“Szekszard” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

46°21' / 18°43'

Translation of the “Szekszard” 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.
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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 411-413]

Szekszard

Capital of the Tolna district, 80 kilometers from Budapest, on the Sarviz River.
The whole population in 1941 was 14,863.

Jewish Population

YearNumber% of Total
Population
1840190.2
18695024.5
18805894.9
18908475.9
19008015.7
19108405.6
19206754.8
19305674.0
19414373.0
194651-
1949121-
195636-

Until the Second World War

The first Jews who arrived in Szekszard were merchants and artisans, during the first half of the nineteenth century. Others were in the free professions, among them five lawyers, seven physicians, some property owners, and clerks. The majority of them achieved a high economic position, and some families were part of the upper class of the city.

During the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848, many local Jewish youths were Lajos Kossuth's volunteers, and three Jewish physicians tended the injured at the front with great devotion.

Christian officials and bankrupt nobles hated the success of the Jews, and lost no opportunity in agitating against them. In 1882, during the blood libels of Tiszlaeszlar, there was a big rally, and the clergy and some of the higher Christian leadership aroused the mob against the Jews. They demanded the government cancel the Law of Emancipation, confiscate their capital and expel them in shame from Hungary. The mob was glad of the opportunity to rob Jewish shops. After all the Jews accused of this libel were found not guilty, quiet returned.

The Jewish community was organized in 1848. In 1869, during the schism of the Jewish communities of Hungary, the community defined itself as Neolog. According to this arrangement, from 1885 the rabbinate of Szekszard became the authority for Decs, Ocseny, Agard, Sarkeresztur, Nagydorog, and Harc.

The charitable institutions were the Hevra Kadisha and Women's Association.

The big synagogue was opened in 1890. Rabbis worthy of mention were Shimon Ungar (1892-1901), who afterwards came to Eszek in Yugoslavia. He was the author of the exegesis of Bereshit Raba. Dr. Matyas Rubenstein (1902-1944), famous for his research on early Christianity, was lost in the Holocaust.

The Jewish school was established in 1853, and the language of instruction was German, according to the demands of the early education inspector of the Austrian authorities. When the number of pupils had greatly increased in 1884, a bigger building was erected, the language of instruction changed from German to Hungarian, and the books were changed. Among the famous teachers of this school was Samu Zsengari, who wrote a few textbooks, and also edited a Jewish paper.

The number of mixed marriages, which people accepted naturally, both Jews and Christians, reflected the atmosphere of assimilation that was dominant in Szekszard. Jews who converted did not completely sever their ties with the community. From this point of view in Szekszard was distinguished by a surprising amount of tolerance. In 1930 a youth circle was organized there, a memorial to the Jewish poet Joszef Kiss, who worked hard to prevent assimilation. In the main, however, the youth believed in assimilation, and for this reason was indifferent to Zionist ideas.

During the First World War, 50 Jews enlisted into the army. Sixteen of them fell on various fronts, and their names were inscribed on a memorial tablet in the synagogue.

Anti-Semitism returned and erupted dangerously in 1919, when a White Terror Gang entered Szekszard. They sought occasions for quarrelling with Jews, and creating a pogrom. Six Jews were killed in the street, and about 20 were beaten in their home. All the Jewish clerks were fired from government jobs, and a few were imprisoned in concentration camps for months without coming up for trial.

The Holocaust

In 1940 Szekszard was a center for registering for forced labor in Tolna. All the men under the age of 45 were taken as forced laborers. While they stayed in Szekszard the inspectors of the units were Jews. Only the head commander of the unit was Christian. The inspectors were dressed in regular civilian clothing, but they were forced to tie a white ribbon on their arm. Two months later they were transported to a beer factory in Budafok.

Jewish forced laborers still worked under the auspices of the Public Works Council of the city, paving nearby roads until May of 1942. The intention of the Council Members, it seems, was positive, that the Jews would not be sent to the Russian German front, because already there was information about the destiny of those who were sent there. But at the end of the year these labors stopped, under the pressure of the anti-Semitic officials, and the Jewish forced laborers were taken in closed wagons to the minefields of the Ukrainian front. Their commanders got a secret order before leaving, forbidding them to return these Jews to Hungary. Because of these unofficial orders, the majority of them were killed cruelly.

Szekszard was the only capital of a district town in Hungary where the local authorities didn't concentrate the Jews in a ghetto. The official reason for this refusal was that there was no proper place for it. The social isolation of the Jews in Szekszard did not succeed. The community leadership and influential people in Christian families prevented expulsion. Endre Laszlo, the rabid Jew-hater, whose authority included the power to command the general expulsion of the Jews, obtained this information. He personally devoted his attention to the Jews of Szekszard in carrying out this operation. In its early stage the majority of apartments were confiscated, and several families were put in every apartment. The furniture, radios, and bed linen of the Jews were confiscated for German officers, who were given apartments in the houses of the rich Jews in the center of the city. Owners of confiscated apartments were usually imprisoned in a concentration camp. At the end of April the Jews of Szekszard were transported under the guard of gendarmes to Bonyhad, Tamasi, Pincehely, and Dumbuvar. From the ghetto of Bonyhad the Jews of Szekszard were moved to a camp in the city of Pecs, and from there were sent on July 5 to Auschwitz.

25 of the Jews of Szekszard were brought to the Dumbuwar ghetto at the end of May. There they were crowded in, forty people to a room. After a month the women were taken for various kinds of office work, with the help of the chief notary, a Jew who was married to a Christian wife, and for this reason was not fired. Thanks to his help, a bakery was also established in the ghetto, whose workers were Jews.

At the beginning of June the ghetto of Dumbuvar was liquidated, and the Jews of Szekszard, and their possessions of value were transported to Kaposvar, taken cruelly in wagons, and tortured by members of the SS, who were in charge of arrangements.

The railroad left Szekszard in July 1. When they arrived at Birkenau the women of Szekszard were taken out, and transferred to forced labor in Hess-Lichtenau in Thuringia, where they worked with Russian women laborers in a munitions factory.

After the war the community revived, and the number of members grew until 1949, when it reached a total of 121 people. Since then many began to leave, and this process continued until 1956, when the rebellion against the Communist regime began. The majority of Szekszard Jews fled to Austria.

Those who remained didn't continue ordinary communal life, because they were afraid of the local, unfriendly population.


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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