A partisan unit operating in Eastern Slovakia was among the first armed resistance groups that was established to counter Nazi aggression. Led by Pavol Bros, the majority of the unit’s members were Jewish. Another unit operating near Pirnagovy peak also consisted mainly of Jewish fighters. Numerous other partisan groups had high percentages of Jewish members including the unit named for Slovak poet Janko Kral, under the command of a Jewish professor, Alexander Markus; the battalion operating in the hills surrounding Banska Stiavnica, commanded by Ladislav Exnar, Josef Buchler and Edita Ernstova (who now lives in Israel); the resistance group “Chapayev” in Eastern Slovakia, that included Bernat Friedmann (known under the cover name Stefan Kubik), Stefan Wasserton, and Pavol Blum-Borsky. One name that stands out in this group was that of Alexander Schein who was killed in action on November 19, 1944 while defending the village of Zavada.
The organized resistance movement in Slovakia dates back to 1942, when Jews were being deported to concentration camps. When it became clear to many young Jews that they would face certain death in the camps, many joined resistance units.
The Slovak National Uprising in 1944 was an important milestone in Slovak Jewish anti-Nazi resistance. Labor camps for Jews in Nováky, Vyhne, and Sered were dissolved and many able-bodied youths became partisans. In Nováky, Jews had already obtained weapons and were operating undercover.
An illegal resistance group existing at the end of 1942 consisted of Communists and Zionists. The group was led by Julius Schonfeld (killed in action during the Uprising in Stare Hory), Hella Friedmannova, M.D., Simon Porges-Cermak (living in Israel since 1969), and Juraj Spitzer. The unit members were trained by Professor Imrich Muller, a former colonel in the Czechoslovak Army. After the outbreak of Uprising, he became the commander of the Nováky resistance unit. The volunteers had only some rifles, small caliber side arms, about three automatic weapons, and a few grenades.
The Jewish resistance unit from the Nováky labor camp carried out operations in Zemianske Kostolany, Handlova, the strategically important “Batovany” front, and Simonovany. The Nováky unit was the largest Jewish fighting group. Of its 230 members, 38 were killed in action, yet it continued to exist as a Jewish resistance unit under the command of Alexander Bachnar until the liberation of Slovakia. 1300 Jews, including those from the Nováky group contributed to anti-Nazi resistance in Slovakia. In addition, dozens of Jewish doctors served in almost all Army and resistance units. Jewish engineers and technical specialists did their part as well, building fortresses and armored resistance trains.
Award presented in 2001.