Elijau Basbalg of the blessed memory
M. G. Brand (Prager)
M. Duvdevani (Kirshnbaum)
Dr. David Ernfeld
Dr. Alexander Goldstein
Ilona Greenbaum (Reich)
Isaac (Itzik) Kessler
Elijahu (Edus) Veinberger of the blessed memory
Graphic design and cover: Dan Frank, Kibbutz Gan Shmuel
Photograph of cover: Photo Alexander, Haifa
Zinkographia: Zinkographia Offset Bret
Printing: Neographica, Tel Aviv
[Page 3 - English] [Page 5 - Yiddish]
With a trembling and a thrill we present you, our dear fellow citizens, this memorial volume. We did our best in carrying out our mission and in bringing to a full expression the history of the Holocaust and the horrors which befell our dear ones and annihilated our congregation.
Would this humble book be able to arise and consecrate their memory? You, as well as myself, have mixed feelings. We know only this. We did out best and brought this enterprise to a conclusion.
We did not succeed wholly in recording the history of Michalovce congregation from its foundation. In order to draw from the fountain spring of the archives all the effective material concerning the history of our congregation, we had to await another thaw til we were granted a free access to the archives of Budapest, Bratislava, Kosice and Michalovce. Even then could we, for the sake of such an extensive activity, afford both the men and means? We were powerless an short of possibilities. We chose then to perpetuate our contemporary congregation only.
Finally, we did succeed in finding a man from our town, Mr. Israel Yakov Davidovitz, who was able to adequately eulogize the great scholars, the studious and wise inhabitants of the Kloize, the little and big synagogues, in the evenings, at nights and at dawn, all those who made nights as days by the light of a burning candle or bar, within four walls of their houses. This honorable public left undoubtedly it mark on a large layer of the congregation and created an atmosphere of biblical learning among many of the young people in the townlet. To our regret, there was not any redeemer to this subject, which was not emphasized enough in our book.
But, few among the survivors possessed the spiritual power to put in writing their memories of what had happened to them during that horrid time. Therefore, here as well, the canvas sheet is not too large. We sufficed in a little and maybe for the better and the rest will be told in the history of Israel.
The responsibility lies on our shoulders and on our generation which is the living link between our ancestors and our sons, and the future generations. We were short of time and the delay was for our worst. Therefore we did not anticipate much. We did not row towards a literary work or a complete achievement for which no redeemer was likely to be found.
We chose then not the completion but the content. This book was not written by
writers, but it was investigated with much good will and personal efforts of
each of us, according to his possibility and ability.
In every word, in every story you will feel the desire to give a sincere expression to events and people and contribute, as much as possible, to this monumental enterprise. We were out of our fixed way in introducing a bigger number of our celebrated poet, Sensh Erzi's recordings which were translated from Hungarian. Those literary gems are living.
The list of our sacred was prepared and collected by some members of the committee during several years. They recorded in their memory streets and yards, houses and families, published and sent the list to all the former inhabitants, asking them for supplements. After bringing it up to date, they submitted the list to the editorial board, which published it as it was.
We had many scruples in the question of the language of the book. In Michalovce, many were spoken. The senior generation and mature youth spoke Yiddish, German and Hungarian. The younger generation of the year 1920 added to the list the Slovakian language which was their studied language. The overseas immigration added English and the emigration of the survivors to Israel has not yet given to the newcomers a possession of the Hebrew language. In the light of these facts, the editorial board decided that this book should appear in the state of Israel and be written in Hebrew. It was clear that a memorial volume for the Nazi's victims, published by the survivors, should not be written in German.
To the above mentioned issue we will add reduced section in Hungarian and English. Let those who don't read Hebrew accept our pardon.
Finally we want to thank our friends who encouraged and assisted us in this enterprise. Thanks to Mr. Golan, Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Dula of the United States, to Mr. Steno (Steinhardt) of Canada, to Mr. Herman Schwartz of Belgium and Mrs. H. Duval. We thank also the writer Daniel Ben-Nachum who styled the Hebrew section, Mrs. Batia Rosen-Rochman the editor of the English section, Dr. Goldstein, and Jicchak Chum, the editor of the Hungarian section, and Mr. Shmuel Yakobovitz who was responsible for the photographs, Dan Frank, member of Kibbutz Gan Shmuel for his graphic work and cover planning.
Lastly, thanks to the committee of Michalovce descendants who entrusted to us the edition of the book and revealed a limitless confidence in us.
Many thanks to all of you, in the name of the editorial board,
Mordechai Ben Ze'ev (Mori Farkash)
Kibbutz Gan Shmuel
by Dr. David Ehrenfeld
The community of Michalovce deserves that her history be researched and written down scientifically. But where could one find the raw material required for such a research and where are the suitable men willing and capable of undertaking such an enterprise? We have no alternative therefore, than to content ourselves with the personal recollections of the survivors of the Michalovce community and with those brought down from father to son. With these records in hand, we shall try and draw a picture = though incomplete and inexact describing the history of the community during the last fifty years of her existence, till her destruction.
The community of Michalovce (Nagymihály in the Hungarian epoch) undoubtedly ranked, during the Hungarian epoch, among the largest and most important communities in Easter Czechoslovakia (formerly Northeastern Hungaria), after the community of Kosice (Kassa) and Preshov (Eperjes). The Jewish population had been 3,000 already in the Hungarian epoch. This figure increased to about 5,000 during the Czechoslovaki period (the total population being 15,000).
The most prominent event which had established the fame of Michalovce in the Jewish history was the Convention of the Orthodox Rabbis in 1865. The Rabbi's issued a sentence on the subject of several prohibitions concerning ritual habits, to counterbalance Reformist Synagogues which had started then to spread in Hungaria. The said sentence prohibited, for instance, to erect the rostrum in any other place than in the middle of the Synagogue, to divide the women's gallery by means of transparent stuff, to sing in choir or to mount the wedding canopy within the Synagogue. The cantor was not allowed to wear a special official dress, etc. The signatures of 71 Rabbis were collected to give more emphasis to the above sentence. It would be noteworthy that the Rabbi of Pressburg, the so-called Catav-Sofer was not among the signers. The fact that the Orthodox Rabbis had chosen to convene in Michalovce shows that she had been, already then, an important center of the Orthodox Jewry.
We have no information pointing out the Rabbi of Michalovce during that period
it had been- maybe Rabbi Yehuda Landesman, but not many years
later, the position of Chief Rabbi was occupied by the late Rabbi Aharon
Greenberger, the grandfather of the late Rabbi Moshe Greenberger, known to us
all as one of the religious judges (Dayyanim) who held this post in our
Towards the end of the last century and after the death of the late Rabbi Aharon Greenberger, my grandfather, Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld of blessed memory, was called to hold the position of Chief Rabbi. He was, as is well known, the direct grandchild of the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Shreiber, Chatam Sofer, Rabbi of Pressburg.
Since I do not feel competent to describe my late grandfather's personality, I prefer to leave this task to others. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the community of Michalovce chose, after the death of the late Aharon Greenberger, who undoubtedly had adhered to Chassidic circles, a Rabbi from West Hungaria, whose family had been known for its Ashkenazi way of living and thinking and for its opposition to the Chasidic trend. It should be understood that in the meantime, the Jewish community of Michalovce was developing. My childhood memories reflect this progress. The elite of the congregation consisted of families strictly observing tradition, and yet, they were already open to the ever growing influence of Western civilization on the Hungarian Jewery a process which had started with the emancipation. I would like to mention here the names of several families, for instance: Simon Landesman, Fam. Brugler, Ignaz Gross, Jonas Shreiber, Mor Lofker, Mor Gluck, Family Rosenberg, Wieder, Mor Brüm, Family Herskovits from Shajnany Family Lovy, Bernard Schwarz, Chaim Klein, Leopold Berger, Mor Gottleb, Spriegel, Lieblich, and many others who, in the beginning of the century, had been the backbone of the community. But their sons had usually chosen academical profession and their attachment to the tradition weakened. This development led me to the conclusion that the modernization process had already started when these very same parents had still been young. Therefore, when the late Rabbi Aharon Greenberger died and the congregation faced the problem of choosing a Chief Rabbi it might be presumed that the opinions were divided and possibly the danger of severance between the Ashkenzi and the Chassidim threatened the community.
The nomination of a Rabbi of a famous Rabbinical family, whose piety and greatness in the knowledge of the Torah were not to be doubted, and who, on the other hand, was familiar with the Western civilization, extremely intelligent and possessing a wonderful common sense, the nomination of such a person was the best means to ensure the unity of the community and the continuation of her tradition.
I presume that I am entitled to state that my grandfather, the late Rabbi
Shimon Ehrenfeld, who throughout the 37 years of his office followed this line,
succeeded in keeping the harmony within his community as well as a close
cooperation between its various parties.
The Great Synagogue which had been erected shortly before his term, remained the center of the religious circles. Although pure Ashkenazi customs were the rule, those kept in Orthodox synagogues were also strictly respected. One could even find in this Synagogue Baaley-Batim who were by no means less devout than the Chassidim of the Beit-Hamidrash and the Klaus.
The architecture of the Great Synagogue should also be remembered. It stood in the heart of the city, its broad front facing the street. The fact that the town of Michalovce had permitted the erection of the Synagogue in such a central place points to the influence of the Jews in the life of the town. The Synagogue was beautifully adorned inside; vast, with numerous columns which held the arcs of the women's gallery and over it a gigantic dome. The walls were wonderfully painted and the stained glass and majestic chandeliers distributed full light day and night.
Let us remember here the former cantor, the late Rabbi Aharon Rosner, who reached ripe old age and who in his pleasant, though somewhat weeping voice, had known how to exalt the hearts of listeners. And also the late cantor Rabbi Zalman Leib Wieder who was a first-class cantor and also directed a very good choir. Many of my childhood memories are linked to this beautiful Synagogue where the praying, especially during the High Holidays, had always left upon me a deep impression.
The picture would not be complete without mentioning the Synagogue beadles: the late Rabbi Lang, whom I remember from my childhood, the late Rabbi Schreier, and the late Rabbi Gedalya Rubin.
Michalovce became, after the end of the First World War, the center of the part of the Zemblin region belonging to Czechoslovakia. Consequently, the town developed with remarkable speed and the Jews also benefitted from this progress. The Jewish population increased, mostly by the movement from village into town, and partly by Polish war refugees who had stayed and settled down there. The commerce had always been concentrated in Jewish hands and the families who had grown rich, altered the general view of the town by building two-floor houses along the main street. The influence of the Jews in the Municipality had grown in proportion to their increase in population, i.e. 5,000 out of 15,000. This beneficial development also affected the Jewish community and its institutions.
The main institution of the community was, of course, the Rabbinate.
It was headed by the Chief Rabbi, the late Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld, while the two religious judges, rabbi Israel Brodi and Rabbi Moshe Greenberger acted at his side in the capacity of Dayyanim. Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld, a keen and reputable scholar, had directed till the First World war a big Yeshiva which had attracted pupils from near and remote places. But with the outbreak of the war, the pupils had dispersed and the Yeshiva was not re-opened at the end of the war owing to Rabbi's weak state of health. Rabbi Moshe Greenberger gathered around him a considerable number of pupils in his stead and founded a Yeshiva which he directed to the end of his life.
The Rabbinate was, in the first place, an institution which functioned in the following domains: supervising Kasheruth, deciding in matter of prohibitions and permits, arranging marriages and divorces and so forth. It also operated as a court, in monetary matters, especially after the First World War when tradesmen from near and remote places approached this court, since the verdicts were issued in a form of an arbitrary verdict to be implemented even by the State Courts.
The late Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld, Chief rabbi of Michalovce and the whole district as well, surpassed the above mentioned rabbinical functions by being the spiritual leader of the community. In his sermons, excellent in form and content, he had guided the course of life of his community and to those who had approached him with their individual problems, the extremely intelligent and understanding Rabbi and given advice and suggested personal guidance.
The population increase after the First World war led to the erection of a big Beit-Midrash near the Synagogue, since the existing Beit-Midrash had been too small to hold all the people wishing to combine praying with the learning of the Torah.
While daily studies of Mishnayoth, by the Mishnayoth society took place in the Synagogue, the learning of Gemarah by the Talmud society was maintained in the two Beit-Midrashim. A great many of the Baaley-Batim of Michalovce, including busy tradesmen, had reserved a fixed time for learning the Torah. There were among them distinguished scholars acting as interpreters of the lesson.
A world to itself had been the Klaus the center of the
Chassidim of Michalovce. It was situation in the Silk Street, which
was populated by those Jews who did not see eye to eye with the
Ashkenazi tendencies to which the better part of the community had
adhered. The Klaus had been a lively center of religious life and
the learning of Torah.
It is quite gratifying, as I have already remarked hereabove, that though the Chassidim had centralized around the Klaus, they did not keep aloof from the general course of life of the community, as had been the case in many other congregations. The spiritual leader of the Klaus adherents the late Dayyan Rabbi Moshe Greenberger and the Chief Rabbi of the community the late Rabbi Shimon Ehrenfeld, who had maintained excellent relations between them, should be credited for this harmony and fraternity.
It should be expressed at this point, that the part of Michalovce located on the other side of the river, Stragnany had its own Dayyan the late Rabbi Eliezer Davidovitz who had functioned as the so-called Rabbi of that neighborhood. He had maintained his own Beit-Midrash, but the naturally, he had also been subjected to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate.
Education of the young had been always graded among the main objectives of all
Jewish communities. But, whereas the West-Slovakian communities had endeavored
to combine holy with secular studies, by founding communal schools recognized
by the Government, the East-Slovakian congregations had preferred to separate
between the two elements, by leaving the secular studies in the charge of the
State Schools and restricting themselves exclusively to religious education.
Such had been the case in Michalovce as well. At first, even the learning of
the Torah had not been concentrated. Each Melamed had used to
organize an individual Cheder and the parents would send the
children to the Melamed they had liked the best. The
Chederim were located in all possible corners of the town, several
on the Synagogue premises, as for example in the Poolish, in the
Beit-Hamidrash, in the staircase and so forth. After the First
World War a great effort was made to bring all the Chederim under
one roof and turn them into an institution of first-rate Torah learning. The
endeavors had borne fruits and a magnificent building, containing a great
number of class, was erected on the site bordering the plot of the Great
Beit Hamidrash. A special committee had elaborated the curriculum
and supervised it by means of weekly examinations. Certain improvements were
introduced into the course of studies, as for example the learning of the bible
with a translation into German which enabled the pupils to acquire the
language. Also writing lessons and mathematic were given. For this purpose,
teachers from even distant places were invited. Let us remember here several of
the veteran teachers: the late Rabbi Yaacov Yitzhak Meller, the late Rabbi
Moshe Blau, the late Rabbi Gedaliyahu Adler, the late Rabbi Steiff, and the
late Rabbi Kratzer.
In addition to the teaching of the Torah, a number of small Yeshivoth existed in town, the most outstanding of them all belonging to Rabbi Fonweder. Rabbi Moshe Mittleman's is also noteworthy. Rabbi Ezriel Friedman, a tradesman and a distinguished scholar, who had functioned as honorary Dayyan, even he gathered around him several pupils. We might conclude that throughout all house years, Michalovce had been a town of the Torah to which pupils from far-off places had flocked and the sound of the Torah had rung through the town till her annihilation.
Several other communal institutions such as the Chevra Kadisha, the Mikveh Tahara and various charity concerns should also be included in our survey, since they had constituted an integral part in the life of the community. The organization of the Chevra Kadisha had been exemplary. Many Baaley-Batim, as well as young men, volunteered to the holy service of bringing the dead to rest in the well-kept cemetery on the slopes of the Hradok hill.
The new Mikveh was built after the First World War. As a matter of fact, it was a part of a big and modern public bath which served even the non-Jewish population.
Out of the various charity institutions, the following should be mentioned: The Charity Society, The Benefecation Society, The Society for paying visits to the bed-ridden, bridal fund, and so forth.
As to the administrative body, it was composed of elected members and presided by the Head of the community. The elections were democratic and the poll heavy. Naturally, the personality of the Head of the community had a decisive effect on the life of the congregation, as well as on its development. From time to time, the community would wisely choose active persons who had largely contributed to her promotion. We wish to pay tribute here to David Hershcovits, Lazar Fuolcs, Dr. Mark Weder, Dr. Max Brugler, Adolf Lang.
We connect each of these names with a certain achievement in the development of the community. Let us pay homage to the memory of the permanent Secretary of the community, the late Rabbi Mendel Glück, who had also functioned as the treasurer of the town of Michalovce.
In addition to the communal institutions, there existed in Michalove other
institutions which had been founded by the Baaley-Batim or their
spouses to operate in various fields in the benefit of the local Jewry.
One of the most prominent of those institutions had been the Women's Association, headed by Dr. Samuel Glück's wofe, who had maintained a public kitchen and supported the poor. Then, there had been the Social Association a training school for orphans President: Mrs. Mor Brüm, Vicepresident: my late mother Serene Ehrenfeld and the Girl's Association which had been set up to spread Jewish culture among young women. We should also mention here the Jewish Bank which had faithfully come towards tradesmen and craftsmen in need. The Bank had been founded by the Joint and was directed by Rammi Samuel Ehrenfeld my father.
An inseparable part of the Jewish life in Michalovce had been the activities for Israel. Before the First World War, there had existed the Moriyah Organization, composed of the young Baaley-Batim. This organization had been influenced by the Mizrahi Movement the Religious Zionist Movement and people like Haim Eichenbaum, Michael Gommer, Samuel Ehrenfeld and many others were among its followers.
Immediately after the war, with the Balfour Declaration for the Foundation of a Jewish National Home in Israel, various Zionist associations and societies were organized, from Hashomer Hatzair to Hamizrahi and Beitar, as well as the Women's Association WIZO. Quite noteworthy had been the Aha-Ha'am Association a Zionist but non-political organization which had primarily operated in order to revive the Jewish National consciousness and to spread its culture. Agudath-Israel had also been an active organization in Michalovce. The Zionist Youth organization had trained their members towards life in Israel and convinced many of them to emigrate to this country.
This limited framework does not allot sufficient space to describe in detail the multiple activities of the various societies, organizations and institutions included in this survey, nor the persons who had directed or taken an active part in these concerns. It is neither the task of the general survey of this kind. Others appearing in this book will treat them at length.
These fruitful activities came to a sudden halt with the rise of the Fascist
rule in Slovakia in 1939 and instead of a prolific, religious, social, cultural
and national life, there began a struggle for life itself. In this tragic
strive, not always passive but at times very active too, we have been defeated
by evil forces without help nor rescue. The wonderful community of Michalovce,
which had flourished and progressed for many years, was destroyed and
annihilated to a handful of survivors.
This book, written in remembrance of the community and her sons, dedicates many further chapters to this tragic heroic period.
We the survivors of the community of Michalovce and its surroundings, in Israel
and abroad, who have been privileged to stay alive, without knowing how and
why, we wish to fulfill a holy tasks and to commemorate in this book our
community, so that the generations to come would know that a lively Jewry had
existed in the Diaspora and had kept the ember glowing. Thanks to this Jewry we
are here today, and it is thanks to her that we have witnessed the miracle of
the rebirth of the people of Israel in their own State. The future generations
will understand how to continue this tradition till the final salvation of the
people of Israel and later of the whole universe.
by Senesh Erzi
I would like to commemorate a Slovakian townlet where I grew up and spent my youth. I referred to this townlet, name Michalovce, many time in novels and stories, as a background for many experiences which were for me an inexhaustible literary mine. She always appeared to me in new colours, in a bright light, with her streets and her inhabitants who have always been living in my mind.
But the memories which I carry with me from this townlet do not weave experiences any more. The landscape which previously inspired me with so much, is desolate within me and the town is ruined. I happen to recall her in my imagination and I cry. I move from house to house, from street to street; I look for my friends, for the well known, dear faces; I look for my father, my mother and all those who were exterminated, killed, slaughtered and burnt.
Mochalovce and its environment remained. The citizens of Israel, those pioneers
who came here 25 years ago to build a land out of great enthusiasm and deep
awareness, hold each year a commemoration ceremony for the victims, in
Tel Aviv. In the first commemoration, I tried to draw a picture of the
frame and atmosphere by which Michalovce Jewry lived before the Fascism, the
expulsion and the liquidation.
Michalovce was one of the Slovakian townlets were the Jewish congregation lived as a one whole entity. Out of its 15,000 inhabitants 4,000 were Jews. We can say that the leadership of the townlet consisted of Jews. This fact was also externally affirmed. The Jewish synagogue was located in the centre of town, in the main street opposite the Town Hall. The main street dwellers were mostly Jews. They owned shop after shop which were shut on Saturdays, for a little while and reopened. In this way the holiness of Sabbath was more conspicuous.
The overwhelming majority were Jews, loyal, aware and pious. The assimilations' representation was small and could be hardly traced. You could count them on your ten fingers.
With the establishment of the Czechoslovakian State in 1918, a surprising awakening occurred among the Jews. The assimilation was not supported by any condition because actually there was no one to be assimilated with. The students of Budapest University who had been expelled, moved to Praha University and were glad to be able to remain at home. The Czechoslovakians who were colonial officers, teachers and soldiers in Slovakia, were not ready to assimilate so quickly. The Slovakian, on the other hand, who were intermixed, complained in those days about the low standard of living. They could not, then, attract the Jews toward assimilation. The Hungarians lost their prestige and their number diminished. The books they left in the country, constituted a link and a ray of warmth, but could not harm the Jews.
The spiritual leadership consisted mostly of Jews. The majority of doctors, lawyers were Jews, the municipal secretary was a Jew and the municipal council consisted of Jews too. In the general elections, the greater part of Jews revealed its nationalit and only a few refrained.
The Jewish representatives in the Parliament knew they could rely on the Jews in Michalovce. The Zionistic ideology won hearts among the youth as soon as the rule changed. The first pioneering training in Slovakia was established in a neighboring village (Medov). Each time more people made up their mind to emigrate to Israel and many carried it out.
Among the founds of Kfar Masaryk there are sons and daughters of Michalovce. In other kibbutzim Michalovce pioneers occupy a central role.
The Zionism was supported by two centres, in Praha and Budapest.
The townlet was always ready to pay tribute and homage to the persons who carried the idea of Jewish salvation and culture, to Hameiri, Patai, Kacer Illish, Ujvaz Peter, Brod, and Dr. Tomashov who happened to visit Michalovce.
Later, the various organizations who support the settlement of our land become stronger and even the opposers and dissenters who had reservations towards the Zionistic ideology, are ready to support them materially.
Masaryk's republic bestowed everyone with freedom and liberty. We cannot deny that we lived happily, aware of our might. But later, later, when we were struck, it was a hammer blow on the proud marble block which was broken to small splinters. The expulsion fell on Michalovce, as on other towns in Slovakia as a big surprise, in March 1942. All the girls were taken first.
The process of prosecutions and pressure began already in 1940, when work camps were built. The intelligentia was exiled and concentrated in Ilava, and stage by stage, all the Jews were discharged of all fields of activities and creation. The external signs, the yellow band, the expulsions of Jews from flats in the elegant streets, named after Hlink and Hitler, into mass shelters in the town suburbs, followed. Jews were brought to town from the villages in order to facilitate their liquidation in due time.
When the Slovakian expelled and discharged the Czechoslovakian off Slovakia, the rule passed to the Gardist's control and all that had been granted us by the Czechoslovakian democracy was usurped again, step by step. It was a process of interweaving a thin thread which turned quickly into a rope around our neck. When a rumour spread that all the young men were going to be expelled, many fled to Hungary but no one guessed that the trouble would begin with the expulsion of the girls. It was a step against which there was not any tactics. The catastrophe was so shocking that it paralyzed and decomposed all the families. Because of this devilish plot, the whole congregation stumbled.
On the 5.5.42, the first big expulsion, the deportation of whole families
began. On Sunday, the first foreigners, the devils appeared,
dressed in their black shirts. Their boots glittered, their faces were strict,
and their pitiless hands were covered by white, bright gloves. It was horrible
how those white gloves increased their roughness. The government did not rely
on the local hangers and sent us the foreigners, lest one of the local
citizen's hearts would feel pity for a Jewish soul. But such a
mistake did not occur.
The whole mass of some hundred local Jews and local citizens was concentrated in the yard of the Gymnasium and at the end of 3 days was put on wagons and sent away from the country.
The hunger had already begun at home because we were forbidden to take food into the school and even the milk jugs which we tried to take for the children, were emptied. The milk poured in the streets, and in the school, our tears poured too.
He that was not caught hid in cellars, attics and straw heaps. Only those who were considered vital for the state dared to appear in public.
On the 9.5.42, the town looked as after an earthquake: deserted, robbed, lined with empty houses and without any visible soul. The first deportations were directed to Poland, to Lublin region. Some postcards were received by which it was not difficult to detect that he that did not fall of a bullet died from hunger and that the great part of the expelled did not live any more.
At home the daily hunt continued. The Jews were expelled through Zilina, 1,000 in every deportation. In order to complete the missing number, they used to change their tactics. Once they began their combings during the day and the second time, during the night. Hounds of brutal faces, figures of beasts dominated the town and the Christian inhabitants looked at this devil's dance indifferently. In autumn 42, a day after Simhat Tora, the last remnants were sent. The turn of those who passed the strainer on this date came in 1944, when the Germans dominated Slovakia. But then whole Slovakia including Michalovce was evacuated of its Jews. The Jews of Novaky, Nove Mesto awaited their expulsion to Auschwitz.
Many escaped from the camps to Partisan groups and then fell into the Germans' hands or froze in the mountains. In the end, as by a miracle, some hundred souls remained alive.
In this way Michalovce Jewry disappeared and thus was it liquidated. The
Slovakian also excelled in the deeds of liquidation even without the
encouragement of the German. Already before the German conquest in 1942, the
Slovakians expelled about 6,000 souls out of their own initiative and without
any external pressure. I have to remark that nothing was published about those
facts in literature. Among Slovakian writers there was only one Jew Vanush
Giza, who immigrated, according to rumours, to China in 1946. After the war no
book about the expulsion of
Slovakian Jews and about what preceded it appeared, except for an album published by the Jewish Agency in Bratislava. Dr. Andor Sash, the well-known historian wrote for Yad Vashem the history of liquidation, but his manuscript was not published or printed. I wrote a diary successively, but to my regret, no part of it remained and it was not published either.
In spite of my personal attitude I did my best to convey to you an objective picture as far as possible, because, if I wrote following the feeling of my heart, this would turn into a novel.
Even today, sometimes as in a dream, I follow a transport among the ancient houses, the old streets. I call after the people asking them not to go to liquidation. I call for my people, the people I knew. In my soul I recall them. I see them in my mind's eyes. Some wonderful figures, portraits with a forehead which radiates spirituality. How much beauty, how much self awareness. Some of them look ambitious and dreaming, treasure of mankind! In spite of my open arms this treasure disappears, vanishes and sinks into nothingness (memorial speech 1954).
These notes appeared in the paper on the 15.10.1954. Since then the historian, Dr. Rokirchen Libia, published in Hebrew, a booklet on the expulsion in Slovakia, in the edition of Yad Vashem.
The papers of my diary which my late father had buried in the yard of our house, in the wooden depot, was given by Yad Vashem to the documentation archives in 1962.
In 1966, it was published in Budapest in the form of a book by the title of
The Soul Refuses in the Fiction Edition.
[Page 29 - English] [Page 35 - Hebrew]
by Avigdor Stano (Steinhardt)
In recalling our old native town Michalovce we also bring up, with a holy terror, the memory of those Jews who were part and parcel of the Jewish congregation like The still hat, Mendel Galik, the congregational secretary known as Galik Notarish. He, as well as others who left a mark on the Jewish character, will be recalled in this book. I recall with a holy reverence also our Jewish teachers.
I refer to the time when there was not yet in the town a Talmud Tora, namely an official Elementary School with uniform. The committee of the congregation took care to provide the Jewish inhabitants with an adequate Mikva, ritually fit for women, a first class circumciser, a good cantor with a sweet voice and sweet prayer, ritual slaughterers, butchers and other public commodities. But as for a Jewish education that was each father's private interest. Let the fathers worry about this. This was none of our interest and concern. The fathers, in fact, cared for it. However difficult it was for most of them to pay the tuition fee, there was not even one paternal home which did not see that Kadishle, and in many cases even his daughter, would attend one of the best Chaderim.
The first stage of the Jewish education and the first feeling of being a Jew was experienced in Itzkovitz' or Hecht's Heder. The former, Rabbi Aria Itzkovitz was a Jew of an average stature, level headed and tranquil and of much patience towards his pupils. Of his level was Rabbi Hecht, a tall energetic man with a rounded beard. He was gifted with the skill of handling the sacred flock which had been delivered to his hands. Those were the two experts from whom the greater part of us received the first elements of our Jewish career. There we began the Alef-beit.
Usually when a tachshit reached the age of 4-4 1/2, he was seized by his father, who disregarded his son's spiritual development or the necessary transitional stage of a kindergarten, and dragged to one of the above mentioned Chaderim. The bad smell of trousers which filled the room still rises in my nose.
The children wanted obviously to take revenge on their fathers for usurping them of their liberty so early but actually, punished their mothers who had to wash their trousers daily.
Of this sort of teachers was also Rabbi Feibel Steif, a lean tall Jew with blue
eyes whose Cheder was in Ressler's yard. He was the tutor of fine young
Hassidim. In his Cheder one started with the Alef Beit and passed on to
Ivri, prayers up to several Humash verses.
Having finished one of those Chederim, one could move up to others, where more Humash and a little of Rashi or Bible were assigned. Now I can call to mind Rabbi Mordechai Steif son of Rabbi Feibel, Rabbi Kretzer or Rabbi Aharon Harussi who was the owner of a factory in the yard of Aichenboim, the first Zionist of Michalovce. Later, in Bar Mitzva due time, one came to the experts (the professionals): Rabbi Moshe Blau or Rabbi Jacob Itze Meller. They had one thing in common: a red beard. On the other hand they were essentially different. Rabbi Moshe Blau was neat, strictly dressed, a man of authority who introduced the maternal discipline, though without strain or nervousness. There one learned a good portion of Humash with Rashi, a proper page of Gemara with Rashi, a little bit of Tosefta and, for the Bar Mitzva, also the address. His approach was serious, he carried out his mission accordingly and took care that his pupils would obtain good results. Every morning we collected a minian and thus he permitted us to pass near the Ark of Law. He paid special attention to the Jewish history, to the Bible and even to Hebrew orthography.
Most of the townsmen used to graduate those two Chaderim. At the age of 14-15 they started to learn a profession, to be a fine craftsman or a witty merchant. Another part dedicated itself to various faculties of universities like medicine, engineering or law, for which other preparation than the knowledge of Alef-Beit or Raba was needed.
Those who preferred to continue their studies of the Gemara, to be exact, those whose fathers wanted it, could do it at one of the best Yeshivot of Central Europe or in the townlet itself, at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yona Zvi Ponfader.
On the side street Sholovska, in a little hut in Rabbi Isaac Alfent's yard,
there bubbled the spring of Talmud. A famous and celebrated former Yeshiva
principal, a wise scholar, married a wealthy maid, or let's better say, married
a rich proprietor of Komonovitza, near Michalovce. The proprietor acquired two
nice bridegrooms to his daughters, as a rich and pious proprietor could afford:
The Yeshiva principal of Uns-Dorf, Rabbi Yona Zvi Ponfader and Rabbi
Zrilka Friedman, a learned and sharpwitted man. Later, when this father in law
was summoned to the next world, his property passed away. The two idlers who
had been spending weeks in learning the Gemara in a six square flower
bed could not naturally hold a hundred acres land under their control.
Thus, they deserted it and moved to the townlet. And what could an idler live
On the Yeshiva! Rabbi Yona Zvi Ponfader originated from a nice Jewish family in Oberland Yalanta. He was the only child of a textile merchant. Being deficient of any Rabbinical ancestry, he could not get an appointment as a Rabbi in one of the big congregations in spite of his vast knowledge of Talmud and religious literature. Because of his tendency to pursue Talmudic studies he did not want to engage in trade, a field which was below the dignity of this Jewish scholar. Therefore, to be able to occupy himself with the Bible and sustain his family, he opened a Yeshiva (as the verse says: Without the study of Law there is no Seemliness).
He was a Jew of an average stature and had an outstanding red beard which was as large as his shoulders. He used to remain within four cubits of his house which was always full of books, among them some very rare. There he taught from four o'clock in the morning till eight o'clock at night, in winter as well as in summer. He was not only a tutor, but also a scholar who found much joy in self tuition. He was very pious but not fanatic, and those were two qualities he demanded of his pupils. His attitude towards Zionism was not warlike. In those days when the Kozaks fought the Zionists to the bitter end, he represented a rather mild point of view. He did not encourage Zionism but was not fundamentally against it.
In his Yeshiva one learned Talmud with all the interpretations, an uncommon thing in the big Yeshivot. He knew to create a tension in learning and it seemed that his pupils were pushed by an unseen force of limitless possibilities. In case there was an outsider in his Yeshiva, he used to explain quietly and calmly: if you don't want to learn you don't need to, but don't sit here among us in vain. You waste your father's money as well as your dear time. You could learn a profession in the meantime and assure yourself a future.
After some years of studies, a boy was ready to resume his studies in the finest Yeshivoth. His main export was to Tarnova Yeshiva which was conducted by his close friend, Rabbi S.D. Ungar who was the chief Rabbi there. He needed not be ashamed of his products, because among the 220-250 Yeshiva boys in Tarneva his pupils formed the elite of the group.
Let us mention for example some of the best heads: Rabbi Shie
Rubin, Meir Goldberger, Hershle Shwartz, Mordechai Farkash and so on. (The
editorial board knows of Avigor Steinhardt). They were all a good example of
Rabbi Yona Zvi's instructive ability.
But what happened to a Yeshiva boy? We agree willingly with Rabbi S.D. Ungar's witty remark that such a boy could become anything but a pious Jew
by Dov Lahav (Blau]
Jews, get up for Slihoth, the beadle's call convoked the tenants of the street. In darkness you could hear then, the hurrying steps of Hassidim, Yeshiva boys and craftsmen who came from all over the townlet.
Life resumed its course in the street.
All the rivers pour to the sea and all the town-Jews pour to the Bath-House street. There was scarcely a minian of houses in that street. In its edge stood the Bath-House. The Jewish congregational institutions, the slaughterhouse and a stand for kosher meat. Nearby was the Labortz, the cruel stream which marked the border and in which the water streamed quickly. All the town citizens flooded to this river to watch its wonders.
Many events happened near the river. There I grew up and developed, there I fished on the Sabbath and there I glided on the ice when its water froze and looked like a mirror with clear water, full of fish underneath.
We watched the river when the snow melted and huge bulks of ice dashed down to the ice breaker which protected the bridge where we stood, watching the flood tide of water overflowing the banks and inundating the area. Whole houses with their owners were swept by the flood together with trees that had been uprooted and fishermen's' boats, left in time by their owners. When the storm had calmed down, young girls went out to wash their clothes gayfully. Moshe Itzik, the water dragger, went up and down the wooden steps fetching water to break the street tenants' thirst.
The street was busy by day as well as by night, in summer as well as in winter.
When the Days of Awe came, the Jews, dressed in their best clothes
and upright, went to throw their sins and redeem them with mouth full of prayer
songs which still clung to their tongues in the synagogue.
Mothers dropped tears which fell like drops into the sea. Little children who could have scarcely sinned, threw bread crumbs at the fish which were having their own feast and came in big groups.
Thus it happened each year.
Mendle, the blacksmith, splashed sparks from the heated iron seized by his pincers, while the beatings of his hammer added dim sounds to the street tumult. Yankle, the tinsmith mended roofs for winter, the shoemaker mended shoes for the street children who intended to learn the Bible by wise Rabbi Moshe. Sheie, the tailor, sewed with great dignity clothes for children. A peasant led two oxen and a cart full of geese, tired of stuffing, to the market. Other Jews ran about to secure a matza for Sabbath.
Thus it was but is not any more. However, the memory of the street I grew in, will live in my mind forever.
by Hermann Spira, Tel Aviv
The suggestion to found a Kadima Hashomer movement in Slovakia was brought up by Shapiro in one of the conventions of the Zionist movement (1922). He received on the spot the appropriate material and, upon his return home contacted with Herman Sebastian and Eda Weinberger who were ready to take an active part in the works of organization.
The movement consisted , in the beginning, of 16 members. A short time later, a club was opened in the flat of the tailor Vasershtrum, who was happy to be a witness of the Jewish Renaissance.
Our way was strewn with many obstacles, placed by the orthodox and the assimilators. We soothed the former when we declared that our members should, by no means, violate the holiness of the Sabbath, and won their confidence. The assimilationist gave up too. Thus had we become a serious factor in the Jewish life in Michalovce.
We organized theatrical performances and trips. We formed a group of girls and charged Mrs. Kelti with its direction. We also formed a football team which attained good results.
We held a library which contained, among other books, some on Jewish subjects.
Our dramatic club and our balls attracted hundreds of spectators and thus were we able to hand more than 10,000 crowns to the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael.
Many of our members emigrated to Israel and are of its most prominent founders.
by Anus Gregor (Hexner]
In 1928 I moved with family to Michalovce. I inquired whether any Zionist movement existed there and was informed only of the existence of a Girls Association. Later, I was told by Fried that here was place to hope that a Zionist movement including girls, would be formed. In the end of some months he informed me that the Hashomer leadership imposed on me the instruction of the girls within the framework of the movement. I declined at first because of my poor background but Issac promised to provide me with the adequate material: books of Dubnov, Babel and articles which I read and prepared.
The girls came. We organized conversation evenings, trips and literary processes. Every Sunday we visited the training centre in Medov where we tried to be as useful as possible. The conditions, the dwelling and the quality of products were very bad, as often it was with agricultural workers in the state. The girls who were responsible for the housekeeping were inexperienced. Anu, who accompanied us sometimes to the place, was unable to disregard the situation and took the regiment under her control. In winter the situation was worse. The hard work out-of-doors and the penetrating cold harvested many sick. The boys could stand it and in their absence from work were replaced by others. But the lack of girls complicated the situation and so even the sick girls continued to work.
Nathan's arrival marked a new stage in our activities. The girls were not
allowed to attend the nest. Martha Weinstein had to hide lest she would be
found by her grandmother who promised to bead her back if she found her there.
[Page 35 - English] [Page 66 - Hebrew]
by Mori Farkash (Ben Ze'ev]
Some social and geographical changes came upon Europe in the beginning of the twentieth century and in the end of First World War. In Russia, it was the Bolshevist Revolution. The ideology of Marx was prevalent in that period and captured many, especially the youth which was fascinated by its promise of human salvation. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy dissolved and some other countries appeared on the map of Europe. These geographic changes gave birth to new, progressive forces. Side by side with the general national awakening, the Jewish nation won the Balfour Declaration (1917).
The economic crisis of the post-war period and the high rate of unemployment brought many to think about emigration to the U.S. and Canada. But the famous crisis which overwhelmed the U.S. in 1929 blocked the entrance for more new comers.
The theory of Borochov teaches that the Jews are the first to be hurt in any economic crisis. It was verified by reality this time too. The Jewish youth stood before the dilemma where to go. Should they pursue the old course and engage in traditional occupations? Should they join their fathers and build their future within the family concerns? Or should they, with the collective efforts of all the family try a free profession like that of a doctor? There was a great demand for free professions but on the other hand studies in the various Yeshivot promised too an honest and feasible standard of living. These calculations were based on the presumption and the Jewish confidence that the crisis would pass and that no harm would befall the Jews.
In the meanwhile the Michalovcean students brought home, on vacations, a new message for the various solution-seekers, the message of the automancipacy of the Jewish nation, the Zionism. The Veinberger brothers, Moshe Schwartz and others found the Shomer Kadima, creating thus a frame for an activity amid the youth.
But the founders of local Hashomer Hatzair nest did not suffice in scouts' games with a Zionist background. In Israel land the pioneering collective settlements developed to a considerable extent. Bilu-days revived, and in addition to the plough the pioneers undertook to pave roads, drain moors and build up new settlements.
But it was necessary to let flourish the human aspirations with which everybody was infused. The youth had to dovetail it with its general Weltanschauung. The merging of the Jewish question with the Social idea was
a vital necessity to the Michalovcean youth and therefore, Furst's suggestion as to the non-politicalness of the movement was turned down. All our hours were devoted to study Judaism, Hebrew and the theory of Socialism. We organized also trips.
In the pre-historic period of the movement, we were visited by Chilek who sowed and cultivated some ideals. He defined for us the essence of the movement and cultivated the idea of self-realization. To this visit we attributed the reawakening of our movement, a reawakening which infuriated the religious circles. Another front was opened by the Jewish section of the local Communist Party, which was called the read assimilation. This circle considered us a rival which succeeded in infusing the youth with nationalistic theories, under the cover of revolutionary socialism which had nothing in common with the Marxist socialism and was designed to convert the youth from the world-wide socialism. One would think that the essential activity of the Communist party branch was conversion. Unfortunately it succeeded here and there.
As to us, we widened the horizons in the adult layer, founded the educational group in the Scout-layer, whom we acquainted with the collective movement in Israel and set out like the Israeli Tribes to wander in the deserts, with the young layer.
Side by side with the educational work we considered as most essential, the individual assignment. Freud's theory of Psychoanalysis served us a tool in our approach towards the men. In this way we learnt their problems and were able to lend them a hand. To many members, the nest became a warm home which replaced the real one.
The aid to the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, was one of our most important activities. The collection of money was seen from the ideological point of view. Thus, passing through the educational cultivation and the manifold public activities, we arrived at the essential aim of the movement: training for emigration. Our first members set out for Kibutz A (Shaar Hagolan) and Kibutz B (Kefar Masaryk).
The Jewish public who treated us at first indifferently, changed its attitude and began to listen to our lectures. In speaking of the understanding and the appreciation of the public I have to remark the endless help and devotion of Mrs. Gleich who maintained eagerly the Zionist realization. She was very popular and thanks to her help we saw many doors open before us. She shared all our ideological scruples and all our experiences. Every campaign was prepared at her house. She was a deep thinker and
knew to advise and summarize. Her name is recalled with love by all the members and will always be remembered with deep feeling and admiration.
The rise of Hitler brought about an awakening in the world Jewry in general and in the Slovakian Jewry too. But nothing real resulted out of it: The Jews sufficed in silent revolutions and protests. They did not doubt that the trouble could reach them.
Different was the reaction of the youth. Part of it saw the Fascism as a world-wide problem and joined the Communist International. The Hashomer Kadima members made up their mind to follow the youth layer of Hashomer Hatzair and emigrate for settling down. The adults among the members established an Hechalutz branch and an Ma'apilim Society was organized as a part of a kibutz in that name which joined Gan-Shmuel Kibutz. In the end of some months they went for training and many live with us here.
In that period we drew to our circle Dr. Libia, of the blessed memory and Dr. Goldstein, may he live a long and happy life. We succeeded by mutual efforts to found the League for Working Israel which was presided by Dr. Goldstein.
My story ends with my emigration to my present kibutz, Gan-Shmuel.
Mori Farkash (Ben Ze'ev]
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