German Counteroffensive Successfully Ends Slovak National Uprising
On September 19 German command replaced SS-Obergruppenführer Berger, who had been in charge of the troops fighting the Uprising, with General Höffle.
By that time Germans had 48,000 soldiers; they consisted of eight German divisions, including four from the Waffen-SS and one pro-Nazi Slovak formation.
On October 1 the rebel army was renamed the 1st Czechoslovak Army in Slovakia, in order to symbolize the beginning of the Czech-Slovak reunification that would be recognized by the Allied forces.
A major German counteroffensive began on October 17–18 when 35,000 German troops entered the country from Hungary, which had been under German military occupation since 19 March 1944. Stalin demanded that his advancing Second Ukrainian Front led by General Malinovsky be immediately diverted from Eastern Slovakia to Budapest. The western advance of Soviet forces came to a screeching halt in late October 1944, as Stalin's interests focused on Hungary, Austria and Poland before he was interested in Slovakia or the Czech lands. By the end of October, Axis forces (six German divisions and one pro-Nazi Slovak unit) had taken back most of the territory from the insurgents and encircled the fighting groups. Battles cost at least 10,000 casualties on both sides.
Insurgents had to evacuate Banská Bystrica on October 27 just prior to the German takeover. SOE and OSS agents retreated to the mountains alongside the thousands of others fleeing German advance. The rebels prepared to change their strategy to that of guerrilla warfare. On October 28, Viest sent London a message that said the organized resistance had ended. On October 30, General Höffle and President Tiso celebrated in Banská Bystrica and awarded medals to German soldiers for their part in the suppression of the uprising (claimed by some to have been done by Tiso as to save the lives of Slovak soldiers captured by German forces in the uprising, who were deported to concentration camps, and to save three Slovak cities from German bombardment).
However, partisans together with the remains of the regular forces continued their efforts in the mountains. In retaliation, Einsatzgruppen executed many Slovaks suspected of aiding the rebels and destroyed 93 villages for suspicion of collaboration. A later estimate of the death toll was 5,304 and authorities discovered 211 mass graves that resulted from those atrocities. The largest executions occurred in Kremnička (747 killed) and Nemecká (900 killed).
On November 3 Germans captured Golian and Viest in Pohronský Bukovec; they later interrogated and executed them.
SOE and OSS teams eventually united and sent a message in which they requested immediate assistance. Germans surrounded both groups on December 25 and captured them. Some of the men were summarily executed. Germans took the rest to Mauthausen concentration camp where they were tortured and executed.
The German victory only postponed the eventual downfall of the pro-Nazi regime. Six months later, the Red Army had overrun Axis troops in Czechoslovakia. By December 1944 Romanian and Soviet troops had driven German troops out of southern Slovakia in the Battle of Budapest. On January 19, 1945, the Red Army took Bardejov, Svidník, Prešov and Košice in Eastern Slovakia. On March 3–5 they had taken over northwest Slovakia. On March 25 they entered Banská Bystrica and on April 4 marched into Bratislava.
Although the main military objectives were not achieved due to improper timing of the uprising and discoordinate actions of Soviet partisans that often undermined the plans and objectives of the insurrectional Slovak army--if occurred later when preparations were complete could theoretically have reverted the whole of Slovakia to the allied side and allowed the Red Army to quickly pass through Slovakia (though it is questionable whether the Soviet leadership would have preferred such an option because this would have significantly empowered the democratic forces in Slovakia)--the guerrilla struggle bound significant German forces that could otherwise have reinforced the Wehrmacht on the eastern front lines against the advancing Ukrainian Fronts to the north and south of Slovakia. Nevertheless, much of Slovakia was left devastated by the Uprising and the German counter-offensive and occupation.
The chaotic military action began on August 29, 1944, two days after the murder of some 30 German diplomats. Partisans in western Slovakia were quickly captured, but the mountains around Banska Bystrica made it an ideal centre for the resistance movement.
The allies supported the uprising with massive aid, the Soviet Union and the United States flew in tons of supplies into partisan territory, while French troops participated in the actual battles. Within two month the uprising was crushed by the German forces, although partisan warfare continued up to the end of the war.