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“Holics” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Holíč, Slovakia)

48°48' / 17°10'

Translation of the
“Holics” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia

Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 2003


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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[Page 152]

Holíč, Slovakia

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Holič (Holics in Hungarian, Holitsch in German) a town in the district of Skalica, region of Nitra in Western Slovakia

 

Year Population Jewish
Population
%
1727   106  
1737   182  
1787 3,150 420 13.5
1828 4,333 851 19.6
1840 4,390 1,001 22.8
1869 4,939 1,316 26.6
1900 5,812 712 12.3
1919 5,480 503 9.2
1930 5,707 386 6.0
1940 5,653 360 6.3
1948 5,801 26 0.4

 

[Page 153]

It was a town close to the Moravian border, on the main route between Hungary and Czechia. It was first mentioned in documents from the 13th century. In the 14th century, the residents received a permit to conduct market days and annual fairs. From that time, merchants from the entire district used to visit. During the 16th century, Serbian refugees who had escaped from the Turkish attacked settled there and developed the pot making trade. The pots produced in Holič became known through the country. In 1736, Holič was transferred to the ownership of the Hapsburg Kaisers. During their era, light manufacturing developed there, and a factory for porcelain opened up. Several additional factories opened up during the 19th century, and business also developed. The residents of Holič were Slovaks Catholics and Protestants by religion and they were primarily occupied in trades and agriculture.

The economy of Holič continued to flourish even during the era of the Czechoslovak Republic, and it became a regional commercial and administrative center. After the disbanding of the republic, Holič was included in the Slovak Republic, subservient to Nazi Germany. In April 1945, after a brief German occupation, Holič was liberated by the Soviet Army

 

The History of the Community

According to various signs, there was a Jewish settlement in Holič already from the late middle ages. Jewish residents of Holič are first mentioned in a document from 1593, and again in sources from the 17th century. In a document from 1678, a Jew of Holič who collected the transit tax is mentioned. Apparently, the number of Jews in Holič during those years was not large. Most of them came from nearby Hodonin in Moravia, and they continued to maintain a strong connection with their mother community throughout many generations. At that time, the Jews of Holič were under the protection of the princes of the House of Czobor .

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Jews of Holič established a cemetery and organized themselves into a communal structure, which within a few years became one of the largest and most important in Slovakia. In a document from the beginning of the 18th century, wealthy Jewish merchants who had wide commercial connections throughout the country are mentioned. In 1727, 27 Jewish families (117 individuals) were enumerated in Holič. The community employed a shochet [ritual slaughterer] and a religion teacher, and affiliated with the rabbinate of Moravia at that time, headed by Rabbi Ber (Berush) Eshkols. In 1736, Holič transferred to the ownership of the Hapsburg Kaisers. The accelerated development that took place in Holič in the wake of the change in status made it possible for the Jews to take root, and many refugees streamed in from Moravia. Moshe Israel stood at the helm of the community in those days. Yitzchak Pinchas and Yaakov Mantel served after him in this role. There was also a Jewish healer, Mordechai Kalman, in the town. The economic power of the Jews and the increase in population moved the authorities to increase the taxes again and again. The debts of the community increased, reaching a sum of 7,000 Florin in 1746. The community had difficulty in meeting the tax obligation, and the economic situation of the Jews of Holič continually dwindled.

In 1751, Empress Maria Theresa granted a privilege to the 63 Jewish families who lived in Holič a unique document the likes of which was not granted to any other community in Slovakia. This writ of protection promised the Jews freedom of worship and permission to occupy themselves in various economic pursuits. In return for a special payment, the Jews of Holič were allowed to maintain a synagogue, a cemetery, a a (ritual bath), and a slaughter house; to set up an eruv [a boundary allowing carrying on the Sabbath], and to employ clergy. Additional important clauses included an exemption from the duty of work for the government and from arrest with handcuffs. Thanks to the new writ of protection, the economic situation of the Jews of Holič quickly improved. The community as well, which was given the authority to collect taxes for the sale of meat and wine and designate the income to the salary of the clergy, rehabilitated itself and paid off its debts. Several Jews of Holič from that time were firmly based tobacco merchants. The wealthiest of all of them was Shimon David, who leaded the imperial liquor still in return for annual lease payments of 1,200 Guilder.

In the list of taxpayers of the district of Nitra from 1768, 48 Jewish family heads are mentioned, who paid 228 Florin as a tolerance tax and 138 florin in taxes to the district coffers. Other sources state that there were at least 60 Jewish families in Holič at that time, but some of them evaded the payment of taxes or received an exemption, and therefore their names do not appear in the list. Among the Jews who paid taxes, there were 9 shopkeepers, 4 tailors, 3 owners of various lease rights, a workshop owner, a wagon driver, and a prayer leader. In 1771, the Jews of the district of Nitra paid 1,965 Guilder as tolerance tax a large sum that testifies to their wealth. In 1774, 27 of the 64 Jewish families of Holič owned their own houses. The governments did not obligate the Jews to live in their own separate quarter, but on their own initiative, they chose to live together close to the communal institutions, that continued to develop as in any large community, and became firmly grounded. In 1784, the community opened a school, whose curriculum included general studies in German along with religious studies in Hebrew. In 1786, the synagogue of Holič, built in baroque style, was dedicated. The mikva and the school were located next door. The Jewish cemetery was also located nearby. In the middle of the 18th century, the community of Holič employed a rabbi. The first rabbi was apparently Rabbi Aharon Leibel the son of Yaakov, followed by Rabbi Yehuda Dreznitz (nicknamed by the Jews as Reb Strasznitz) who served for 25 years.

[Page 154]

In 1777 a dispute arose amongst the Jews of Holič regarding the employment of the talented Magid [religious preacher] Rabbi Aharon Freishtatl, the author of “Beit Aharon” alongside Rabbi Dreznitz. When all attempts to resolve the dispute failed, the two sides turned to the authorities and requested that they adjudicate the dispute. The head of the district supported the opponents of the hiring of the Magid and instructed him to leave the city. In 1781, after four years of disputes and division, Rabbi Aharon Freishtatl left Holič. He later served as the rabbi of several large and important communities.

The increase in the number of Jews in Holič continued throughout the entire 19th century. In 1828, the community numbered 172 families (851 individuals including 500 children), and in 1869, the community reached its peak of 1,316 individuals. With the division of the communities of Hungary that year, the community of Holič designated itself as a “status quo community.” From 1800, Rabbi Yosef Kuttenplan, the author of “Beit Nefesh” and several other important compositions, served in the rabbinate of Holič. Rabbi Aharon Spitz, the author of “Beit Aharon” inherited the position and served from 1813 until his death in 1817. Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Perlis served in the community from 1820 to 1827. He was also a renowned rabbi ho later served in large communities, including Eisenstat (Austria). Serving after him was Rabbi Avraham Bek, a student of the Chatam Sofer who was known for his sharpness and deep Torah knowledge. The final rabbi of Holič was Rabbi Herman Pullach. Serving at his side as a rabbinical judge was Rabbi Moshe Leib Feilbogen. During the era of Rabbi Pullach, the Jews of 26 settlements in the area affiliated with the rabbinate of Holič. Alongside the rabbi, the community also employed a cantor, shochet, scribe, secretary and several teachers.

In the latter half of the 19th century, under the influence of the process of enlightenment taking place among the Jewish youth, the community continued to dwindle in scope. The rabbinate of Holič ceased in 1908. From then on, the community affiliated with the rabbinate of Skalica (see entry).

In the latter part of the 18th century, many of the Jews of Holič continued to work in various branches of commerce to earn their livelihood. In the 1890s, there were 38 merchants and small-scale merchants, several liquor merchants and tavern keepers, 11 peddlers, several tradesmen (10 tailors, 3 shoemakers, and 3 glaziers), and several agriculturalists with their own lands. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were also a doctor, a dentist, a midwife, a female medic, several employees, several apprentices to tradesmen, and 11 butchers, as well as some people who received support and assistance. The process of enlightenment also continued during the 20th century, especially during the time of the First World War. Only about 500 Jews remained immediately after the war.

 

The Jews Between the Two World Wars

Immediately after the war, a fiery mass swarmed through the Jewish quarter and perpetrated attacks on its residents. There was no loss of life, but the rioters destroyed and pillaged homes and shops, and the Jews lost a great deal of property.

In 1922, the community of Holič numbered 108 family heads that paid the communal tax (approximately 600 individuals). Some were residents of nearby settlements. The community was headed by Dr. Moritz Neuwirth. The budget for that year, 53,000 Koruna, served among other things to pay the salaries of six communal workers, including the cantor, the shochet, and two teachers. There was already no longer a rabbi in Holič, and the cantor Reb Herman Abramson also led the community in religious and halachic affairs. The community had a synagogue, two cemeteries (the old and the new), a slaughterhouse, butcher shops, and a school with five grades, in which the language of study was Slovakian. 47 students studied there during the 1922/3 school year. The community maintained a communal kitchen, and allocated sums of money from the budget to assist those in need. The Chevra Kadisha [burial society] and the Union of Jewish Women also assisted in charitable affairs. A Talmud Torah circle also operated in Holič, which took interest in the dissemination of Torah study in the community. In 1929, the community of Holič joined the Yeshurun organization of Liberal communities. The head of the community during the 1930s, Dr. Leo Revesz, initiated the establishment of a tahara room [room for the preparation of the deceased for burial] in the new Jewish cemetery.

In the 1921 census, 39 Jews of Holič were enumerated as Jews by nationality. During the 1920s and 1930s, the nationalist Jewish party was active in Holič. It received 238 votes and two seats on the council in the 1928 elections to the local council. In 1938, its power had dwindled and it only obtained 225 votes, but once again received two mandates on the council. In general, the Jews were allotted five seats on the Holič town council as representatives of various lists.

Zionism also reached Holič at the end of the First World War. At first, the Yehuda Holič Zionist Students Union was set up, and later on, other Zionist organizations, youth movements (including Young Maccabee), and the Maccabee sports organization were added. On the eve of the 17th Zionist Congress in 1931, 51 shekels [tokens of membership in the Zionist organization] were sold in Holič, and for the 21st congress in 1939, 48 shekels were sold. In 1929, the Jews of Holič donated 1,200 Koruna to the Jewish National Fund [Keren Kayemet LeYisrael] and to plant a forest in the Land of Israel in the name of Czechoslovak president Tomáš Masaryk.

During the inter-war years, the Jews were active in developing the economy of Holič, despite their continually declining numbers. Most of them continued to earn their livelihood through commerce. Others owned small and mid scale manufacturing enterprises, while still others were tradesmen, agriculturalists, and members of the free professions, including a lawyer and several physicians. Dr. Moritz Neuwirth served as the regional physician.

[Page 155]

From the business permits issued by the local business office in 1921, we can learn about the portion of Jews in the business sectors.

 

Type of business Number of
businesses
Jewish
owned
businesses
Cafeterias, restaurants, and inns 13 3
Grocery and general stories 10 9
Butcher shops 10 5
Clothing 9 7
Lumber and building materials 4 2
Leather and shoes 4 4
Agricultural products 4 3
Iron and work implements 4 2
Kitchen implements 3 2
Transportation 3 3
Miscellaneous 9 4

 

During the 1930s, the Jews of Holič owned 36 businesses, 12 trade shops, a cement factory (owned by Siegfried Fanto), a malt factory (owned by the Gerber brothers), the Viva liquor factory, and several additional small enterprises. Among the Jews, there were also two physicians, several engineers, a lawyer, and several agents and officials.

 

During the Holocaust Period

360 Jews lived in Holič in 1940. Since there was no local rabbi, Reb Yaakov Semak also served as the local religious leader and shochet. In 1940, the physician Dr. Moritz Tauber was appointed as the head of the Jewish Central Organization of the Holič region. Economic decrees and restrictions of movement were imposed upon the Jews, with new ones being issued daily. As 1941 went on, most of them had lost their sources of livelihood after the authorities had liquidated the majority of the businesses that remained under their ownership. Businesses with annual revenues of 7 million Koruna were closed, and 10 large businesses with annual revenues of greater than 2 million Koruna were transferred to trustees[1]. On the even of the deportations at the beginning of 1942, about 150 Jewish families (365 individuals) lived in Holič.

The expulsion of the Jews of Holič began on March 27, 1942. First, a large-scale hunt took for the youths of Holič and the area took place. At the end of March 1942, tens of Jewish youth were sent via the Sered (see entry) Camp to the Majdanek Concentration Camp. Approximately 30 young women were taken to the Patronka Transit Cap on April 1 1942 and deported to the Auschwitz Death Camp. The deportation of families began on June 6, 1942. Approximately 210 Jews of Holič and the region were deported via to the Zielona (see entry) collection camp to death camps and ghettos in Poland. Throughout the month of July, tens of families were deported from Holič in small groups to the Sered and Zielona camps, from where they were deported to Auschwitz. In August 1942, the president of the state, Father Tiso[2] came to Holič, and gave a speech at a mass rally in which he justified the deportation of the Jews as a Christian act for the benefit of the Slovak nation.

During the wave of deportations of 1942, approximately 90% of the Jews of Holič and its region were deported. When the deportations stopped, approximately 50 Jews with certificates of protection remained. They were considered vital to the economy of Slovakia, and therefore their deportation was pushed off. They returned and reestablished a small community, headed by Erich Kohut. Max Neuman headed the Chevra Kadisha, and Reb Yaakov Semak continued to serve as the cantor and religious leader. After the German invasion at the end of August 1944, several Jewish families were arrested by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. A few Jews were saved in various hiding places with Slovaks.

 

After the War

After the liberation, approximately 30 Jews returned to Holič, including the cantor Reb Yaakov Semak. Communal life was reestablished for a brief period. Going forward, the community of Holič merged with the community of Senica. Only 26 Jews lived in Holič in 1948. Most of them made aliya to Israel in 1949. With the cessation of aliya, the last of the Jews left Holič and moved to Bratislava (see entry). Today, no Jews remain there. The old synagogue served as a warehouse, and was later destroyed. In 1975, the old cemetery was also destroyed. The new cemetery remains abandoned and in ruins. Only the communal kitchen and four residential houses that were formerly owned by the community still remain standing.

References

Archives of Yad Vashem M5/4, 57, 124; M48/634, 796, 808, 825, 963, 991, 1495, JM/11011-11016, 11031.
Cohen, Wise Men of Hungary, pp. 43-44, 247-248, 343-344
Bárkany-Dojč, pp. 102-105
MHJ, vols. II, VII, XIV, XVI Hickls illustrier jüdischer Volkskalend
er für das Jahr 5689-1928/29 pp.126-133.
Magyar Zsidó Szemle, 1906, pp. 105-109
Haderech, no. 19 (1940)
Jüdische Familienforschung, no. 36 (1934)
Selbstwehr, nos. 57 (1929), 38 (1930)
Véstnik ŽNO, no. 4 (1975)
Zeitschrift für die Geshichte der Juden in der ČSR, vol. 1 (1930-1931), pp. 181-195

 


Translator's Footnotes
  1. Literally, ‘aristors.’ I am not sure of the exact meaning of the term. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jozef_Tiso . The president of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, Tiso was executed for war crimes in 1947. Return

 

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