The Nazi puppet state of Slovakia was created in 1939 from the remains of Czechoslovakia. Extreme right-wing and nationalist priest, Jozef Tiso was President throughout the life of the Republic and implemented anti-Jewish laws and oversaw the deportation of the Slovak Jews. Appeals from Rome to Tiso's priestly vocation and respect for the authority of the Pope and bishops fell on deaf ears. His trial and execution as a Nazi collaborator in 1947 elicited no appeal from the Vatican.
Traditionally, the Holy See did not, and does not, recognise states created during a time of war or in unusual situations. Consequently there are no formal diplomatic relations between the two entities. Pius XII appointed Giuseppe Burzio (1901-1966) as a charge d'affaires in Bratislava. A similar arrangement was made for Croatia under Ante Pavelic. Burzio's reports indicate a very high level of awareness of the political and social realities in Slovakia and, in particular, the rising tide of Jew-hatred promoted by the Tiso government.
In September 1941, Tiso's regime promulgated the Jewish Code which enacted wide-reaching Nuremberg style laws. Burzio reported the news to Cardinal Maglione in an extensive report on 18 September. He went into detail about the new laws as well as the reaction of the Slovakian bishops, which while slow to begin with, soon expressed their negative views on the laws. However, their disapproval was voiced at the interference of the state in the marriage laws which now outlawed marriage between Jews and non-Jews as well as for converted Jews.
The text must be read in its context. The mass murder campaign in the Soviet Union was only just underway. It is fair to say that there would have been very few in Slovakia who could have imagined the fate of the Slovak Jews. Within six months, however, that fate would become very clear.
The Slovakian experience is interesting for the reports from Burzio which detail the unfolding of the anti-Jewish persecution and the responses from Rome. The Pope certainly knew of the reports and equally certainly, approved of the responses to them.
This is the first part of my translation of the document:
Volume and Document Number: ADSS 8.153
Reference: Rap nr. 577 (AES 8303/41, orig)
Location and date: Pressbourg (Bratislava) 18.09.1941
Summary statement: Racial legislation; first steps of the chargé affaires
As I had the honour to inform Your Eminence on 9 September 1941 Slovakia promulgated a government regulation, the so-called “Jewish Code”. Paragraph 270 the legal, social and economic situation of Jews has been fixed on racist principles and strict adherence to the Nuremberg Laws.
Notwithstanding the importance and gravity of the provisions enacted giving them the character of true law, this legislation was processed outside the Parliament and was published without a vote or approval of the Chamber. It does not bear the signature of the President of the Republic [Fr Josef Tiso 1887-1947], but only the Head of the Government [Adalbert Tuka] and the government ministers. Dr Tiso was against and opposed until it was introduced as law, but the internal pressures and especially those outside were very loud and he had to yield, but only on condition that he reserved the right to exempt; in which is in fact established in paragraph 225 of the Law.
The essential points of the “Jewish Code” are as follows:
A Jew is considered, regardless of sex, to be a Jew if: 1) a person had at least three ancestors of the Jewish race; 2) if a person is a “cross” (“mongrel” literal translation of the Slovak word miešanec) that is if a person is a Jewish descendant of two ancestors of the Jewish race, if a) on 20 April, 1939 a person embraced the Israelite confession, b) after 20 April 1939 a person married a Jew; c) a person is descended from a mixed extra-marital union, and is born as an illegitimate child after 20 February 1940.
The Law shall consider that those who hold the Jewish confession shall be considered Jews.
Paragraph 4 fixes the notion of a legal Jewish person.
According to Paragraph 8, Jews are obliged to wear a distinctive badge (the Star of David), the wearing of which, along with any dispensation will be determined by the Minister of the Interior.
In accordance with Paragraph 9, marriage between Jews and non-Jews is prohibited, as is marriage between Jews and “cross-Jews” who do not fall under the dispensation granted in Paragraph 1. Those who contravene this law are punished with imprisonment up to three years and the loss of civil rights. Extra-marital affairs between Jews and non-Jews are forbidden.
According to Paragraph 12, Jews do not have the right to vote and may not be elected to Parliament or the governing boards of government controlled corporations. Likewise, they cannot function as state officials or government controlled institutes.
Paragraph 13 states that Jews cannot be members of the Hlinka Slovak Peoples’ Party, or of recognised minority parties; no are they able to be part of the Hlinka Guards, the Young Hlinka etc.
According to Paragraph 15, Jews cannot serve in the army or the police force. They are forbidden to work as public notaries, lawyers and engineers (Para 16). They cannot practice medicine, veterinary medicine (Para 18) nor in the pharmaceutical industry (Para 20).
Jews between 16 and 60 are required to work at the disposal of the Central Economic Office. (Para 22) Jews and their homes are subject to search by the organs of public safety (Paras 25-26). All correspondence of Jews is subject to censorship and possible seizure (Para 27).
According to Paragraph 28, the Central Economic Office, in agreement with the Minister of the Interior, may force Jews to leave certain towns and take up residence in other places. Likewise the same office can determine that Jews should be removed from a particular part of a city. Jews may be prohibited from staying spas, holiday resorts etc, visiting trade fairs, exhibitions etc.
They cannot form organisations, outside of religious communities. The only Jewish organisation is the “Central Jewish Organisation” based in Bratislava. (Para 30). They cannot hold meetings or demonstrations or take part in public events (Para 33).
They cannot be publishers, editors and contributors to newspapers except for those that will be published by the “Central Jewish Organisation”. In addition, no intellectual property of Jews can be released in Slovakian territory (para 34).
Members of the Jewish confession and Jewish communities can worship only in those buildings which, from the exterior, do not appear to be intended for religious purposes. Synagogues and prayer houses must, therefore, be adapted by 10 July 1942, otherwise they will be forfeit to the State (Para 36). Paragraph 37 prohibits Jewish ritual slaughter.
According to Paragraph 38, Jews are excluded from study in all schools and institutes of learning. Foreign degrees are not recognised. Jews are permitted to complete primary education only and only in classes permitted by the Minister of Public Instruction.
Jews may only be represented by Jewish lawyers before the courts (Para 50). They cannot bear arms, hold licenses for hunting and fishing, they cannot drive cars; are only permitted to travel third class on trains, but cannot use sleeping-cars or restaurant-cars; they cannot posses radios (Paras 50-54) etc etc. In short, the Slovakian “Jewish Code” is a collection of “They cannot”.
The following paragraphs relate to reports on inherited property and the economic situation of the Jews, and established special rules for their progressive and complete elimination from the political, economic and social life of the nation.
Comparing the Slovakian “Jewish Code” with the Nuremberg Laws one can make the following remarks:
The term “Jew” corresponds to that set by the Nuremberg Laws with two exceptions. First, the classification of the “half-Jew” is different; it applies if a person has married a Jew. While the Nuremberg Laws consider a person a Jew, regardless of the date of marriage, the Slovak Code considers the person Jewish if they married after 20 April 1939 when the first anti-Jewish law was passed. On the other hand, the Slovak Code is most severe, in that it considers a person to be a “mongrel” Jew if they have converted to the Israelite religion.
According to the intent and purpose of the Nuremberg Laws a convert is not considered to be a Jew. But the most important difference between the Slovakian Code and the Nuremberg Laws assurances that seemed to me unconvincing.consists in the fact that in Slovakia mixed marriages already contracted are not affected, and diversity of race is not grounds for divorce or separation.
Since last May (1941) there was talk of imminent and serious measures to be taken against the Jews; including the prohibition of marriage between Jews and Aryans. As I had the honour to report in my report No 371 of 19 May 1941, I then went to see the President of the Republic about the matter, and received propositions of assurance that I did not find convincing.