A memorial to one of the worst reprisals by the Nazis following their crushing of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944/45. In January 1945, some 900 people were shot and the corpses were dropped into a lime kiln here. Today, near the village of Nemecka, central Slovakia
, there's a dedicated memorial site, involving a representation of that lime kiln, a classic socialist-style monument and a small historical museum.
More background info:
For general background info on the Slovak National Uprising and its historical context see under Muzeum SNP
– and also cf. under Slovakia
After the National Uprising failed at the end of October 1944, and many of the rebels fled to continue their fight as partisans from mountain hideouts, the German Nazis
, assisted by the “Flying Squads” of the Slovak Hlinka Guards, moved into central Slovakia and started a ruthless campaign of reprisals.
Civilians suspected of having supported the uprising or having helped the rebels in any way, as well as Jews and Roma, were captured, subjected to torture, and over 5000 people in total were murdered. In addition some 100 villages were torched and destroyed (cf. Kalište
The atrocities of Nemecka took place between 4 and 11 January 1945. The Einsatzkommando
14 under SS
-Obersturmführer Deffner transported prisoners, who had been arrested in the wake of the crushing of the uprising, from the prison in Banska Bystrica to a lime kiln near the villages of Nemecka and Raztoka and executed them there.
The victims were stood at the top of the kiln where they were shot and their bodies fell straight into the fiery pit of the kiln. Their ashes were later scattered into the nearby Hron river.
How many exactly were killed is therefore hard to ascertain. Earlier estimates ranged between 200 and 500, but today the figure usually given is “up to 900”.
The initial monument was unveiled in 1959, the memorial museum first opened in 1962, but has more recently been updated. It is administered by the Muzeum SNP
in Banska Bystrica.
What there is to see: The memorial site consists of two separate parts that are about a hundred yards apart. To the west of the museum is a monument with a bronze woman on her knees, head raised to the sky and arms with clenched fists spread out in front of a concrete twisted column that could be seen as symbolizing a flame. Candles and flowers were placed in front of the statue of the woman when I was there.
Adjacent to the museum stands a representation of the infamous lime kiln (see background
). Whether it is a remnant of the original or a replica specifically constructed for the memorial is not quite clear. Different sources give conflicting information on this. By the look of it – and comparing it to photos of the kiln from the time displayed in the museum – I doubt very much that it can be original. But it doesn't matter so much. Once you know what it stands for, it is poignant enough, whether original or not.
The museum is quite small by area space – just two modest-sized rooms, but there is a lot to read! The walls are all lined with panels with photos, documents and often very detailed and long explanatory texts. These are trilingual, in Slovak, English and German. Some of the English translations aren't quite of the same quality level as the German equivalents, but generally good enough.
The panels outline the historical context in general, then provide more details about particular sites of reprisals, especially Nemecka, of course, but also numerous other sites of similar tragedy. Some individual stories of specific victims are provided and old photos give them faces.
There's also a special section about the persecution of Slovak Roma and the reprisals directed at Roma in the course of the retaliations after the SNP.
The aftermath of the reprisals, the collection of evidence and locating of mass graves are covered too in the process. Some images of bodies exhumed from the mass graves are quite gruesome. And there are lots of them! In general, as the exhibition continues to detail one atrocity after the other accompanied by photos of the exhumed bodies it actually gets quite hard to carry on looking at it all after a while.
There are only very few actual artefacts on display. These are mostly finds from other sites of atrocities and mass graves discovered after WWII. You can see a child's shoe, dentures, pieces of bone, glasses, keys, rings, knives, shaving kits, wallets and such like, all spread out in two glass display cabinets. In the second room there is also a kind of special remembrance corner where wreaths are placed on a wall.
Overall, I found the museum surprisingly good given how small it is. OK, it is quite text-and-photo heavy and rather short on authentic artefacts, but it does succeed in giving a very good impression of the horrific scale of the Nazi reprisals of the time – which is something few people outside Slovakia (or even within Slovakia
) will be massively aware of. I hadn't been until I went there! So it is truly educational.
right by the main trunk road 66 ca. 14 miles (20 km) north-east of Banska Bystrica in central Slovakia
Access and costs: easy by car (otherwise a bit tricky), cheap.
Getting to the memorial is easiest by car, given the roadside location just a 20 minutes' drive from Banska Bystrica (see Muzeum SNP
When I visited the site it was as part of a longer, two-day tour specially tailor-made for me by the Bratislava
-based alternative operator “Authentic Slovakia
”. Dark-tourism-themed tours of this type are not (yet) part of their regular portfolio but they are very open to the idea and may develop this more. You can certainly ask them to put tours together to your specifications too. See their sponsored page here
In theory you can also get to Nemecka by train (from Banska Bystrica) and walk it – it takes ca. 20 minutes, first head in a north-westerly direction, then cross the river and head south-west along Hronska, which leads straight to the Motorest Nemecka opposite the memorial site.
To cross the road from the car park outside the Motorest you can use an underpass just a short distance up the road.
The monument and lime kiln representation can be freely accessed at all times.
The museum has the following opening times: daily except Mondays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer (May to September), only to 4 p.m. in winter.
Admission to the museum exhibition: 0.70 EUR, students and children free.
Time required: If you want to read everything you'll probably need at least a full hour, but being more selective (especially if you already know a bit about the basic historical context) you can be out again in half an hour or less.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
The Muzeum SNP
in nearby Banska Bystrica is the most significant other dark site in the area and provides a lot more context to the story of Nemecka as well. It's basically a must-do combination!
Another memorial site related to the Nazi reprisals in the wake of the SNP is Kalište
, a village completely destroyed by the Nazis and left abandoned. Today it functions as an open-air memorial museum of sorts.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
In general see under Slovakia
– the Low Tatras National Park is just to the north of Nemecka. It's the largest national park in the country and offers hiking in summer and skiing in winter, plus underground caves to explore and generally beautiful scenery to enjoy above ground. The nearest larger town is Banska Bystrica (see under Muzeum SNP
- Nemecka 1 - memorial
- Nemecka 2 - kiln reconstruction
- Nemecka 3 - inside the museum
- Nemecka 4 - museum theme
- Nemecka 5 - in the exhibition
- Nemecka 6 - plenty to read
- Nemecka 7 - display cabinet
- Nemecka 8 - exhibits
- Nemecka 9 - monument