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“Poprad” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Poprad, Slovakia)

49°04' / 20°18'

Translation of the
“Poprad” 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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(Pages 435-437)

Poprad, Slovakia

Translated by Madeleine Isenberg

(Hungarian: Poprád, German: Deutschendorf)

A town in the Spiš Region in northern Slovakia.

 

Year Number of
Residents
Jews By Percent
1869 1,065 15 1.4
1880 1,038 77 7.4
1890 1,160 108 9.3
1910 2,283 297 12.2
1919 2,230 432 19.1
1930 4,369 618 14.1
1940 4,579 606 13.2
1948 5,902 41 0.7

 

Poprad was established around 1250 by German settlers. In due time, it became a town and belonged to the association of German towns in the Spiš Region. In the 16th century a large deposit of copper was discovered and many people began to mine it. In the 17th century a paper industry was developed there and big market days were held there. In the 19th century after the central railway connected the western and the eastern parts of the country, its economy flourished and its industry increased and included an enterprise for the improvement and repair of railroad cars, a factory for the production of yeast and canned food, an electricity plant, and large grain elevators. Tourist attractions in the neighboring Tatra Mountains also contributed to the flowering of its economy. The inhabitants of Poprad were Germans and Slovaks, Catholic and Evangelicals. Most of them made their living by engaging in crafts, trade, and industry.

During the period of the Czechoslovak republic, Poprad served as the capital of the area and local commerce developed. With the breakup of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, it was included within the boundaries of the Slovak State and a satellite of Germany. Its German residents joined Nazi organizations and the young men were drafted into the German army and into SS units. When the Slovakian rebellion broke out in August of 1944, Poprad was held for a few days in the hand of the insurgents. On 28th of January 1945, it was liberated by the Soviet Army and the Czechoslovak Army.

 

About the History of the Community

Jewish settlement in Poprad was relatively late, since until the middle of the 19th century Jewish settlement was prohibited in mining towns. The first Jewish families, mostly from nearby Huncovce (q.v.) settled in the town after the restrictions were removed in 1840. Because of the opposition of the Poprad authorities and the German inhabitants to their settlement, their numbers remained small. At the start, Poprad's Jews were tied to the Huncovce's community (kehila) and institutions. In the 1870s they set up their own independent kehila and joined with the Orthodox movement. One of the founders was Dr. Leo GROSS, one of the first Jews in the town. The new kehila established a few communal institutions, a burial society (chevra kadisha) and a cemetery. By the end of the 19th century Poprad had a rabbinical seat. Its first rabbi was Rabbi Aharon GRÜNBERG, and after his death in 1907, the kehila was led by Rabbi Zvi (Herman) PRAGER. The kehila also employed a ritual slaughterer (shochet), and cantor (chazzan), and two teachers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many Jews from neighboring settlements moved to Poprad and the kehila grew. In 1906, a synagogue was inaugurated in the classic style (its measurements were 12m x 18m), and was expanded a few years later as the kehila grew. The Jews of Poprad also had a study hall (beth-midrash), a ritual bath (mikvah), a school (talmud torah), a slaughter house for poultry, and butcher shops. Its regulations were renewed in 1910.

In 1908 A basic Jewish school with four classes was opened and about 50 students studied there. The language of instruction was German. In Poprad a number of charitable groups were active such as, Chevra Kadisha (burial society), the “Jewish Women's Association”, the Gemach (charity and kindness) group, Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) group, and others. The economic state of Poprad's Jews was generally good, and many of them made their living in commerce. Most businesses in the town belonged to the Jews.

In World War I, 38 of Poprad's Jews were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army.

 

Between the Two World Wars

After World War I, Ignatz WITTMANN was chosen as the head of Poprad's kehila that consisted of about 550 people and included Jews from neighboring settlements in the area. In 1922, its budget was 110,000 Kronen and it maintained six permanent workers. The budget was funded, among others, from a kehila tax, paid by about 110 heads of households. At the end of the 1920s, the head of the kehila was Heinrich KLEINBERGER. Rabbi Zvi PRAGER continued to lead as rabbi of the kehila and the region. In 1924 a new Talmud Torah was established with the aid of a member of the kehila committee, Moshe KLEIN. The kehila had two synagogues, a cemetery, a community center with a large library, and other institutions. The older charitable institutions continued their activities. The Jewish basic school continued and now had five classes and the languages of instruction were German and later also Slovak. In the 1920s, 60 students studied there. In 1932, a modern new school building was dedicated at the cost of 120,000 Kronen.

The period of the Czechoslovak Republic was characterized by social and political awakening. Poprad's Jews established a Zionist chapter and a short time later a chapter of the National Jewish Party, headed by Dr. Alfred LÖW. In the local elections of 1923, the National Jewish Party received four seats in the council. In 1924, the third conference of the National Jewish Council was held in Poprad. In the general elections of 1925 the National Jewish Party received about 10% of the votes, and in the municipal elections in 1928, it received 195 votes (16.8%) and was the second in size. Representative Dr. A. LÖW was chosen as deputy mayor. Also in the 1931 elections, the party received six seats in the council and Dr. LÖW continued in his role as deputy mayor. Some other Jews sat in the council representing other parties.

The local Zionist Party, headed by Dr. Arpad PARTUSH, gained wide support in Poprad. The largest Zionist organizations in the town were, the “General Zionists,” WIZO, and the Jewish women's religious movement, “Miriam.” Its members participated in a variety of social activities. In 1927, toward the 15th Zionist Congress, the Jews of Poprad acquired 158 shekalim;[1]” toward the 17th Congress in 1931, 109 shekalim; and toward the 21st Congress, 190 shekalim.

Most of the young people were members of movements, Hashomer Hatzair, Maccabi Hatzair, Bnei Akiva, and Betar. In 1935, Poprad held the national conference of Hashomer Hatzair with the participation of representatives from all over the world. In the sports organization, Maccabi, there were dozens of young men and women from all levels of Jewish society, and it offered various activities in a Zionist spirit. Between the two World Wars, some Jews of Poprad emigrated to Israel and settled in kibbutzim and moshavim.

Most of Poprad's Jews continued to make their living from trades and crafts and they owned about 40 businesses, 13 workshops, some enterprises, among them the lumberyard owned by Heinrich ENGLÄNDER, that employed about 150 workers; a factory for strong liquors “KLEINBERGER & Sons; William KRIEGER's factory for yeast and starch, and three other small enterprises. Some of Poprad's Jews were professionals: two out of the four doctors; three of the four lawyers; a pharmacist; a midwife and a few engineers and clerks. Dr. Max SINGER served as the district doctor.

According to the licenses provided by the local business office in 1921, the distribution of ownership of local businesses was as follows:

 

Type of Business Number
of
Businesses
Jewish-
owned
Businesses
Grocery 138
Taverns & Restaurants 12 9
Fabric & Clothing 12 11
Butchers 7 3
Wood, Heating & Building Materials 5 4
Agricultural Products 5 3
Agencies 5 2
Leather & Shoes 4 2
Wine & Strong Liquors 4 3
Cattle & Horses 2 2
Other 8 4

 

The Holocaust Period

After autonomy was given to Slovakia in October 1938, the city authorities began to conspire against the Jews. On the 4th of November 1938, 208 Jews from the Poprad area were driven out to the no-man's-land on the Hungarian-Slovakian border, near Roznava (q.v.) on the excuse that their Slovak citizenship was questionable. The deportees were held without shelter and in difficult circumstances and after a few weeks most were allowed to return to their homes. On 24th November 1938, the National Jewish Party was outlawed and the authorities confiscated the branch's property.

With the establishment of the Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939, there were increased expressions of anti-Semitism and harassment of Jews by the pro-Nazi German population and members of the Hlinka Guard. On the date the Republic was declared an organized group of Germans broke into the synagogue, struck the people praying, and destroyed property. At the same time, inhabitants outside the city rioted and broke windows in Jewish-owned apartments and businesses. One of the people who incited and organized these actions against the Jews was the Catholic priest, Stefan MNOHEL, one of the leaders of the Slovak Ruling Party, who was elected mayor. On his initiative, five Jews and some representatives from the left parties were removed from the city council and other jobs in community administration.

In 1940, Maximilian GROSS was elected as head of the “Jewish Center” for the Poprad area, and Rabbi Nathan ADLER took the position of the late Rabbi Aharon Zvi PRAGER who died that year. On August 13, 1940, the riots against the Jews started anew. Members of the German minority supporting the Nazis broke into Jewish owned homes and businesses and caused great damage to property. Toward the school year in 1940, the authorities withdrew the building permits for the new Jewish school building and from then on studies took place in the old building that was too small to accommodate the 130 students. After prohibiting Jewish students from attending the public schools, the Jewish school added a middle school.

In the spring of 1941 the authorities took steps to deprive the Jews from their sources of livelihood. 100 licenses for Jewish businesses were denied, among them 62 shops, about 30 workshops and some enterprises whose yearly income amounted to 7 million Kronen. 12 large businesses with returns that amounted to 3.5 million Kronen were Aryanized. On July 21, 1941 a center for hard labor was set up for Jews who were unemployed. In October 1941, 52 Jews were sent to the work camp in Svaty Peter.

 

The Deportations

On March 24, 1942, 63 young Jewish women from Poprad were deported via the transit camp that was set up in the local barracks. They were attached to the first transport of Slovakian Jews that left on the March 25, 1942 to the Auschwitz extermination camp. At the same time dozens of men were sent via the Zilina (q.v.) transit camp to the Majdanek camp near Lublin. Deportation of families began in the middle of April 1942. Dozens of families were rounded up in the Poprad transit camp and on the 23rd of the month, were sent from there to the Auschwitz extermination camp. On May 31, 1942, most of the remaining Jews of Poprad and neighboring towns were rounded up in the transit camp adjoining the city and the next day they were attached to the transport to the camps in the Lublin area. Able-bodied men were taken to work in Majdenak, while women, children, and the elderly were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp. In the summer of 1942, small groups of Poprad Jews were sent to the Zilina camp and from there attached to the transports that left for the extermination camps. About 420 (~80%) of Poprad's Jews were deported in 1942 to extermination camps. Local German inhabitants accused the mayor, the Evangelical priest, Emerich VARGA, of issuing fictitious baptismal certificates to prevent the deportations, and he was forced to resign his position.

At the end of the deportations in 1942, 144 Jews remained in the Poprad area (among them 95 from the city itself) who received exemption certificates and their deportation was deferred. The kehila organized anew under Rabbi Nathan ADLER. And Emanuel BERGER managed its affairs. In the school only 18 students remained, however studies continued until the end of June 1944 under the leadership of Max LAUFER. In 1943, Dr. Leo GUTMAN was elected as the head of the “Jewish Center” in the Poprad area. At the beginning of 1944, 98 Jews lived in Poprad and in the whole area altogether 157 Jews, who held exemption certificates and a few dozen more who converted or posed as Christians. At the time of the Slovak Rebellion, a few of Poprad's Jewish families managed to escape to the forests or found refuge with farmers in villages. The rest fell into the hands of the Germans, most were sent to extermination camps and a few were murdered on the spot. A few of the Poprad Jews joined the partisans and fought the Nazis within the framework of the Czechoslovak Army.

 

The Poprad Transit Camp

In March 1942, a transit camp was opened in Poprad's abandoned barracks, through which a few thousand Jews passed, mainly from the northern and eastern parts of Slovakia, before being deported to the extermination camps. On the March 25, 1942, a deportation train left the transit camp for the Auschwitz extermination camp, taking 1,000 young Jewish women. During the wave of deportations, seven transports left, comprising 7,000 people, to Auschwitz and ghettoes in the Lublin, Poland area. Some other transports left from the Zilina transport camp to extermination camps. In all, 10,000 Jews were deported from Poprad's transit camp to extermination camps in conquered Poland. On October 10, 1942, at the end of the mass deportations, the transit camp was destroyed.

 

Post-War

After liberation, a few dozen survivors from the extermination camps and forests returned. The kehila life was renewed and the synagogue repaired for prayer services. Even the Zionist movement under the leadership of Moritz KRAKOWICZ, renewed its activities. In 1947, 17,000 Kronen were donated to Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (Jewish National Fund) to build a forest in Israel, to memorialize the Czechoslovak martyrs. In 1949, most of Poprad's Jews emigrated to Israel. The few that remained in the city continued to maintain the small kehila through the 1950s.

The Jewish school and community center remained intact. The cemetery, whose condition deteriorated, was cleaned and refurbished recently. In the synagogue building that for many years housed a print shop, was refurbished by the municipality in 1992 and a memorial plaque was erected to commemorating those who were killed in the Holocaust. In 1990, there still remained a few Jews who belonged to the Kosice (q.v.) kehila.

slo437.jpg
Poprad: Holocaust Memorial to the First Group of Jews Sent to Auschwitz Camp


(Pages 438)

Spišská Sobota, Slovakia

49°04' / 20°20'

(In German: Georgenberg)

A village neighboring Poprad that in the past had its own kehila. The kehila had its own synagogue and cemetery and came under the Poprad rabbinate. In 1940, 104 Jews lived there. None returned after the war.

References

Yad Vashem Archives, M48/220; 610, 635, 1461, 1482, 1512, 1593, JM/11011-11018; 11023, 11031; M5/57, 82, 112.
Moreshet Archives, A/332, 1050, 1240, 1346, D1/5073, 5569.
Cohen, Khakhmei Hungaria (Hungarian Sages), pp. 353.
OUP, 228, 286, 2270
Bárkány-Dojè, pp. 314-316.
I. Chalupecky et al., Dejiny Popradu, Kosice 1998.
K. Janiglosova, Židia v okresoch Poprad a Kezmarok, Poprad 1997
Haderech, no. 19 (1940)
Lanyi, Bekelfy-Popper, Szlovenskoi zsido, pp. 270-271
Selbswehr,
no. 38 (1930)
Vestnik UŽ, no. 49 (1941)
Židovská roèenka (1940) p. 22

Footnotes

  1. A shekel-owner became a partner in the Zionist Organization and had voting rights. See http://www.begedivri.com/ZionistShekel/History.htm for more infoarmation. Return

 

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