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In 1942, the bloodiest year of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany sent almost three million people to the death camps of the East in its effort to exterminate all the Jews of Europe. Yet amidst this carnage—when deportations from other countries were accelerating—Slovakia resisted German pressure and halted all Jewish deportations for two years. What accounts for this anomaly, one of the Holocaust's greatest mysteries? Historians have yet to provide a satisfactory answer. Most have focused on the work of individual organizations and groups working in isolation. But my research indicates that none of these groups relying on its own resources had the power to stop the wheels of death from turning. The Slovakian anomaly remains unresolved. My argument invokes a paradox to explain this anomaly: the only way any of the Slovak groups involved could interrupt Germany's Final Solution was to co-opt the Slovak regime installed by the Germans themselves. This strategy was deployed by three groups attempting to stop the slaughter: Jewish organizations bribed German and Slovak officials; local churches rallied public opposition to the deportations by capitalizing upon the Nazi publicity campaign to demonstrate the autonomy of its conquered territories; and Slovak politicians, having acquired oversight of the deportees, sabotaged the Final Solution by manipulating German bureaucrats put there to execute it. In these ingenious ways, various elements of the Slovak nation, working independently but in parallel, suspended the death sentence Hitler had decreed against a major Jewish population. For two years, tyranny had subverted itself.


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18 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Why Did the Trains Stop?

  • Journal title
    • Papers & Publications

  • Volume
    • 1

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords