Monday, December 15, 2014

ADSS 10.369 Tardini to Bernardini, Switzerland - Slovak and Hungarian Jews

Reference: Telegram nr: 696 (AES 6913/44)

Location and date: Vatican, 23.10.1944

Summary statement: Efforts of the Holy See for the Jews of Hungary and Slovakia.

Language: Italian


I request your Excellency to communicate this to the Apostolic Delegate in Turkey.

Number 226. I received telegram 212. (1) The Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava was quickly interested in the situation of the Jews in Sered camp. (2)

I can assure your Excellency that the Holy See, despite increasing difficulties with communication, continues to follow with particular attention the fate of the Slovak and Hungarian Jews and will leave no stone unturned to bring relief to such persons. (3) 

(1) The Jewish Agency in Jerusalem sent a message to the Delegate in Istanbul on 14.10.1944, with news that “over 5,000 Jews are concentrated in a camp at Sered and about 2,000 of them are at risk of deportation, which means certain death.  We respectfully ask you to transmit our request to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See to intervene on behalf of those 2,000 Jews and save them from deportation and death”. (Archives of the Istanbul Delegate)  On 18.10.1944 Filippo Bernardini telegraphed the Vatican (telegram nr 444, AES 6913/44): “The Apostolic Delegate in Turkey has sent the following: Number 212: I received telegram 219. “Holy See urgently requested to intercede to Jews in Sered camp Slovakia, threatened with deportation and death”.
(2) On 22.10.1944 Tardini telegraphed Bernardini (telegram nr 697; AES 6914/44): “I ask you to communicate the following to the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava: “The Holy See is urged to intercede for the Jews interned in Sered concentration camp and who are threatened with deportation and death.  I ask your Excellency to take the steps you deem most appropriate and then inform me of any news”.
(3) Apostolic Delegate to the UK, William Godfrey had already written to Chief Rabbi Hertz: “that news had already reached the Vatican of the plight of your people in that country and that the Holy See had at once renewed its efforts with the Government there and had at the same time invited the Slovak Bishops to increase their efforts as far as possible on behalf of those who were stricken by the new racial laws.  I am instructed by the Vatican Secretary of state to make known to you that nothing will be left undone to help your people in any way open to the Holy See”. (Archives Apostolic Delegate, London)

Gates of Sered Camp. (Yad Vashem)

Between 1941 and 1945 there were three camps at Sered sometimes operating at the same time.  The camps’ purposes were the same – the removal of Slovakian Jews from the life of the nation, through expulsion, expropriation of property and finally, deportation to the death camps “in the East”. With the exception of the German operated camp, the Slovak government was directly responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of Sered.

1. Labour Camp for Jews established in September 1941 by order of Alexander Mach, Minister of the Interior and placed under the responsibility of the Hlinka Guard.  The primary purpose of the camp was to concentrate Slovakian Jews, most of whom had been expelled fro Bratislava as part of the “aryanisation” of Jewish businesses, prior to despatch for forced labour.  Exploitation of Jewish workers proved an economic boon for the Slovak government.  In 1943 Jewish labour earned the government in excess of 2 million Slovak Crowns. The camp was dissolved during the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944.

2. A “Concentration Centre for Jews” was set up in 1942 to facilitate the deportation of Slovak Jews to Auschwitz.  It was closed in September 1944.

3. Sered concentration camp was established under German control in September 1944 as the last phase of the “Final Solution” in Slovakia.  SS Haupsturmführer Alois Brunner was commandant. Under Brunner’s watch an estimated 7,400 Jews were sent to Auschwitz between 30.09.1944 and 01.11.1944.  Most were murdered upon arrival.  From 16.11.1944 until the evacuation of the camp on 31.03.1945 more than 4,000 Jews were moved to Sachsenhausen, Terezín and Ravensbrück. Many of these deportees survived.

Much of the information here came from the review of Ján Hlavinka and Eduard Nižňansky, (2009) Pracovný a koncentračný tabor v Seredi 1941-1945, Bratislava: Dokumentačné stredisko holocaust, by Daniel Putík, pp 98-102. 

(The article cited above came from the website for the Studia Territorialia, published by the Charles University in Prague.  More than that I do not know.  If anyone can supply more details I will be very grateful.)

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