Vojtech Tuka

Vojtech Tuka was the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic between 1940 and 1945. Tuka was one the main forces behind the deportation of Slovak Jews to Nazi concentration camps in German occupied Poland. He was the leader of the radical wing of the Slovak People's Party.

Early CareerEdit

Tuka, sometimes referred to by the Magyar name Béla, was born in Hegybánya, Hungary (today: Štiavnické Bane, Slovakia). He studied law at universities in Budapest, Berlin, and Paris. He became the youngest professor in the Kingdom of Hungary, teaching law in Pécs and—from 1914 to 1919—at the Elizabethan University in Bratislava. After the dissolution of that university in 1919, he worked as an editor in Bratislava.

After the founding of Czechoslovakia in late 1918, he joined the autonomist Slovak People's Party. It was suggested[by whom?] that he accepted Andrej Hlinka's offer to enter the Slovak People's Party in order to destabilize Czechoslovakia through radical Slovak nationalism. He served as the secretary of the Hlinka’s Slovak People's Party (HSĽS), a party whose radical wing called for an independent Slovak state, and edited the party's periodical, Slovák. The HSĽS argued that the 1920 constitution had not included the provision for Slovak autonomy alluded to in the Pittsburgh Declaration. Acting on this, the HSĽS introduced a Slovak-autonomy bill in the Czechoslovak parliament in 1922. The bill was rejected, but the HSĽS had established that autonomy was the core of its program. This was significant, since public opinion in Slovakia was drifting towards the autonomists.[citation needed] The growing separatist sentiment would later enable Tuka's rise to power.

In 1910, he was elected to the Presidium of the Countrywide Christian Socialist Party as nominee of the Slovak section.[citation needed] In 1923, he founded the organization Rodobrana ("Home Guard"), an armed milita.

Tuka was also a deputy to the Czechoslovak parliament.

Espionage allegations and first jail sentenceEdit

On 1 January 1928, Tuka published an article titled "Vacuum iuris", alleging that there had been a suppressed annex to the 31 October 1918 Declaration of the Slovak Nation by which Slovak representatives officially joined the newly-founded state of Czechoslovakia. Tuka argued that the declaration was, by agreement, to be valid for only ten years; after 28 October 1928, he argued, Prague's writ would no longer run in Slovakia without dismissing the existence of the Czecho-Slovak state. The existence of the annex was alleged by well-known declarants: members of the 1918 Slovak national council Andrej Hlinka, F. Juriga, J. Koza-Matejov, Emanuel Stodola, and Joseph Srobar (brother of centralist Vavro Srobar, principal antagonist of Hlinka and Tuka). Without hesitation, the Prague government charged Tuka with espionage and high treason on behalf of the Hungarian government. Tuka was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment; he served about ten years of that sentence.

According to Czechoslovakist historian Kamenec,[full citation needed] post–World War II documents retrieved from Hungary showed that Tuka was in the service of the Hungarian Irredent; but Kamenec also said that documents do not exclude the claims of Tuka's supporters that Tuka gained support for Slovakian independence from Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Germany, France, and the Soviet Union.

The Slovak Republic and Tuka's rise to political powerEdit

On 9 March 1939, Czech troops moved into Slovakia in reaction to radical calls for independence from Slovak patriots (including Tuka, who had recently been released from prison). On 13 March, Adolf Hitler took advantage of this "Homolov Putsch", prompting Jozef Tiso—the Slovak ex–prime minister and Roman Catholic Monsignor deposed by the Czech troops—to declare Slovak independence. Tiso refused; Slovak independence was declared on 14 March by an act of the Slovak Assembly, which was convocated by Czecho-Slovak president Hacha. The remaining part of Czechoslovakia was incorporated into the Third Reich as a protectorate.[nb 1] Tiso was elected President on 26 October 1939 as president; he immediately appointed Tuka as Prime Minister.

At a conference held in Salzburg, Austria on 28 July 1940, an agreement was reached to establish a National Socialist regime in Slovakia. Tuka attended the conference, as did Hitler, Tiso, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alexander Mach (head of the Hilnka Guards), and Franz Karmasin, head of the local German minority. As a result of the conference, two state agencies were created to deal with "Jewish affairs".[1][2]

On 3 September 1940, Tuka convinced the Slovak assembly to enact Constitutional Law 210, a law authorizing the government to do everything necessary to exclude Jews from the economic and social life of the country.[3] Previous laws had already stripped them of political participation.[2] That November, on the 24th, Tuka and von Ribbentrop signed a protocol entering Slovakia into alliance with Germany, Japan, and Italy.[2]

In 1942, Tuka strongly advocated the deportation of Slovakia's Jewish population to the eastern Nazi concentration camps. His anti-Semitic policies put Tuka in conflict with the moderate Tiso. Together with Internal Affairs Minister Alexander Mach, Tuka became the leader of the pro-Nazi wing within the Slovak People's Party. This wing—enjoying little support among Slovaks—relied on the Hlinka Guard, successor to the Rodobrana revived by Tuka. Tuka was also the vice-chairman of the Slovak People's Party.

The conflict between the moderate Tiso wing and the pro-Nazi wing resulted in the Salzburg Compromise, concluded between Slovakia and the Reich on 28 July 1940, as a result of which Tuka and other political leaders increased their powers at the expense of Tiso and other moderates. The compromise called for dual command by the Slovak People’s Party and the Hlinka Guard (HSĽS). The Reich appointed Stormtrooper leader Manfred von Killinger as the German representative in Slovakia. While Tiso successfully restructured the Slovak People's Party in harmony with Christian principles, Tuka and Mach radicalized Slovak policy toward the Jews.

The persecution of Slovak JewsEdit

At the end of August 1942, Dieter Wisliceny, an SS hauptstrumführer, was sent to Bratislava to act as an "adviser on Jewish affairs" to Tuka's government.[4] With Wisliceny, Tuka composed the Ordinance Judenkodex (Codex Judaicus, or Jewish Code) of 9 September 1941, which comprised 270 articles comprehensively denying rights to Slovak Jews.[3][4] The Code was longer than the Slovak Constitution.[4] It required that Jews wear the yellow star, annulled all debts owed to Jews, confiscated Jewish property, and expelled Jews from Bratislava, the Slovak capital.

The Slovak episcopate protested some of the laws; in particular, they took issue with the fact that they did not allow for religious conversion. As the Slovak president, Tiso, was himself a clergyman, this was a notable objection; the Church hierarchy in Rome told the Slovak government that it objected to the idea that a country led by a Catholic clergyman would do such a thing.[5] Section 225 of the Jewish Code satisfied the Slovak bishops by giving the President the right to exempt individuals of his choosing from the code's provisions.[4] Jews who had converted to Christianity were given letters of amnesty by Tiso.[6]

Twenty thousand Jews were to be deported under the German resettlement scheme, for which the Slovak government was to pay five hundred Reichsmark per deportee.[5] Tuka issued the directive to deport the Jews without the knowledge of President Tiso or the parliament.[2]

The deportation of Slovak Jews stopped in October 1942, at the order of the Slovak Council of Ministers.[6] A number of reasons for the sudden decision were posited: increased awareness amongst Slovak Jews that "deportation" meant extermination in a concentration camp;[7] bribery of Wisliceny or other high SS officials; the disapproval of the Catholic church;[5] a letter by Slovakia's Protestant bishops to Tiso protesting the deportations; the appearance of the "Jewish problem" being solved because many remaining Jews had work permits because they were vital to the economy or held letters of amnesty from Tiso. A report by the Bratislava Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the intelligence agency of the SS, stated that the reason for the sudden halt was a meeting called by Tuka on 11 August 1942. At that meeting, Tuka and the secretary-general of the Industrial Union told the ministers that Slovakia's economy could not withstand continued deportation of the Jews, causing the Council to order the halt.[6] Between 25 March and 20 October 1942, Slovakia sent about 57,700 Jews to Nazi concentration camps.[5]

In September 1944, the deportation of Slovak Jews was resumed; by the end of the war in April 1945, about 13,500 additional Jews were deported.[5] Slovak-Hungarian question and foreign policy

Despite allegations that he supported Hungary, Tuka was strongly opposed to the ethnocide of minorities in Hungary, and lead a diplomatic campaign to secure the status of the Slovak minority in that country. He also tried to reclaim formerly Slovak territories from Hungary, including the Subcarpathian area. He had support from the Party of Slovak National Unity in Hungary, and he had support from the Catholic and Slovak Lutheran churches, as well as contacts with underground networks in Hungary. He formed an alliance between Slovakia, Romania, and Croatia; this lead Hungary to denounce him.

In 1944, the Sztojay government suppressed the revival of the Slovak minority in Hungary. Tuka intelligence network was outstanding from Slovak and Hungarian policy due to illness of its leader. Infiltrators of Tuka in Hungarian policy ( legitimists, pro-minority, in private Slovak parliament members from right wing scene as Belo Jurcsek, O. Andrejka, L. Budinszky and others search since 1944 ways out, or/and ways how in "free alliance" re-unite Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia as the anti-communist state-union, with prevailing catholic influence. Orientation of this circles to the Tuka and Slovakia as first land of "St.Stephen Crown" for restoration of legitimate Habsburg king decline with the downfall of Tuka influence also in the radicals. Despite it, legitimists interim government in Hungary was widely disputed in US administration in this time. Also Slovak national unity party reaffiliated to the Tiso direction in 1943-1944.

Fall from power and deathEdit

Despite enthusiastic support by Tuka and the radicals, the Nazis began to realize that Slovakia would never fully implement the Nazi policies. Thus, the Nazi support for Tuka waned, and the Nazis reluctantly accepted the acts of Slovak independence—such as the suspension of deportations of Jews. By 1943, Tuka's health had deteriorated to a point where his political activities were significantly diminished and at the beginning of 1944, he was planning his resignation. After large negotiations about his successor, he resigned on September 2, 1944, a few days after the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising. As he was prime minister at the time, the resignation involved the whole government. Tuka was replaced by Štefan Tiso, the brother of the president Jozef Tiso, who became the new prime minister. From then on, Tuka no longer took part in Slovak political life.

At the end of the war, having already suffered a stroke which tied him to the wheelchair, he emigrated together with his wife, nursing attendants and personal doctor to Austria, where he was arrested by Allied troops following the capitulation of Germany and handed over to the officials of the renewed Czechoslovakia. Following a brief trial, Vojtech Tuka was executed by hanging on August 20, 1946.