PRAGUE (Mar. 25)
The government and news media joined Jews this week in marking the 50th anniversary of the first deportations of Jews from Slovakia.
On March 25, 1942, the first transport, made up of young Jewish women, was dispatched to death camps in Poland.
Slovakia, nominally independent, was in fact a Nazi puppet state at the time headed by an anti-Semitic Roman Catholic priest, Jozef Tiso, handpicked by Adolf Hitler for the job.
Several articles in the Slovak press this week acknowledged that Slovak collaborators were as guilty as the Nazis of crimes against the Jews.
One such article appeared Tuesday, written by the strongly nationalistic columnist Igor Cibula in the Bratislava daily Narodna Obroda. It was especially significant because Slovak nationalism is often accompanied by expressions of nostalgia for the Tiso regime.
Moreover, Czechoslovak national television screened a 20-minute documentary Monday on the tragedy of Slovak Jewry during World War II.
Produced by a Slovak filmmaker, it featured interviews with Holocaust survivors and photographs of Jews suffering at the hands of Slovak Nazis.
The documentary also referred to cases of Slovaks helping Jews escape deportation. It contained an interview with the former director of the Lutheran orphanage in Modra, who saved 25 Jewish children.
The role of the Vatican and of Catholic bishops in halting deportations between October 1942 and late 1944 was also stressed. But the film made no reference to Tiso, who was hanged as a war criminal after the war.
Other events included an international symposium of scientists from Czechoslovakia, Israel and other countries on the tragic events of the war years. It opened Wednesday and will continue through Friday in Banska Bystrica, a town in central Slovakia.
It is co-sponsored by the Slovak Ministry of Culture, the Moreshet Archives of Givat Haviva in Israel, the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, the Czechoslovak Society of Friends of Israel and other institutions.
A memorial tablet to the victims of the Holocaust was unveiled Wednesday in the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising. An exhibition of documents on the persecution of Slovak Jews opened at the same time.
A memorial was unveiled Wednesday in the synagogue in Poprad, a town at the foot of the Tatra mountains from where the first trainload of Jewish deportees left a half century ago.
Between March 25 and Oct. 20, 1942, when initial deportations ended, 57 trains departed carrying 57,628 Jewish men, women and children to Nazi death camps in Poland.
Estimates of how many survived varies from 280 to 800.
Most of the remaining Jews in the Slovak state fell victim to the second wave of deportations after an unsuccessful anti-Nazi uprising in summer 1944.
About 12,000 Jews were deported and 2,700 Jews were executed in Slovakia itself.