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SLOVAKS HONOR 1944 UPRISING WITH RENEWED PRIDE

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More than 80,000 Slovaks defied the German army 50 years ago in Europe's second-largest uprising against Nazi rule, but history has taken little note of it.

Unlike the larger one in Warsaw, the Slovak revolt is hardly remembered outside this small, poor nation of 5 million people.In four decades of communist rule, the memory was blunted by ceremonies that gave the Soviet army credit for inspiring the rebellion and freeing Slovakia. For many Slovaks, such dull commemorations provided a haven from more troubling memories: the fact that their country had been a Nazi-puppet state and allowed 70,000 Jews to be deported to death camps.

Now, 20 months after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, officials hope the anniversary will strengthen the national pride of Slovaks, for whom independence has been a mixed blessing at best.

On Saturday, representatives of 22 countries gathered at Banska Bystrica, the city in central Slovakia where the rebellion began. Among them were Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the presidents of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.

"The legacy of the Slovak national uprising continues to hold significance today," Slovakia's President, Michal Kovac, told the gathering.

"Just like in the rest of the world, the forces of extreme nationalism, intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism try to gain ground in our region," Kovac said.

The revolt began Aug. 29, 1944, after Hitler ordered German troops into Slovakia to defend the puppet regime of Josef Tiso.

More than 80,000 armed Slovaks, many of them defectors from Tiso, gained control of mountainous central Slovakia and freed Allied airmen who had been shot down and captured.

The August 1944 uprising did not last long. German forces sent by Hitler regained control within weeks and promised Soviet support did not materialize. At least 3,000 resistance fighters were killed and more than 10,000 captured.

Grim accounts by two survivors of the U.S. intelligence mission, found in military archives in Washington, suggest that Slovaks, unnerved by the Nazi counterattack and harsh winter, swiftly deserted the rebellion.