Tag Archives: Slovakia

It begins with a book…

Last August, I took another look through the family collection of books about Czechoslovakia. What I found was a copy of “HISTORY OF MODERN SLOVAKIA” by Jozef Lettrich, which had, sadly, been overlooked in a damp corner of the house.
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But in spite of mold damage, I put it in a mylar sleeve and kept it nearby, because the book mentioned Pavel Fabry (Vladimir Fabry’s father) as one of the first to be imprisoned in a concentration camp on March 30, 1939, in the state prison of Ilava.
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I recognized the book immediately, since I had seen at least a half dozen photostatic copies in my archive from page 144, underlined in the same places, which Pavel must have referred to in his case for reparations in Germany.
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From Chapter Two, “Under the Swastika”, pages 143-144:

“When prisons were no longer adequate, the Slovak Government issued an order on March 24, 1939, “concerning the imprisonment of the enemies of the Slovak State.” […] This order authorized the Minister of Interior to “arrange for the jailing of persons whose past and present activities give reason to fear that they would continue to obstruct the building of the Slovak State.” The Minister of the Interior was further authorized to create “a camp for the detention of such persons in which prisoners would be compelled to perform physical labor.” Vojtech Tuka lost no time in transforming the old state prison in Ilava into a “security camp,” the first concentration camp in Slovak history. The Ilava prison thus became the home of Slovak democrats–of authors, priests, teachers, newspapermen and statesmen, as well as of simple farmers, workmen and students. The first inmates of this camp, brought there on March 30, 1939, were: Anton Štefánek, Ján Ursíny, František Zimák, Ján Pocisk, Ferdinand Benda, Karol Hušek, Ján Paulíny-Toth, Jozef Rudinský, Pavel Fábry, Andrej Djuračka, František Třešnák, Hana Styková, Vinco Mihalus and Jozef Lettrich, three Members of Parliament, two Senators, three journalists, the Chairman of the Slovak National Party, and an actress from the Slovak National Theater. Others soon followed. In the few years of existence of the Slovak State more than 3,000 persons were to pass through the gates of the Ilava concentration camp. Some remained a few days, some for months, and others for several years. They were all sent to Ilava without trial , without judgement, without indictment, merely upon a denunciation and by administrative order of the Ministry of Interior. Tuka, on April 15, 1939, made the following characteristic statement, “Those who spread alarming rumors and false reports are obstructing our way. We have made arrangements to handle all of them in Ilava. Many of them are there now and many others will follow them there. It is your duty to denounce these instigators to the police and the Hlinka Guards, and the Slovak Government will take care of them.”

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I now have another copy of this book, in very good condition, signed and inscribed by Jozef Lettrich on the title page. It was only after this that I looked at the title page of the copy I found, and it was also inscribed.
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Title page from second copy.
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From the copy that belonged to Pavel Fabry.

When I finally started to read it, it dawned on me that this book was written by the same Jozef Lettrich that was in prison with Pavel, and that I had letters from Lettrich – Chairman of the Slovak National Council in Czechoslovakia, who was an exile living in the United States. So I went back to the boxes. I was amazed by how this one book began to illuminate what I had missed before: letters to and from Milan Hodza – Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia; Jan Pauliny-Toth – lawyer and politician; Peter Pridavok – Chairman of the Slovak National Council in London; Juraj Slavik – Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States; General Lev Prchala; Emil Stodola, and Kornel Filo. Pavel Fabry was seeking reparations for many of these people and others in Berlin, as their lawyer, so I have some of their testimonies, in Slovak, German and French.

But then I found two letters from Franz Karmasin, one of them signed. Franz Karmasin was state secretary for the German Minority, under President of Slovakia and Catholic Priest Jozef Tiso: an anti-semite who collaborated with Hitler and was key in making the Slovak State the first Nazi ally in the Final Solution, deporting tens of thousands of Jewish people to their extermination – he was hanged after WWII; Karmasin was also senticed to death but escaped prosecution and was living in exile in Munich. From what I was able to translate, Karmasin seems to be arguing against something Pavel said about him – and he begins his first letter in praising Pavel on his son Vlado – The Hague and Nuremberg are also mentioned. There were no letters from Pavel to Karmasin. I’ve transcribed the letters here for others to translate.

Page056

Page055

Dipl. Ing. Franz Karmasin
München 8
Trogerstaße 32

München, den 8-7. 1959

Herrn
Dr. Paul Fabry

14 Chemin Thury
Geneve

Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Fabry!

Unsere gestrige Aussprache hat mich sehr stark an Aussprachen in der Heimat erinnert. Ich glaube, diese angenehme Atmosphäre gibt es nur jenseits der Karpaten. Ich bitte, es nicht als Anmassung zu betrachten, wenn ich Sie zu Ihrem prächtigen Sohn beglückwünsche. Er hat großen Eindruck auf mich gemacht und ich freue mich wirklich von ganzem Herzen, dass die slowakische Sache so einen hervorragenden Vertreter ihrer Interessen besitzt.
In der Kanzlei habe ich mir dann den sehr dicken Akt “Dr. Fabry” vorgenommen. Ich war froh, dass ich dies erst nachher getan habe, ich wäre sonst kaum zu der Besprechung gekommen. Ich habe sehr stark den Eindruck, dass Sie in der Darstellung und Beurteilung der Situation der Deutschen Volksgruppe in der Slowakei sich weniger von Tatsachen, als vielmehr von Gefühlen leiten liessen. Ich kann es verstehen, umsomehr, als die Grenzen zwischen Reichsdeutschen und Volksdeutschen von Aussen her nicht immer sichtbar waren und vor allem die Situation der Volksgruppe und der Volksgruppenführung nicht für eine öffentliche Diskussion geeignet war. Aber in Ihren Ausführungen sind Sie doch etwas hart, ich darf Ihnen das in aller fahrens mit Ihnen und Ihrem Herrn Sohn über diese Dinge diskutieren, jetzt ist nicht der geeignete Zeitpunkt dazu. Ich will Ihren nur zu bedenken geben, dass der deutsche evangelische Bischof Scherer, für dessen Ernennung ich mich übrigens sehr stark eingesetzt habe und fast alle evangelischen u. katholischen Pfarrer Mitglieder der Deutschen Partei waren und dass die Deutsche Partei bei den Nürnberger Verfahren ausgeklammert wurde, obwohl man den Aliierten bestimmt nicht Unkenntnis der Lage vorwerfen konnte. Auch das Dokumentenmaterial, wenn man es vollinhaltlich zur Kenntnis nimmt, spricht eine andere Sprache als Ihre Darstellungen. Die Offenheit, mit der wir gestern gesprochen haben, verpflichtet mich, Ihnen das zu schreiben.
Die Zusatzerklärung habe ich lt. Durchschlag an das Regierungspräsidium, an Dr. Virgano, Herrn Minister Dr. Tiso und Herrn Birkner geschickt. Ich bin gespannt, wie sich die Angelegenheit weiter entwickeln wird.

Hochachtungsvoll!

(Karmasin)

Page057

Copy

Dipl. Ing. Franz Karmasin
München 8
Trogerstaße 32

München, den. 8.7.1959

An das
Regierungspräsidium
Köln
Zeughausstr. 2-4

Sehr geehrte Herren!

Betr.: Dr. Paul Fabry

Ich habe die verschiedenen Schriftstücke im Falle Dr. Paul Fabry, soweit sie mir zur Verfügung stehen, nochmals durchgesehen und darf meine seinerzeitige Darstellung wie folgt ergänzen:

Ich habe dargelegt, dass die Behauptung, Dr. Fabry sei durch die Gestapo verhaften worden, falsch sei, da sich auf dem Gebiete der Slowakei keine Gestapo befunden hat. Dagegen hatten z.Zt. der Besetzung des slowakischen Staatsgebietes rechts der Waag während der Tschechenkrise durch deutsche Truppen Organe des Sicherheitsdienst Dienst gemacht. Ich glaube mich erinnern zu können – ohne es allerdings beschwören zu können -, dass durch die deutschen militärischen Kommandostellen Angehörige der Hlinkagarde (HG) und der Freiwilligen Schutzstaffel (FS) diesen Organen als Hilfskräfte zugeteilt wurden. Inwieweit sich diese im Zuge der revolutionären Ereignisse Übergriffe zuschulden kommen ließen, entzieht sich meiner Kenntnis, vor allem aber meiner und meiner Mitarbeiter Verantwortung. Sie unterstanden, falls sie sich in die Dienst der Deutschen Wehrmacht oder des SD begeben hatten, nicht mehr der Befehlsgewalt der Volksgruppe.

Zu dieser Ergänzung fühle ich mich verpflichtet einerseits, weil Aussenstehende die Unterschiede zwischen SD und Gestapo nicht ganz klar waren, andererseits weil mir im Interesse meiner ehemaligen Mitarbeiter selbst sehr viel an der Klärung dieser Angelegenheit liegt. Ich bitte, die Ergänzung in diesem sinne zur Kenntnis zu nehmen.

Hochachtungsvoll!

(Karmasin)

Postcards

Many of the postcards in the Fabry collection are of typical images from Switzerland, but there are a few that stand out in contrast.
(click images to enlarge)
Unusual Postcards
“Freedom and Independence for Slovakia” was sent from Munich on April 12, 1960, and signed by someone named “Tiso”, but not Jozef Tiso.
The second card, drawn by Dr. Pavel Fabry and written in Slovak, was sent from Aigle, in the Swiss canton of Vaud (a place I am very fond of) on May 1, 1949. I tried to translate this, but was not successful – something about being kicked out of place (a woman appears to be kicking the backside of a man in the drawing, too).
I recognized this image immediately – Lenin’s Tomb and the Kremlin:
Lenins Tomb Postcard
The postcard is written in German and dated January 1, 1949, with stamps and cancels from both Denmark and Czechoslovakia – what makes this one even more interesting is that the card is from the Soviet Union, written in Cyrillic.
Lenins Tomb Postcard Reverse
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found this – a postcard of the Graf Zeppelin sent from the Graf Zeppelin.
Fabry Archive - Selected Photographs (61)
Fabry Archive - Selected Photographs (62)
In an entirely different box of papers I found the original ticket for the Zeppelin ride, dated August 17, 1931, with the name “Wladimir Fabry”.
Graf Zeppelin Ticket
Graf Zeppelin Ticket Reverse
Lucky for him it wasn’t a ticket on the Hindenburg.

Congressional Record September 25, 1961

Since I’m not finished translating a document in German, I will give you a document written in English, from the Monday, September 25, 1961 Congressional Record: “Extension of Remarks of Hon. William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives”

Mr. SCRANTON. Mr. Speaker, in the tragic air crash in which the world lost the life of Dag Hammarskjold, we also suffered the loss of the life of Dr. Vladimir Fabry, the legal adviser to the United Nations operations in the Congo.
In the following statement by John C. Sciranka, a prominent American Slovak journalist, many of Dr. Fabry’s and his esteemed father’s attributes and good deeds are described. Dr. Fabry’s death is a great loss not only for all Slovaks, but for the whole free world.
Mr Sciranka’s statement follows:

Governor Fabry (Dr. Fabry’s father) was born in Turciansky sv. Martin, known as the cultural center of Slovakia. The Communists dropped the prefix svaty (saint) and call the city only Martin.
The late assistant to Secretary General Hammarskjold, Dr. Vladimir Fabry, inherited his legal talents from his father who studied law in the law school at Banska Stavnica, Budapest, and Berlin. The old Governor before the creation of Czechoslovakia fought for the rights of the Slovak nation during the Austro-Hungarian regime and was imprisoned on several occasions. His first experience as an agitator for Slovak independence proved costly during his student days when he was arrested for advocating freedom for his nation. Later the military officials arrested him on August 7, 1914, for advocating a higher institute of education for the Slovakian youth in Moravia. This act kept him away from the front and held him back as clerk of the Bratislava court.
He was well equipped to aid the founders of the first Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was created on American soil under the guidance and aid of the late President Woodrow Wilson. After the creation of the new republic he was made Governor (zupan) of the County of Saris, from which came the first Slovak pioneers to this city and county. Here he was confronted with the notorious Communist Bela Kun, who made desperate efforts to get control of Czechoslovakia. This successful career of elder Governor Fabry was followed by elevation as federal commissioner of the city of Kosice in eastern Slovakia.
But soon he resigned this post and opened a law office in Bratislava, with a branch office in Paris and Switzerland. The Governor’s experience at the international court gave a good start to his son Vladimir, who followed in the footsteps of his father. During World War II the elder Fabry was imprisoned by the Nazi regime and young Vladimir was an underground resistance fighter.
Dr. Vladimir Fabry, 40-year-old legal adviser to Secretary Dag Hammarskjold with the United Nations operation in Congo, who perished in the air tragedy, was born in Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas Slovakia. He received his doctor’s degree in law and political science from the Slovak University in Bratislava in 1942 and was admitted to the bar the following year. He was called to the United Nations Secretariat in 1946 by his famous countryman and statesman, Dr. Ivan Kerno, who died last winter in New York City after a successful career as international lawyer and diplomat and who served with the United Nations since its inception. Dr. Vladimir Fabry helped to organize postwar Czechoslovakia. His family left the country after the Communist putsch in February 1948. His sister Olga is also in the service of the United Nations in New York City [as a Librarian.-T]. His father, the former Governor, died during a visit to Berlin before his 70th birthday, which the family was planning to celebrate on January 14, 1961, in Geneva.
Before going to the Congo in February, Dr. Fabry had been for a year and a half the legal and political adviser with the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East. In 1948, he was appointed legal officer with the Security Council’s Good Offices Committee on the Indonesian question. He later helped prepare legal studies for a Jordan Valley development proposal. He also participated in the organization of the International Atomic Energy Agency. After serving with the staff that conducted the United Nations Togaland plebiscite in 1956, he was detailed to the Suez Canal clearance operation, winning a commendation for his service.
Dr. Vladimir Fabry became a U.S. citizen 2 years ago. He was proud of his Slovak heritage, considering the fact that his father served his clerkship with such famous Slovak statesmen as Paul Mudron, Andrew Halasa, Jan Vanovic, and Jan Rumann, who played important roles in modern Slovak history.
American Slovaks mourn his tragic death and they find consolation only in the fact that he worked with, and died for the preservation of world peace and democracy with such great a leader as the late Dag Hammarskjold.