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Memorial services, lightening of bonfires and laying of wreaths at monuments, squares and cemeteries have been taking place since last weekend as Slovaks remember the tangled events of the summer of 1944.

Festivities escalate today in Banská Štiavnica. Let us take a moment to explore history that shaped the destiny of modern Slovakia.

Confused allegiances, global geopolitical interests and a domestic rebellion against the oppression of fascism shaped the insurgency that broke out on August 29th.

Slovaks rose against the fascist government of Slovakia (that proclaimed independence five year earlier, when Czechoslovakia was dissolved) and the German occupation of the Slovak territory.

After several months of preparation, the uprising was started at 8pm when Colonel Jan Golian sent out a message to ‘proceed with the expulsion’.

Over 80,000 soldiers and partisans from over 30 countries launched their stand against unfreedom and the Slovak National Uprising became the second largest rebellion against Nazism in Europe.

The insurgents were assisted by local populations that hid, fed and supplied the rebels and delivered messages.

They were armed with 46,000 rifles, 4,000 submachine guns, 2,700 machine guns, 200 cannons and mortars, 24 tanks, 4 assault guns, 3 improvised armored trains, and an air regiment (34 aircraft). But it was not enough. It is estimated that around a quarter of the soldiers were unarmed.

It was a stance of David against Goliath.

After two months of fighting in the mountainous regions of the country, the Slovak resistance movement was defeated. The poorly armed rebels who did their best with the little that they had at their disposal, could no longer resist the well-organized and better equipped German troops.

When Banská Bystrica, the beating heart and military headquarters of the uprising, fell on October 27th, it was over.

The collaborationist president Jozef Tiso celebrated the ‘victory’ by holding a holy mass three days later.

The uprising failed to overthrow the fascist government or stop the German occupation.

However, what appeared as a loss would soon turn to a victory. But not before hundreds if not thousands of Slovaks were executed in brutal reprisals that followed the suppression of the uprising.

The Slovak National Uprising sent a powerful signal that the Slovak people were not on Hitler’s side. The courage shown during the insurgency and the bloody revenge of the German and Slovak fascist governments gained the Slovaks a place among the victors of WW2.

Today, the country gives thanks to the sung and unsung heroes of the most heroic act in its history.

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