- Following the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Germans created Slovakia as an independent state. The Germans allowed Father Josef Tiso, a Catholic priest, to become its president, and the nationalist and anti-Semitic Hlinka Guard became the only legal political entity allowed in Slovakia. As a satellite state of Nazi Germany, Slovakia cooperated in the Final Solution by allowing the deportation of its Jews to the death camps. In 1939, the Jews of Slovakia numbered about 90,000, which constituted 3 percent of the population. In April 1940, Slovakia initiated anti-Jewish legislation that was based on religion rather than racial criteria. The religious definition resulted from the intercession of the Catholic Church, which eschewed the racial laws in order to protect those Jews who had converted to Christianity. However, under the prodding of the Nazis, a new definition was promulgated in September 1941, which was more in accordance with Germany’s racial laws. Together with the new racial definition came the requirement that all Jews were to wear the yellow Star of David badge, thus making them identifiable and available for work in the three forced labor camps that Slovakia established in the fall of 1941. In August 1940, Adolf Eichmann sent his representative, Dieter Wisliceny, to Slovakia to advise the government on Jewish affairs. Under Wisliceny’s direction, the Hlinka Guard and Slovak volunteers were reorganized along the lines of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and ordered to carry out anti-Jewish measures. The deportation of Slovakia’s Jews began in March 1942, and by October, more than 75 percent had been “resettled,” most of them having been sent to Auschwitz. Although the racial laws were operative in Slovakia, a number of Jews sought protection from the Catholic Church by converting to Catholicism. The number of conversions is uncertain, but the estimate is that several thousand Jews became Christians in order to save their lives. In turn, the Catholic Church responded by exerting pressure on the Slovak parliament to protect the converts. On 15 May 1942, the parliament again changed the law, which now defined a Jew as someone who belonged to the Jewish religion or who had been converted after 14 March 1939. Exemptions extended to the families of Jews converted to Christianity prior to that date. The parliament’s decision, which displeased the German government, was as much a result of the pressure emanating from the church as it was, perhaps, from its displeasure with the deportations. The Germans, after all, charged Slovakia 500 marks for each Jew who was deported from the country. Thus the Slovakian government saved 500 marks for each Jew exempted under the new definition.At the time of the deportations, Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel (1903–1956), a leader of Slovakia’s Jewish community and a member of the Working Group, a Jewish underground organization, embarked on a plan to save not only the Jews of Slovakia but also the Jews of German-occupied Europe. The Europa Plan, as it came to be known, sought to prevent the deportation of Slovakian Jewry through the payment of a ransom to the Germans. Wisliceny was given somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 to freeze the deportations, and when they were subsequently halted, Weissmandel and his colleagues assumed it was because of the cash payment. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that Wisliceny was responsible for the cessation of the transports. Weissmandel, nevertheless, moved on the assumption that the ransom strategy was successful and proceeded to make plans to ransom the Jews of Poland. The Working Group, consisting of prominent Slovakian Jews, attempted to raise between $2 million and $3 million from Jews in the free world.The Europa Plan failed because the Allied nations would not allow the transfer of large sums of money into the hands of the Germans. When Wisliceny commenced deportations in the fall of 1944, Weissmandel and his group blamed the failure of the plan on Jewish organizations for not raising the necessary $200,000 down payment, thus allowing European Jewry to face an uncertain future at the hands of the Germans.In mid-1944, communists, disaffected Slovak nationalists, and other political groups who were determined to free Slovakia from its dependence on Germany rose in revolt. About 2,000 Jews participated in the Slovak national uprising, including four parachutists from Palestine. When the uprising failed, deportations resumed and approximately 13,500 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and Theresienstadt. An additional 5,000 Jews joined the partisans in the mountains or in the towns of Slovakia until the end of the war. After the gas installations were dismantled in Auschwitz, a few thousand Slovakian Jews were sent to Bergen-Belsen and some to Theresienstadt. Approximately 10,000 Jews who were deported after the uprising survived and eventually returned to Slovakia. SOAP. During World War II and for many years thereafter, the story persisted that the Germans made soap from the fat of their Jewish victims. The soap-from-Jewish-fat rumor, in fact, was used by Schutzstaffel (SS) personnel at Auschwitz to taunt Jewish prisoners. Holocaust historians, such as Yehuda Bauer and Raul Hilberg, indicate that there is little evidence to support this charge. It is true, however, that Germans made soap from human bodies at the Danzig Anatomic Institute in 1944. Although the Germans sought to further experiment with the process, there was no industrial production, and the pieces of soap that Jewish victims were told were made of human fat turned out to be nonorganic fats. Yehuda Bauer has written that this is “one of those things that we know today didn’t happen.” Thus we are left with the probability that had subsequent experiments proved successful, Germany would have manufactured soap from human fat. Germany’s defeat in World War II prevented this Nazi atrocity from occurring.See also Medical experiments.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.
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