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

48°59' / 22°09'

Translation of the
“Snina” 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 and Translator

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 393)

Snina, Slovakia

(Hungarian: Szinna[1]) A village in the district of Zemplin, in eastern Slovakia

 

Year Number of
Residents
Jews %
1725   1
family
 
1746   6  
1828 1,947 118 6.0
1869 2,329 125 8.4
1880 2,197 195 5.7
1900 2,749 209 7.6
1921 3,423 388 11.3
1930 4,032 390 9.7
1940 4,746 419 8.9
1948 5,002 5 0.1

Snina was first mentioned in documents dating from 1364, as part of the Humenné (q.v.) estate of the nobleman DRUGHET, but was probably established many years before that. In the 17th century mining and smelting of iron-ore began in the area. Its inhabitants were mostly Slovaks and a few Ruthenians, who mostly belonged to the Greek-Orthodox Church. They made their living from forestry, wood-working, cattle and sheep raising, and metal mining and processing. In the 19th century, Snina became the capital of the district, its economy developed and many sawmills were established.

In the time of the Czechoslovak Republic, Snina suffered persistent unemployment, and some of its inhabitants migrated. During the Second World War, Snina was included within the borders of the Slovakian State that was declared under the aegis of Nazi Germany. During the years 1943-1944 anti-Nazi Slovak partisans were active. After suppression of the Slovak rebellion in the fall of 1944, Snina fell into the hands of the Germans. On 26 November 1944, Snina was liberated by the Soviet Army.

History of the Community

We have no information regarding when the first Jews came to Snina. In 1725, in official documents one Jewish family is recorded as living in Snina—the tenant Jakov ORISHKOVITZ[2], and his family, who paid 20 Florins to the owners of Snina for his tenancy. In the Zemplen tax listing of 1735, another Jewish family of six members from Poland is recorded, that paid taxes amounting to 50 Florins. In the 1840s several Jews lived in a neighboring village and in the 1860s about 20 Jews settled there, who were refugees from Galicia. In the 19th century Jews from Galicia continued to settle in Snina and their numbers steadily increased. Most of them made their living from small businesses, peddling, and some from craftsmanship and agriculture.

In the middle of the 18th century, before Snina had its own Jewish kehila (community), communal prayer was held in private homes. In 1787, Jews of Snina opened a cheder (Hebrew school) for children and toward the end of the century, they sanctified a cemetery (the earliest tombstone in it dates from 1793). In the 1830s, an independent Jewish community existed, and in 1842, the first synagogue was built of wood, and in its courtyard apartments for the shochet (ritual slaughterer) and teacher. In time, other communal buildings were erected. In the middle of the 19th century the kehila maintained a Talmud Torah. Snina's Jews conducted themselves according to the Hasidic way of life that they brought with them from their kehilot in Galicia, and this kehila was Hasidic. At that same time, this small kehila did not have its own rabbi and Rabbi Abraham Aharon TEITELBAUM who led the neighboring town of Kolbasov, served as its rabbi also. In the first 60 years, the kehila opened a basic school in which the languages of instruction were in German and Hungarian, and it was managed by the teacher MANHEIM. At the time of the 1869 split of the Hungarian Jewish communities, Snina defined itself as Orthodox and joined the Organization of Orthodox Kehilot. In 1880 revised its bylaws and they were approved again in 1914. From 1880 onward, rabbis led (the kehila) in Snina. The first, Rabbi Shmuel Segal KRAUS, served until 1912, and after him, Rabbi Reuven Chaim KLEIN author of Mateh Reuven, was elected to lead, and he opened a small yeshiva in Snina. At his side, presided the dayan and teacher, Rabbi Moshe HALBERSTAM. In 1893 a new synagogue was dedicated and communal prayer was conducted in the Ashkenazi nusach (style), and a few years later a second synagogue was established for Hasidim in the Sephardic nusach. Next to the synagogue a community center was built with apartments for the community's workers (chazzan (cantor), shochet (titual slaughter), and melamdim (teachers)).

With the outbreak of World War I, 37 of Snina's Jews were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army; 7 fell in battle. As the war went on, the Russians conquered Snina, and many Jews fled and only returned to the city months after they retreated. Several Jews were captured by the Russians and released only after the war.

The Jews between the Two World Wars

After the war, it was quite a while until life in the town returned to its regular routine. The kehila also returned and reorganized. In 1922 it consisted of 190 families, its yearly budget was 38,000 Kronen and at its head stood Moritz SRULOVITZ. The kehila comprised a synagogue, a kloyz (a small synagogue or place for study), beth-midrash (study hall), community center, ritual bath, a chicken, slaughterhouse, a butcher shop and a cemetery, and it employed three full-time employees and some temporary ones. Rabbi KLEIN continued to administer the yeshiva in which some dozens of young men studied. Rav Simcha GOLDBERGER served as instructor. The yeshiva boys came mostly from poor families and had “essen tegs” (daily food) at the homes of local Jews, and eventually an eating place was opened for them within the walls of the yeshiva. In addition to the established Chevra Kadisha (burial society) Snina had other charitable groups such as, the “Jewish Women's Association”, the gemach (acts of charity and kindness group), the “Talmud Torah group”, that supported it (the Talmud Torah). In this period, the kehila no longer maintained it own school, and the children learned in the local public school. Most of them also studied religious subjects from the learned teacher Moshe WEIL in the Talmud Torah.

In the inter-war period the “Agudas Yisroel[3]” party was the largest in Snina. It provided extensive educational activities, and alongside it ran the youth movement “Tseirey Agudas Yisroel” (for boys) and “Beis Yakov” for girls. In the town during the same years, Zionist activities also began. The head of the local Zionist branch was Dr. Ferdinand KORNFELD and the main activities were collecting donations for national funds and the study of Hebrew. The active Zionist parties in Snina were the “Mizrachi,” “General Zionists,” “The League for Working Eretz-Yisrael,” and the Revisionists. In 1929, Snina's Jews collected 1,500 Kronen in donations to Keren Kayemet to plant a forest in Israel in the name of Czechoslovakia's president, Jan MASARYK. The National Jewish Party was also active in Snina and participated in local municipal elections.

The Jews of Snina were very religious and did not mix much with the non-Jews, unlike their brethren in other places in Slovakia at that time. Only a few of them, mostly those with more open professions, served the general public – the district doctor, Ferdinand KORNFELD, district doctor Herman HOFMAN, and two senior clerks in the district government.

Despite that the Jewish population of Snina was about 10%, they had a large part in the economical activities, principally in trade, business, and small industry. In the first two decades there were among them, 30 merchants, 11 business owners (5 shoemakers, 3 tailors, a butcher, tinker, and a baker), a few farmers, expert builders, two doctors, a lawyer, some clerks. Also a large factory for wood working, a factory for light drinks, and an “economy bank” were owned by Jews. From the list of business permits issued by the local business office in 1921, one can see their role in Snina's business sector:

Type of Business Number
of
Businesses
Jewish
Owned
Groceries and general stores 9 9
Textiles and clothing 6 6
Haberdashery and Tobacco 4 2
Wood, heating and building supplies 3 3
Agricultural products 2 2
Strong drinks (liquor) 2 2
Others 5 2

The Holocaust Period

With the establishment of the Slovak Republic in March 1939, 420 Jews lived in Snina. The head of the Kehila was Herman DIM and Rabbi KLEIN continued to lead. In 1940 Snina's Jews were placed under Humenné (q.v.). For the school year 1940/41, Jewish children were thrown out from the public schools and the kehila reopened the Jewish school with 8 classes. In 1941, the authorities closed most of the Jewish-owned businesses and some large department stores and factories were aryanized. Many of the remaining Jews who were left with no means of support were drafted for hard labor and sent to “work centers.”

In the spring of 1942 deportations from Snina began. On March 21 young Jewish men and women were rounded up. On March 22, about 50 young Jewish women from Snina and its environs were sent to the collection camp in Poprad (q.v.) and on the 25th they were deported from there to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Dozens of young men were sent to the collection camp in Zilina (q.v.) and deported from there to the Majdanek camp in the Lublin region of Poland. On May 7, the authorities began to round up most of the remaining Jews with the intent of deportation. A non-Jewish local resident offered to hide Rabbi Reuven Chaim KLEIN until the outrage had passed, but the rabbi refused to cut himself off from his congregation and was deported with them. Most of the Jews of Snina and its environs were taken to the concentration center in Humenné and on May 11 joined the transport to the Chelm Ghetto in the Lublin region, and from there they were deported to the extermination camp in Sobibor.

In the fall of 1942, after the deportations stopped, eight Jewish families remained in Snina and two more in adjoining settlements, all of whom held exemption certificates and their deportations were deferred. In May 1944 the last of Snina's Jews were evacuated to western Slovakia. In September 1944 as the Germans were entering Slovakia, some of them succeeded in escaping and hiding. But some fell into the hands of the Germans and were deported to extermination camps.

Post-War

After Snina was liberated in November 1944, a few dozen surviving Jews returned, most of them having lived there and nearby in the past. The kehila was not re-established and shortly thereafter most of them left Snina. In 1948 only five Jewish families lived there. The synagogue was turned into an apartment house and the cemetery neglected and partially destroyed, was abandoned. Similarly abandoned, were some of the other kehila buildings – the beth midrash, mikvah, and slaughterhouse.

 

Stakčín

A village five km from Snina, that in the past had an independent Jewish community with a synagogue, cemetery, community center, mikvah, and slaughterhouse. In 1930 137 Jews lived there and they belonged to the Snina rabbinate. In the spring and summer of 1942, the Jewish residents of the village were deported the extermination camps.

 

Kolbasov

A village adjacent to Snina, that in the middle of the 19th century had a Jewish kehila led by a rabbi -- Rabbi Avraham Aharon TEITELBAUM. It appears that it also existed in the 20th century. From March to May 1942, Jews from the village were deported to extermination camps in Poland. After the war survivors returned to Kolbasov. On December 6 1945 Ukranian Nationalists who had infiltrated the area from Poland, murdered 11 of these returning survivors, and one suspects they were aided by local residents.

References:

Yad Vashem Archives, 03/5749; M5/57; M48/1417, 1459; JM/11011-11015, 11017-11018, 11021, 11031.
Hashomer Hatzair Archives, 15.11.95 (2).
Cohen, Chachmei Hungaria (The Sages of Hungary), pp. 143, 409, 469-472, 510.
Fuchs, Hungarian Yeshivot, Vol. 2. Pp. 47-49.
MHJ, vols. III, VII, XVI
Selbswehr, no. 58 (1929)


Translator's notes

  1. Not to be confused with Sena (also known at various times as Abaujszina). Return
  2. As transliterated from the Hebrew. Actual spelling may differ. Return
  3. For more about this youth movement, see http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Tseirey_Agudas_Yisroel. Return
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