Tiso, Josef°

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TISO, JOSEF ° (1887–1947), prime minister (March–October 1939) and afterward president of Nazi-protected "independent" Slovakia. Trained as a priest, he was an excellent student and earned a doctorate in theology in 1910. A Slovakian nationalist, he began calling for an independent, authoritarian Catholic Slovakia in 1918. Elected to the Czechoslovakian Parliament in 1927, he became minister of health but was dismissed because of his ideology in 1929. Tiso was a Catholic priest at Bánovce and vôdca ("leader") of the fascist People's Party of Hlinka. Slovakia became autonomous in 1938 after the Munich Conference and Tiso later became its president. At Hitler's urging, he declared independence in March of 1939 but closely allied Slovakia with Germany. Ironically, he opposed the radicals of the Hlinka Guard and won a power struggle with them. He was one of the people primarily responsible for the deportation of Slovakian Jews to the death camps. His attitude to the "Jewish question" was evident by 1940, when he himself directed the "aryanized" estates in his own parish. In March 1942 he rejected the appeal of the rabbis of Slovakia imploring him to prevent the mass deportations of Slovakian Jews. The Vatican was embarrassed by his leadership but took no steps to remove him from the priesthood or to excommunicate him. In August 1942, in a speech delivered at Holič, Tiso justified the deportations as "for the good of the Slovak nation, to free it of its pests." He had the power to issue exemptions from deportations and did so for 1,100 people, among them people who had been baptized and also wealthy Jews. After World War ii, the National Tribunal of Bratislava found him guilty of several charges, including crimes against humanity, and he was hanged. His record is still a matter of contention in Slovakia and his role still an embarrassment to apologists for the Roman Catholic Church.


J. Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (1956), index; L. Rothkirchen, Ḥurban Yahadut Slovakia (1961) incl. Eng. summary, index; O.J. Neumann, Be-Ẓel ha-Mavet (1958), passim.

[Livia Rothkirchen /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]