“Kiskunhalas” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

46°26' / 19°30'

Translation of the “Kiskunhalas” 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 501-503]

Kiskunhalas

A town in the district of Pest-Pilis, 10 kilometers from Budapest.
The population in 1941 was 33,758. The Jews called it Halash.

Jewish Population

YearNumber% of Total
Population
179549-
1840690.5
18693923.0
18804993.3
18905373.1
19001,0183.0
19101,0513.0
19209912.7
19309962.6
1941975-
1948462-
1953169-

Until the Second World War

For centuries it was a battlefield, and the town passed from regime to regime, until it was destroyed completely. Only at the beginning of the eighteenth century did Empress Maria Theresa restore municipal privileges to the local population. At this time the first Jews came to Kiskunhalas, wool merchants who bought the products of the region's farmers, and exported them to Moravia and Austria. Although there was opposition by the local population to the Jewish presence, the authorities preferred to rent apartments to Jewish merchants for economic reasons, and their numbers increased until the end of the eighteenth century. They pushed out Greek merchants, who preferred to return to their fatherland, or became landowners for these reasons. In 1780 after internal conflicts between the Catholics and the Calvinists, the settlement of some Jewish families in K was approved. In 1795 there were 49 Jews in Kiskunhalas. Their number increased after Emperor Joseph II permitted their settlement in certain places, although the Hungarian nobility opposed it.

The economy of the Jews of Kiskunhalas was based on trade, but as always, the Christian merchants did their best to organize and push them out by establishing a chain of cooperative shops. Those in the free professions: lawyers, physicians, engineers and clerks, were mostly hired by other Jews. Artisans did not get government and public contracts. This situation caused the Jewish economy to have an unstable basis, and could have easily been destroyed. And really, the Christians took advantage of this situation, mainly between the two world wars, usually when Jewish clerks were fired and retired. Jewish merchants were impoverished, and suffered bankruptcies because of he limitations they were forced to endure.

The Jewish community was organized in 1826, but it received official recognition in 1857. In this year the neighboring community of Kiskunmajsa came under its authority. Later Felsoszallas (with 5 Jews) Eresto (1 Jew), Balota (1 Jew), and Alsooregszollok (3 Jews), Feherto (4 Jews), Debeak (1 Jew), and Felsooregszollok (4 Jews) came under its authority.

When the Jewish communities split in 1869, the community of Kiskunhalas defined itself as Orthodox, but after receiving Emancipation at the end of the nineteenth century, many preferred to join the Neolog movement, mainly for economic advantage. Together with that, the mixed marriages increased.

The kehillah institutions were: A hevra kadisha (established in 1826), women's associations, hevra askara,Maskil el dal, Bikur Holim, and a young women's association. The school was established in 1835.

In 1795 a private building was rented as a synagogue. In 1858 a synagogue was built, after a long wait for a building license from the authorities. It was built in a mixed “Gothic-Roman” style, and seated about 220.

Kiskunhalas was one of the most important Orthodox communities, and its rabbis were famous. Some of the outstanding ones were: Rabbi Eleazer Susman Sopher, (1856-1886), founded a large yeshiva, which attracted students from far away. He was distinguished by his fanaticism, and in his sermons he used to speak angrily to members of his community who were assimilated. In the end, after he was a rabbi there 30 years, he was forced to leave the community because of the opposition that he engendered, and went to Paks, where he passed away in 1902. Among his books was Yalkut Eleazer. (Pressburg, (1902).

The situation of Kiskunhalas Jews changed for the worse during the “White Terror.” The rioters robbed their shops, arrested the community leaders, and the children of the educated class under the pretext of “sympathizing with Communism.” After the terror died down, life seemed to return to its usual routine. When the Law of Discrimination was carried out in 1938, Jewish economic life became unstable because of its limitations, and harassment by the authorities.

The Holocaust

After the German occupation in May 1944, the Jews of Kiskunhalas and the vicinity were concentrated in a ghetto that was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence to isolate the Jews completely from the Christian population. The Germans stuck up placards that threatened capital punishment to the disobedient, those people giving any help to Jews. After the Jews were transferred to the ghetto, they did their best to organize their lives as much as possible. The physicians organized a little hospital, and the elected members of the committee did their best to cope with problems of the food supply. Some of the most respected members of the community were arrested by the Gestapo as hostages, and disappeared. A few days before the expulsion, all the men who were younger than 48 were enlisted as forced labor.

At last the Jews of Kiskunhalas were transported to Szeged to a brick factory, and left outdoors without food or water. Some of them committed suicide with poison they brought with them. The Rabbi, Dr. Dohan, encouraged his community endlessly not to lose hope, and to believe in the future. He organized prayers and inspired his people, who were hungry and not far from losing hope, with wonderful sermons. The Jews who were concentrated in Szeged were divided into three groups. One went to Auschwitz, and the other two were sent to work in Austria. This group included the majority of Kiskunhalas Jews, about 750 people.

In October 1944 a unit of 208 forced laborers, aged 17-20 was brought to Kiskunhalas from Ujvidek to carry out construction work in the railroad station. The train that brought them stopped by chance near another train, which was bringing SS men to the front. When the SS men saw the Jewish youngsters, they took them out of the train, and afterwards they forced them to dig their own graves, beat them cruelly, and then killed them. Hungarian railroad workers also took part in the massacre. Only ten Jewish youngsters succeeded in saving their lives.

450 men and women expelled to Austria returned after the war, among them Dr. Dohan. (In 1949 he emigrated to Israel, and died in Jerusalem in 1973.) The Jews who returned reestablished the community, repaired the synagogue, and purified the cemetery. In a small town nearby a beautiful synagogue ark curtain was discovered in the hands of a Christian, and was ransomed. A memorial to the saints of Kiskunhalas was built in the synagogue. After the establishment of the state many members immigrated to Israel, while other left the town. There are still a few Jews in Kiskunhalas, but the majority of them are married to non-Jews.


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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