“Nyiregyhaza” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

47°57' / 21°43'

Translation of the “Nyiregyhaza” 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 379-381]

Nyiregyhaza

City in the area of Szabolcs, 29 kilometers from Debrecen. Population in 1941: 59,156.

Jewish Population

YearNumber% of Total
Population
18691,1285.1
18802,0978.7
18902,1598.0
19003,0099.1
19103,88210.2
19205,06611.7
19305,13410.0
19414,9938.4
19461,210-

 

Until the Second World War

The first Jews arrived in Nyiregyhaza from the nearby villages when the gates of the city were opened to Jewish settlement. In 1843 five Jews sent a signed request to the city fathers for an area for a cemetery. In the War of Independence of 1848, a few of the 70 Jews of the city took part in the war. From that time the number of the Jews increased swiftly, and the community became one of the biggest in Hungary.

The majority of the Jews of Nyiregyhaza were merchants and artisans, but there were also professionals and tenant farmers on the estates of the nobles. There wasn't much industrialization in Nyiregyhaza. A Jew owned the local steam plant. Nyiregyhaza was a central focus of a blood libel in Tiszaeszlar.The investigation was held at Nyiregyhaza, and the trial lasted from June 17 to August 3, 1883. All his time the Jews of Nyiregyhaza were compelled to fight actually against the anti-Semitism, which arose because of the trial. In this struggle Moshe Haas and Dr. Itzhak Heimann were distinguished. After Heimann's death, the community founded a foundation to commemorate him. During the summer of 1883 a self-defense group was organized, which was headed by Itzhak Goldstein, a veteran. This group fought bravely in the many clashes between anti-Semitic groups and the Jews.

In 1864 Nyiregyhaza was a famous community, chosen to be the site of a conference of 45 Orthodox rabbis. Its aim was, it seems, was the condemnation of Hassidism, and opposition to the plan to establish a rabbinical seminary, which had been discussed. At this time Nyiregyhaza was then under the authority of Nagykallo. One year after this conference, in 1865, Nyiregyhaza became an independent community.

During the split of the Jewish communities in Hungary in 1869, Nyiregyhaza remained neutral. Only in 1877 did it define itself as status quo. The Orthodox left the community and established their own. But even afterwards the two communities had close relations with one another. They also had some joint institutions, such as schools, hevra kadisha, and ritual slaughter (until 1904).

A group of Hassidim left the Orthodox community in 1918 and established a shtibel of their own, where they prayed in Sephardi style.

The area for the cemetery was bought in 1843 but the hevra kadisha was established in 1856. On the Jubilee of the hevra, two booklets were published about its history. The Hhvra kadisha did a lot in the area of social welfare. In 1930 the Orthodox established a cemetery and hevra kadisha of their own. Both societies had cordial relations.

 

Charitable Institutions

Other charitable institutions besides the Hevra Kadisha were: a Women's Society (established in 1861), which supported poor brides and women in confinement. In the winter they arranged it so that the needy would have firewood. Bikur Holim (established in 1896), a group took care of medical care, medicine for the needy, as well as free loans. Poel Zedek, was established at the end of the nineteenth century. Hevrat Tehilim (established in 1919 in the Orthodox community), which gave loans to the needy. Burger Fund, which owned land and houses, and from its revenue maintained an old age home. All these institutions continued to work until the Holocaust.

The community also owned a mikva, built in 1862, and enlarged in 1891, when it transferred to Orthodox ownership.

 

Synagogues

It is unknown when the first synagogues was established. In 1880 the community built a magnificent synagogue. Selling permanent seats in the synagogue financed part of the cost of erecting the building, and some money came from the municipal budget, and other contributions. As was mentioned before, the Orthodox community had its own synagogue. In 1924 the magnificent synagogue building was finished according to the plan of the famous architect Lipot Baumhorn.

 

Rabbis

Among the rabbis of Nyiregyhaza we shall mention Karl Friedmann (1856-1905)., the fist local rabbi, the disciple of Rabbi Avrham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, chief religious judge of the Rabbinical court of Pressberg. The Chief Rabbi Bela Bernstein (1909-1944), one of the important rabbis of Hungary in his time, and a researcher of the history of the Jews in Hungary. He greatly influenced a lot the religious life, education, and culture in Nyiregyhaza. His first Book about the commentary of Rabbi Bechaiey Ben Asher was b published in Berlin in 1891. Another of his books dealt with the part of the Jews in the Hungarian War of Independence. He also wrote some textbooks about Jewish history. His translation of the Torah portions and the Haftarot was also a textbook. He was lost in Auschwicz.

 

Education

The Jewish school was established in 1865, and in 1868 a special building was erected. In 1898 a new building was erected, including six classes. The local municipality, Jewish funds, and private donors financed the expenses of the building works. In 1900 there were four teachers in the school. In 1929 when the number of the children increased, another class was added. Except for the school there was a Talmud Torah, a Cheder, and three Orthodox yeshivas, Tiferent Bachurim Society. A big library served youth and teachers.

 

Between the World Wars

There was considerable development in the community, and Nyiregyhaza of the surrounding Jews immigrated to Nyiregyhaza.

In the cultural field a Bible study group for the secondary school students was organized. There were weekly lectures, which attracted a big audience.

In 1940 there were 430 pupils in the school, which had ten classes and ten teachers. Near the school a soup kitchen for hungry children was established after the First World War, and in 1940 served lunches to 90 children.

After the war Zionist the parties developed activities: General Zionists, Mizrachi, Hashomer Hatzair, Aviva Barisia. During the years 1932-1935 a few of the Nyiregyhaza made aliyah to Eretz Yisroel.

As in the majority of Hungarian communities, all kinds of sporting activities grew up, including Nyiregyhaza Jewish youths.In 1933 a Jewish Sports Society was established called Kadima (Elore).

 

The Holocaust

Even before the German invasion of Hungary, the situation of the Jews of Nyiregyhaza was very difficult. Because of the Discrimination Laws, which were enacted in 1938, Nyiregyhaza Jews lost their livelihoods. From 1942 the youth were conscripted into forced labor, and the majority never returned. Nyiregyhaza Jews, whose citizenship papers were not up to date, or the authorities suspected them, were transported with their families to Kamenets-Podolski, and were lost there.

At this time many Jewish refugees from Poland and Slovakia arrived in Nyiregyhaza. Although the situation was difficult, they received support and welfare from the local community.

When the Germans came to Nyiregyhaza on April 11, 1944 they prepared a list of the local Jews, then prepared a local ghetto using the streets whose majority were local Jews. On April 14 the transportation to the ghetto began of village Jews in the district. They were forced to go by foot, and only the very old and babies were taken in wagons. Those who became weak on the way were hit by gendarmes, and many fell before they reached the ghetto. On the way they were robbed of their valuables.

On April 24 the local Jews of Nyiregyhaza were transferred to the ghetto. The density in the ghetto was difficult. About 11,000 were crowded together into 123 houses. The food situation was especially bad, for those who were expelled into the ghetto from nearby villages, more than half of those in the ghetto, were not permitted to bring any food with them. The Jewish Council was very helpful.

The Jewish doctors and volunteer nurses in the ghetto did heroic work to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. There were elected committees and nominated inspectors to keep order. The Jewish Council of the ghetto sent a detailed report to the local authorities despite the difficulty of the situation, and the Commander of the SS, describing the unbearable sanitary situation in the ghetto, and the lack of water and food. After this report, the authorities decided to liquidate the ghetto of Nyiregyhaza, and transport the inhabitants to other places. When information about the decree of expulsion was known, the Secretary of the Jewish Council sent a letter of request to the head of the district, that the people would remain in the ghetto in the city or at least a public organization would Remain in the city to take care of the expelled Jews, but this request denied.

On May 5 the inhabitants of the ghetto were transported, some to Nyiregyhazairjes, others to Harangod, and the rest to Sima. These three places were in desolate areas, and so the Jews of Nyiregyhaza area, were cut off from communication with them.

The expulsion from the ghetto was done in a very humiliating way. The expelled people were transported through the city square, and a loudspeakers played marches.

In their new places they lay on the ground without a roof .

An epidemic of White-spot typhus began to spread, and many lost their lives. In addition to this, the gendarmes tortured these people cruelly in order to extract confessions from them about hidden valuables and money. Some of the Jews, including the leader of the Orthodox community, died of torture, and others committed suicide because of their great suffering. When at last the transports to extermination camps began, many of the people in the camp looked at it as near-salvation from their tortures.

On May 12 the Jews of Nyiregyhaza began their journey to Auschwitz from the railway station of Nyiregyhaza where they walked eight kilometers through pouring rain. Under the blows of the gendarmes, the local non-Jewish population stood and looked at the sight without reaction. The transports continued until the end of the month.

 

After the War

After the war a few hundred forced laborers returned, a very few of those transported to Auschwitz, and few survivors of the Holocaust from the surrounding villages. They renewed community life, which again split into status quo (675 people), and Orthodox (325). Instead of the magnificent synagogue, which was bombed by the Germans in October 1944, a synagogue was made in the school building. In 1954 the old school building was given to the town, and a new synagogue was built using town funds.

The two communities elected their own rabbis. (The rabbi of the status quo community, B. Morgenstern meanwhile made aliyah to Israel, and died young there.) The rabbi of the Orthodox community, Moshe Greenfeld, established a yeshiva. A cultural and charitable institution, including a women's association were started. In 1949 a memorial was built from two synagogue pillars that stood throughout the war, to the memory of the 17,000 saints who were lost in the Holocaust. Later the memorial was taken to the cemetery.

But the number of Jews in Nyiregyhaza dwindled since then. Many emigrated from there after the uprising of 1956. Some of them came to Israel.

 


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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