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Jewish leaders decide not to pursue Tuka's Swiss stash

A biblical passage reads "divine mills churn slowly but surely." In the case of Slovakia's Jews, historical imbalances finally may be righting themselves.
After two years of lobbying, Slovak Jewish leaders persuaded the Czech cabinet the week of July 21 to return property belonging to Slovak victims of the Holocaust. A foundation has been established to disburse the property, worth 36 million Sk and transferred from the Czech National Bank, leaders added.
The same week that Slovakia's Jewry wrested the overdue property from the Czechs, Swiss banks released a list of dormant account holders which contained the name of Vojtech Tuka, prime minister of the Slovak War State from 1939-1945, and one of those responsible for the deportations of almost 60,000 Slovak Jews to concentration camps across Europe.


Vojtech Tuka (in wheelchair) and Jozef Tiso (standing) led the Slovak War State when an estimated 60,000 Jews were deported out of the country from 1939 to 1945.
TASR

A biblical passage reads "divine mills churn slowly but surely." In the case of Slovakia's Jews, historical imbalances finally may be righting themselves.

After two years of lobbying, Slovak Jewish leaders persuaded the Czech cabinet the week of July 21 to return property belonging to Slovak victims of the Holocaust. A foundation has been established to disburse the property, worth 36 million Sk and transferred from the Czech National Bank, leaders added.

The same week that Slovakia's Jewry wrested the overdue property from the Czechs, Swiss banks released a list of dormant account holders which contained the name of Vojtech Tuka, prime minister of the Slovak War State from 1939-1945, and one of those responsible for the deportations of almost 60,000 Slovak Jews to concentration camps across Europe.

Slovak Jewish leaders, however, said they're not interested in Tuka's money.

"Although Slovak Jews had to deposit their gold and money at the National Bank of Slovakia [during the war], they surely didn't deposit it in Tuka's account," said František Alexander, the executive chairman of Slovakia's Central Association of Jewish Religious Communities.

Alexander added that the allocation of money from Tuka's account should be decided by an international council of justice, established by Swiss banks.

"We don't believe we have the legal, but especially moral right to acquire the money from a private account of the premier of the wartime Slovak Republic," added Jozef Weiss, the head of the Association's office. Both leaders underlined that it should be left up to the Slovak cabinet whether to ask for it. The cabinet's spokeswoman, Ľudmila Buláková, confirmed that the cabinet will deal with the issue at its first session after its summer vacation, on August 12.

Although refusing to deal with Tuka's money, Weiss offered a solution of how it could be spent. "Since Tuka was co-responsible for the fact that Slovak soldiers initially stood on the wrong side [Slovaks who joined the Nazis in fighting the Russian liberation forces on the Eastern Front] and, consequently, many of them died in vain, the money could be used to upkeep their graves," he said.

At the same time, Weiss rejected deliberations that have appeared in both the Slovak and Czech press, saying that since Tuka was executed in 1946 in the re-established Czechoslovakia, the money from his account should be divided at a 2:1 ratio in favor of Czechs, the same ratio used for splitting the state's federal property in 1992.

"The federal property was divided at a 2:1 ratio only when the property's origin was impossible or very difficult to establish," Weiss said. "But even though Tuka was executed in Czechoslovakia and his property lapsed to that state, his account was established at the time Czechoslovakia didn't exist."

Weiss said it is unlikely anyone in Slovakia can estimate how much money could be in Tuka's account, and that it's up to the Swiss to put a final tab on it. But Ivan Kamenec, a leading Slovak historian who focuses on the World War II period, said that Tuka occupied multiple posts that "were all very well paid."

Apart from being prime minister from October 1939 until September 1944, Tuka also held the office of Foreign Minister between 1940 and 1944. Furthermore, between 1939 and 1943, he was a central committee member of the ruling Hlinka's Slovak People's Party (HSĽS). Kamenec said especially the former two posts were very lucrative, each being paid well over 10,000 Slovak crowns a month, but he refused to give even a rough estimate of the account's worth.

"His living requirements were not very high," Kamenec said. "His wife lived in Vienna and they didn't have any children." Apart from Tuka, two other account holders from Slovakia have been identified so far, Ján Klinovský and Friedrich Wirth.

The former was the chairman of the Grain Community of Slovakia, a company which exported grain to Switzerland and Turkey during the war, one Slovak historian who requested anonymity told TASR, the state-run news agency. Klinovský was a supporter of the moderate wing within the HSĽS.

When the Slovak National Uprising broke out on September 17, 1944, Klinovský was allegedly shot dead near the central Slovak town of Sliač along with 11 other victims by three demoralized freedom fighters. Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the Hron River, but Klinovský's was never found. Friedrich Wirth was lieutenant colonel of the Slovak war state's justice corps and the Slovak Army's chief military prosecutor stationed in Bratislava during the war.

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