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Vojtech Tuka

Vojtech Tuka (July 41880, Štiavnické Bane (at that time Hegybánya or "Piarg") - August 201946, executed in Bratislava) was the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic between 1940 and 1945 and one of the most controversial people in Slovak history.

Tuka was one the main forces behind the deportation of Slovak Jews to Nazi concentration camps in Poland. He was the leader of the radical wing of the Slovak People's Party) with exemption of group of Nastupists (around the since 1930 existing newsletter Nástup and his predecessor in ministry of foreign affaires prof. F. Durcansky)

Early career

Vojtech (sometimes referred to by the Magyar name Béla) Tuka was born (Hegybánya) in today's Štiavnické Bane. 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 (Hungarian language) Elisabethan University in Bratislava (Pozsony). After the dissolution of that university he worked as an editor in Bratislava (Pozsony). In 1910 he was elected to the Presidium of Countrywide Christian socialist party as nominee of Slovak section / Christian socialist party in Hungary has three language sections - German, Slovak and small magyar- ethnic Hungarian, majority of ethnic-Hungarian Christian socialists was organized in Christian socialist union).

After the founding of Czechoslovakia in late-1918, he joined the autonomist Slovak People Party. As a radical constitutional lawyer and chief of separatist Rodobrana he was alleged to be a secret agent of the Hungarian government and the secret coordinator of Hungarian irredentism in Czechoslovakia attempting to revive the pre-war Kingdom of Hungary (see Greater Hungary (political concept)), which included Slovakia. Czechoslovak nationalists (believers of really never existing Czechoslovak nation) alleged him, that since Hungarian aim also required the dissolution of the country of Czechoslovakia, he cooperated with adherents of Slovak autonomy or independence. He saw the struggle for Slovakia's autonomy as an intermediate stage on the way to his final goal — a restored Greater Hungary.

Czechoslovakists (above mentioned czechoslovak nationalists) stated that in accordance with his aims, 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 Slovak). The HSĽS pointed out that the 1920 Constitution had not included that provision for Slovak autonomy alluded to in the Pittsburgh Declaration. Acting on this, the HSĽS introduced a Slovak autonomy bill into the Czechoslovak parliament in 1922. The bill was rejected but the HSĽS had established that autonomy was the core of its program, especially significant since public opinion in Slovakia was drifting towards the decentralists. These growing sentiments would later enable Tuka's rise to power. Really Tuka had contacts with Slovak emigrees in Hungary, which was radical nationalists and have no real support from government, but only from legitimists circles around prince primate Csernoch, and antisemite ethnic Slovak bishops Prohaszka, Zadravecz, Czapik and others.

In 1923 Tuka founded the organization Rodobrana ("Home Guard"). The Rodobrana was a semi-military organization that policed the HSĽS meetings.

Tuka was a deputy to the Czechoslovak parliament from 1925 to 1929.

Espionage allegations and first jail sentence

On January 1, 1928 Tuka published an article under the title "Vacuum iuris" alleging that there had been an annex (not secret but suppressed from Czech governments to publish it) to the December 31, 1918 Declaration of the Slovak Nation (Martin declaration), by which Slovak representatives officially joined the newly founded state of Czechoslovakia. Tuka argued that the validity of the declaration was agreed to be limited to ten years, in which case Prague’s writ would no longer run in Slovakia after October 28, [[1928] without dismissing existence of Czecho-Slovak state. Existence of annex "clausule" was stipulated by well-known "declarants" - members of Slovak national council (1918), Andrej Hlinka, F. Juriga, J. Koza-Matejov, Emanuel Stodola, Joseph Srobar (brother of centralist Vavro Srobar, principal enemy of Hlinka and Tuka). Without of any hesitation, the Prague government charged Tuka with espionage on behalf of the Hungarian government and high treason. Centralists stated that the trial found that Tuka’s allegations were in fact false, but existence of annex was irrelevant for senate of Dr. Terebessy (ethnic-Hungarian) which presides court. First political manipulated process with pre-edicted guilty verdict (with Europewide reactions) sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment, of which he ended up serving roughly ten.

According to czechoslovakist communist historian Kamenec, post-World War II documents retrieved from Hungary however showed that he was in the service of the Hungarian Irredent, but Kamenec also stated, that documents do not excluding version of Tuka supporters that Tuka gained support for independence of Slovakia from wide Europe countries, namely from Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Germany, France (conservative catholic circles) and Soviet union (as enemy of Versailles system).

The Slovak Republic and Tuka's rise to political power

On March 9, 1939, Czech troops moved into Slovakia (The Homolov Putsch) in reaction to radical calls for independence from Slovak patriots, including Tuka, who had recently released from prison. On March 13, Hitler took advantage of this situation, prompted Jozef Tiso (Slovak ex-prime minister deposed by the Czech troops) to declare Slovak independence, but Tiso refused, and Slovak independence was declare on March 14th by the Act of Slovak Assembly, which was convocate by czecho-Slovak president Hacha. The remaining Czechoslovakia was incorporated into the Reich as a protectorate (Czech politicians stated that Protectorate is not a part of Reich, but only a protected state, but Alexius Moser, Slovak anti-Nazi German minority activist clarify in "Slovak" daily that protectorate is part of German Reich, but Slovakia as the protected state not. Constitutional character of Protectorate was not even clarify vis-a-vis German-Czech relation during its all existence).

Tiso was elected October 26th 1939 as president and immediately appointed Tuka Prime Minister. Tuka in 1942 strongly advocated the deportation of Slovakia’s Jewish population to the east Nazi concentration camps. His anti-Semitic and radical policies put Prime Minister Tuka in stark conflict with the moderate President Tiso. Together with Internal Affairs Minister Alexander Mach, Tuka became the leader of the radical and pro-Nazi wing within the Slovak People's Party. This wing — enjoying little support among Slovaks — relied on the Hlinka Guard, i.e. the Rodobrana revived by Tuka when released from jail in 1938. He was also the vice-chairman of the Slovak People's Party.

The conflict between the moderate Tiso-wing and the radicals resulted in the Salzburg Compromise, concluded between Slovakia and the Reich on July 28, 1940, as a result of which Tuka and other , radical 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 storm trooper leader Manfred von Killinger as the German representative in Slovakia. While Tiso successfully restructured the Slovak People’s Party in harmony with Christian corporative principles, Tuka and Mach radicalized Slovak policy toward the Jews.

The persecution of Slovak Jews

With the shift in power to Tuka and the anti-Semites, Jews were banned from living in streets named after Hitler. In September 1941, the Jewish Code required that Jews wear the yellow star, annulled all debts owed to Jews, confiscated Jewish property, and expelled Jews from Bratislava, the Slovak capital. 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. The deported Slovak Jews were later to build the first gas chamber at Auschwitz.

In July 1942, however, Tuka summoned Dieter Wisliceny, an adviser on Jewish affairs, and asked for an explanation regarding the fate of the Jewish families sent to Poland. He was particularly concerned about those who had converted to Christianity, and requested permission for a Slovak commission to travel to the areas occupied by the Jews in order to ascertain their well-being. This outburst of concern on Tuka’s behalf had largely been caused by the diplomatic activities of the Papal Nuncio, Monsignore Giuseppe Bursio.

Slovak-Hungarian question and foreign policy

Tuka, despite allegations of his hungarism, strong opposed to the magyarization policy (ethnocide of minorities in Hungary) and led great diplomatic campaign for assecure of Slovak minority status in Hungary, and regaining of Slovak territories, when he counted also Subcarpathian area. In this policy he obtain strong support of Party of Slovak national unity in Hungary, and his emissaries was in touch with great network of underground activities in Hungary, also with partly catholic and Slovak Lutheran church support. He formed alliance between Slovakia, Romania and Croatia and Horthy's Hungary denunciate him in Berlin as pan-slav influenced, and anti-Hungarian. In the other hand, revival of Slovak minority in Hungary was suppressed in 1944 by Sztojay government. 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 death

Despite enthusiastic support by Tuka and the radicals, the Nazis began to realize that they would never be able to completely “Nazify” Slovakia. Thus support for Tuka waned and the Nazis reluctantly gradually accepted acts of Slovak independence such as the suspension of Jewish deportations. In the late 1942 moderate expulse majority of radicals from power positions due to the so call "Snacky affaire" (one of close Tuka supporters Anton Snacky emigree from Slovakia trough Rome to Hungary, in fact col. Snacky was not receive to Slovak army staff although he was expulsed from Cuechoslovak army in Tuka trial, and as protest of influence of czechoslovakist circles among army he abdicate from Slovak citizenship, and emigree to Hungary, where lived his only relative - his sister). In 1943 due to the illness Tuka really do not led government actions, and in the first days of 1944 he stated about planned demission. After the large negotiations about successor, he definitively give to the president Tiso his demisson (and demisson of all his government) September 2th of 1944, few days of czechoslovakist and bolshevist rebellia starting in central parts of Slovakia

After World War II, following a brief trial, Vojtech Tuka was executed on August 20 1946 (despite having already suffered a quadruple stroke, which left him disabled in a wheelchair).

Jewish retribution

In 1997, after two years of lobbying, Slovak Jewish leaders persuaded the Slovak cabinet to return property belonging to Slovak victims of the Holocaust. Swiss banks released a list of dormant account holders which contained the name of Vojtech Tuka. Slovak Jewish leaders, however, said they're not interested in Tuka's money. "Although Slovak Jews had to deposit their gold and money at the National Bank of Slovakia [during the war], they surely didn't deposit it in Tuka's account," said František Alexander, the executive chairman of Slovakia's Central Association of Jewish Religious Communities. Alexander added that the allocation of money from Tuka's account should be decided by an international council of justice, established by Swiss banks.

Although refusing to deal with Tuka's money, Jewish leaders offered a "solution" of how it could be spent. "Since Tuka was co-responsible for the fact that Slovak soldiers initially stood on the wrong side [Slovak fascists who joined the Axis in fighting the Soviet Army on the Eastern Front] and, consequently, many of them died in vain, the money could be used to upkeep their graves," he said.

Tuka account

According to the Slovak emigrees, Tuka dormant account is not related to the jewish property, but it is account based as financial reserve for foreign actions of Rodobrana, anti-czechoslovak, and later anti-hungarian shadow diplomacy, and namely for needs of planned emigrate government.

References

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