Fascist Slovakia participated in WWII as an ally of Nazi Germany (even invading Poland in 1939), but had very little significance (or influence) on the outcome of the ‘Great Patriotic War’ (1941-1945) – although the Slovakian Army did participate in the brutal hostilities that defined the Hitlerite genocide that was routinely perpetuated on the Eastern Front. Although the Slovakian Army was numerically ‘small’ – the Nazi Germans welcomed the presence of the Slovakians as a means to perpetuate the false impression that the Nazi German cause somehow possessed a certain ‘international’ appeal – despite its rabid nationalism, vicious racism and pathological xenophobia! Furthermore, as Slovakia shared a common geographical border with the USSR – Hitler thought this country was important from a tactical (and strategic) military perspective.
Fascist Slovakia deliberately established relations with Nazi Germany immediately after the defeat of France and on June 15th, 1941 – joining the Axis countries by signing the corresponding Pact. The country became ‘the only Catholic State under the rule of National Socialism.’ A little while later – blessing the Fascist Forces for the war with the Soviet Union – the Papal Nuncio announced that he was ‘glad to inform the Holy Father of the good news from the exemplary Slovak State, a truly Christian State, which was implementing a National Programme under the motto “For God and the Nation!”’ The population of the country was then just 1.6 million people, of which 130,000 were ethnic Germans. Moreover, Slovakia considered itself responsible for the fate of the ethnic Slovaks minority living in Hungary. The Fascist Slovakian National Army consisted of just two Divisions – numbering around 28,000 men in peace time. This number could be nearly doubled through Conscription – but with little manpower in reserve.
Preparing for the implementation of the Barbarossa plan, Hitler did not take into account the Slovak Army, which he considered unreliable – fearing fraternization with the Russians due to Slavic solidarity. The Command of the Nazi German ground forces did not include the Slovakian Army in an offensive capacity – using Slovakian troops to maintain order in the occupied areas. However, the feeling of rivalry with Hungary and the hope for a more favourable establishment of borders in the Balkans – forced the Slovak Minister of War to declare to the Chief of the German General Staff Halder, (when he visited Bratislava on June 19th, 1941), that the Slovak Army was ready for hostilities. As devout Roman Catholics blessed by the Pope – the Slovaks made it clear that their fight was not against the Russian (Slavic) people – but rather the ideology of Bolshevism (rejected by the Vatican). For the Slovaks – this was a religious ‘Crusade’ in the name of the Church against the ‘evil’ of Communism!
On June 23rd, 1941, Slovakia officially declared war on the USSR. The Slovak Expeditionary Force of 45,000 soldiers – under the Command of General Ferdinand Chatlos – went to the front. The Corps consisted of two Divisions and was part of the Nazi German Army Group South. As part of the German 17th Army, an elite brigade of the Slovak Army consisting of 3,500 men – armed with outdated light Czech tanks – took part in battle on June 22nd, which ended in defeat. The German Officer attached to the Brigade was only concerned with his own survival and was not interested in commanding the Slovaks to any great victories. Although the Soviet Red Army had suffered numerous reversals all along the front in those days – the limited Slovak Forces were soon overrun and out-fought. This is when the Slovaks were given the function of countering the Soviet Partisan Regiments operating behind the lines. As the Slovaks did not know who was a Partisan and was not – they copied the Nazi German method of executing an entire hamlet, village or town. Of course, Jews and Communists were targeted by the Slovaks – a process that involved the mass rape of Soviet women and girls. Many executions were carried-on on large wooden crosses to make the point that this killing was being perpetuated in the name of the Vatican!
As Hitler prophesised, however, all did not go well. Many Slovakians started talking with Soviet POWs and with captured Partisans and found themselves being persuaded to change sides. On the territory of Belarus, the Slovak Security Division actively cooperated with local Soviet Partisans. Starting with the mass release of Soviet POWs and the transfer of secret documents to the Soviet Authorities, ending with desertion with the subsequent transition to the side of the enemy. The most famous in this context is the person of Captain Jan Nalepka, who, being the Chief of Staff of the 101st Regiment of the Wehrmacht – actively collaborated with the Partisan Detachments of RN Machulsky, KT Mazurov, IA Belsky and VI Kozlov.
Nevertheless, the Slovak Army continued to exist and the German Command intended to use it to create a defensive line in the Beskydy. By August 1944, it became clear to everyone that the war was lost and in all the Balkan countries a movement began in favour of finding ways out of the war. Back in July, the National Council of Slovakia began preparing an armed attack with the participation of a well-armed and trained army Corps of up to 24,000 men located in Eastern Slovakia. German troops at that time in the direction of the main attack of Marshal Konev were Commanded by Henrici. It was assumed that the Slovak soldiers would occupy the peaks of the Beskydy mountain range in its rear and open the way for the approaching Units of the Soviet Army. In addition, 14,000 Slovak soldiers located in the central part of Slovakia were supposed to be used as a centre of armed resistance in the Banská Bystrica area. At the same time, the actions of the Partisans intensified, which convinced the German Command of the inevitability of an uprising in their rear.
On August 27th, 1944, rebellious Slovak soldiers killed 22 German officers passing by at one of the stations, prompting an immediate reaction from the German Authorities. At the same time, an uprising began in central Slovakia, in which 47,000 people took part. The 10,000 soldiers of the Waffen-SS Military Unit – under the Command of Obergruppenführer Berger – brutally eliminated the danger in the rear in an extremely strategically important part of the country. Finally, the Slovak uprising was suppressed by the three German Divisions. The decisive operation began on October 18th, 1944. The Germans captured Banska Bystrica. The armed detachments of the Carpathian Germans also took part in this, which subsequently led to a massacre, which killed 135,000 Volksdeutsche. On the other hand, about 25,000 Slovaks were killed during German punitive operations. About a third of the participants in the uprising fled to their homes. 40% ended up in German Concentration Camps. A small number went over to the Soviet Partisans.
The Liberation of Slovakia from its Fascist (German-controlled) Government began in March, 1945. The Bratislava-Brnovo Operation began in March, involving Units of the 7th Guards Army of the 2nd Ukrainian Front – which reached the approaches to the capital of Slovakia on April 1st. The assault on the city lasted two days. The main blow was struck by the adjacent flanks of the 53rd and 7th Guards Armies, supported by the 1st Guards Cavalry Mechanized Group, the Danube Military Flotilla and the 5th Air Army. On April 4th – 18:00 hrs – Soviet troops completely cleared Bratislava of the enemy, as evidenced by the declassified combat log of the 7th Guards Army. In a short time, the populace was fed, clothed and medically treated whilst food was brought in from the USSR and distributed. Red Army soldiers then helped in the rebuilding of the country.
Russian Language References: