History of the Jews in Slovakia

The history of the Jews in Slovakia goes back to the 11th century, when the first Jews settled in the area.[4]

Slovak Jews
Slovenskí Židia
יהודים סלובקיים
Еврейская улица - panoramio.jpg
Židovská Street, Bratislava
Total population
Slovak, Hebrew, Yiddish
Related ethnic groups
Ashkenazi Jews, Czech Jews, Czech diaspora in Israel
Historical Slovak Jewish population
Source: [2][3][1]

Early historyEdit

In the 14th century, about 800 Jews lived in Bratislava, the majority of them engaged in commerce and money lending. In the early 15th century, a Jewish cemetery was established at Tisinec and was in use until 1892.[5]

In 1494, a blood libel caused sixteen Jews to be burned at the stake in Trnava, and in 1526, after the Battle of Mohács, Jews were expelled from all major towns. In 1529, thirty Jews were burned at the stake in Pezinok.[citation needed]

In the late 17th century and early 18th century, Jews began to return to their original cities and establish organized communities, though they were barred from many trading industries and often in conflict with non-Jews. In 1683, hundreds of Jews from Moravia fled to the Hungarian Kingdom, seeking refuge from Kuruc riots and restrictions on their living imposed in Moravia. In 1700, a leading yeshiva was established in Bratislava and recognized by the government. Under Joseph II, Jews received many additional civil liberties.[citation needed]

19th centuryEdit

Synagogue in Malacky

Jewish communities emerged in the late eighteenth century following immigration from Bohemia, Moravia, Austria and Poland. The communities were affected by the schism in Hungarian Jewry in the mid-nineteenth century, eventually splitting into Orthodox (the majority), Status Quo, and more liberal Neolog factions. Following Jewish emancipation in 1896, many Jews had adopted Hungarian language and customs to advance in society. Many Jews moved to cities and joined the professions; others remained in the countryside, mostly working as artisans, merchants, and shopkeepers.[6][7] Their multilingualism helped them advance in business, but put them in conflict with Slovak nationalism.[6][8][9] The Slovak Jews were not as integrated as the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, preferring a traditional lifestyle.[10] Traditional religious antisemitism was joined by the stereotypical view of Jews as exploiters of poor Slovaks (economic antisemitism), and a form of "national anti-Semitism" that accused Jews of sympathizing with Hungarian and later Czechoslovak national aims.[11][12][13]

Interwar periodEdit

After World War I, Slovakia became part of the new country of Czechoslovakia.[6][14] In both parts of the new republic, anti-Jewish riots broke out in the aftermath of the declaration of independence (1918–1920), although the violence was not nearly as serious as in Ukraine or Poland.[15] Blood libel accusations occurred in Trenčin and in Šalavský Gemer in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Great Depression affected Jewish businessmen and also increased economic antisemitism.[10] Economic underdevelopment and perceptions of discrimination in Czechoslovakia led a plurality (about one-third) of Slovaks to support the conservative, ethnonationalist Slovak People's Party (Slovak: Hlinkova slovenská ľudová strana: HSĽS).[16][17][18] HSĽS viewed minority groups such as Czechs, Hungarians, Jews, and Romani people as a destructive influence on the Slovak nation,[18] and presented Slovak autonomy as the solution to Slovakia's problems.[17] The party began to emphasize antisemitism during the late 1930s following a wave of Jewish refugees from Austria in 1938 and anti-Jewish laws passed by Hungary, Poland, and Romania.[19]

In the 1930s, antisemitic rioting and demonstrations broke out, incited by the Slovak People's Party.[citation needed] During the rioting, professional Jewish boxers and wrestlers took to the streets to defend their neighborhoods from antisemitic gangs,[citation needed] and one of them, Imi Lichtenfeld, would later use his experiences to develop Krav Maga.[20]

The HolocaustEdit

Interior of the Jewish memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia (with the grave of the rabbi Chatam Sofer at the left). The Jewish cemetery in Bratislava was desecrated during the Holocaust.

Some 5,000 Jews emigrated before the outbreak of World War II and several thousands afterwards (mostly to the British Mandate of Palestine), but most were killed in the Holocaust. After the Slovak Republic proclaimed its independence in March 1939 under the protection of Nazi Germany, the pro-Nazi regime of President Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest, began a series of measures aimed against the Jews in the country, first excluding them from the military and government positions. The Hlinka Guard began to attack Jews, and the "Jewish Code" was passed in September 1941. Resembling the Nuremberg Laws, the Code required that Jews wear a yellow armband and were banned from intermarriage and many jobs. By 1940, more than 6,000 Jews had emigrated.[citation needed] By October 1941, 15,000 Jews were expelled from Bratislava; many were sent to labor camps, including Sereď.[citation needed]

Originally, the Slovak government tried to make a deal with Germany in October 1941 to deport its Jews as a substitute for providing Slovak workers to help the war effort. The initial terms were for 20,000 young men aged 16 and older for forced labour, but the Slovak government was concerned that it would leave many aged, sick, or child Jews who would become a burden on the gentile population. A deal was reached where the Slovak Republic would pay 500 Reichsmark for each Jew deported, and in return, the Germans would deport entire families and promise that the Jews would never return. This was billed as a humanitarian measure that would keep Jewish families together;[a] the Slovak fascist authorities claimed that they did not know that the Germans were systematically exterminating the Jews under its control. Some Jews were exempt from deportation, including those who had converted before 1939.[21]

The deportations of Jews from Slovakia started on March 25, 1942.[b] Transports were halted on October 20, 1942. A group of Jewish activists known as the Working Group tried to stop the process through a mix of bribery and negotiation. However, some 58,000 Jews had already been deported by October 1942, mostly to the Operation Reinhard death camps in the General Government in occupied Poland and to Auschwitz. More than 99% of the Jews deported from Slovakia in 1942 were murdered in the concentration death camps.[citation needed]

Jewish deportations resumed on September 30, 1944, after German troops occupied the Slovak territory to defeat the Slovak National uprising. During the German occupation, up to 13,500 Slovak Jews were deported (mostly to Auschwitz where most of them were gassed upon arrival), principally through the Jewish transit camp in Sereď under the command of Alois Brunner, and about 2,000 were murdered in the Slovak territory by members of the Einsatzgruppe H and the Hlinka Guard Emergency Divisions. Deportations continued until March 31, 1945, when the last group of Jewish prisoners was taken from Sereď to the Terezín ghetto. In all, German and Slovak authorities deported about 71,500 Jews from Slovakia; about 65,000 of them were murdered or died in concentration camps. The overall figures are inexact, partly because many Jews did not identify themselves, but one 2006 estimate is that approximately 105,000 Slovak Jews, or 77% of their prewar population, died during the war.[4]

After World War IIEdit

11 Jews were murdered by an unidentified UPA group in September 1945 in Kolbasov.[23]

In the Topoľčany pogrom 48 Jews were seriously injured. 13 anti-Jewish incidents called partisan pogroms took place between August 1 and 5, 1946, the biggest one in Žilina, where 15 people were wounded.[24][25] Antisemitic manifestations took place in Bratislava in August 1946 and in August 1948.[26]

In 1946, the Slovak writer Karel František Koch argued that the antisemitic incidents that he witnessed in Bratislava after the war were "not antisemitism, but something far worse—the robber’s anxiety that he might have to return Jewish property [stolen in the Holocaust],"[27] a view that has been endorsed by Czech-Slovak scholar Robert Pynsent [cs].[28]

After the war, the number of Jews in Slovakia was estimated to be 25,000. Most of them decided to emigrate. In February 1948, Communist rule was established after the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d'état. It lasted until November 1989 Velvet Revolution. During those years, little or no Jewish life existed. Many Jews emigrated to Israel or the United States to regain their freedom of religion.[citation needed] After 1989, and with the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia and Slovak independence in 1993, there was some resurgence in Jewish life. However, most Jews were elderly, and younger ones largely assimilated through intermarriage.[citation needed]

According to the 2021 census of Slovakia, the Jewish community had 2,007 members, which is about 0.04% of the total population of Slovakia.[29] About 839 of them lives in Bratislava Region (0.12% of the total population), followed by 311 members in Košice and 210 members in Trnava Region (both: 0.04%).[30]

Slovak JewsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In reality, the Germans segregated the arrivals, and those unable to work were soon murdered.
  2. ^ The first transport was made up solely of 999 young women; it was also the first mass transport of Jews to Auschwitz[22]


  1. ^ a b DellaPergola, Sergio (2016). "World Jewish Population, 2015". In Dashefsky, Arnold; Sheskin, Ira M. (eds.). American Jewish Year Book 2015. American Jewish Year Book. Vol. 115. pp. 273–364. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-24505-8_7. ISBN 978-3-319-24503-4. Reprinted as: DellaPergola, Sergio (2016). "World Jewish Population, 2015". Berman Jewish DataBank.
  2. ^ Brod, Petr; Čapková, Kateřina; Frankl, Michal (December 13, 2010). "Czechoslovakia". YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  3. ^ Tolts, Mark (October 12, 2010). "Population and Migration: Population since World War I". YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Klein-Pejšová, Rebekah (2006). "An overview of the history of Jews in Slovakia". Synagoga Slovaca. Slovak Jewish Heritage Center. Archived from the original on June 17, 2007.
  5. ^ "Slovakia Virtual Jewish History Tour". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Hutzelmann 2018, p. 18.
  7. ^ Lorman 2019, pp. 47–48.
  8. ^ Lorman 2019, p. 48.
  9. ^ Lônčíková 2017, p. 85.
  10. ^ a b Hutzelmann 2018, p. 19.
  11. ^ Láníček 2013, p. 35.
  12. ^ Hutzelmann 2018, pp. 18–19.
  13. ^ Nižňanský 2014, pp. 49–50.
  14. ^ Deák 2015, p. 31.
  15. ^ Láníček 2013, pp. 6, 10.
  16. ^ Rajcan, Vadkerty & Hlavinka 2018, p. 842.
  17. ^ a b Ward 2015, p. 79.
  18. ^ a b Paulovičová 2018, p. 5.
  19. ^ Ward 2015, p. 87.
  20. ^ Siegel, Nathan (November 6, 2014). "How 1930s Fascism Created Today's Trendiest Self-Defense". OZY.
  21. ^ "Slovakia's Righteous among the Nations". www.yadvashem.org. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  22. ^ Gelissen, Rena Kornreich; Macadam, Heather Dune (1996). Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-7071-0.[page needed]
  23. ^ "Banderovci očami historikov – pohľad tretí Michal Šmigeľ: Vraždy Židov a komunistov na severovýchodnom Slovensku v roku 1945 – Kolbasovská tragédia" [Bandera eyes of historians – a third-Michal Smigel: killings of Jews and communists in northeastern Slovakia in 1945 – Kolbašovská tragedy] (in Slovak and Rusyn). Holosky. March 15, 2009. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2015.[self-published source?]
  24. ^ Mlynárik, Ján (August 2006). "Dějiny Židů na Slovensku (Část 15)" [History of the Jews in the Slovak Republic (Part 15)]. CS Magazín (in Slovak). Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  25. ^ Schvarc, Michal (March 2007). "Masová exekúcia v Sklenom 21. septembra 1944 v širšom dejinnom kontexte" [The mass execution in Sklené September 21, 1944 in a broader historical context] (PDF). Pamät Národia (in Slovak): 4–13. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2013.
  26. ^ Šmigeľ, Michal (June 17, 2013). "Protižidovské nepokoje v Bratislave (august 1946; august 1948) v atmosfére povojnového antisemitizmu na Slovensku" [Anti-Jewish riots in Bratislava (August 1946, August 1948) in the atmosphere of post-war antisemitism in Slovakia]. Druhá svetová (in Slovak). Archived from the original on June 23, 2013.
  27. ^ Koch 1946, pp. 131–132.
  28. ^ Pynsent 2013, p. 330.
  29. ^ "Number of population by religious belief in the Slovak Republic at 1. 1. 2021". www.scitanie.sk.
  30. ^ "Number of population by religious belief in all regions of the SR at 1. 1. 2021". www.scitanie.sk.

Further readingEdit

  • Bútorová, Zora; Bútora, Martin (August 1992). "Wariness Towards Jews as an Expression of Post-Communist Panic: The Case of Slovakia". Czechoslovak Sociological Review. 28: 92–106. JSTOR 41133197.
Deák, István (2015) [2013]. Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution during World War II. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press (Routledge). ISBN 978-0-8133-4790-5.
Láníček, Jan (2013). Czechs, Slovaks and the Jews, 1938–48: Beyond Idealisation and Condemnation. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-31747-6.
Lônčíková, Michala (2017). "Was the antisemitic propaganda a catalyst for tensions in the Slovak-Jewish relations?". Holocaust Studies. 23 (1–2): 76–98. doi:10.1080/17504902.2016.1209839. S2CID 151817674.
Lorman, Thomas (2019). The Making of the Slovak People's Party: Religion, Nationalism and the Culture War in Early 20th-Century Europe. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-350-10938-4.
Nižňanský, Eduard (2014). "On Relations between the Slovak Majority and Jewish Minority During World War II". Yad Vashem Studies. 42 (2): 47–90. ISSN 0084-3296.
Paulovičová, Nina (2018). "Holocaust Memory and Antisemitism in Slovakia: The Postwar Era to the Present". Antisemitism Studies. Indiana University Press. 2 (1): 4–34. doi:10.2979/antistud.2.1.02. S2CID 165383570.
Ward, James Mace (2015). "The 1938 First Vienna Award and the Holocaust in Slovakia". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 29 (1): 76–108. doi:10.1093/hgs/dcv004. ISSN 8756-6583.

External linksEdit