Liberation Day 2017 and 2018
On May 8 each year, Slovakians celebrate Liberation Day, the same day known as Victory in Europe Day throughout the European nations.
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The day signifies the victory of the Allied forces at the end of World War II in 1945. In some European nations, the day is known as Liberation from Facism Day as it is the day they were freed from Nazi rule.
History of Liberation Day
During World War II, Slovakia became dependent on Nazi Germany after the dismemberment of it’s neighbour, Czechoslovakia. Under Germany’s direction, Slovakia declared allegiance to the Axis powers declaring war on Britain and the United States. The alignment with the Nazi’s was due to Slovakia’s push for independence. Adolf Hitler agreed to support Josef Tiso, a leader of the Slovak People’s Party, if Tiso separated from Czechoslovakia. If Tiso refused, Hitler threatened to divide Slovakia among Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Tiso agreed and, in 1939, Slovakia declared independence. Germany occupied Bohemia and Moravia soon after.
On August 29, 1944, an uprising broke out when German troops invaded Slovakia. In retaliation for the uprising, thousands of Jewish men, women and children were sent to concentration camps from Slovakia and, by September, 1944, Germany had more than 48,000 soldiers in Slovakia.
Slovakia was involved in many military battles throughout World War II due to its location. In June 1945, the Red Army attacked the Axis forces in Slovakia and by March 1945, had pushed the Axis forces back significantly and, by April 1945, it was clear that Germany was losing World War II. On April 30 of that year, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Germany issued a complete surrender on May 8 as General Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to allow them a conditional surrender. May 8 was declared a public holiday by Joseph Stalin, the commander of the Red Army.
Traditions and Celebrations
Although some European countries celebrate the holiday on May 9, the celebrations are similar throughout Europe. There are parades that include members of the military and local officials. The leaders of the country joins crowds to lay wreaths on the graves of the fallen. There are often speeches and remembrances of what it was like in Slovakia when they learned that Germany had been defeated and that they were freed from Nazi rule. Offices, schools and businesses are closed in honour of the holiday. Banks are also closed on Liberation Day in Slovakia.