A nice story, and I am sure there are many.

My non-Jewish relatives in Slovakia did a lot to help Jewish people from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia- the German occupied Czech part of former Czechoslovakia. My husband’s great grandfather was working in railroads.

Slovakia proclaimed independence in March 1939 when the Czech part of state was occupied by Nazi Germany. Slovakia was not occupied by the Germans but had its own fascist state with the president Tiso, an anti-Semitic catholic priest, and they had very discriminatory anti-Jewish laws.

My husband’s Czech great-grandfather and his son-in-law, a Slovak from a family who were spread through Slovakia, Hungary and Vojvodina in Serbia, did an incredibly brave work.

The Czech great-grandfather, like the majority of Czechs left  Slovakia at the 1939 partition and moved to Prague).He smuggled Jewish refugees to Slovakia with cooperation of other Czech railway employees. His Slovak son-in-law spoke Slovak, Hungarian and Serbian, which helped. They smuggled many Jewish families from the occupied Czech part of former Czechoslovakia – Bohemia and Moravia, as it was called ,to Slovakia, and then through Hungary to Serbia. This “underground railroad” worked till 1941 when the kingdom of Yugoslavia was occupied and partitioned by the German, Italian, and the fascist states Hungary and Bulgaria. Although there was a guerrilla war with partisans fighting the invaders, smuggling Jewish refugees in was difficult. Hungary and Slovakia were not occupied by the Germans, but the further route was through occupied Serbia. If the refugees got through, Bulgaria was later quite safe, because it stopped transport of Jews to concentration camps in Spring 1943.

These brave men and their colleagues were lucky, they were not caught.

Eastern European countries like Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine have a bad reputation as far as attitudes to Jews. But we must not forget all those people who risked their lives to help Jews, even if they were unfortunately in a minority.

One of my other relatives, a Slovak Jew, was hiding in Slovakia with partisans for most of the war. He was lucky, but all his family was killed in concentration camps. Those Slovak partisans saved him.

And yes, there were pogroms in Eastern Europe after 1945. However, generalisations like “The Poles are antisemitic” are wrong. There are always good brave people in any nation, we must not forget that. Right? 

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