Vatican Policy and the “Jewish Problem” in “Independent” Slovakia 1939-1945
The 1930 census of Slovakia showed that Catholics formed seventy-seven percent of the population, Protestants sixteen percent, and Jews 4.5 percent. The right wing clerical party, headed by Andrej Hlinka, a priest, was blatantly antisemitic and supported Hitler when he rose to power. Hitler, in turn, granted Catholic, National Socialist Slovakia independence from Czech jurisdiction. The Pope did not protest against the vehement antisemitism in Slovakia. However, in 1942, the Church tried to intervene when Slovakia wished to deport its Jewish population. Nevertheless, 50,000 Slovak Jews were deported to Auschwitz and Lublin. At about this time the local population objected, realizing the cruel fate of the deportees, and the transports ceased. Simultaneously, a Jewish underground was being organized. The Pope and the Catholic Church protested vigorously against proposed renewal of the deportations and some low-ranking priests even aided the Jews and hid them in monasteries. In 1946, it was proved that the deportations were carried out mainly by Slovaks wholly approved by Prime Minister Jozef Tiso, a cleric.