“Tokaj” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

48°07' / 21°25'

Translation of the “Tokaj” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary

Edited by: Theodore Lavi

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1975


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Francine Shapiro

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Hungary,
Edited by Theodore Lavi, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.


[Pages 310-311]

Tokaj

A town in the area of Zemplen on the Bodrog and Tisza Rivers, 19 kilometers from Nyiregyhaza.
The town was destroyed again and again by the Tatars, the Germans, and civil wars.

The population in 1940 was 5,903

Jewish Population

Year Number
1723/24 2 (families)
1746 29 (individuals)
1771 4 (families)
1811 21
1880 1,161 (individuals)
1930 959
1944 998
1946 112

Until the end of the First World War

At the time of the national uprising during the second half of the seventeenth century, its leader, Ferenc Racosi II and his Kuruc Battalions occupied Tokaj. In 1680 they burnt it, then robbed and plundered the whole district. The Jews suffered especially from their cruelty. Because of the lack of general security, Jews didn't return to settle in this period in Tokaj. Only in the first half of the eighteenth century did Jews who had emigrated from Poland arrive in Tokaj. They leased vineyards, whose products and exports made them very rich. Their neighbors' jealousy was the reasons that in 1798 the Jews were forbidden to produce high-quality wine, including high quality kosher wine, which only Christians were permitted to produce. In 1800 the Jews also were forbidden to lease or buy vineyards in the Tokaj area. Only in one area, in the district of Zemplen, were the Jews were permitted to hold poor quality vineyards. Nevertheless, the district representatives in Parliament claimed that the Jews concentrated all wine exports in their own hands. On the contrary, the municipality supported the Jews. A few local landowners who were interested in the development of Tokaj also supported them. And really, the Jews of Tokaj didn't disappoint them. The reputation of Tokaj wine is a credit to the Jews.

In 1879 a Jew established a match factory. Others established banks there that financed factories.

The majority of the Jews there were merchants and artisans, but there were also five Jewish physicians, seven lawyers, and a large number of clerks in Jewish businesses, those who didn't get government or municipality jobs. The community was Orthodox. The philanthropic institutions which it owned were: Hevra Kadisha, Agudat Nashim, Malbish Arumim, Anei HaIr, Hevrat Sandakim, Tiferet Bachurim, and a merchant's association. The school was established in 1856. In 1888 the language of school instruction was changed from German to Hungarian. Certified teachers replaced teachers lacking certificates. The tradition and religion were observed, but the accent on patriotism.

The new synagogue was built in 1889. The distinguished rabbis of Tokaj were: Gabriel Senditc, who was the rabbi there approximately 50 years, until he died in 1868. David Schuck (1864-1889), who wrote the book Imre David, about the Massechet Hulin (Muncacz, 1890). Natan Halevi Jungreisz was the rabbi from 1929 until he was lost in the Holocaust in 1944. Neither the change of regimes after the First World War, not the White Terror harmed the Jews of Tokaj; the authorities backed them, and prevented the terrorists' entrance.

Between the two world wars there was much Zionist activity. The Ministry of the Interior officially registered a branch of Aguda Lemaan in 1931. The members of this association, the majority of them middle class, didn't believe in personal aliyah, but supported the Zionist cause by collecting money and publicizing Zionist ideas among the wealthier classes. In 1931 the Young Zionist Movement, Barisia, began its work among the youth, and attracted many to Zionism. In 1932 there was a branch of the Hungarian Youth Organization, which also included Zionism. The local authorities ignored this activity, and the Jews of Tokaj, especially the young, weren't frightened of Zionist connections. The community, although it was Orthodox, and had some big yeshivas, did not oppose Zionism. All these factors helped Zionism spread and flourish in Tokaj. Some youngsters also made aliyah, thanks to these activities. The discriminatory laws, which were published in 1938, harmed Tokaj's Jews somewhat, but didn't destroy their economic position. Thanks to their cooperation with Christian partners, their businesses and shops were in their hands until the entrance of the German army into Hungary.

The Holocaust

In 1939, when Hungary prepared to attack Romania, a partial conscription of the reserves was ordered, and Jews who were more than 40 years old were conscripted into work camps all over Hungary. Tokaj was one of the centers for Jewish conscription where solders were sent. In June 1942 Tokaj was the headquarters of the Seventh Battalion of Miskolc. The conscripts were put in a military engineering force, and were sent to work preventing floods. Three months later they were sent to the Ukrainian front.

After the German entrance into Tokaj, a platoon of the S.S.was sent there, which helped the authorities and policemen concentrate and expel the Jews of Tokaj. All the special privileges were cancelled. Shops and workshops were closed. Many rich members of the community were taken as hostages to concentration camps in Kistarcsa.

In April 1944 all of Tokaj's Jews were concentrated in the synagogue, and were kept there a week's time. The area of the ghetto, including the religious school buildings and apartments of the community clerks, was enlarged a week later because of the terrible overcrowding. Police guarded the entrances of the ghetto. Contrary to the rules in other ghettos, the Christian population was permitted to carry in food parcels to the Jews in the ghetto.

At the beginning of May, 1944 the Jews of Tokaj were taken in carts to Bodrogkeresztur, and from there brought to the ghetto of Satoraljaujhely. A few of those imprisoned succeeded in escaping from the ghetto to Budapest. The transport of Tokaj's Jews to Auschwitz began on May 18, and continued until the end of the month in four transports. Many youngsters were sent into forced labor.

After the war 112 survivors returned to Tokaj. With the help of the Joint community life began again, but those who returned couldn't stay there very long.

Their numbers diminished. In 1960 only three Jews remained in Tokaj.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

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