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“Spisska Nova Ves” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia)

48°57' / 20°34'

Translation of the
“Spisska Nova Ves” 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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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Madeleine Isenberg

 

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

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 405)

Spišská Nová Ves, Slovakia

Translated by Madeleine Isenberg

With thanks to Hagit Tsafriri for editing this translation

(Hungarian: Igló, German: Neudorf)

A district capital in the Spiš Region, northern Slovakia.

 

Year Number of
Residents
Jews By Percent
1857 4,052 38 0.9
1869 7,071 156 2.2
1880 7,913 356 4.5
1890 7,769 429 5.5
1900 9,301 620 6.6
1921 10,955 694 6.3
1930 12,965 733 5.6
1940 14,667 720 4.9
1942   ~1,000  
1948 13,573 144 1.1

 

Spišská Nová Ves is first mentioned in documents dating 1268 but was already in existence before that. In the 13th century many Germans settled there and developed its economy, and in the 14th century it received the rights of a city that included permission to set market and fair days. In that same century rich veins of silver were found in the area; the ore was mined and smelted and workshops established. The economy of Spišská Nová Ves experienced an unprecedented development, and its silver bells received renown throughout the realm. At the same time cultural and educational centers were established in the town. For many years Spišská Nová Ves was part of the Kingdom of Poland, and in the 18th century it belonged to the association of towns in the Spiš Region and its administration was located there.

At the beginning of the 19th century there were about 290 workshops in different branches of work and in time factories were established. In 1870, Spišská Nová Ves became the capital of the district. It was connected to the railway system and served as an important depot. Most of its residents at that time were Germans, Slovaks, and Hungarians, Catholics and Evangelicals by religion, and a minority of Jews. In the 19th century, its main branches of economy were crafts, industry, and commerce

By the end of World War I, Spišská Nová Ves was included within the borders of the Czech Republic. In the 1921 census, 16% of the population was counted as German, 14% as Hungarians, and the rest as Slovaks and Jews. In the 1920s and 1930s prosperity in Spišská Nová Ves reached its peak and was the economic center for the Spiš region. Big businesses that were opened there served the whole area and some new large industrial plants were established there.

In the 1930s some pro-Nazi organizations were active in the town, and during World War II, many of the German inhabitants volunteered to serve in the German army and the SS. In August 1944 the Slovak insurgents took over Spišská Nová Ves for a few days, and after it was conquered by the Germans, they continued to fight from the forests surrounding the town. On 27th January 1945, Spišská Nová Ves was liberated from the Germans by the Soviet and Czechoslovak armies.

 

About the History of the Community

Jewish settlement in Spišská Nová Ves was prohibited for hundreds of years because it was located in the mining[1] region. In the population census of 1828, the town's authorities noted that Jews served the town often for their business purposes but none lived there. With the gradual abolishment of restrictions on Jewish settlement in towns, in the 1840s and 1850s, Jewish settlement began in Spišská Nová Ves. In 1852, two Jewish families lived there and after them additional Jews from the Saris area who wanted to improve their economic conditions settled there. In the 1870s, with the increasing urbanization process among the Jews of the area, many Jews from rural communities relocated and settled in Spišská Nová Ves and the number of Jews steadily increased. Within a few years the Jews were firmly established, gained a general education, took part in general community life, and were elected to local councils. Many among them were merchants and successful industrialists and the number of professional people among them grew rapidly.

In the beginning of the 1850s, the small number of Jews belonged to the neighboring kehila (community) of Markušovce, and in the beginning of the 1860s they organized themselves into an independent kehila and established their own communal institutions. In 1869, with the split of Hungarian Jews following the Congress in Budapest, the Jews of Spišská Nová Ves, then about 120 people, decided to define themselves as a “status quo” kehila. That same year they dedicated a cemetery outside of the city. The kehila also had a purification mikveh (ritual bath), a community center, a slaughter-house for chickens, butcher shops, a cheder in which children learned both religious and general studies at first from the educator Ber ROSENZWEIG and afterward from the qualified teacher, Yisrael GOLDSTEIN. In 1872, the teacher Moritz LÖWY opened a private basic school in Spišská Nová Ves, with a four-year curriculum. Instruction was in German for 50-60 local children and neighboring settlements. In 1876, this school came under the authority of the kehila. For more than 20 years, community prayer took place in Spišská Nová Ves in one or more private homes. In the 1870s, the community rented a private home and made it into a proper house of prayer.

The kehila grew gradually and in the 1880s already acquired a rabbi. Its first rabbi, Rabbi Aharon KRAUS, served as rabbi there and the district for 40 years. During his leadership, the head of the kehila was the oldest parnas[2] Simon[3] POLLAK, active in public affairs, who also served as deputy mayor of the town. In 1899, a magnificent synagogue was dedicated in Spišská Nová Ves, built in the neo-classical style (dimensions 18 x 30 meters). The local shochet (ritual slaughterer) also served as the prayer-leader. In the beginning of the 20th century, when the first cemetery had been filled, a new one was opened next to it. Among the charitable groups that were active in Spišská Nová Ves could be counted the Chevra Kadisha (ritual burial society), “Jewish Women's Organization” (founded in 1881) and the Bikur Cholim (Visiting the Sick) group.

In 1910, the school moved to a new, modern building. The building was funded by donations from local Jews and included the substantial donation from the FEIGENBAUM family, and the state also contributed its part. By that time the Jewish school had five years of study and enjoyed a good reputation. It also had a library and a conference room.

From the beginning of the 20th century, there was Zionist activity in Spišská Nová Ves and a Zionist organization was set up there that was active until the First World War. With the outbreak of war, many Jews from Spišská Nová Ves were drafted to the Austro-Hungarian Army, and some of them fell in battle.

 

The Jews Between the Two World Wars

After the war ties to the great Jewish centers in Hungary were cut, and the Spišská Nová Ves kehila adjusted itself to the new conditions. In 1922 the kehila counted 750 people (135 tax-paying heads of households); its yearly budget was 80,000 Kronen; Simon POLLAK was at its head; and it employed seven full-time workers, among them the rabbi, Aharon KRAUS. With his death in 1929, he was replaced by Rabbi Dr. Berthold ROSENSTEIN from Moravia, a talmid chacham (scholar), educator and leader of public stature. In this period the kehila had a synagogue, beth midrash (study hall), two cemeteries, a community center, a 5-year basic school (the language of instruction was changed from German to Slovak and about 100 children learned there), a mikveh with a bath house, a chicken slaughter-house, a guest house for Jewish travelers, and a soup-kitchen. The charitable institutions were the chevra kadisha, “Jewish Women's Organization,” and “Bikur Cholim.”

In 1928 the kehila joined the Organization of Liberal Kehilot, “Yeshurun.” After two years, about 20 orthodox Jewish families left and organized into a separate kehila and joined the organization of orthodox kehilot and the rabbinate of Spišské Podhradie (q.v.). The head of separatist group was Leopold LANGER, and this kehila established its own communal prayer in its own beth midrash and also had several of its own community institutions. The school and cemeteries continued to be shared.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a great awakening of Zionist activity began in Spišská Nová Ves, and political parties and Zionist youth movements “General Zionists,” “The League of Working Israel” (that included several Socialist-Zionist parties), “Mizrachi,” the Revisionists, the sport organization “Maccabi,” whose club served as a center for social and cultural activities, and the Jewish community in general, and youth movements, “Hashomer Kadima” (later called “Hashomer Hatsair”), “Maccabi Hatsair,” and Betar. Many of the graduates of the youth movements participated in pioneer training, and some of these immigrated to Israel. In the town there was also a big branch of “WIZO[4],” that was headed by Hedi POPPER. Regarding the power struggle among the Zionist parties that were active in the town, we can learn from the election results of the 18th Zionist Congress (in 1933). The “General Zionists” received 40% of the votes; the slate of “Working Israel” received 22%, the Revisionists 15%, “Mizrachi” 5%, and 8% were distributed among many small slates. In the elections of the 15th Zionist Congress (in 1927), Jews of Spišská Nová Ves acquired 148 shekels[5] and in the elections of the 21st Congress (in 1939) 182 shekels. In 1929, Jews of Spišská Nová Ves donated 6,000 Kronen to the Jewish National Fund for the planting of a forest in honor of the President of Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk.

The Jews were also active in the public sphere, and the Jewish-National Party participated with its own slate in the local council elections. In the 1928 elections, it received 270 votes and a seat on the council. In the 1920s five members of the council were Jewish and several others manned senior posts in public institutions and administration. Remembered among them are the administrator of the regional medical clinic, Dr. Zoltan WEISS; the (female) treasurer of the regional medical clinic; the town's head accountant; the (female) secretary of the post office; the manager of the town's power station, Kalman MANNLICH; and the head town's business organization, Simon POLLAK.

Even though the Jewish population in the town was only about 5-6%, Jews comprised a large part in the local economy and their income was ample. Most worked in all kinds of trades and some in business. Also the branches of manufacturing and hospitality were primarily in the hands of Jews. How the Jews were weighted with respect to the town's businesses can be seen according to the number of licenses provided by the local business office in 1921, with the distribution of ownership as follows:

 

Type of Business Number
of
Businesses
Jewish-
owned
Businesses
Taverns & Restaurants 26 14
Grocery and General Shops 16 10
Clothing and Fabric 11 9
Agencies 9 7
Flour and Agricultural Products 7 5
Wood and Construction Materials 5 4
Hotels and Cafes 4 4
Strong Liquors 3 2
Iron Products 3 2
Books and Stationary 2 1
Other 8 4

 

Aside from the businesses listed above, in the town there were 23 Jewish-owned workshops and industries, among them: a sawmill and a wood-working enterprise of the REINER and MENDULA families, that employed approximately 250 workers; the “Iglovia” plant producing windows and doors; a factory for agricultural vehicles; a vinegar factory; a flour mill; and a “Savings and Loan” bank. As for the Jewish professionals in the town, there were five (out of 6) lawyers, four (out of 5) doctors, two pharmacists; several engineers, a dental clinic, and many clerks.

In the 1930 census, 341/733 Jews of the town indicated their nationality as Jewish, and the rest defined themselves as Slovak or German. In the 1930s the number of Jews in the town grew and toward their end reached almost 800 souls.

After the Nazis rose to power in Germany, anti-Semitism strengthened, under the influence of the local Germans. In 1935, in Spišská Nová Ves, a blood libel was disseminated accusing a Jewish butcher of killing a Christian boy for ritual purposes. Even when they found the body of the boy and that he had drowned in the river the anti-Semitic incitement continued.

 

The Holocaust Period

In March 1939, the number of Jews in Spišská Nová Ves was about 800 (254 families, 234 of them belonging to the “Yeshurun” kehila, headed by D. FRANZ, and 20 families, members of the orthodox community, headed by Leopold LANGER). Rabbi Dr. Berthold ROSENSTEIN still continued in his leadership role. In 1940, Dr. Alfred SINGER was chosen as the head of the “Jewish Center” of the Spišská Nová Ves district.

After the establishment of the Slovak state under the sponsorship of Nazi Germany, on March 14 of the same year, Jews became persecuted by both the authorities and local residents. From time to time, gangs of German youths broke into Jewish homes and shops, destroyed and vandalized property. On November 10, 1941, at the time of the demonstration against the Hungarians, frenzied demonstrators broke into many of the kehila's communal buildings and caused heavy damage. In the school year 1940/41, Jewish children were dismissed from the town's high school and the kehila added to its own school a junior high. Throughout 1941 the authorities closed most of the Jewish-owned shops and businesses (their inclusive yearly revenue came to about 16 million Kronen; 16 businesses and large enterprises (with a yearly return around 36 million Kronen) were confiscated and turned over to the arizators[6]. With the multitude of unemployed Jews, dozens were drafted for hard labor and sent to “work centers” outside of Spišská Nová Ves. In November 1941, 285 Jewish refugees who had been deported from Bratislava (q.v.) were brought to the town, most like everyone else had nothing. To satisfy the basic needs of the refugees and hundreds of locals who remained without a source of livelihood, the kehila and “Jewish Center” in the county became involved in welfare activities on an unprecedented scale. Together with the Bratislava refugees the number of Jews in Spišská Nová Ves rose to more than 1,000 by the beginning of 1942.

At the same time Dr. Ladislaw POPPER was the head of the “Yeshurun” kehila in Spišská Nová Ves; Rabbi Dr. Berthold ROSENSTEIN continued in his leadership, and the arbiter of Jewish Law, Rabbi Baruch Yosef FELDBRAND served as a substitute rabbi for the orthodox kehila.

Deportations from Spišská Nová Ves and the county began in the spring of 1942. On the 23rd of March a hunt took place to find young Jewish men. The young men from the locale and neighboring settlements were caught and rounded up in the courtyard of the district administration building. The next day, on the 24th of March, they were all sent to the collection camp in Žilina (q.v.) and from there deported to Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland. On the 27th of March, dozens more young men were sent via the transit camp in Nováky (q.v.) to the Majdanek camp. In total, within a few days, 96 young men from Spišská Nová Ves and the environs were deported to the Majdanek camp. A few managed to escape during the deportation and were declared “deserters.” On the 28th of March another hunt was conducted in the town and around it for young Jewish women and 65 were caught, sent to the Poprad (q.v.) transit camp, and on April 2nd, deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. At the beginning of April 1942 the deportation started again. Dozens of the adults without children and young people that still remained in the town were concentrated in the abandoned barracks outside the town, sent to the camp in Žilina and on the 17th of April added to the transport to Auschwitz. Toward the great deportation on the 27th of May 1942, members of the Hlinka Guard were brought to Spišská Nová Ves from western Slovakia. Within two days, curfew was imposed and 1,032 Jews were rounded up, more than 250 of them residents of Spišská Nová Ves. On 29th May 1942, they were attached to the transport to the area of Lublin, Poland able-bodied men to work in the Majdanek camp and the elderly and women with children to the Izbica ghetto. Rabbi ROSENSTEIN collapsed when the “Hlinka Guard” came to take him from his house and shortly thereafter died. In total, in 1942, 80% of the Jewish population of Spišská Nová Ves and the county were deported to extermination camps and ghettoes in Poland.

With the halt in deportations in the fall of 1942, there remained 108 Jews in the town and 223 in the whole county, whose deportation had been deferred because they had sponsorship certificates. About another 30 Jews who converted for appearance sake also remained in the town. The kehila reorganized and studies in the Jewish school were renewed and continued until May 1944. The school's teacher was David KORACH. A Jewish printer, Josef FRANZ, a member of the underground of Jewish chalutzim (pioneers) in Slovakia, set up a workshop in Spišská Nová Ves to produce counterfeit documents. Thanks to these documents hundreds of Jews within Slovakia were saved from deportation.

At the beginning of 1944 there still remained in Spišská Nová Ves 116 Jews and in the whole county 160 who held sponsorship certificates; nine of them received special sponsorship certificates from the president of the state.

At the end of August 1944, Slovak partisans conquered Spišská Nová Ves and held it for about one week. Before the Germans came into the town, most of the remaining Jews managed to escape to neighboring villages, finding refuge with farmers, or to the forests. The few remaining in Spišská Nová Ves were rounded up into the camp outside the town and in October 1944 sent to Auschwitz. After their deportation, the Nazis torched the synagogue. Dozens of Jews from Spišská Nová Ves fought with the partisans or the Czechoslovak army, some fell in battle or were captured by the Germans and killed.

 

Post-War

After the liberation of Spišská Nová Ves at the end of January 1945, Jewish survivors returned, and within a short time about 200 Jews were living there, mostly former residents and from neighboring settlements from before the war. The kehila reorganized and the separate (religious) streams were nullified. Spišská Nová Ves's synagogue had been burnt down toward the end of the war, as mentioned, and communal prayer took place in the beth midrash (study hall). The Zionist activities were also renewed, under the management of Arpad RAUCHWERGER. In 1947 Jews of Spišská Nová Ves contributed 13,500 Kronen to the Jewish National Fund to plant a “Forest of the Czechoslovak Martyrs” in the mountains of Jerusalem. In 1948, 144 Jews lived in the town, 12 of them children. Some of them immigrated to other countries or to Israel. By the end of 1949, when immigration to Israel was banned, 109 Jews still remained. The kehila continued to exist for a few years, until the Jews left the town. The beth midrash, community center, the mikveh, slaughter-house, were all abandoned, and the Jewish cemetery destroyed and most of its gravestones[7] shattered. We have no information about any Jews of Spišská Nová Ves as it is now.


Markušovce
(German: Marksdorf)

4855' 2038'

A village near Spišská Nová Ves that had an old Jewish kehila (community). In 1910, 114 Jews lived there and they had a cemetery, an old wooden synagogue, a purification mikveh (ritual bath) above a hot water spring, a basic school in which also non-Jewish children learned. In 1930 only 41 Jews remained, and their number gradually diminished. Those who remained there during the Second World War took part in the fate of their brothers in Spišská Nová Ves and its county.


References

Yad Vashem Archives, M5/57, 82, 97, 117, 97; M48/1581, 1612; JM/11011-11016, 11018-11019, 11031.
Moreshet Archives, A/1194, 1346, 1436; D1/5605, 5610, 5663.
ŠÚASR, MV:1935-1945/567
A. Bistrich, “Dr. Mengele Vehaselectzia al Migrash Hamesadrim B'Aushwitz”, (Dr. Mengele and the Selection on the Auschwitz Parade Ground), Tel Aviv, 1981.
S.D. Gvaryahu-Gottesman, “Toldot Yehudei Kezmarok Vehasviva,” Jerusalem 1992.
Cohen, Khakhmei Hungaria (Hungarian Sages), p. 153.
Bárkány-Dojč, pp. 106-108
Kol. Spišská Nová Ves, Vol. 1, Spišská Nová Ves 1968
Lanyi, Bekefy-Popper, Szlovenskoi zsidó, pp. 267-268.
Allgemeine Jüdische Zeitung, no. 17 (1935)
Bulletin ICJC, nos. 2-3 (1983)
Haderech, no. 19 (1940)
Selbstwehr, no. 58 (1929), 38 (1930)
Židovská ročenka (1940) pp. 24-25.

Footnotes

  1. Jews were prohibited from settling in mining towns, among other restrictions. Return
  2. A difficult word to translate into English. The best choice is probably, steward, with a definition of a person who manages the property or financial affairs of another; one who administers anything as the agent, in this case the affairs of the kehila. Return
  3. From Tombstone translations, his Hebrew name was Shimshon. Return
  4. WIZO = Women's International Zionist Organization. Established in Great Britain in 1920, it is a non-profit women's organization of volunteers now in over 50 countries working to improve the lives of women, children and the elderly living in Israel. Return
  5. A shekel-owner became a partner in the Zionist Organization and had voting rights. See http://www.begedivri.com/ZionistShekel/History.htm for more information. Return
  6. Businesses were “Aryanized,” i.e, the authorities turned over Jewish-owned businesses to Aryans to run, with no compensation to the owners. Return
  7. Some gravestones do indeed exist. Check JewishGen's Jewish On-line World Burial Registry (JOWBR) in which there are over 100 stones, with at least partial information: http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/ Return

 

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