After the civil war in February 1934 and the ban on Austrian Social Democracy, Austrian Social Democrats and Communists, including Jewish functionaries, escaped across the border to democratic Czechoslovakia. Further refugees, most of them Jews, followed after the »Anschluss« in 1938.
In accordance with the »Munich agreement«, the treaty signed on 29 September 1938 by the German Reich, Great Britain, France and Italy, the »Sudetenland« was absorbed by the German Reich in the first days of October 1938. These territorial changes caused 200,000 people, many Jews among them, to take flight from the newly created »Reichsgau Sudetenland« into the remainder of Czechoslovakia. The crushing of the Czechoslovak Republic, which had begun in 1938, ended on 14/15 March 1939 with the complete dissolution of the state after its occupation by the German army.
Bohemia and Moravia became a »Reich Protectorate«, and Slovakia formally an independent state.
»Protectorate« of Bohemia and Moravia
In Prague alone the Jewish population's share of the city's total population rose in 1939 from 45,000 to about 56,000. Czechoslovakia was regarded as one of the most important places of refuge for the persecuted Austrian Jews. At the time of the invasion by German troops in March 1938, about 118,000 Jews lived in Bohemia and Moravia, many of whom now tried to escape to Poland, in most cases illegally. The »Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung in Böhmen und Mähren«, set up on the Viennese model, served the purpose of accelerating the expulsion of both Czech and foreign Jews by means of pressure and humiliations, and of the complete and efficient plundering of the refugees. By October 1941, about 26,650 Jews, among them many Austrians, had succeeded in leaving the country.
As had been the case in Vienna, young Jews capable of work, including some from Austria, were deported from Ostrava/Mährisch Ostrau to Nisko on the San in October 1939. Between October and November five deportation trains with each 1000 persons on board went from Prague to Lodz, and a further transport brought 1000 persons from Brno to Minsk, about 200 Austrian Jews among them.
A proportion of the deportees died at the first destination because of the appalling living conditions, quite a number died working in Posen, others in West Polish labor camps, or else became victims of the extermination camps where they were eventually deported to. On 10 June 1942 1000 Jews were deported from Prague to Majdanek. The remaining Jews were first taken to Terezín/Theresienstadt, in 122 transports. Altogether about 74,000 people were taken to Theresienstadt ghetto between November 1941 and March 1945 from Prague, Brno, Pilsen, Ostrava/Mährisch Ostrau, Ungarisch Brod, and Königgrätz. The majority, about 60,000, died in the extermination camps in the »General Gouvernement« or the »Reichskommissariat Ostland,« among them also numerous Austrian victims.
It is estimated that 78,000 of the 92,200 Jews living in the »Protectorate« Bohemia and Moravia before the mass deportations lost their lives. Of the roughly 1500 Austrian Jews who were deported from the »Protectorate,« about 340 lived to see the liberation.
Slovakia was declared an autonomous region of Czechoslovakia on 6 October 1938 and on 14 March 1939 a formally independent state, however with a totalitarian regime. At the same time it lost its southern border area which became part of Hungary. Slovakia was considered a »model state« of Europe under German domination. Although dependent on National Socialist Germany, Slovakia was able to keep extensive autonomy – especially in her anti-Jewish policies – until German military occupation in the summer of 1944. There is only very imprecise information about the number of Austrian Jewish refugees who came to Slovakia after the »Anschluss.« A conservative estimate would put the number at about 1500 people.
From 1941 on, the totalitarian regime which was supported by the Slovak People's Party installed ghettos or assembly camps for Jews in Bratislava, Nitra, Topolcany, and Zilina. The labor camps of Novaky, Sered, and Vyhne were constantly filled by about 4000 inmates. Some inmates managed to escape after the outbreak of the Slovak revolt in August 1944, and joined the partisans, the others were taken to the extermination camps in the »General Gouvernement« after a short interim. About 13,000 prisoners passed through the camp Sered which existed until March 1945.
The deportations took place in two relatively short but massive waves in the years 1942 and 1944. We learn from the existing files of the Slovak railway administration that 19 transports went to Auschwitz and 38 to Lublin in 1942. In immediate consequence of the German occupation in the summer of 1944 the mass deportations were taken up again. 11 transports went to Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen and Theresienstadt.
Among the approx. 65,000 Jews deported from Slovakia there were at least 1300 Jews from Austria.