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

48°19' / 18°05'

Translation of the
“Nitra” 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

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 Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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(Pages 351-360)

Nitra, Slovakia

Translated by Shlomo Sné

Edited by Francine Shapiro

(In Hungarian Nyitra, in German: Neutra, in Jewish sources: Naytra)
An old city, the capital of the district in Western Slovakia.)

 

YearNumber of ResidentsJewsBy Percent
1746----41----
1767---167----
17873,37842512.6
18284,0901,34032.8
186910,8933,14128.8
188012,2353,50128.6
190015,1693,67424.2
191918,6423,74720.2
193021,2833,80918.0
194022,5894,35819.2
194820,5066103.0

Nitra was mentioned in a document from the year 826, but existed even previously. In the ninth century it was the capital of the principality, and the first church in Slovakia was established there. In the second half of the ninth century Nitra was annexed to the Kingdom of Greater Moravia. It was an important administrative center, and its market and fairs days drew merchants from various countries. In the thirteenth century it became a royal city with special privileges, and was one of the most important cities in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Later it was the Bishop's city, and contained many church institutions and schools. Nitra suffered invasions and pillage by the Turks many times during the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century it received the status of a free city, and became a district capital. It was an important administrative, economic, and cultural center for western Slovakia, and the place for administrative offices, cultural institutions, department stores, and schools. Its first industries were established at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Later, when it was connected to the railway system in 1876, the process of industrialization intensified, and its economy flourished. The population, mostly Slovakians and Hungarians, and some Germans, mostly Roman Catholics, made their living through crafts and sales, or worked in industry.

During the era of the Czechoslovakian Republic, Roman Catholic influence increased, and it became the center of the clerical, nationalistic Slovakian movement. Many of its inhabitants were supporters of the Slovakian Peoples Party of Father Hlinka. During the Second World War, Nitra was inside the area of the Slovakian state, under the auspices of Nazi Germany, and was one of the strongholds of the clerical, nationalistic regime. The Soviet Army liberated the city on March 31, 1945.

The History of the Community

The Jews from the Middle Ages until the End of the Eighteenth Century.

Nitra is one of the oldest, biggest, and most important communities of Slovakia. There are testimonies about Jewish settlement in Nitra even in medieval times. In the eleventh century some Jews were among the workers in the mint, and the clerks of the royal treasury in the city. Mons Judeorum (the mountain of the Jews) is mentioned in documents from the years 1111-1113, perhaps nicknamed for the Jewish Quarter, or Jewish cemetery. At this time the Jews of Nitra were under the protection of the bishop, and lived outside of the walls of the city, in an estate that belonged to the Zobor monastery. They made their living through commerce or the interest from loans.

From 1248 there was a fortified Jewish settlement (castrum Judeorum) in Nitra, and according to tradition, by the thirteenth century there was an organized community with institutions. Jews, as inhabitants of Nitra, are also mentioned in medieval Jewish sources. Rabbi Yitzhak Ben Moshe of Vienna, the author of Merchaot Or Zarua, pointed out in his book that at the beginning of the thirteenth century that the Jews of Nitra asked him about the laws of marriage. According to various testimonies, Jews also lived in other places in the area at these times. A Jewish quarter existed in one of the suburbs of Nitra from the fourteenth century, called Parulcha at the beginning, and afterwards Parovské in Slovakian. From medieval times until the sixteenth century, we do not have continuous information about the Jewish settlement in Nitra, or about the existence of the Jewish community. In documents from 1522, Jews residents of Nitra are mentioned again. In the middle of the seventeenth century, some Jewish families from Moravia who leased concessions from the authorities settled there. Jewish merchants who imported metals from Moravia, despite the opposition of the authorities, are mentioned in a document from 1657. The Jews were not permitted to live in the city, so they settled in the suburb of Parovské.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Jews were expelled from many settlements in the district, according to new limitations the authorities placed on Jews living in the areas of mines. It seems that this law also included the Jews of Nitra, because in the first Jewish census from 1727, and in a general population census from 1736, Jewish inhabitants of the city are not mentioned. In these years Nitra suffered from plague, which caused the death of a quarter of its population. Apparently at this time there were no Jews in Nitra, because they are not mentioned among the victims of the plague. It seems that Jewish settlement was renewed during the 1740's. In 1740 six Jewish families from Moravia settled there, and in 1746 twelve Jewish families lived there (41 people), who paid the authorities a tax of 82 florins. After the growth of the number of the Jews in the city, thanks to immigration from Moravia, the first synagogue was founded. In 1762 about 50 Jewish families lived in the suburb of Parovské, and the community had a rabbi of its own. One Jewish family, who leased the brewery and the municipal distillery, lived in the city. Because of the limitations the authorities placed on Jewish movement at this time, the source of their income diminished, and their distress intensified. In 1755 the representatives of the district communities convened in Nitra, and together decided to ask the authorities to lower their taxes (about 2,900 florins tolerance tax, and other special levies). In the middle of the eighteenth century there was an organized community in Nitra, with all the traditional community institutions. In 1766 the old synagogue was renovated and enlarged in order to provide for the needs of the developing community.

In the tax list of 1768, 51 Jewish family heads are listed. Perhaps the number

of Jews was bigger, because not all the families paid tax. The Jews of Nitra paid a tolerance tax of 160 florins and another tax of 112 florins as well, to the authorities in the same year. According to this list, the community employed a few men: Rabbi Shlomo Ben David, the shochet, Leibel Yakov, and two (melamdim) teachers in the cheder. At the end of the eighteenth century Menachem Deutsch held the post of rabbi, followed by Rabbi Shlomo Flesch. The number of Jews in Nitra grew continuously, and in 1793 there were 450 people in the community. About 430 lived in the suburb of Parovské, and another 20 Jews who leased saloons lived in the city.

The Jews of Nitra until the End of World War I

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were about 500 Jews in Nitra. With the growth of the community during the century, new public institutions were established.

In 1818 a new synagogue was built in classical style with a 100-seat yeshiva near the existing synagogue. In 1820 a Jewish school was opened with two classes where religious and secular subjects were taught in the German language. When it was opened, it had 35 pupils. In 1858 the authorities recognized the school.

For a long time the school was a source of argument between some family heads and the community rabbi, Yeheskel Banet, who fiercely opposed teaching secular subjects. In the middle of the century (the old) Bet Midrash and a soup kitchen was opened there.

There was a cholera epidemic in 1831 which killed many people in the Jewish quarter. In 1832 the limitations on Jewish residence in some cities were abolished, and the first Jewish families of the Parovské suburb moved to the center of the city and opened many department stores there.

The community grew and flourished, and in the 1840's it numbered about 2,000 people. In the years 1836-1854 the rabbi in Nitra was (the aforementioned) Yeheskel Banet, one of the most important rabbis in his generation, who corresponded with the Hatam Sofer concerning responsa. He founded a yeshiva in Nitra, which was very famous all over Slovakia and Hungary. After him came the rabbis of the community, Rabbis Falk Bichler, Mayer Vorhand, and Avram Rosenbaum.

At the time of the Revolution of 1848, also called the Spring of Nations, there were violent anti-Jewish riots in Nitra. Local citizens and farmers burst into Jewish homes and businesses, robbed them, and caused damage and ruin. Many Jews left their homes in the city, and found shelter in the Jewish suburb of Parovské. Four months later in August 1848 the refuges returned to their homes in the city center. In 1869 the majority of Nitra Jews, about 1,741 people, still lived in the Parovské suburb gradually the majority of them moved into the center of the city. After the Budapest Congress in 1869 there was a schism in the community of Nitra, and a split.

The majority, about 170 families, organized as an Orthodox community and the rest founded a Neolog community. From then until the end of the Second World War, there were two communities, which had separate public institutions, separate rabbinates, and separate sections in the cemetery. The school was shared, and directed in a traditional Orthodox manner.

The Orthodox community in Nitra had two synagogues, a Bet Midrash, other little synagogues, a big and a little yeshiva, a Talmud Torah, mikva, slaughter house, butcher shops, and other institutions, a soup kitchen, and also a Hevra Kadisha and associations such as a mental institution, assistance to the ill, Poalei Zedek, a Jewish women's association, and some other charitable societies. The first head of the Orthodox community was Shimon Offenberg.

In 1885 the community built a modern mikva (ritual bath), and a public bath.

In 1893 the community built a new Bet Midrash from a donation given by the philanthropist, Yosef Engel. The constitution of the orthodox community was ratified again in 1898. In that year the Jewish school moved to a new building. The old orthodox synagogue in the Parovské suburb was restored and enlarged in 1903. A new old age home of 30 rooms was opened in 1905.

The first rabbis of the orthodox community were Rabbi Shlomo Deutsch (1868-1880), Rabbi Akiva Klein, and Rabbi Yosef Henig. The dayanim served with them, Rabbi Abraham Litch-Rosenbaum, and Rabbi Mordechai Shenfeld, the author of Divrei Yosher.

The rabbi of the Neolog community from 1868-1908 was Rabbi Dr. Armin Marmorshtein, and then Rabbi Dr. P. Himmler was elected. In 1909 he was succeeded by Rabbi Dr. David Klein, famous as a talented preacher and educated man who donated much to the formation of the community. At this time Arthur Verö, head of the education department, headed the community. Doctor Natan Gennfeld directed the school committee, while Yakov Weiss was the chief cantor. The Neolog community constitution was ratified again in 1907. In 1908 a new, superb synagogue was begun in neo-Moorish style, which was inaugurated magnificently in September 1911.

In the Neolog communities there were some active mutual assistance and charities: the Jewish Women's Association, (founded in 1889). In 1893 the Neolog community opened a Talmud Torah of its own, which was directed by Dr. Feuchtwang.

From its inception, the Zionist Movement had many sympathizers in Nitra. The first Zionist Association, “Ahavat Zion”, was established after the first Zionist Congress, in 1897, and it was headed by Zvi Neumann, one of the founders of the Zionist Movement in Hungary, and one of its first leaders. Rabbi Ephraim Kane, a teacher in Nitra's yeshiva, was one of the first Zionists. In 1904 Leopold Shick and the cantor Mordechai Kadsnyanski from Nitra, took part in the first world conference of the Mizrachi in Bratislava. In 1909 Felix Neiman from Nitra was elected one of the leaders of the Hungarian Zionist Organization.

The Jews had a decisive influence on the urban economy, as owners of the majority of the businesses and workshops, and were pioneers of local industry. Eliahu Somek opened a distillery for alcohol in 1865. In 1867 Adolph Kremer founded a large sawmill and a factory for processing wood, which employed about 200 workers, and after a short time also founded a plant for roof tiles and roof covering called Fernit with about 150 workers. In the 1870's a Jewish estate owner, D. Weiss-Vero opened a factory for agricultural machinery, and in 1888 opened a factory for cast-iron products. A large malt factory owned by Edward Eckstein employed dozens of workers in 1887. Ernst Bak's sawmill employed about 100 workers, there were some factories for alcoholic beverages, and Jews also owned two banks. Among the Jews were some clerks and free professionals.

The weekly, Nyitrai Lapok (the Pages of Nitra) was published in Hungarian and German from 1870-1938 and edited by Josef Weiss. It dealt with general city affairs, and especially with Jewish concerns. The Jews were involved in urban life, and active in social and cultural institutions. Among themselves they spoke mainly German and Hungarian, and Slovakian with the local people.

During World War I, many Jews were recruited into the Austro-Hungarian army, and dozens of them were killed in battles. At the end of the war there were riots in Nitra for social reasons, which were mainly directed at the Jews, but thanks to the leadership of their many veterans, the Jews organized for self-defense, and routed the rioters.

Jews between the Two World Wars

The Communities and Public Life

A the end of the First World War, the leader of the Neolog Community was Dr. Max Jelinek, and his deputy was Rabbi Yakov Levi. Rabbi Dr. David Klein continued his tenure; Moshe Shtachler was the cantor, and Shaul Weiss the shochet. In 1922 the Neolog community included 750 members (235 heads of families paid the community tax).The annual budget of the community for this year was 115,000 crowns, and it employed six permanently. The Neolog community had a synagogue, a cemetery, community housing for its employees, and a soup kitchen for 100 needy individuals. Other institutions included a Hevra Kadisha, the Jewish Women's Association, headed by M. Jelinek, a Bikur Holim (Visiting the Ill) organization, as well as other welfare and mutual assistance associations. In 1929 Rabbi Klein left Nitra, and in the next year Rabbi Dr. Eleazer Schweiger was elected to follow him. He was born in Topolèany, had many publications in Jewish science and philosophy, and had an important role in developing Jewish education in Slovakia. Among other things, he translated into Slovakian parts of the Bible, the Jewish prayer book, the Passover Hagadah, and educational materials for Jewish schools all over the state. For many years he was the president of the traditional rabbinical association in Slovakia. He also was an enthusiastic Zionist, and an assistant of Theodore Herzl at the first Zionist congresses. At the end of the 1930's Julius Schlesinger was the head of the Neolog community, the Jewish hospital, and the Jewish guesthouse. His deputy was Henigsberg, and Shaul Weiss was the shochet and cantor.

At the beginning of the 1920's, the head of the Orthodox Community was Armin Shteiner, and his deputies were Adolph Ehrenfeld, and Rudolph Ettinger.

In 1922 the Orthodox community included about 3,000 people (450 family-heads, who paid the community taxes).

Its annual budget was 475,000 crowns. It employed 10 permanent workers, as well as other temporary ones. Its rabbi from the beginning of the twentieth century was Rabbi Moshe Katz, who was also the president of Agudat Yisroel in Czechoslovakia, and the editor of a Halachic periodical, “Makzikei HaDaat.”

Despite his many other roles, he was also head of the large yeshiva in Nitra.

He was assisted in the yeshiva's administration by the dayanim, Rabbi Mordechai Vorhand, the author of “Beer Mordechai” and Rabbi Avraham Aaron Katz. The chief cantor was Mordechai Kadnyianski. Other small communities also belonged to the Nitra rabbinate, as well as 32 settlements in the area without a Jewish community. In 1927 Rabbi Moshe Katz died, and his son, Rabbi Avraham Aaron Katz was elected rabbi in his place and also headed the yeshiva, which then had about 50 students. He died on June 22, 1930. In 1931 Rabbi Shmuel David Unger of Piestany was elected rabbi of the Orthodox community, one of the most famous rabbis of Slovakia. He had been previously the rabbi of Trnava, and the head of its large yeshiva. Many of his students came with him. Rabbi Unger was devoted to the yeshiva's management, and during the 1930's, between 250-300 students studied there, many of them from abroad. In the administration of the yeshiva, Rabbi Unger was assisted mainly by his son-in-law, Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel, who was distinguished by his knowledge and acuity. Thanks to his initiative, the Orthodox community established a large Beit Midrash, which was inaugurated in the summer of 1932, and enlarged the yeshiva building.

Next to it Rabbi Unger opened a free-lunch facility, where about 200 yeshiva students, most of them from poor families, ate free of charge. There were also other charitable societies, such as “Maskil El Dat,” “Malbish Arumim,” “Haifut Magidut,etc. The yeshiva students kept their connection with their rabbi for many years after they finished their studies. Rabbi Unger was famous for his love of books, and he had a large Halachic library with about 8,000 volumes in his home.

Besides his regular functions, he was also a member of the Central Chamber of the Orthodox Communities in Slovakia, and a member of the Agudat Yisroel presidium in Czechoslovakia. He was admired by Jews and non-Jews alike, and during the visit of the President T.G. Masaryk of Czechoslovakia to Nitra, he was included in the delegation which met him. Afterwards he was received by President Masaryk.

Among the important rabbis who originated in Nitra, one may mention Kalonymus Weiss (1840-1910), who was rabbi in the communities of Karlsburg and Satoraljaujhely. Rabbi Shlomo Broyer, (1849-1926).The chief Orthodox rabbi of the community of Frankfort-on-Main, and the president of the Orthodox rabbis association in Germany, Rabbi Isroel Haim Braun, previously the rabbi of Halle in Germany, and Rabbi Moshe Vorhand (1860-1944), formerly the rabbi of Mako in Hungary (were others-FS). Rabbi Shaul Broch was also born in Nitra (1865-1940), who was the chief rabbi of the Orthodox community in Kosice, and head of its large yeshiva.

The Orthodox community in Nitra already had many public institutions, including two synagogues, two Batei Midrash, and eight other small synagogues, a community house, a mikve tahara with a bathhouse, a free-lunch kitchen, old age home, two yeshivas (small and large), and a Talmud Torah. In addition to the Hevra Kadisha, there were Bikur Holim, Poalei Zedek, Gmilut Hessed, Linat Orachim, Jewish women's association, Merape Nefesh, and some other welfare societies and funds. A branch of Agudat Yisroel was established in Nitra in 1919 under the leadership of Rabbi Aharon Katz. In 1921 a branch of Young Agudat Yisroel was started, and later the branch of the girls' movement, Beit Yakov. In 1932 the Agudat Yisroel house was inaugurated.

The Jewish school shared by the two communities had five classes. The language of instruction was Slovakian, and it included between 250-300 pupils. Its directors were Heinrich Brenner, followed by Shimon Feher. The heads of the school committee were Rabbi Moshe Katz, and Dr. Julius Rado, and during the 1930's, Rabbi Shmuel David Unger. In 1936 a modern Jewish hospital was opened in Nitra, the second in Slovakia. (The first was in Bratislava.) The head of the hospital committee was Julius Schlesinger, one of the initiators of its establishment.

Between the two world wars, the Zionist movement in Nitra grew much larger, and its activity intensified. Zionist partisan movements opened clubs in the city, and were active in spreading Zionist ideas and collecting donations for the national funds. In the WIZO branch in the city, hundreds of women enjoyed social activities. Head of the local Zionist branch, Emil Neumann, was a member of the top echelon of Zionist leadership in Czechoslovakia, and Dr. Ladislaw Rosenzweig was one of the leaders of the Mizrachi.

In 1929 the Jews of Nitra donated 5,200 crowns to the Jewish national fund to plant a forest named for Czechoslovakia's president, T.G. Masaryk, in Palestine. In 1929, 323 shekels were sold in Nitra before the Seventeenth Zionist Congress (in 1931). 301 shekels were sold before the Twenty-first Zionist Congress in 1939 (=1,055 shekels). In the elections to the eighteenth Zionist Congress in 1933 the Eretz Yisroel Oved Bloc gained 50% of the votes, the Mizrachi won 30%, General Zionist 3%, Revisionists won 3%, and all the others 10%.

The Maccabi Sports Association branch in Nitra was one of the first in Slovakia, third in size in the state, and one of the most active in it. Hundreds of youngsters and adults from all Jewish social groups joined Maccabi, and engaged in many kinds of sport and cultural activities. HaShomer Kadima, (afterwards HaShomer HaZair), was the first Zionist youth movement in Nitra. A club was established at the beginning of the 1920's, and some of its former members made aliyah. Also active in this city were other movements: Maccabi HaZair, Betar, Zairei Hamizrachi, Agudat Banot Zioniot, and from 1929, Bnai Akiva. In 1939 the movement established a boarding school for teenagers before they made aliyah.

Jews in the life of the city and the economy

In 1928 1,042 (from 3,901) Jews were listed as Jews according to their nationality. The majority were listed as Slovaks, Hungarians, and Germans.

The National Jewish Party was one of the biggest in Nitra, and its representatives were elected to the city and district councils. In the municipal elections of 1923, the party gained 8 mandates, and was the second-largest faction, both in the city administration and city council. Here we have a table of the achievements of this party in the municipal elections:

YearBallotsPercentageSize
192099512Third in size
19231,14315Second in size
19261,29517Third in Size
19281,12916Second in size
19311,04912Third in size

In the 1920's, 11 Jews were elected to the City Council. In 1931 Dr. Woitek Schlesinger (Silagy) was elected mayor as a member of the Social Democratic Party, and four Jews were members of the District Council. Dr. Alexander Weiner was nominated Chief Justice of the District Court, and Arthur Shimko was a judge in the Magistrate's Court. Dr. Alexander Weiss was Chief Physician in the District Hospital, and Dr. Yakov Weiner was the Town Veterinarian. Julius Ivanovšy was the director of the Post Office branch, and Adolph Kremer was president of the merchant's Association of the Nitra District.

The influence of the Jews in the local economy was at its height. Their main sources of income were wholesale and retail trade, industry, artisanship, and they were also represented among the free professions. In 1921 among them were 19 physicians (of 29), 18 lawyers (of 31), 3 veterinarians (of 6), some pharmacists, engineers, skilled home builders, and many clerks. The majority of local trade was in the hands of Jews, mainly in the sectors of clothing, textiles, etc., lumber, and agricultural products. In 1921 Jews were the owners of 458 of the licensed businesses (of 605) in Nitra, as can be ascertained from these figures.

Type of BusinessNumber of BusinessesUnder Jewish Ownership
Groceries and general Stores12998
Textiles and notions10190
Restaurants and taverns7648
Clothing6561
Cattle and horses3924
Agricultural products and Flour37 25
Leather goods3028
Moving 920
Shoes1913
Wine and spirits159
Wood, heating, and building materials1411
Agencies1411
Iron products and tools127
Clocks and jewelry119
Books and paper products107
Furniture and household goods109
Hotels54
Others94

There were 112 workshops, 12 little enterprises, and some big and medium factories of Jews, among them a sawmill, and a factory for processing the cut wood, owned by Adolph Kremer, a large flour mill, which belonged to Ernest Bak, “the breweries of Nitra,” and two banks.

During the Holocaust

After the declaration of Slovakian autonomy at the beginning of October 1938, and the annexation of southern Slovakia to Hungary, the Jews became a people without rights. On November 5, 1938 the Slovakian citizenship of 95 Jewish families (209 members) was uncertain, and they were expelled to Hungarian territory. (Some of these families were sent back to their homes after a few weeks.) After the establishment of the Slovakian state on March 14, 1939, persecution intensified.

The authorities persecuted the Jews, while the non-Jews conspired against them.

Although their distress strengthened, the community life continued, and the rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel David Unger (Orthodox), and Dr. Eleazer Schweiger (Neolog), carried out their functions. At this time the Jewish community of Nitra was second in size in Slovakia, after Bratislava.

In 1940 there were 4,360 Jews in Nitra. Adolph Weiss, a merchant, was nominated head of the “Jew's Center” in the Nitra sub- district. In the academic year 1940-41 the Jewish pupils were expelled from the public schools and the Jewish school was enlarged. Instead of nine classes as before, a junior high school was added. The school director was a teacher, Shimon Pehr. Teaching was also continued in the Talmud Torah and yeshiva, in which had about 220 students. Julius Schlesinger, head of the Orthodox community, was the director of the Jewish hospital. During 1940 hundreds of Nitra Jews were pressed into forced labor, and were sent to “Labor Centers” all over Slovakia. On March 12, 1941 policemen searched Jewish homes, and confiscated valuables. Until the middle of the year, the authorities closed about 530 small and medium-sized businesses (Their annual turnover was 63,000,000 crowns.); 91 factories and large businesses whose annual turnover was 55,000,000 crowns, were put in the hands of arizators, (Aryans chosen to run large Jewish businesses-FS-). 1,018 penniless Jewish refugees, of those who had been expelled from Bratislava were taken to Nitra at the end of 1941.The community and the “Jews' Center” provided lodging and food for these refugees. At the beginning of 1942 on the eve of expulsions, the number of Jews in Nitra reached its height-about 5,430 souls.

Expulsions

The expulsion of the Jews of Nitra and the surrounding area began in March 23, 1942. After a large hunt about 250 young men wee transported to the transit camp in Novaky, and there they were added to a transport, which left on March 31, 1942 to the Maidanek Concentration Camp. On March 28, 1942, there was a hunt for young women; about 300 young women from Nitra and nearby towns were sent to the Patronka transit camp and on April 1, 1942, were added to a transport to the Auschwitz death camp. The expulsion of families was begun in the middle of April 1942. At the beginning 100 families from the surrounding areas were moved to a concentration point in Nitra. About 3,120 from Nitra and its surroundings were expelled in three transports to the Lublin district in Poland. On April 14, 1942 the first transport left which included 1,040 Jews (about 600 of them from Nitra). Men fit for work were taken off in Lublin, and transported to Maidanek, but all the others were sent to Rejowiec ghetto in the Chelm sub -district in Eastern Poland. On April 20 1942 another transport left Nitra for the Rejowiec ghetto with 1,030 Jews, 385 from Nitra and the rest for the surrounding settlements. Among those expelled were also the community workers, including the Dayan, Rabbi Chaim Meislik. In the summer of 1942 little groups of Jews were sent from Nitra through the Novaky, Sarad, and Jilina camps to Auschwitz. On October 15, 1942, a few dozen sick Jews were sent from the Nitra Psychiatric hospital to the collection camp in Jilina and from there to Auschwitz. 75% of the Jews of the Nitra sub -district were expelled in 1942 to death camps and ghettos in Poland.

A short time before the expulsions many refugees were gathered in the court of Rabbi Shmuel David Unger, among them Jews who fled to Slovakia from neighboring countries and ghettos in Poland. During the expulsions there were larger streams of refugees. Many of them hid in Nitra or fled to Hungary. During a pause in expulsions in 1942, there were Jews who had protection documents, including dozens of families that had converted to Christianity, and many Jews who held forged Aryan papers were left behind. The two communities were reorganized under the leadership of the two rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel David Unger, and Rabbi Eleazer Schweiger, who also got protection documents. A few dayanim, religious slaughterers, cantors, and other community functionaries also continued to do their jobs. The Jewish school was confiscated by the authorities and converted into a non-Jewish trade school. The Jewish pupils studied in an improvised building which functioned until the end of the 1944 academic year. Its director was Shimon Pehr.

The yeshiva of Nitra, the last in east and central Europe, was functioning until September 1944, and Rabbi Unger continued as its head. It had about 200 pupils, and a married student group (kollel). It gathered dozens of rabbis and Jewish scholars who fled during the expulsions from many communities, and found shelter in the rabbi's court. Rabbi Unger was fully devoted to saving Jews, and his son-in-law, Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel was one of the heads of “Hatzala” (“the work group”) in Slovakia. Some of the community leadership was active as emissaries negotiating with the mayor, P. Moyto, and the head of the Bishop's Chamber, a priest named Zvinczek. Thanks to an unspoken agreement with them, the rabbi's court (which was famously called “the Vatican”) continued to exist. For about two years some hundred Jews lived there. In May 1944 about 220 Jewish refugees from eastern Slovakia arrived in Nitra, and the community also provided food and shelter. Among the refugees were rabbis and functionaries who found shelter in Rabbi Unger's court, too. 1,390 Jews who had protection documents were living in Nitra and nearby settlements, and many others were hiding in the city or using forged papers at the beginning of 1944.

“Work centers” for Jews were established in the middle of 1942 in Deges, a village near Nitra, in order to save them from expulsion. Its establishment was an enterprise of Jews, and its settlers, the majority of them from Nitra, were employed in infrastructure work. At the end of 1942 there were more than 200 Jews, 75 of them men who worked, and 133 members of families. The “Jews' Center” forced Isidore Engel of Nitra to head it.

At the beginning of the Slovakian revolt of August 29, 1944 there were about 1,500 Jews in Nitra. On September 2, 1944 an S.S. unit occupied the city. On September 8, 1944 S. S. members, assisted by Hlinka Guards, conducted a large hunt for Jews. Four Jews who were caught were murdered in the town. The rest were sent in three transports to Auschwitz and other death camps through the Sared camp. About 300 Jews were expelled from Nitra on October 7 and 12, 1944. It seems that they were arrested in the town of Ilova, and there is no information about their fate. Among those expelled to Auschwitz was the Neolog Rabbi, Dr. Eleazer Schweiger, the Dayan of the Orthodox community, Rabbi Mordechai Vorhand, and some rabbis who found shelter in Rabbi Unger's court. Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel, who was also expelled with his family, succeeded in fleeing from the transport to a

hiding place in Bratislava. Rabbi Unger, who was not in the city during the hunt, succeeded in fleeing with his son, Rabbi Sholem Moshe Unger, and with some yeshiva students to an area controlled by partisans. After the suppression of the revolt, Rabbi Unger hid for some months in a bunker made by his disciples in the forests near the village of Kaliste in the center of Slovakia. Rabbi Unger died of exhaustion a short time before the liberation on February 22, 1945. His son, Rabbi Sholem Moshe Unger immigrated to the United States after the war and established a yeshiva patterned after the style of the Nitra yeshiva, which continues to exist to this day.

After the War

After the liberation more than Jewish 600 survivors returned to Nitra, the majority of them from various camps, and a minority from hiding places in Slovakia. The returnees organized one communal framework, following Orthodox tradition. The two synagogues were cleaned and renovated, and the Neolog synagogue returned to serve the united community for public prayer. The Hevra Kadisha began to clean and renovate the cemetery, which had been defiled during the war. The survivors built a monument there to the local Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. The mikva

was also renovated, and a public kitchen was opened for the survivors. The community employed two religious slaughterers who were also cantors. Many other public buildings were destroyed during the war, or confiscated by the authorities. Among the survivors who returned to Nitra were Rabbi Sholem Moshe Halevy Unger, Rabbi Yeheskel Shraga Landau, and the Dayan, Rabbi Mordechai Vorhand; for a short time they continued to be the leaders of the community. After the emigration of Rabbi Sholem Moshe Unger, and Rabbi Mordechai Vorhand in 1947, Rabbi Eliahu Katz, son of Rabbi Avraham Aharon Katz, was the rabbi of the community and the district. Afterwards he was elected Chief Rabbi of Slovakian Jewry.

Zionist activity was also renewed under the leadership of Dr. Karol Auer, Moshe Ressler, Alexander Shimko, and Alexander Shpitzer, and activity was intense.

The HaShomer HaZair movement, the biggest in the city, established a training farm and boarding school for youths who intended to make aliyah to Palestine. In 1947 the Jews of Nitra donated 38,000 crowns and 21,000 more crowns were collected for planting a forest in memory of the Czechoslovakian martyrs in Palestine. In 1948 there were 610 Jews in Nitra; the majority of them made aliyah to Israel in 1949, or immigrated to other countries. In 1950 only 150 remained in the city, and community life continued. During the 1960's Desider Katz, then Eldar Krausz, the-shaliah zibor-cantor, and Sigmund Kolin were the leaders of the community. In 1963 the mikva and bathhouse were destroyed, and in 1967 the authorities also destroyed the building of the Jewish school. The two synagogues are now warehouses, and only a small synagogue remained for the community. In 1990 only about 60-70 Jews lived in Nitra, but the little community continued its existence. The situation of the local cemetery is satisfactory, and is still in use. Recently the urban authority began to renovate the former Neolog synagogue as a cultural center.

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