New Slovak law rehabilitates wartime regime
Prof. Alexander Rehák calls attention to a law which redates "anti-Communist resistance" as starting in the Fascist period. This could allow Fascists to be defined as democrats and aid present attempts to set the Nazi collaborator, Monsignor President Tiso, executed as a war criminal, on the road to sainthood* (See also the campaign poster at the end).
The author, Dr. Alexander Rehák, is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Bratislava.
During WWII he worked secretly for the Slovak Resistance from 1939, when the fascist state was formed, until he was drafted into the army. On October 30, 1943, when deployed in the Ukraine, he managed to desert to the Soviet Army. This enabled him to join the Second Czechoslovak Paratroop Brigade which advanced with the Soviet forces from the east to help liberate Slovakia from the Nazis.
He is shown here training in Yefremov, USSR, while serving as the doctor of a battalion in the Czechoslovak Brigade. In the autumn of 1944 they forced their way through the Dukla Pass in one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Eastern Front and in the history of Slovakia. By then the young Dr. Rehák had been appointed the chief doctor of the whole Brigade.
“Anti-Communist resistance” backdated to the Fascist era
By Dr. Alexander Rehák, 2007
A recent Slovak law makes possible to redefine many wartime Fascists and Nazi collaborators as “anti-Communist combatants” and entitles them to full rehabilitation and special privileges. On 1st July 2006 the law on “anti-Communist resistance" (No. 219/2006 Z.z.) came into effect in Slovakia. It sets forth the conditions for awarding “the legal status of a veteran” and eligibility them for “veteran care”. This law may be misused to rehabilitate both Nazi collaborators and Slovak Fascists (including President Tiso). It could even justify granting them the status of war veterans, thus putting them on the same footing as the Slovak soldiers who fought side by side with the Allied Forces to liberate Europe.
This helps to repaint the wartime Fascist history of Slovakia, and promote its clerical dictator, Monsignor Jozef Tiso, as a national hero. In fact, only half a year later, Archbishop Sokol began publicly calling for Tiso to be beatified, the first step towards canonisation.
The wrong date – but for a reason?
The law defines "anti-Communist resistance" as beginning on 6th October 1944. This is curious, because at that time there was no Communist political power in the whole territory of Czechoslovakia for anyone to be able to “resist”. The first date from which "anti-Communist resistance" could even have become possible was several years after the war’s end, on the 25th of February 1948. That’s when Slovakia became a part of the People’s Republic of Czechoslovakia.
However, although the critical date mentioned in the law has nothing to do with Communism, it has much to do with the liberation from Fascism. The 6th of October 1944 is an official Day of Remembrance called the “Dukla Pass Victims Day”. This was when the 38th Soviet Army and the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps managed to open the mountain pass leading from Poland into Slovakia. The Soviet army had already liberated much of Poland and the Ukraine and now the Soviet and Czechoslovak forces were rushing to the aid of what the Slovak National Uprising. This was a grand insurrection carried out by 60,000 Slovak soldiers and 18,000 partisans from over 30 different countries. They hoped to hold out against the Germans sent to prop up Tiso’s puppet state, until help arrived through the Dukla Pass.
Tragically, however, the Soviet and Czechoslovak units were unable to advance much beyond the pass and they couldn’t reach the central highlands in time to support the insurrection. This allowed the Germans to put down the Slovak National Uprising and to impose terrible revenge upon anyone even suspected of aiding it.
Implications of the law’s spurious date
♦ By defining "anti-Communist resistance" as beginning on 6th October 1944, this law conflates two very different kinds of opposition: those opposed to the wartime Fascist government and those opposed to the Communist government established three years later. During the war the Soviet Army, as one of the Allied Powers, was charged with liberating Central Europe from the East. This law makes those who fought against Liberation in the name of Hitler’s puppet state into “anti-Communist combatants”. It serves to camouflage the wartime Fascists by lumping them in with the postwar anti-Communists, that is to say, with those who opposed a real Communist regime in Czechoslovakia sometime between the 25th of February 1948 and the 17th of November 1989.
♦ The Slovak National Uprising was a broad-based movement which included anti-Fascists of every stripe: not only Communists, but also democratic Slovak and Czech nationalists, and even British operatives from the SOE, American agents from the OSS and escaped French prisoners of war. Of the partisan fighters, it’s been estimated that about one in ten were Jews fighting against the puppet government that had sent 60,000 Slovak Jews off to be killed in Germany. This law adds insult to injury by styling their Fascist opponents heroic “anti-Communist combatants”.
♦ According to Article § 7b of this law, anyone organising political groups or making public pronouncements against Communism also qualifies as part of the "anti-Communist resistance". The problem here is that in Slovakia, as elsewhere in Europe, Fascists justified repression in the name of “fighting Communism” and this law, through its misleading date, allows these claims to be taken at face value. In other words, after the 6th of October 1944 the activities of the Fascist regime in Slovakia suddenly become “anti-Communist”, in line with their own propaganda.
♦ Article § 6 of this law re-baptises as anti-Communists those collaborators with the Nazi regime who after the war were imprisoned. And Article § 8 does the same for those who avoided this by escaping from Slovakia when the Fascist regime collapsed. No matter that at this point they happened to be fleeing democracy. The law still defines those who hastily left Slovakia at the war’s end -- several years before the Communists actually took over — as participants in an anti-Communist resistance movement abroad. This means that even the former clero-fascist dictator, Monsignor Jozef Tiso, who at the war’s end fled to Austria before being recaptured, would now be eligible for rehabilitation. This is because according to Article § 11 this rehabilitation by the Institute of the Nation’s Memory can be undertaken posthumously and without any public discussion. The same applies to minor functionaries who are eligible for rehabilitation, ones like Dr. Jozef Kirschbaum who fled to Canada and whose son is busy publishing books on Slovakia which are seen by many as an attempt to rehabilitate the Tiso regime.
♦ Also exonerated are all the Slovaks who fought by the side of Heinrich Himmler’s SS divisions sent to put down the Uprising, including those who helped Himmler’s troops destroy 93 villages and carry out mass executions.
♦ And, of course, this law serves to excuse the celebration held by Monsignor President Tiso at the end of October 1944 when he awarded medals to the German soldiers for their efforts in crushing the Slovak National Uprising. This is because slaughtering the inhabitants of whole villages and throwing them into mass graves — since it was done after the 6th of October 1944 — can now be defined as heroic "anti-Communist resistance".
The main thrust of this law seems to be to indirectly identify Fascism with anti-Communism and thereby exonerate it. Changing a crucial date like this makes it easier to rewrite a country’s past — and thereby influence its future.
* The campaign for sainthood for Father Tiso looks like a minor version of the all-out effort to get another wartime cleric, Pope Pius XII canonised. There is a very polished website devoted to this in Slovak at http://jozeftiso.sk/memorial and a Facebook page in a variety of languages, called “Jozef Tiso, Martyr pro Deo et Patria”
1. For an interview of Dr Alexander Rehák (2007), see:
Spomienky šéflekára 2. čs. paradesantnej brigády
(Memories of a surgeon in the Second Czechoslovak Paratroop Brigade)
And for his own account (August 2003) see:
Spomienky šéflekára Druhej Paradesantnej Brigády
(Memories of a surgeon in the Second Paratroop Brigade)
plk. zdrav. v.v. MUDr. Alexander Rehák. http://www.szpb.sk/para.htm
2. “Amendments: Act no. 219/2006 Coll. (with effect from 1st July 2006).
The Act provides conditions for awarding the status of veteran and activity of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic in the area of veteran care. Legal status of veteran can be bestowed only on a citizen of the Slovak Republic with permanent address in the territory of the Slovak Republic who complies with other conditions provided by this Act.” http://www.mosr.sk/index.php?page=341
The Slovak text of Act no. 219/2006 is at http://www.mosr.sk/legislativa/zakony/zakon219_2006.pdf
3. “Newspaper Review”, Slovak Radio, 5 January 2007: “In his address on news channel TA3 Archbishop Sokol said he respects President Tiso and that steps should be made to beatify him and that during his reign there was prosperity here and we did not miss anything.”
4. “Remembrance Days in Slovakia”, Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_days_in_Slovakia
5. “Slovak National Uprising”, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovak_National_Uprising
6. “August 28: Slovak National Uprising Begins”, Yad Vashem. http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/chronology/1942-1945/1944/chronology_1944_23.html
7. Prometheus Society, Committee against Intolerance, “Democracy or intolerance?” http://slovakia.humanists.net/a_profiles.htm
8. For instance, Dr. Owen V. Johnson, “A Premature History of Slovakia”, H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/sho