Paolo Cortese on the “Jewish Question” in Slovakia in 1942

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Addressed to Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome.

Bratislava, 9th April 1942, Year XX

Re: Jewish question

The coldness with which the Slovakian Catholic press has greeted the anti-Jewish action of Minister of Interior Mach is an indication of the mood of the Slovakian Catholic population which, particularly in the provinces, feels no ill will towards Jews and because of their meekness and religious upbringing disagrees with the violent methods used by the men carrying out the expulsion decrees. There have even been instances in which local authorities have not carried out or carried out only partially the ministerial orders. As many as three prefects have been deposed or recalled and subjected to an enquiry. Church authorities have also objected to the methods employed. It has been reported that the Minister of Slovakia to the Vatican has been here, and there have been rumours about a note from the Secretariat of State to the Slovakian Legation. There has indeed been such a step and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Holy See here has repeatedly seen the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs on this issue. Also, there have been critical voices against Mach within the Government itself, coming from his colleagues of the Slovakian people’s party

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Nonetheless, the forced exodus of Jews has continued and continues still. It is illegal, as no law authorizing it exists. There is – for now – only a bill approved a few days ago by the Council of Minister which has still to be submitted to Parliament. The full powers granted by Parliament to the Government in 1940 to proceed against Jews cannot possibly apply to the issue of the exodus. As I have learned from Minister Mach himself, of the 90,000 Jews who were in Slovakia on 25th March last (in 1939 there were 120,000, 30,000 of whom have voluntarily left the country after the establishment of the independent Slovak State), 13,000 have been deported these past weeks to the Katowice area and to the General Governorate and those remaining will follow in the course of the next 6 months. Mach told me “The Jews were dominating our economy”, and ended by saying that to remedy such a state of affairs, the time for half measures is over.

When he was accused of having acted because forced to do so by the Germans, the Minister of Interior declared to the press, as reported with Cable no. 1095/245 from 27th March, that the expulsion of Jews had been decided “spontaneously and with full persuasion”.

I have been told by the German Minister here that his Government had not used any pressure but had simply made a suggestion that had been accepted.

As far as I know, the President of the Republic has done his utmost to mitigate the harshness of the methods employed for the exodus and made use, despite a strong opposition from the Prime Minister himself, of the right to discriminate granted him by the “Jewish Code” in order to save a great many persons from expulsion. Clearly, if President Tiso has not done more and has even prevented a press controversy on the Jewish question from breaking out (all that appeared in the press, belatedly, were two critical articles in the Catholic newspapers Slovak and Slovenska Pravda), this is due to the fact that he finds himself unable to oppose the will of the Reich, which has in Tuka and in Mach,

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particularly in regard to the Jewish question, willing and convinced executors. It is also likely that Monsignor Tiso judges that under any circumstances he can be more useful to his people in the presidential chair than elsewhere.

Cortese

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In March 1919, Benito Mussolini founded a movement called “Fasci di combattimento”, which became the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) in November 1921. On 28 October 1922 he organised the “March on Rome”, following which King Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy invited him to form a new government. Mussolini transformed the government into a dictatorship and then into a totalitarian state. After Italy left the League of Nations in 1937, the “Rome-Berlin Axis”, proclaimed in 1936, developed into a clo...

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