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MPs questioned for pro-Tiso statements

SEVERAL parliamentary deputies could face criminal prosecution for statements related to the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state, one of the most controversial eras in Slovakia’s history.

SEVERAL parliamentary deputies could face criminal prosecution for statements related to the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state, one of the most controversial eras in Slovakia’s history.

Police began investigating several MPs of the ruling Smer party based on a criminal complaint filed in February by citizen Peter Cvik, who complained about the MPs’ opinions as they were voiced in a video poll by the Sme daily in January.

The daily asked the MPs about their view of the wartime Nazi-allied Slovak state and its President Jozef Tiso. While some deputies said it was more a question for historians, others expressed their not-entirely-negative opinions.

“That state was economically prosperous, but problematic politically and relationship-wise,” MP Maroš Kondrót says on the video, adding that the life of people in the state was perhaps easier than the life of people in today’s Czech Republic, which was occupied by Nazi troops, but there is a stain on that historical era – the deportations of Jews facilitated by the state.

According to his statements on the video, Kondrót did not deem Tiso as an entirely negative personality.

“He did a lot of good things, but also a lot of bad things,” Kondrót said on the video. “It’s a question for historians to evaluate.”

Among the good things, Kondrót said that Tiso led the state, reached an agreement with Hitler and prevented the occupation of Slovakia.

His party colleague and mayor of Humenné, Jana Vaľová, responded that in the Slovak history everything had both positives and negatives. When pressed to list the positives of the wartime Slovak state, she said it was negative in the first place, but “economically, Slovakia was very well off”.

Smer’s top representatives, including Prime Minister Robert Fico, have repeatedly condemned the wartime Slovak state and Tiso.

Economic prosperity?

The economic prosperity of the wartime Slovak state has been used by those who defended it in the past, including former Trnava Archbishop Ján Sokol, who infamously told the TA3 news channel in late 2006 that the wartime Slovak state had brought benefits.

“I respect President Tiso, I respect him very much, as I remember when I was a child we were very poor, but during his times we had a high standard of living,” he said.

Historians, however, question the alleged prosperity of the wartime state.

Prosperity in that era is more legend than historical fact, Katarína Zavacká, a historian from the Institute of State and Law of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, told The Slovak Spectator in 2009.

“Some Slovaks lived in prosperity, but all the rest had a ration-ticket system, so what kind of prosperity was that?” she said, adding that the majority of citizens had to cope with a lack of goods, hunger and lice.

Censorship applied to all information has helped the myth of prosperity survive to this day, she said.

Later, in 2008, Sokol celebrated a requiem mass for Tiso on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of his execution as a traitor. The Conference of Bishops of Slovakia said it was the archbishop’s private initiative.

Sokol is not alone among high clerical representatives who have expressed support for Tiso. In the summer of 1990, Bishop (now Cardinal) Ján Chryzostom Korec formally unveiled Tiso’s memorial board at the secondary grammar school in Tiso’s birthplace, Bánovce nad Bebravou. Later, a statement was issued claiming it was a private initiative of Korec. On April 18, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Tiso’s execution, Korec celebrated a requiem mass for Tiso in Nitra.

Tiso in history

The first Slovak Republic was founded following a deal between Slovak leader (and later president) Jozef Tiso and German dictator Adolf Hitler in March 1939.

By then, Hitler had resolved to invade and occupy all of the Czech regions of Czechoslovakia, of which Slovakia was then a part. Tiso was summoned to Berlin where he was told that Germany would back a Slovak declaration of independence as long as the future government would become an ally of Nazi Germany. The likely alternative was the partitioning of Slovakia between Poland and Hungary. Tiso chose the former and the Slovak National Assembly declared the Slovak state independent on March 14, 1939.

As early as the beginning of the 1940s, Tiso openly stated his intention to act against Jews in Slovakia. As president, Tiso was directly responsible for the deportation of 58,000 Jews, and of another 30,000 people the fascist state regarded as suspect, to concentration camps. Just a few hundred people ever returned.

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