Priest, Politician, Collaborator

Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia

James Mace Ward
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Priest, Politician, Collaborator
    Book Description:

    In Priest, Politician, Collaborator, James Mace Ward offers the first comprehensive and scholarly English-language biography of the Catholic priest and Slovak nationalist Jozef Tiso (1887-1947). The first president of an independent Slovakia, established as a satellite of Nazi Germany, Tiso was ultimately hanged for treason and (in effect) crimes against humanity by a postwar reunified Czechoslovakia. Drawing on extensive archival research, Ward portrays Tiso as a devoutly religious man who came to privilege the maintenance of a Slovak state over all other concerns, helping thus to condemn Slovak Jewry to destruction. Ward, however, refuses to reduce Tiso to a mere opportunist, portraying him also as a man of principle and a victim of international circumstances. This potent mix, combined with an almost epic ability to deny the consequences of his own actions, ultimately led to Tiso's undoing.

    Tiso began his career as a fervent priest seeking to defend the church and pursue social justice within the Kingdom of Hungary. With the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and the creation of a Czechoslovak Republic, these missions then fused with a parochial Slovak nationalist agenda, a complex process that is the core narrative of the book. Ward presents the strongest case yet for Tiso's heavy responsibility in the Holocaust, crimes that he investigates as an outcome of the interplay between Tiso's lifelong pattern of collaboration and the murderous international politics of Hitler's Europe. To this day memories of Tiso divide opinion within Slovakia, burdening the country's efforts to come to terms with its own history. As portrayed in this masterful biography, Tiso's life not only illuminates the history of a small state but also supplies a missing piece of the larger puzzle that was interwar and wartime Europe.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6813-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    The pride of Bytča, Slovakia, is its castle. A splendid example of the Italian Renaissance in the Kingdom of Hungary, it was commissioned in the sixteenth century by Francis Thurzo, a former Catholic bishop who converted to Lutheranism. Francis’s family used the fortification as a seat from which to oversee their extensive holdings in the Felvidék, or Upper Hungary, as the territory of Slovakia was then known. Today, the castle is a national cultural monument and houses one of Slovakia’s state archives. To reach the main reading room, one passes through an imposing main gate and up worn stairs onto...

  6. CHAPTER ONE “For God and Our Homeland,” 1887–1918
    (pp. 12-38)

    For the first half of his life, Jozef Tiso lived in the Kingdom of Hungary and the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. The state was consolidated around 1000 by István, a Magyar warrior. Before 1918, it held extensive lands later belonging to Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Austria. After 1526, the kingdom was half of a Habsburg empire that, by 1914, stretched from Bohemia to Transylvania and from Galicia to Bosnia. The empire of Tiso’s church, meanwhile, claimed millions of adherents worldwide, remaining the dominant European religion despite the vicissitudes of schism, reformation, and secularization.

    The histories of Tiso’s state...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Turning National and Political, 1918–19
    (pp. 39-63)

    On 1 December 1918, in the middle of a revolution that changed Nyitra, Hungary, into Nitra, Czechoslovakia, Jozef Tiso stood up at a Christian Social assembly and sang “Hail to Slovaks!” Years later, he bragged that it had “caused a sensation”: people were amazed to discover “that there were Slovaks in Nitra.”¹ Many bystanders no doubt were indeed shocked to find Tiszó József among them. As a colleague later put it: “Frankly speaking, [we] Magyars didn’t take kindly . . . to Tiso immediately after the revolution changing . . . into a Czechoslovak.”²

    Thus, as his city and state...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “For God and Nation,” 1919–25
    (pp. 64-88)

    “Today there is a struggle in all of Europe: either democracy, progress, and socialism, or else reaction, bolshevism, and clericalism.”¹ Thus Ivan Dérer, the leading Slovak Social Democrat, characterized the choices facing Czechoslovak citizens in 1924. Just months earlier, Jozef Tiso had evoked the same sense of polarization by paraphrasing Christ: “Who is not with us is against us.”² Czechoslovak politics, it seems, was a barren field in which cooperation could never sprout.

    Dérer and Tiso were hardly alone in imagining their polity as hopelessly divided. As the state consolidated, the need for Czechoslovak unity grew less urgent. The gravest...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Failure of “Activism,” 1925–33
    (pp. 89-120)

    Between 1927 and 1929, when the Czechoslovak minister of public health and physical education spent the night in Prague, he slept in a monk’s cell. The minister, Tiso, had declined the benefit of a state flat, preferring to board in a monastery. As more evidence of his distaste for metropolitan life, he traveled weekly to his Slovak parish, over 300 kilometers away. He lived modestly in the Bánovce parsonage with his assistant priests and a younger sister, all of whom he supported.¹ His devotion to the town was legendary. One assistant priest remembered him as a self-sacrificing taskmaster, always the...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 121-130)
  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Lure of the World, 1933–38
    (pp. 131-160)

    Adolf Hitler loathed Czechs, and probably had since school age. Yet, before 1938, he seems to have rarely thought about Slovaks. In this regard, he was like most Europeans. When he suddenly championed the Slovaks against the Czechs in a 1938 speech at the Berlin Sportpalast, it was a rare moment when Tiso’s nation stepped out of the Czech shadow.¹

    Hitler’s interest in Slovaks had little to do with sympathy for them. The dictator was on the verge of dismantling Versailles Europe. The guarantors of continental security—Britain, France, and the League of Nations—had failed to contain fascism, letting...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Standing Up for the Truth, 1938–39
    (pp. 161-201)

    After the Munich Agreement, Slovakia fell prey to rapacious neighbors. In fall 1938, Hungary annexed much of the south of the province. Poland and Germany took smaller bites from other borders. Four months later, Hitler dismantled the rump republic, setting Slovakia up as a client state and occupying the historic lands. Hungary, eager to regain regions lost as a result of the First World War, conquered Subcarpathian Rus’ and briefly attacked Slovakia. The next fall, Hitler invaded Poland through Slovak territory. Working with Josef Stalin, a bitter foe changed into partner, Hitler then destroyed and partitioned Poland.

    No Czechoslovak politician...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Sacred Convictions, 1939–44
    (pp. 202-245)

    In fall 1940, shortly after arriving in Slovakia, Vatican chargé d’affaires Msgr. Giuseppe Burzio wrote to his superiors:

    The question [now] is how long will [Jozef Tiso’s] political convictions and especially his conscience as a priest let him march hand in hand with the National Socialist masters. Naturally, he does not like to do it, but is only compelled by circumstances. He is convinced, or at least he hopes, that if he stays in power then he can protect what he can and that, in putting into effect National Socialist methods, it will not come to extreme consequences. Only later...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Losing Battles, 1944–2011
    (pp. 246-283)

    From mid-1944 on, Jozef Tiso fought losing battles. First, he battled to save his state in the face of a Slovak revolt and impending German defeat. Second, during his 1946–47 trial, he battled to defend his moral and political record, and his life. Finally, there was a battle carried on in his name: the émigré struggle to reestablish his state and to rehabilitate him as a martyr.

    Tiso lost these battles because both collaboration and his Slovak-Catholic politics had become impossible. In 1944, to save his state, he helped the Germans to crush the Slovak insurgents. But, after the...

  15. Conclusion The Crown of Thorns
    (pp. 284-290)

    Jozef Tiso’s life was a modern, central European story. It began with a culture war, as Catholics contested liberal governments over the content of public life. With the First World War, empires fractured into national states, and identities crystallized along ethnic fault lines. A battle for the soul of Europe broke out between liberalism, fascism, and socialism, culminating in another, more horrendous world war. Life was brutalized and populations homogenized. The state committed itself to securing living standards for its citizens, while local politics became an international affair. Tiso’s histories, in turn, were postmodern central European stories: the Cold War,...

  16. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 291-294)
  17. Abbreviations
    (pp. 295-300)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 301-352)
  19. Index
    (pp. 353-362)