The Slovak autonomy and then the declaration of an independent Slovak state further
accentuated the animosity of the two churches. The winner Slovak Popular Party of Hlinka
took every opportunity to underline the importance of the Party and the Catholic ideas in
achieving Slovak independence. The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, was also persistent
to criticise self-praise, Catholic hegemony and the cult of Hlinka. ‘ The Pribina festival was
again an occasion to celebrate the victory of Catholicism. The way Hlinka behaved joined by
the adorations of the Catholic hierarchy present, their attitude was to the detriment of
mutuality and the good reputation of the Republic. It was not the tradition of the first Slovak
prince or his historic past in focus but the Catholic conquest and victory. .... Pribina was
monopolised and the Lutherans were ignored. The Ludák (Popular Party) paper Slovak wrote
Pribina was Catholic just as the first church. – Pharisee! He was a Christian and belonged to
all Christians.’
There were some within the Lutheran Church, who ‘…, indirectly support Ludák politics via
the Popular Party; they believe Hlinka would provide the Lutherans with the advantages of
autonomy if achieved, but they are mistaken. Hlinka has never acknowledged anybody but
himself, Jesuit Catholicism and is even willing to plough through dead bodies to achieve his
goal. It would happen in the same way in the case of the autonomy.’12
The articles of contemporary ecclesiastic papers also reflect the conflict between the two
churches.’ 13 The two churches tried to take any opportunity to express their inimical feelings,
mutual accusations and to discredit each other ‘As a witness in the Tuka trial, Andrej Hlinka
said under oath that the whole issue against his Catholic Party had been triggered by the
‘Lutheran-liberal faction’ and he repeated it without any grounds.’14 They kept pointing
accusing fingers at each other, reiterating when, where and what positions were filled in
public administration by priests and ministers of one or the other church. Andrej Hlinka said
the Protestants ‘… took all positions. Except for Medvecký, Šrobár and Houdek, everybody
11

Kit választanak a szlovák evangélikusok? [Who should Slovak Lutherans vote for?] In. Cirkevné listy.

1920
MIKLÁŠ, Štefan: Veszélyben a szlovák evangélikusság! Hol kell keresni a hibákat? [Slovak Lutherans
in danger! Where to look for the mistakes?] In. Cirkevné listy, Vol. XLVIII, issue 18. (1 September, 1933);
Address of Ján Vojtaššák Chatolic Bishop at the Pribina festival: Pribinovské oslavy majú byť prejavom
úprimnej radosti…In. Slovák, Vol. XV. issue 147, (2 July, 1933)
13
Most of them were national, but important ecclesiastic papers were also published regionally such as
Evanjelický východ (Lutheran East), Evanjelická Bratislava (Lutheran Bratislava) or Košické katolícke cirkevné
správy (Kosice Chatolic Church News).
14
Dr. SLÁVIK, Michal. Vallási gyűlölet. [Religious hatred.] In. Cirkevné listy. Vol. XLIII, issue 17.
(30 September, 1929)
12

was Protestant.’. And the Lutherans answered ‘And what was reality? Ever since the takeover and also at present, the Catholics hold most of the offices, most of them being Moravians
or Czechs - just to mention the bailiff, there were Catholic priests among them.’ Ironic
remarks on the origin of the riches of one or the other church were not infrequent, either:
‘There are hardly 300 Protestants at Rózsahegy and an excellent Luther portal, a church and
school and parsonage were built. There are no more than 50 Lutherans at Nagyszombat and
the nicest business building was built. Using what funds?’ 15
The articles published in church papers and other documents reflected well that the
churches consciously used the media to influence their followers. Rivalry between the
churches, despising each other’s religious belief and rancour poisoned the society. That
society incited and affected from several directions was unable to understand and accept the
non-Christian religious community that had been living together with them for centuries.
The Slovak society could not face either itself or its problems, and passed on responsibility
for the situation to the national minorities, mainly to the Jews. Whatever steps the Jewish
community took, they were rejected by the contemporary society; the Jews could only play
the part of the perfect scapegoat. ‘We have had and we still have reason to look at the Jews
with reservation and contempt, and we have a right to accuse them for all the failure and
catastrophe hitting our nation … therefore, the anti-Jewish fight and a radical solution of the
Jewish issue must be considered unavoidable, furthermore, it is necessary if we want to save
our nation.’ 16
The Jewish community had to find a place in such a society full of sometimes latent,
sometimes open conflicts there and then when the constituent nation – the Slovaks - survived
the most contradictory and most decisive period of the development of their national identity.

Anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia (based on articles in the contemporary press)

The Czechoslovak Republic between the two World Wars opened new perspectives
for its Jewish citizens and provided an environment (not restricting them with different special
measures) that allowed the Jewish community to become part of the social life of the country,
but it could only prevent the open political appearance of anti-Semitism for a certain time. It
15

Dr. SLÁVIK, Michal. Vallási gyűlölet. [Religious hatred.] In. Cirkevé listy. Vol. XLIII, issue 17. (30
September, 1929)
Cited: KAMENEC, Ivan: Vyústenie „konečného riešenia“ židovskej otázky na Slovensku. In.
JUROVÁ, Anna – ŠALAMON, Pavol (eds.) Košice a deportácie židov v roku 1944. Svú SAV a Oddelnie
židoveskej kultúry Slovenského národného múzea v Bratislave, 1994. p. 10.
16

was the period, when there was hope to build fair relations - anti-Jewish attacks were pushed
into the background. As a result of Masaryk’s liberal and democratic politics, no open
political anti-Semitism could be present in Czechoslovakia until the middle of 1930s, which
does not mean that it did not poison the society in ‘latent and hidden’ form.17
The anti-Semitism in the period of the first Republic did not cross the borders of politics; the
opposition had no strength or power to implement its propaganda in practice.18
In the first decade of the Republic, the Jewish issue was not in the focus of the interest of the
papers, it was a topic on the periphery. In the Slovak papers, the attacks against the Jewish
communities and the Jewish policy of the first Czechoslovak Republic were reported for
information only with a certain ‘distance held’. From time to time, news were published
about events in the Jewish communities, e.g., on the appointment of new rabbis, on financial
matters, Jewish customs, on the religious and ethnic differences between Slovaks and Jews.
The traces of anti-Semitism could not be found in those papers in the 1920s. 19
In the second half of the 1920s only a minor part of the articles published incitement against
the Jewish community but articles warning the people about the cunning of Jewish people
were also published. ‘A Jew lives at Rózsahegy in Német street. Nobody knows where he
comes from. One thing is sure, he is ingenious and cunning. All the papers are on display on
his ramshackle house. He is not afraid to display ‘Denník’ or ‘Rudé Právo’ side by side with
‘Slovák’. He will happily sell you both ‘Národní Listy’, ‘Autonómia’ or ‘Vôla ľudu’. He
ordered 200 pieces of the first issue of Autonómia. His son is a permanent correspondent to
Hungarian papers at Kosice and Prague.’20

The first Czechoslovak fascist organisation RODOBRANA was established in 1923.

The omnipotent governor of
Slovakia, Šrobár and his subordinates launched an anti-Semitic campaign under the pretext of
reviewing trade licences with the slogan ‘Buy from Christian merchants only’. 3,300 out of
4,600 Jewish trade licences were rejected; the German students at the Bratislava University
organised an anti-Jewish campaign; organised demonstrations took place at the Prague
German University against foreigners; the youth organisation of the Slovak National Party
broke shop windows in 1936; physical abuse after the launch of the film GOLEM; 35 Jewish
families driven away from Nagymihály.
17

, MIKLO

ŠKOVÁ, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionálnych periodikách v rokoch 1918-1938 v Košiciach. In.
Úloha kníh a periodík v živote v mnohonárodnostný Košíc. ŠTV, Košice, 2013. p. 233.
19
In the 1930s, articles were still published that were free of open anti-Semitism ...the film in addition to
propagating and describing the beauty of our capital, is a cultural film of eminent Jews, emphasising the values
of Bratislava Jews mostly in the religious sphere. Everything is captured in this film from the sports
achievements of Jewish gyms to Boy Scout organisations, interesting Jewish buildings or old religious
memorials. The efforts of Dr Neumann and of those who produce this film from their own funds and with their
own work has noble intentions. .....dr. Neumann’s film will be successful among the people he produced it for.’
Jewish cultural film in Bratislava. Slovák, 8 December, 1930, issue 275.
20
Zsidó találékonyság. [Jewish ingenuity.] Slovák, Vol. X, issue 26. (1 February, 1928)
18

Several articles were published that were translations of writings of foreign authors.

They

were mostly trying to reflect on contemporary social problems touching upon the Jewish issue
as well. For instance, a paper by Gisle Johnson was published in Slovak translation,21 which
was trying to find an answer to the indifference of European people. ‘Europe is surviving a
cultural crisis. People are tired of the events survived they could not process. They are tired
of their feelings, they are tired to think, they are tired to want something and they are tired to
become themselves. And so they run into the arms of those who promise peace, security and
new experiences to their disheartened, languid spirit.’ The author regarded Catholicism and
the Jewish community as the two powers with the greatest influence over people: ‘We have to
start out from the source of two powers who could be the judges over the humanity of our
days, and they are Roman Catholicism and the Jewry.’22 The article also speaks about the
strengths of the Jewry, which „ … is not in their diversity or energy. They are not in majority
in one or the other. But their spirit and the power of their have developed differently from
other people. First you could name shrewd patience and last intensive perseverance. Their
strength is mainly in being intuitive people first of all, which can be said of few nations in
Europe.’23
By the end of the 1920s, anti-Jewish articles published in the papers had become almost an
everyday feature. The papers also reported on Jewish related events abroad. A regional
Lutheran paper reported on an event related to Hungarian Jews ‘In Hungary, a new Jewish
religious community is expanding ‘Jews believing in Christ’. They are headed by Dr Dezső
Földes, attorney. The members of the new religious community respect Jesus Christ and
acknowledge him as Messiah. They advocate that the acknowledgement of Christ is not in
opposition to the Jewish religion. They do not reject their church. There are followers of this
new religious community also in Slovakia; they state it is spreading in other countries as well,
mainly in Western Europe. It is true; it is a phenomenon worth attention. We want to know
whether or not the members of the new religious community embrace the only and eternal
truth related to Jesus: ‘You are Christ, the son of the living God.’24
Most of the above articles expressed their dissatisfaction with and expectations of the Jews in
a nicer, more sophisticated form.
21

Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidósága. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevné listy Vol. XLII, issue 7. (7 April,

1928)
22

Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidósága. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevné listy Vol. XLII, issue 7. (7 April,

1928)
23

Gisle Johnson. Napjaink zsidósága. [Jews in our days.] In. Cirkevné listy Vol. XLII, issue 7. (7 April,

1928)
24

Új vallási közösség. [New religious community.] In. Evanjelický Posol zpod Tatier. 1928., Vol. 18,
issue 1-12.

In Slovakia, the Jews were mainly expected to be loyal and to assimilate as soon as possible,
i.e., ‘to achieve Slovak awareness’. ‘The objective of the ‘Organisation of Slovak Jews’
established a few months ago is to organise the Jews, to promote their national i.e., cultural
and economic identity by ensuring the use of the Slovak language in Jewish schools; to
promote Slovak culture among Jews and finally to encourage adjustment to the consolidation
processes of the country. So it is a pure assimilation programme. Even if it is a programme of
the Czech Jews translated into Slovak, it might be attractive for the first sight for the believers
of Jewish assimilation.’25
Both the political and the ecclesiastic elite recognised the opportunities provided by the press
early enough as the simplest and most influential means to influence public opinion and
utilise emotions. In addition to nationwide papers, mainly regional papers provided by the
political parties with connections to their members and sympathisers. There were no political
parties without their own media. In the last decade of the first Republic, the independent press
had become a trumpet of the parties and an instrument of political power and the state.
Playing the ‘Jewish card’, anti-Semitism proved to be the best instrument for political parties
to divert attention from the problems accumulating in the society. In Slovakia, it was also
used to release the tensions due to national frustration.
When Hitler took power (1933), the media devoted even more attention to the Jewish issue.
First of all, the consequences of the anti-Jewish measures in Germany were followed with
attention. They focused on the impact of the immigration of German Jews into
Czechoslovakia. Although it mainly affected Czech cities, the Slovak regional press was also
seriously interested. The press presented Jewish immigrants as parasites, non-desirable
elements of the society. ‘If Hitler retains power, it can be expected that whole nations will
move in Germany’. But where to? To Palestine? There is no place at all for ‘unsere Leute’.
Or to Poland? There are enough Jews there. The Jews can best find a place in
Czechoslovakia mainly in Slovakia and in the Trans-Carpathian territories. So we can hope
that if events turn to the worst in Germany, the Cains, Moses, Elias and other sons of the
Israeli tribes will take the road to the promised land - Czechoslovakia. This is happy news!’ 26
In addition to Jewish immigration, other Jew-related events were also reported on, such as: ‘A

25

Szlovák (?) Zsidók Szövetsége. [Federation of Slovak Jews.] Slovák, Vol. IX., issue 3. (3 January,

1927)
26

STAVAROVÁ, Monika. Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionálnej tlači na východnom slovensku v 30.
rokoch 20. storočia. (online access: http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf)

war was declared on the Jews in Germany’ or ‘Prayers are said in France for the persecuted
German Jews’, etc. 27
The strongest anti-Jewish articles (you can call them primitive) were published anonymously,
which was not surprising in Czechoslovak press publications between the two World Wars,
because so-termed mandatory anonymity was introduced by several publishing houses.
Journalists were not allowed to sign their articles mainly if they were published in papers
owned by different parties. Unfortunately, anonymity opened the way to the dirtiest,
groundless accusations, mockery and misinformation.
The social atmosphere was also affected by anti-Jewish measures in Germany. Several articles
were published in which the authors welcomed the events in Germany ‘ The Jew is not only a
race but it is a mysterious creature by its nature which needs a hard hand and nothing else.’28
The domestic political elite viewed the open anti-Jewish politics of Germany and the
measures implemented there as a confirmation of its own anti-Jewish politics. Anti-Semitism
had become an organic part of both Slovak and Czech nationalism.
Ecclesiastical papers were not left out of ‘discussing’ the Jewish issue. They followed
events related to the Jewish issue with attention and expressed their opinion. Lutheran papers
did not only report on anti-Jewish measures but also criticised the political part played by
church leaders and warned about the consequences ‘Political blindness and hatred often
results in bad things - unfortunately in the field of religion too. We read a short article about
the well-known dr. Al. Raffay, Hungarian Lutheran bishop, who is the main representative of
the Hungarian Lutheran Church at international ecclesiastic fora. He degraded himself due
to his political blindness so much that as a member of the revision delegation of peace
conditions went to kiss the slippers of the Pope. ….’

German churches were also criticised

for their political role ‘ … The followers of Hitler commit not less assaults and unfortunately
Prussian Lutherans greatly help them there. There are cases bordering on blasphemy. A
priest, Leuthäuser wrote the following in a political paper ‘We can see Adolf Hitler
permeated with the same power that had been given to Jesus Christ our Saviour earlier.
Resurrection comes after the Golgotha! We hand our souls to you, we are happy to die for
Adolf Hitler.’ The attention was called to the blindness of German priests too ‘A series of
articles can be found by major ecclesiastic officers in which Hitler is placed above Jesus and
politics above religion. They are mitigating their statements hiding behind Luther ‘Hitler
27
STAVAROVÁ, Monika.
rokoch 20. storočia. (online access:
28
STAVAROVÁ, Monika.
rokoch 20. storočia. (online access:

Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionálnej tlači na východnom slovensku v 30.
http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf)
Prejavy antisemitizmu v regionálnej tlači na východnom slovensku v 30.
http://www.pulib.sk/elpub2/FF/Chovanec1/pdf_doc/46.pdf)

works in the spirit of Luther - one of the priests, Teitisch writes - if he values religion less
than the state and the nation. There is nothing like a Christian state, there are only Christian
residents in the state, and therefore, we cannot request the state to make its politics in line
with Christian principles.’29
The articles also addressed German Christians warning them not to follow the ideology of
Jewish racial theory ‘ In other words, ‘German Christians’, why do you commit the same
mistakes you have been criticising and cursing the Jews for. You preach water but drink
wine. Why are you attracted to the God of the people who cannot save their people from your
hands? Why do you idealise the Jewish beliefs and their racism? Why do you think racism is
only hideous if it is anti-German but it is acceptable if presented by you? …. ‘German
Christians’, do not bow to a God that has fallen with another nation, do not want to transform
Jewish racism into German racism. There is only one power to help you: Jesus Christ that
you have sold. Return to him. Racism for you is the bishop’s courtyard where you denied the
Lord with Peter…’ 30

Anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia

In the period between the two World Wars, anti-Semitism can be traced as a national trend
(the Jews are not Slovaks), as an economic trend (the Jews are exploiters), as a political trend
(the Jews are liberals, Bolsheviks and Judo-Bolsheviks) and as a religious trend (the Jews are
the murderers of the Saviour).
1. Economy
In some small towns of Slovakia, the Jewish shops were only patches of colour among
other local shops but in other places, the economic and business life of the city depended on
Jewish merchants. The reason for the part they played in the economy should be found in the
tradition of commerce and the success of operating their shops, and not in the demagogy
advertised in the Slovak State ‘Slovak companies, Christian factories, plants and lands are
mostly owned by non-Christians. Insurance and other corporations and finance are mostly in
the hands of Jews.’31

29
Politika és vallás. [Politics and religion.] In. Cirkevné listy. Vol. XLVII., issue 3. (3 February, 1933)
30
EDREFFY, Ján. Mire a kakas megszólal. [When the cock cries.] Cirkevné listy. Ročník XLVIII., 2
March, 1934, issue 5
31
MIKLOŠKOVÁ, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionálnych periodikách v rokoch 1918-1938 v Košiciach.
In. Úloha kníh a periodík v živote v mnohonárodnostný Košíc. ŠTV, Košice, 2013. p. 233.

The majority nation was jealous of the part played by Jews in business life. The majority of
Slovak Jews belonged to the middle classes. In addition to a high number of Jews in cities and
towns, quite many of them lived in the countryside. There they were mostly present in local
enterprises, such as small shops, pubs, etc. Among rural residents, the Jew was the
embodiment of the exploiter, the usurer.
Slovaks also felt their national riches to be threatened by the Jews ‘The forests and woods are
among the greatest treasures of Slovakia. Profits of several million have been reached in the
logging industry and timber trade. And Jewish companies usurped our greatest Slovak
treasure, our forests, with many of their shareholders not residents here but in Budapest or
Vienna, where they are the majority shareholders and send the millions of profits there.
Things are as in the saying: Slovak woods - Jewish gold.32
The economic position and influence of the Jews was a topic of attention for every social
stratum, therefore the political elite also approached the topic with gratitude and used it to
increase the support and popularity of its party.33 Jozef Tiso emphasised in an address given
to foreign journalists that ‘In Slovakia, the Jews may only have as much power as is in
proportion to their numbers compared to the total population of Slovakia. Slovaks will be
given such education as to allow them to fully find their place in the economic and industrial
life and to take over the positions filled by Jews.’ 34

2. Politics
The political representation of Jewry was active in the liberal and leftist parties. Right wing
political propaganda also accused the Jews with spreading the idea of Socialism. ‘… the
Socialist - Communist politics found its major supporter in the Jewry. We can see armies of
Jews in activities dangerous to Slovaks, which breaks down and damages the Slovak nation';
On the day the autonomy was declared on 6 October, 1938, the politicians of the Popular
Party (Ludáks) expressed in their article ‘Manifesto of the Slovak nation’: ‘we take side with
the nations that fight against the subversive, violent Marxist-Jewish ideology’35
32
In the end, the law (Slovak woods - Jewish gold) will apply in Kysuca In./Slovák, Vol. XII. Issue 237,
17 October, 1930
33
This also was true to opposition politicians. János Eszterházi delivered a lecture at the Debrecen
summer university on organising the life of Hungarian national minorities. In his address, he also discussed the
difficulties arising in the economy, one of which was the economic presence of Jews, ‘… the Jewry flooded the
free professions and the financial institutions we would need are in their hands.’ János ESZTERHÁZY.
Cselekedjunk mindannyian egyetértésben és szeretetben. [Let us all act in agreement and love.] Cseh-szlovákiai
magyar fuzetek. Pannónia konyvkiadó. Pozsony.
34
ŠTURÁK, Peter. Spoločensko-náboženská situácia v Československu v rokoch 1918-1927
http://www.zoe.sk/pub/doc/theologos/t_spolocensko_nabozenska_situacia_1918_1927.pdf)
35
Národné noviny, 1933.

3. The national perspective
Even after the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved, the Slovak population was still
convinced that the deprivation of poor people and the ‘Magyarization’ of the Slovaks were
due to the Jews. The Národné noviny (Paper of the Nation) wrote the following in 1933:
‘Before the political change of power, the Jews had been the most ardent and most effective
means of ‘Magyarization’ and after the change of political power we can see them as
conspirators against the nation. In Slovak towns, the Jews are supporters of the Hungarian
language even today, they are the most loyal subscribers to Hungarian newspapers. /…/ It is
a historic fact that our towns had become ‘Magyarized’ so quickly because the Hungarians
had found the social instrument in the Jews that had carried out the work of denationalisation linguistically, economically and culturally and not to our benefit.’
Taking the Jews responsible for the ‘Magyarization’ of Slovaks had already appeared in the
press earlier. In a publication at the beginning of the 19th century, Škultéty regarded the Jews
as the servants of Hungarians ‘in Slovak villages, the public notaries and the postmen were
usually Jewish - that is why the Jews were in the service of ‘Magyarization’ ‘36
The political elite built effective propaganda on the fact that after the establishment of the
Republic, the Jews used German, Yiddish and Hungarian as a language of communication.
The Jews were attacked for knowing and speaking Hungarian.

A few years after the

establishment of the state, the majority of Jews publicly used the Hungarian language, which
was regarded as treason by the Slovaks.
‘They failed to notice 13 years later that they had been settled in a new state due to the
circumstances. That from the Hungarian town of ‘Kassa’, where Hungarian was the official
language, they moved into the Slovak city of ‘Košice’, where the Slovak language is the
official one.’37
The Slovaks would rather tolerate the use of the Hebrew language than of Hungarian. A Jew
who wanted to live in Czechoslovakia could not speak Hungarian. ‘Were they to use Hebrew
or its jargon, we would have no right to stop them for cultivating a national language, but due
to the circumstances of the past, we have to ask whether Hungarian is the national and
official language of the Jews?’38The Slovak population expected full linguistic assimilation of
36
ŠKULTÉTY, J. :. Turčiansky Sv. Martin, 1931, issue 19.
37
MIKLOŠKOVÁ, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionálnych periodikách v rokoch 1918-1938 v Košiciach.
In. Úloha kníh a periodík v živote v mnohonárodnostný Košíc. ŠTV, Košice, 2013, p. 236.
38
MIKLOŠKOVÁ, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionálnych periodikách v rokoch 1918-1938 v Košiciach.
In. Úloha kníh a periodík v živote v mnohonárodnostný Košíc. ŠTV, Košice, 2013. p. 236.

the Jews. ‘If the Kosice Jews want to live among us, they must convert completely before we
lose our patience. Because Kosice must be a purely Slovak city where Slovak is the official
language.’39
According to articles published in the press, the Jewish community was responsible for the
forced ‘Magyarization’ in the past, for the factors preventing the development of the Slovak
national conscience and, last but not least, for a permanent feeling of national oppression.
Such accusations had grown in intensity by the end of the 1930s and the Jews were made
responsible for historic failures the Slovaks could not face.40 So, the Jews were to account for
the consequences of the Vienna Awards (2 November, 1938), which was shameful for the
Slovaks: ‘We know well who these patriots are. We remember the days when their youngsters
of a beastly language were sent to the streets to protect the Republic. We also know that
foreigners wanted to lacerate the body of the Slovak nation. It was not enough that the nation
had been harmed in the field of agriculture. The whole lot should be taken out from there;
they had moved in from foreign lands and we should not feel sorry for the fast departure of
those who yearn for other homes.’41
The articles of the daily Slovenská sloboda (Slovak Liberty) owned by the Slovak People’s
Party (1941) fully reflected the Jewish policy of the Slovak Government. The paper had a
preference to deal with Jewish-Hungarian propaganda, mainly with different ‘Jewish
atrocities’, in addition, it monitored and commented on the events in Hungary. ‘There was no
other country in Europe where that issue had to be solved so fast and so thoroughly as in
Hungary. … the average annual pension of a Hungarian Jew (1930) was 2,506 Pengo, while
of non-Jews, 427. …. The Jews served the enemy not only in internal subversion but ... they
also actively participated in denunciations and sabotage…’

4. Christian - based on classical anti-Judaism.
The articles in this group were built on the classical confessional anti-Semitism: ‘Israel
should have been among the nations of the world as the carrier and guardian of the divine
idea used by God to prepare people for salvation. In the life available to him, he should have
participated of the greatest good. But ever since ancient times Israel had often failed to
39
MIKLOŠKOVÁ, Alena. Antisemitizmus regionálnych periodikách v rokoch 1918-1938 v Košiciach.
In. Úloha kníh a periodík v živote v mnohonárodnostný Košíc. ŠTV, Košice, 2013. p. 233.
40
Immediately after the Vienna Awards, on 4 November, 1938, Tiso ordered the deportation of poor
Jews, which was changed to the deportation of refugee Jews of foreign citizenship.
41
Slovák, 29 October, 1938, issue 247.

understand the divine idea and in the end when the world was preparing for salvation, it
resigned its historic task and became the murderer of the One sent to the world by God.
Israel’s historic mission had been to prepare for the reception of the Saviour. By crucifying
the Messiah, that nation rejected all its previous history and said judgement over itself. Its act
killing the Messiah meant a religious and national suicide, and with that, all its previous
history both as a nation and as a religious group had lost its meaning... That is the greatest
tragedy in the history of the nations.’42

Slovakia in 1939-1944

National minorities constituted a significant part of the total population of Slovakia,
although the figures of referenda during the first Czechoslovak Republic (in 1919, 1921 and
1930) indicated a gradual decline of their numbers. According to the census in 192043 and
1930, 2% and 39% or 2.01% reported to belong to the Jewish national minority, while 4.53%
and 4.11% said were of the Israelite confession. According to the summary figures of the
1930 referendum, 136,737 residents of the Jewish religion lived in Slovakia making up 4.11%
of the total population.44 Of the Israelite population, 44,019 (32.19%) reported to belong to
the Czechoslovak, 9,945 (7.27 %) to the German and 65,385 (47.81%) to the Jewish national
minority.
After the Vienna Awards, both the ethnic and religious composition of the population of
Slovakia changed significantly. According to the figures of the 1940 census, the new
independent country had 2,650,000 residents. Of that 2 million reported to belong to the
Slovak nation (83 %). The most important national minority were the Germans of 130,000
people and the Jews of 90,000 people (they could only report to belong to the Jewish national
minority at that time). In addition, 80,000 Czechs, 80,000 Rusyns-Ukrainians, 65 thousand
Hungarians and 30,000 Gypsies (migrating Gypsies only) were reported in the census.

Dr. ZLATOŠ, Štefan. Čo hovorí Písmo sv. o židovskej otázke. (Mit mond a szent Írás a zsidó
kérdésrol) [What the Bible says about the Jewish issue] In. Duchovný pastier. Vol. XXI., 1940., issue 1-2. (a
paper of Christian clerics)
43
After 1918, approximately 135 thousand residents reported to belong to the Jewish national minority or
the Israelite confession in Slovakia. The number slightly increased in the 1930s due to immigration. Jewish
refugees arrived to Slovakia mainly from Germany, Poland and Austria. (cf. KAMENEC, Iván. Spoločnosť,
politika, historiografia. Bratislava, Prodama 2009., p. 35.
44
ZEMKO, Milan. K problematike výskumu dejín národnostných menšín na Slovensku za prvej ČSR
(online
http://www.shs.sav.sk/smolenice2001/Smolenice/Zjazdove%20rokovanie/Diskusne%20prispevky/Zemko.htm

42

From a religious perspective, the majority of Roman Catholic believers was clear (almost 2
million people), 400 thousand belonged to one of the Reformed Churches and 90 thousand to
the Israelite confession.
The national minorities were present in the life of Slovak towns as constituent factors.
During the war and after the years of the war that historic role (constituents) was finished for
German and mainly for Jewish citizens. The events of the war and of the post-war years
changed the ethnic and religious composition of different towns (Jewish Holocaust, the
deportation of German residents, expulsions). The Jewish community, which had been
playing a decisive part in the social and economic life of the towns, was exterminated by the
political power helped with the indifference of the society and human jealousy.
The Slovak society was jealous of the economic part played by the Jews and made them
responsible for its own failure. Most people accused the Jews for the spread of Bolshevism,
made them responsible for the forceful ‘Magyarizing’ politics prevalent before World War 1,
and questioned the loyalty of the Jews to the new state.
The relationship of the Catholic Church and the Slovak State
The Catholic ecclesiastic leaders welcomed the establishment of the first independent
Slovak State in a pastoral letter (24 October, 1939). They requested wisdom and God’s
blessing on the leaders of the State and warned that only a state founded on Christian ideals
could ensure well-being for all its citizens. The Slovak Constitution adopted in 1939 was built
on the principle of every power and rights originating from God and supported it already by
its first sentence: ‘The Slovak nation had been staying on the land due to Him from the
beginning under the protection of the Almighty God where it established its own independent
state with the help of Him who is the origin of all power and law.’
The clerical-Fascist Slovak State (1938 – 1945) was a perfect example of state power
and church entwined. The state ensured the Roman Catholic religion a privileged position in
the life of the society and also in the operation of the state (the church had become part of
public administration and participated in the implementation of government policy). So the
fate of the Catholic Church was one with the fate of the clerical-Fascist state. That entwining
cannot be disputed (the majority of Slovak historians do not argue it, either). The priests of
the Church actively participated in the political life of the state. The Catholic priest, Josef Tiso
filled the highest government positions; he was first the head of the government then head of
state. Three Catholic priests, Ján Vojtaššák the Bishop of Spiš, Ján Pöstényi - curator of
Saint Béla Society and Andrej Marsina Papal Prelate were members of the Council of State of

the Slovak Republic. 7 out of its 8 ministers were Catholic and 1 Lutheran. 2 out of 6 county
presidents were priests and 16 of 60 district presidents were priests as well. In the Slovak
People’s Party of Hlinka priests were mainly secretaries or presidents. 45 5% of MPs also
belonged to the Catholic Church. According to the results of the 1938 elections, 11 Roman
Catholic priests, 1 Greek Catholic and 1 Lutheran clergyman were members of Parliament.
The clergy continued to retain its 20 % ratio among MPs in the following years as well.
The political elite in power and the groups around them playing different parts in
political life accepted the leading position of the Catholic Church in issues related to national
minorities, in the political and economic and spiritual life. The Slovak State advocating
Christian ideas tried to shape its citizens to its own image on an ideological basis.
On 4 November, 1938, the autonomous Slovak Government carried out its first openly antiJewish step. With the help of the Hlinka Guard, it collected and evicted the refugee Jews who
did not have Slovak citizenship from the country. With that step, the Government launched
an open political attack against the Jews (discriminatory decrees, contempt, arizáció,
deportation), although the leaders of the state emphasised, ‘nobody should be afraid of the
Christian regime.’ 46
Anti-Semitism was present in every group of the society; sometimes openly and sometimes
latent and the churches were no exception. Anti-Semitism appeared in ecclesiastic circles
with different strength and intensity. The Lutheran Church and the minor churches tried to
distance themselves from anti-Semitic manifestations but there were clergymen among them
who could identify with that ideal and voiced their opinion openly.

Summary
Although the entwining of the Catholic Church and the State and so the responsibility
of the Church in the actions of the Slovak State during the war is undisputable, the majority of
the Slovak society has been unable to face the events of the past and the responsibility of its
Church to date.
The Catholic Church itself is unable to face its responsibility and the part it played ‘it cannot
interpret Church history and theology as an open scholarly branch searching for the truth,
without trying to justify and support what has happened. Traditionally, the problematic
KAMENEC, PREČAN, ŠKORVÁNEK. Vatikán a Slovenská Republika. Bratsilava, HÚ SAV – ÚSD
ČAV, 1992, p. 45.
46
Cited: KAMENEC, Ivan: Vyústenie „konečného riešenia“ židovskej otázky na Slovensku. In.
JUROVÁ, Anna – ŠALAMON, Pavol (eds.) Košice a deportácie židov v roku 1944. Svú SAV a Oddelnie
židoveskej kultúry Slovenského národného múzea v Bratislave, 1994. p. 11.

45

periods of Church history are attributed to certain individuals while the system as such is
considered to be good.’ 47
To this we can add that ‘the fate of the Jewry in Slovakia was somewhat veiled by the
fact - not only during but also after World War II - that Slovakia had not been an independent
state before 1939 and it returned to the Czechoslovak Republic in 1945.’ 48

Researching
the problems of conversion requires investigations in several directions
The churches mainly expressed their opinion regarding the Jews and the relevant events in
pastoral letters. The Catholic Bishop’s Bench expressed its opinion on the solution of the
Jewish issue in its pastoral letter dated 23 April, 1942. It pointed out the harmful influence of
Jews on the social, economic and political life, but emphasised the Jewish issue cannot be
solved in the spirit of revenge; it is self-protection within the framework of God’s laws and
the laws in effect. That meant that according to the principle of justice, the property obtained
unjustly could be taken from the Jews. Exploitation by the Jews and demoralisation of the
nation can be prevented if Jews are relocated to other countries in a humane manner.49
In the same way, the Roman Catholic Church rejected the accusation of the press on the mass
baptisms of Jews in a pastoral letter (26 April, 1942). The Church admitted that as a result of
the circumstances Jews applied to be baptised in the Roman Catholic confession but when the
conditions of Baptism were explained to them, many stood down.

Miroslav Kocur, former Catholic priest
Sas Andor. A szlovákiai zsidók üldözése 1939–1945). [persecution of Jews in Slovakia]
http://www.kalligram.eu/Kalligram/Archivum/1993/II.-evf.-1993.-januar/A-szlovakiaizsidok-ueldoezese-1939-1945
47
48

49

HODÚR, Ján. Rubrika: Cirkev http://nss.sk/178/postoj-katolickej-cirkvi-k-zidovskej-otazke-pocas-1slovenskej-republiky

The Church also responded to the deportation of baptised Jews in a pastoral letter (16
February, 1943). The following was said:
1. The Church makes no difference among its followers on the basis of nationality ‘because
there is no difference between Jew and Greek, because the same is the Lord for all who calls
and believes in Him.’ (Rim 10, 12)
2. Slovak Catholic people would accept with difficulty if the Slovak Catholic Government
should send away Christians - Catholics.
3. The Catholic Church only allowed adult people to be baptised, who had a true intention to
become Catholics, who had learnt the Catholic truth and broken all links with Jewry.
4. Our future generation would understand it with difficulty if it should hear in explanation of
universal history that converted people had to leave our Christian State just as they were
admitted to the Holy Church.
On the other hand, the Lutheran Church expressed no opinion but issued a law on conversion
and the new members of the Church in November, 1938. 50 It informed and guided its
ministers in a pastoral letter on how to behave with the Jews applying to be baptised.
The law of the Lutheran Church triggered aversion or fear in some of its followers and
ministers and some hard-boiled anti-Semites complained their Church would become a shelter
for the Jews.
Who is a Christian and who is a Slovak51
Some Jews in Slovakia believed conversion to Christianity was the chance for their survival.
Conversion involved that the Jews had to comply with different conditions and requirements.
Some members of the Slovak Catholic society linked the issue of conversion with the
assimilation of the Jews and raised the question ‘will conversion make a Slovak out of a Jew?’

50
Cf.: Baranová, Daniela. Postoj evanjelickej augsburského vyznania cirkvi k riešeniu židovskej otázky
v rokoch 1938- 1945. In: Holokaust ako historický a morálny problém v minulosti a v súčasnosti = Holocaust as
a Hitorical and Moral Problem of the Past and the Present. [Ed.]: Vrzgulová, Monika - Richterová, Daniela. Br.,
ŠEVT pre Ůrad vlády SR a Dokumentačné stredisko holokaustu 2008, s. 15-34, v angl. issue 222-243.
51
Ješajahu
A. Jelínek. Krstenie Židov na Slovensku v období holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006

…. how many generations are required to make a Christian out of a Jew so that he should
become the useful member of the Slovak Christian community?’52
Those questions arose among Catholics because they considered themselves responsible for
the future of the Slovak nation.
Even the Council of State was trying to find an answer to the question. An argument arose on
who was Christian and who was Slovak. When would a Jew become a non-Jew and when he
would become a ‘normal’ Slovak?
The public opinion was also interested in the answer.
The dispute highlighted the contempt and aversion felt towards the Jews not only among
average people but also in the highest clerical and political circles.
The Churches and conversion53
Some Roman Catholic priests believed the conversion of the Jews was a ‘final solution once
and for all’ of the Jewish issue. Several of them regarded the process that pagan Jews were
managed to take up the yoke of the Church.
The Lutheran Church was more open in handling the problem, but worried voices were also
heard, some feared their Church would be flooded by Jewish ‘refugees’.
Minor churches such as the Greek Catholic were not so dismissive or unyielding towards
Jews applying for conversion.
The question rises why there were obvious differences among the churches with regard to
their relationship to the Jewry?

The process and time-scale of Baptism
The process of conversion was not the same for everybody. It was strongly affected by
subjective reasons such as sympathy or antipathy. In that way the process could be fairly fast
but also lengthy. There were priests who had an aversion to Jews and made efforts to
lengthen the process, striving to achieve perfect preparation (they gave homework to write,
they made tests to pass, etc.). It occurred in several cases that the candidate could not be
baptised for lack of time; the process was not facilitated, although everybody was aware what
was going to happen to the Jews.

Ješajahu
A. Jelínek.
52
Krstenie Židov na Slovensku v období holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006
53
Ješajahu
A. Jelínek. Krstenie Židov na Slovensku v období holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006

Behaviour of the population
Complaints and police reports of baptised Jews occurred fairly frequently (they do not
regularly attend church service, they converted out of comfort, ... etc.) .
Clarification of the position of baptised Jews 54
Christian Jews were also obliged to wear the yellow star. Initially, the Church bodies and
priests were perplexed on how to regard the events; however, despite objections later on, they
did not achieve the cancellation of the obligation to wear the yellow star. They were most
disturbed by the presence of Christian Jews wearing the yellow star in the church, so they
could achieve that Christian Jews were exempted from wearing the star in the church.

Accusations against Churches and their priests
The accusation of accepting money from Jews for baptism was the most frequent. Also filling
the forms for money was attributed to the Churches several times. Baptising priests were
accused to perform baptism ‘at an industrial level’.

Accusations against the Jews applying to be baptised
The Jews were accused of bribing priests to be admitted into the Church. Mainly the minor
churches were attacked. Mainly the Ludák paper dealt with such cases.

What was achieved by Baptism?
Those baptised were also put in the transports despite objections.

The problem of the deportation of the baptised Jews

There were some Church leaders who were worried about the fate of the baptised Jews
deported. To reassure worried priests, the German administration promised to provide special
circumstances for the converts at their new homes, to allow the visit of priests and to provide
opportunity for them to practise their religion.
Those promises were never kept; they were only used to convince the Slovak civil servants to
support the deportation of the converts.

54
Ješajahu A. Jelínek.
Krstenie Židov na Slovensku v období holokaustu. Online access:
http://www.druhasvetova.sk/OLD/view.php?cisloclanku=2012080006

The number of baptised Jews55
The exact number of converted Jews is unknown, we only have estimations partly by Slovak
government agencies and partly by Jewish officers. Approximately 10,000 people are
estimated to have been baptised.

55
The following figures are known: 2 February, 1944: out of 12,812 Jewish people in Slovakia (by law)
3,988 were of the Israelite confession 31.12 %; 3,269 were Roman Catholics 25.51 %; 905 Greek Catholics
7.06%; 3,160 Lutheran 24.66 %; 976 Reformed 7.61%; 168 Greek Orthodox 1.31%; 51 Other 0.39 %; 285
Universalist 2.22%.