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Jews have lived in the Slovakian region since the 11th century. Today, the Jewish population of Slovakia is approximately 2,600 people.
World War II & The Holocaust
Before World War II, 135,000 Jews lived in Slovakia; 5,000 of whom immigrated before the war. Under the protection of Nazi Germany, Slovakia proclaimed its independence in March 1939. The country came under the control of an extremely religious and right-wing party, the Hlinka (Slovak) Peoples’ party, under the leadership of Father Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest. After its establishment, the Slovakian government approached the “Jewish Question” as one of their first public issues.The first anti-Jewish law was passed in Slovakia on April 18, 1939. A few days later, on April 24, Jews were excluded from all government positions and service. On September 19, 1939, all Jews were expelled from the military. Many more discrimination laws followed, including children being ousted from school and Jews being excluded from public recreational facilities. By 1940, more than 6,000 Jews emigrated both legally and illegally. The Slovakian government passed a law that permitted it to take over control of all major Jewish businesses. These laws were supported by the majority of Slovakians.
In a 1940 meeting between German and Slovakian officials, Germany dictated new changes within the Slovakian government to make the country more dependent. During this period, Jews lost many more privileges, including the right to a car or gun. In August 1940 another decree was issued that required every Jew to register with the government and state their financial status.
On September 9, 1941, Jews were met with a proclamation of 270 articles, which included the wearing of a Yellow Star of David and forced labor. Soon after, Hungary and the Slovakian government began deporting the Jews to concentration camps, specificallyAuschwitz. By 1942, nearly three-fourths of the Slovakian Jewry had been exterminated. In April 1944, after several months of calm, deportations resumed during the Slovakian resistance, in which numerous Jews partook.Following the Holocaust, only 25,000 Jews survived and many survivors decided to emigrate. Those Jews who did remain worked diligently to rebuild the devastated Jewish community.
There are more than 100 synagogue buildings and nearly 700 Jewish cemeteries scattered across Slovakia. There are also numerous Jewish cultural places in Slovakia to visit, including the Underground Mausoleum. This museum contains the graves of 18 famous rabbis together with Chatam Sofer, who founded a rabbinical seminary. About 200 synagogues and 620 Jewish cemeteries remain in Slovakia, symbolizing the once thriving community that flourished in the area.
In 2007, Slovakia's foremost Jewish scholar Maros Borsky formally launched the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route, a tourist and educational trail that links two dozen key sites in all eight regions of the country. Included on the Heritage Route are synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish museums and Holocaust memorials. "The only way to preserve these buildings is to find a different use for them, predominantly and preferably for cultural purposes," says Borsky. Sites on the trail include places within day-trip distance from Bratislava: Malacky, Stupava, Trnava, Samorin, Trencin, Nitra, Komarno, Zvolen, Sahy, Kosice, Presov, Bardejov and Spisske Nova Ves.
A neo-Nazi party won seats in Slovakia's parliamen
during the March 2016 elections, much to the dismay of Slovakian leaders. The neo-Nazi “People's Party - Our Slovakia,” received 8% of the total vote, enough to grant the party 14 seats in the Slovak National Council, the country's parliamentary body. Marian Kotleba, the chairman of the People's Party - Our Slovakia, had previously led another neo-Nazi political party named Slovak Togetherness - National Party, that has been banned from participation in the Slovak political system. Slovakia's Foreign Minister, Miroslav Lajcak, stated after the election that “we have elected a fascist to Parliament.”