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[Page 7]

Jews in Zemplen

Already in the tenth century there are written records, which testify to the presence of Jews in Hungary. Among them, they inform us that they go to trade in Prague. In the first century, after the Conquest (of Hungary by the Magyars) they had equal rights with the Hungarians, in fact many of them lived in mixed marriages (with the Hungarians). Later, the Church's strict prohibitions ended this custom. In this period, according to Meir Szász' book[1], Jewish communities settled only in the Western and North-Western parts of Hungary, most of them arriving from neighboring countries. To the East of the river Danube there were no Jewish communities even at the time of the Árpád dynasty. Not even in the county of Zemplén. During the reign of King Kálmán (1095-1116) they were permitted to own and cultivate lands, they traded mainly with Germany, and were also involved in money lending.

They (the Hungarians) tried to curtail their (the Jews') growing influence with rulings instituted in the Golden Bull of (1222). After the Tatar invasion, despite the fierce opposition of the Holy See, King Bela the IV-th gave the Jews certain privileges. The Jews could hold government positions and they also established currency mints.

After the rule of the Árpád dynasty – in the reign of Lajos the Great – there had already been severe persecutions (of the Jews) and many were expelled from the country. Although not long after their expulsions they were able to return, their perilous situation didn't improve much. During the reign of King Zsigmond, they were not even allowed to observe their Passover holidays without troubles and they were regularly harassed with blood libels. Later, King Matyas established Jewish prefectures[2], which represented the Hungarian Jewry and where they could present their grievances.

During the Turkish occupation, most of the Jews lived in the occupied areas, and, despite many hardships, they lived in relative peace and continued their trading and money lending activities. Even more tolerable was the situation of those living in the princedoms of Transylvania. Gábor Bethlen gave them a letter of privileges. After the end of the Turkish occupation, the Jews suffered continuing persecutions. The rulers of the time subjected them to the most drastic treatment in order to oust them from the country. Measures instituted by Jozsef the II-nd (1780-1790) resulted in somewhat less harsh and more tolerable environment. Previously restricted, so called free Royal towns were opened to them. They could establish schools and conduct industrial and commercial activities. In the first half of the XIX-th century a high-paced “Hungarianization” process started. Associations were established for the promotion of the Hungarian language. The Jews fought alongside the Hungarians in a revolution (of 1848) and many died for the cause. In retaliation (by the Habsburgs), similarly to the Hungarians, they suffered terrible retributions.

The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy provided favorable conditions for them. They were able to trade goods among the states of the Monarchy, sold agricultural products, industrial supplies and provided loans to the rural population.

[Page 8]

As a result, a large-scale Jewish immigration began – mostly from Eastern-Europe - and the Hungarians were happy to accept them. At the same time a powerful assimilation process also began. The Jews spoke in Hungarian, took up Hungarian surnames, and vigorously fought for Jewish emancipation. The word “Zsido” (Jew) slowly became synonymous with the word for merchant. Customers didn't go to the store, but they went to the “Jew.”

The emancipation of the Jews was provided by paragraph XVII of the laws of 1867. A universal Jewish assembly was called, which accepted the decision. Accordingly, it became the responsibility of the Jewish Community to provide institutions, personnel and funds for taking care of all their religious, educational and charitable affairs. The Jewish Community had to be managed by elected leaders and a representative assembly.

“By the beginning of the 20th century almost all Hungarian villages had at least one Jewish family, who ran the village shop or in many cases the village pub. They played a more significant role in settlements, which were located at major road junctions, or in places, where there was some kind of economic development, or had other, significant local activities. In many of Northern-Hungary's smaller towns, as in Gyöngyös or Tokaj, well-known wine growing regions, the wine trade was almost exclusively in the hands of the Jews. At Mako, the primary onion growing region, the onion trade was in Jewish hands. But, we can mention other examples, too, such as at Mezőkövesd, famous for its handmade embroidery, where they controlled the trade, selling the raw materials, buying the final products and selling them in other parts of the country and exporting them abroad, making the handmade “Matyó” products world famous. In this latter case, they helped a unique Hungarian folk art-form prosper to the point that - between the two world wars - it attained a national identity.” (Zs. Szarvas, 1990 )

Closer to home – in Zemplén - the first written, Hungarian language document, which mentions the Jews, is dated 1609 and relates to the harvest of the village of Mád. The document reports that, not only Poles came to Mád to buy wine, but Jews as well. They purchased complete grape harvests, such as 50 barrels worth from “főispán” Alaghy. They did the harvesting and pressing of the grapes temselves, since they could not trust the preparation of kosher[3] wine to non-Jewish hands. Kosher wine production is just one of the aspects of the establishment of Jewish communities. Since the county was a border region, they often met with Polish spice and fur merchants. This might also have contributed to the establishment of (Jewish) communities. Beginning from the middle of the XVII-th century, Jewish communities have settled permanently in the region. The families lived scattered in the villages and towns, mostly in rented houses. The law did not clearly define their status or rights in their local communities, or country-wide, and their status was considered inferior in the eyes of the citizens and the authorities. In general, they were exposed to arbitrary treatment by the local authorities.

According to the national census held in 1725-28, of the 435 localities of Zemplén, 78 Jewish families lived in 55 of the villages. Communal living was part of their daily lives. Without the latter, there can be no daily prayer (minyan), provision and preparation of kosher food, teaching of the children or even a funeral.

[Page 9]

All these are organic parts of Jewish identity. Most of them were forced to live at the peripheries of the localities, living in poverty. They conducted very simple trading with the locals, satisfying the low levels of needs corresponding to the times. Very few people could break out from these limited circumstances.

Starting in the mid-18th century SÁTORALJAÚJHELY (Újhely) started to play a central role in the life of the county (of Zemplen). In 1748 it became the seat of the county. In 1754 the County-Hall's construction had been completed. As the general population grew in numbers, so did the Jewish population. The establishment of the (formal) Jewish Community is estimated to have occurred in 1771 and the building of the first synagogue was in 1790. Its famous rabbi had founded a religious school. Another important date was 1817, the opening of the first Jewish hospital near the Ronyva creek. The walls of the first synagogue were adjoined with the back walls of the old City Hall. It served the community until 1887. A memorial plaque used to mark the location of this Synagogue.

Jewish immigration to Zemplén became steady during the 18th-19th century. They came mainly from Galicia. They adjusted their livelihoods according the opportunities found in the rural areas; they worked in agriculture and conducted small-scale commerce. They sold the wine of the landlords, bought the produce from the peasants, and even extended loans to them. They navigated the markets expertly. Those settling in the foothills dealt mostly in wine.

The 1847-48 parliamentary sessions demonstrated great antipathy towards them. Many representatives opposed their emancipation. Due to the prevailing antisemitic sentiments the National Guard excluded the Jews from their ranks. However, even this has not affected the Jews' patriotic enthusiasm. The Jewish communities have heartily donated funds and extended significant loans to the cause of Hungarian freedom, not to mention their actual participation and human sacrifices in the revolutionary fights.

The 1867 Reconciliation Agreement (between Austria and Hungary) coincided with the emancipation of Hungarian Jewry. The following decades, however, are characterized by confusion regarding their legal affairs. It was not uncommon to find 2-3 different (Jewish) communities in the same city, each having had their separate synagogues, schools and other facilities.

The Jews of Zemplén have reached the zenith of their (economic) development during the period between 1880s and the First World War. In spite of this – along with the Hungarians - many emigrated to America. Nationally, about 100,000 left the country. Among them, the Ricse-born Adolph Zukor, who became a famous movie producer.

The 1920 census figures show the distribution of Jews by their trade or profession. A significant number worked in the field of wine-growing and production, small trades, commerce and money-lending. Among them were also many doctors, lawyers, who wielded influence among the county's population, and often held leadership positions. This was also the year, when the till then latent Jew-hatred erupted. The first restrictive law, called Numerus Clausus, had been enacted. Under this legislation, university admissions were based on racial and national affiliations. Many talented young Jews were thus forced out of the higher level institutions. After the appointment of the Prime Minister Gyula Gombos (1932), the “Jewish question” became a central political issue. The first steps had thus been taken to force the Jews out of economic life, and, at the same time, move Hungary closer to Nazi Germany. It was during the premiership of Kálmán Darányi, in 1938, that the first Jewish law had been introduced. With its passing, the ratio of Jews had been reduced to 20 per cent among the professional, trade and industry officials. The second Jewish law (May 3rd, 1939) further reduced this ratio to 6 percent.

[Page 10]

During the Second World War instead of military service the Jews were committed to labor service. The third Jewish law was introduced in 1941. Youth had also been drafted into forced labor. The gates of universities were permanently closed to them. In the towns and villages there remained only the women, children and the elderly. Management of all Jewish holdings and companies were taken over by Christians. Their lands, vineyards were confiscated and they could no longer buy properties.

All the while, the press spewed out a daily dose of viciously antisemitic, inciting articles in order to turn the population against the Jews. The weekly newspaper “Zemplén” thus incited against them:

  “Galician gangs of Sátoraljaújhely have smuggled 15 million (pengő) out of the country.”
  (June 19, 1938)
  “Rancid meat delivered to the military by a Jewish butcher from Sárospatak.”
  (December 16, 1938)
  “Two thousand pengő penalties meted out for serious offenses.”
  (April 1, 1944)

March 19, 1944 became the fulfillment of the tragedy of the Jewish community. A deluge of restrictions and prohibitions fell on them. The wearing of the yellow star became compulsory. A curfew was ordered, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning. Starting on April 15th, 1944, began the deportation of Jews from the countryside to the ghetto of Sátoraljaujhely. For this purpose, they designated the most neglected part of the city. The ghetto was fenced in. The gates were guarded by the gendarmes. Within the gates they designated Jewish policemen. On April the 25th, after the transports were completed, the gates of the ghetto were locked. Inside, overcrowding and starvation reigned. Opportunities for purchasing food from the outside were severely limited. Later they were ordered to surrender all personal valuables.

On May 16th, 1944, at 5 a.m., the gendarmes invaded the ghetto. People were driven out, their belongings taken away, marched to the rail-yard and, in the afternoon, they were loaded into cattle-cars. The crowd consisted mostly of women, children and the elderly. The long train of cattle-cars started off towards the North, taking (most of) them on their final trip. By the 3rd of June the ghetto was completely empty.

[Page 11]

Sadly sensational news in Újhely[4]

“In the matter of Jewish property lootings a large-scale investigation is being carried out by the excellent detectives of the Újhely Police ... Two months ago, several men and women arrived in the city for a temporary stay. The authorities gave them apartments, which used to be owned by Jews. Some of them have cleverly opened certain (officially) sealed rooms, in which there were still un-inventoried Jewish belongings. They stole precious clothing, garments and other valuables. The interrogation is still ongoing, and by Saturday morning Persian fur coats have also been recovered by the police... “


Youngsters looting in a Jewish house in Újhely[5]

“Police arrested two young burglars, who stole shoe-leather material from a Jewish house at Károly Street 4. The fine leathers were sold in the black-market. The stolen belongings have all been recovered by the Police...”

[Page 12]

Jewish Residents of Nagycigánd According to the 1869 Census

Head of Household Date of
Occupation # of people
in family
Feinstrek, Márton 1834 Schacter 5
Fried, Hermann 1814 innkeeper 10
Glüch, József 1820 merchant 7
Goldberger, Dániel 1834 peddler 7
Goldberger, Mór 1836 day laborer 5
Guttmann, Fáni 1848 merchant 1
Hermann, Ábrahám 1810 homemaker 3
Kesztenbaum, Anna 1835 merchant 4
Kesztenbaum, Sámuel 1825 merchant 3
Krausz, Fáni 1815 innkeeper 4
Leskovics, Ábrahám 1830 renter 7
Müller, Jakab 1828 farmer 8
Reinicz, Dániel 1844 peddler 5
Roth, Izrael 1832 peddler 4
Rozenbluth, Salamon 1840 peddler 6
Tranermann, Izrael 1825 furrier 6
Weisz, Bernát 1940 peddler 4
Weisz, János 1827 innkeeper 8
Weisz, Márton 1789 Money-lender (?) 6

[Page 13]

Jewish Residents of Kiscigánd According to the 1869 Census

Head of Household Date of
Occupation # of people
in family
Baum, Ábrahám 1835 merchant 4
Elefánt, Emánuel 1830 money-lender 6
Elefánt, Lázár 1843 tailor 4
Feierman, Jakab 1844 merchant 2
Fényes, Izidor 1851 teacher 1
Fridman, József 1839 renter 7
Fridmann, Herska 1807 innkeeper 4
Goldstein, Sándor 1833 steward 2
Grósz, Rudolf 1836 merchant 7
Grünfeld, Áron 1815 merchant 8
Heimlich, Abrahám 1827 innkeeper 7
Izsákovics, Áron 1804 tailor 4
Kircz, Dávid 1826 money-lender 5
Klein, Mózes 1801 money-lender 3
Reitner, Hermann 1821 butcher 5
Reizer, Fáni 1836 housekeeper 4
Rosenfeld, Áron 1833 merchant 13
Rosenfeld, József 1826 farmer 6
Róth, Sámuel 1817 steward 6
Rozenblich, Béni 1838 tailor 5
Schwarcz, József 1835 farmer 6
Schwarcz, Leopold 1844 renter 3
Schwarcz, Pál 1824 renter 12
Schwarcz, Sámuel 1825 furrier 3
Stark, Jakab 1837 merchant 5
Veisz, Ignác 1836 money-lender 6
Veisz, Julianna 1830 housekeeper 3
Veisz, Sámuel 1825 trafficker 6

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Side-by-side in Daily Lives

Comments by Alex Revai: These interviews are written “ad-verbatim” (in the original Hungarian). They reflect the unique local dialect and the speaker's mannerism. It's nearly impossible to do justice in translating the remarkable “flavor” of the words and sentences. One also needs to take into account that the interviewees must be in their eighties or nineties and they are remembering people and events, that they only knew as children. There are understandable inaccuracies and/or folk-myths in their recollections. Especially, when it comes to Jewish customs. Memories are fading fast. Some of my comments and/or explanations are made in brackets and in Italics.

“The Dickers were three: the couple and their son. They lived at the Bémer's (current) location. The old house is still standing, only it's renovated. The store used to be at the front. It was a kind of grocery store, they sold everything. They were on good terms with the neighbors. The brother of the old Dicker lived opposite the church. They strictly kept their Sabbath and their holidays. They never worked on those days. Dani Végső used to go over to light a fire because they (the High Holidays) came in the Fall, when it was cold in the mornings. On Saturday they went to the “kukucska” (the Sukkah, during Sukkoth). They bought the milk from us. I used to visit them often. They had a nice, clean house and they were clean themselves. When we sat out to chat at the Földházi-s gate, they used to join us there. They used to bake Matzah. We were always there together in the neighborhood. The adults went to Józsi Szabó, the kids gathered at Földházi's gate or, sometimes, in front of the Bémer's, on the large field. That's where we played. I went to school with the Friedmann girls and with the Müller. The lower grade classrooms were, where Dezső Titi lives today. The crop-storehouse used to be in the Ecker's house, which later became the ballroom. Bèla Ròth lived there, where (later) the co-op's apartments were built.”

Németh Barnáné

Ernõ Weinberger’s house[6], Petõfi u. 85
“ Ernő Weinberger lived next door to us. He had two girls, and a son. I can't tell you strongly enough, what a close relationship we had. They repaired metal dishes, but they also had a store. He worked very hard. They used to like me a lot, visited each-other a lot. We can't say anything bad about them. On Saturdays they were free and didn't do anything. They used to come over to see us for a talk. They didn't cook, just walked to the synagogue. I went to school with a Jewish boy, named Kornfeld. He was very educated. Miklós Weisz lived at the Bessenyei's place. My father used to go his store. Lichman was running the storehouse, receiving the crops.”

Sándorné Vajda

[Page 15]

Ernő Schreiber, Vasút u. 46
“The Schreiber-s lived next door. They had three girls and one boy in the family. We were extremely close friends with them, helped each other in everything. They worked the field, but also had a grocery store. They were not very religious, but never worked on the Sabbath. We used to light the fire for them. I think often of what they went through.”

Erzsébet Fodor

Petöfi u. 90
All around us there lived Jews. Even where the André-s used to live. Uncle Sanyi. Sanyi Dufek. His wife was aunty Eszti. She had a sister, Ilonka and she became pregnant from uncle Sanyi[7]. But what happened with the child, I do not know.

On Friday evenings they called for my father or our Julcsa: - Come now, here is the key to the pub, as they had pub there. They went over to the pub to serve the clients, as they no longer worked (on account of the Shabbat). They also went over Saturday morning, and lit the fire. There was such a great trust between us! When we cooked something, we gave them, and they did likewise. They accepted our food. When they made cholent[8], they always brought some for us. It was a kind of bean dish with cabbage. It was prepared in an earthenware dish. Only they cooked in a furnace . I've no idea how long it was in there. They just took it out and ate it. Only on Saturdays. On weekdays they never ate bacon or fat, but everything else they ate. They bought the milk from us. Whenever they came, we always had to wash the cow's tits. They brought their own rag in order to wipe the cow's tits with it.

There also lived a family further down, at the end of Vilma Sohajda's garden. Uncle Samu, I remember that. They bought potatoes and the likes from the villagers, and my dad transported them to Újhely. If they called for my father at dawn or at midnight, he prepared the horse-buggy! So, it never happened that he would say no. He was their do-it-all. We had a great relationship. If we had something to sell, they bought it from us and paid for it. Across the street from us lived Ilonka and Sárika. They were good seamstresses. At Sándor Boros' place lived Laci Róth, Aranka Róth and aunty Janka. Aranka was a good friend of our Julcsa, so when she returned home after the war, they always visited each other. They, too were innkeepers.

[Page 16]

I remember, there was a room, where they used to congregate on Friday nights. There, at Laci Róth's place. They held their family celebrations there, in private. Nothing ever leaked out from those happenings. Where the Mayor's office is (today), lived the Kircz (Ignác) family. They had two beautiful girls. (In reality, they had three. All were killed.) The girls had such gorgeous long pigtails! They, too, came to uy milk from us.

They (the Jews) used set up columns in their courtyards, surrounded it with rushes, and roofed it with sticks. They sang every day, I don't know for how many days. This structure was the Kukucska.” (Clearly, she remembers the Succoth customs)

Béláné Fodor

Fő u. 55. Kircz Ignácz
“We knew Ignácz Kircz very well. He lived, where Zsolt Sz. lives today. He was a carpenter. He lived with his wife and two beautiful daughters. In 1944 the Jewish question has been on the daily agenda. I wanted to apprentice with him, but he said, let's wait a bit and see what will come of all this (the Jewish question). Ernő Schwarcz used to live at B. Pista's place. He had a hardware store. József Schwarcz and his younger brother. Later he changed his name to Szabó. Further up the Tisza restaurant, there is a vacant lot. There lived Dicker, who was a shoemaker. He had a cold cellar. Omáscsik rented it from him. This thing happened in 1941, when he had already moved from there: I'm poking in the straw and suddenly I find two blue jars. I open them and take a whiff. It contained duck and goose fat, mixed together. My father would not let me bring it home, he was afraid of what might happen (if I took it). At B. Károly's place, in a big, long house lived Dicker . In the front of the house there was a variety store. Elefánt lived just before the big warehouse. With its back to the street, it was a long building. It was almost parallel to the Northern end of the warehouse. There lived Béla Elefánt. He had a homestead at Gorsó. Móni was very sporty looking. He also had a sister, I can't remember her name. Another Kircz (Áron) lived at Gyuszi P's flat. He had a very beautiful daughter, Ella. She was a seamstress. Laci Róth married this Ella.”

József Tóth

Fő u. József Guttmann
“At the Séra's place lived a very good man of my father. His name was József Guttmann. The old house is still there, It wasn't torn down. On the Jewish holidays he gave me everything. I didn't dare to go in to other Jews, but to them I went. I even lit the fire for them. My father worked for him. He made concrete and brick tiles. The work was carried out at Gyula Dócs' house. That place belonged to Jews till the end. They made all kinds of concrete rings and pipes. They were very kind-hearted. His wife's name was Szerénke.”

Józsefné Tóth

[Page 17]

Fő u. 77. József Guttmann
“Where Gyuláné Dócs lives, there lived Jóska Ottmann. (In all certainty, it's Guttman) He made concrete rings for wells. We carried milk for them, and to the post office, to teacher Kántor. We went to school, my mother milked the cows, and every morning I took the milk to the Jew and to the Kántors. Once, He (Guttman) said he wanted to buy some goats. Since he had no garden, he asked us to provide weeds for the goats. He gave us 50 fillér (cents), sometimes 20. When we returned from school, we picked the weeds in a bag and took it to him. Since we didn't have a bike, we carried the bags on our shoulders. It went on like this for a year. When they were taken away, we took the two goats to our house. There were still many empty fields nearby, so we just let the goats out grazing in the mornings. When we returned from school, we brought them in. Then came the war. As we retreated, we left the goats and pigs behind. Hungarian and German soldiers came by. When we returned, there were neither goats nor pigs or hens.

Jolán Dufek's father had a soda-making shop; he used to draw the water from our well. He had a horse. Jolán's father lived where Pisti N. has his hardware store. She was a dark-skinned, crooked-legged woman. She also returned (from the deportations). People liked them, and they liked the people, too. If people were in need, they helped out. The person, who had the mill, also farmed the land. His name was Rezső Berger. Later he sold the mill and left. They came here from Királyhelmec. His wife was Vera Gyugyu. (In reality, he was a life-long batchelor)

When there was a Jewish wedding, we went and stared. As school children, we were curious. We went to the Jewish temple. There was even a pool[9] inside it, where they bathed. Sometimes the men, other times the women. Sometimes even together. The door was open and we peeped. Never have I asked anyone since, whether it (the pool) is filled in (with dirt), or what is there! During their weddings they brought in a glass, just like this one here. Then the priest (Rabbi) married them and they came out through the door. Half the village was there, and we just watched them in awe. Their custom was that the glass was put on the ground upside down and they had to stand on it. But it must not have tipped over. Both the bride and the groom had a glass. They stood on it. The man's glass broke, but the woman's only tipped over. The women had smaller feet and their shoes were not suitable (for this task). Somehow or other, though, her glass also broke at the end. If the glass didn't brake, (it meant) their marriage would end in divorce. But if it broke, they would stay together[10]. They put on a big party. There was lots to eat and drink. They also danced, just like it was our custom, too. But the Hungarians they didn't invite. Only Jews were there. I guess because the Hungarians would get drunk, cause nuisance, curse, or who knows what! Even their best neighbors were not invited. I wont to say that there is no such thing among the Hungarians.

[Page 18]

They thought their children at a very young age. When our school-day finished, they had to go to their Boher school. Such young kids. The boys had payes (sideburns), which we often pulled on; we shouldn't have. We tugged on them. We chanted: Jew, you should hang on a twine! (An untranslatable, highly offending rhyme.) Kids! When we grew older and became smarter, we respected them more and no longer hurt them. We milled about the wedding party, staring on them. They gave us cookies and drink, they were kind to us.

The owner of the great granary was partner with Rezső Berger. They lived in the front part of the warehouse. There lived 5-6 or maybe even eight families there. There was a woman, looked just like Jolán Dufek. They called her the “horse-eyed”. She had such big ugly eyes. Where Karoly B. lives, was the home of Ali Dicker. At the place of Józsi nagymarci, lived the Schreibers. He had a pub and a small store. He sold everything in time, and went to America. A shepherd came from Rozvágy, where the B.-s reside. When they took the Jews, the sheep, the furnishings and everything was left behind. Nobody told the B.-s to leave the place. At another ranch there there live the Jew Csáki (Csáthi). He, too, had a very nice daughter, Zita.”

Bertalan Fodor

“In the school, from the beginning, I was sitting with Lili Kircz, in the front row (the place for the best students) up until the public schools were built. Our school was a reform-catholic school, so the children of other faiths went to the public school. Besides Lili, Éva Friedmann and Éva Ecker were also my classmates. I have a very nice memory about Éva Friedmann. She was the first person with whom I ever talked on a telephone. In those days only a few places in the village had a phone. Our teacher, Hadnagy, demonstrated the phone to us by sending Éva home and had her call us. We waited for her call at the priest's office. Decades later, when I was already working as a registrar, my heart always sank when I came across a death record of one of my classmates.”

Jozsefné Oláh

Fő u. 131. József Ecker
“We lived next door to Eckers. I was only ten years old at the time. He traded a bit and also worked the fields. He had an about twenty feet long tavern. Jozsef Ecker came here from Várda (Kisvárda). He gave a lot to charity, but he also “pulled the hair of peasants.” He sold on credit everything, from the last ounce of yeast to vinegar. We went there a lot. Those whom we knew were all on good terms with the villagers. They had nice girls. The old (Ecker) had four girls. They often visited their relatives at Várda. They spent their holidays in private. The Kukucska (Sukkah) was in September - October. They cooked cholent – a kind of bean dish – in a pot. They would take it – or, if not, they asked me to take it - to the Jewish church. There a Jew cooked it. They were not allowed to light a fire. Such laws they had. As a youngster I used to go over (to light the fire). They always gave me a cube of sugar (for this service). The fire wood was there. The girls were nice: Magda, Éva, Bözsi, Kári. These Jews

[Page 19]

always kept together. The cholent was in a large iron pot, looked like a vegetable stew. They bought the bread from their bakery. The Müller girls, Kati and Zsazsa were also my age group. This Jew was a big trader. He dealt in seeds, such as clover and alfalfa. He provided loans to the larger farmers.”

János Tóth

“The old Dicker also had a store. They lived in Károly B.'s place. The house was not demolished, only renovated by the new owners. They were a very nice family. Religious, like the Jews. They were kind people. He didn't deny anything to us. He put aside for us whatever we needed. They went to school in the Jewish church. We could borrow money from them easier than from the Hungarians. How often said my mother: “Children, know it the Jew sooner gives, then asks.” Whatever we asked for, they always helped out. They helped many poor families. In the Autumns, there were the Kukucska. They were covered with rushes, and they celebrated in them. If it rained, they withdrew into the house. They didn't look for trouble with anyone, they adjusted to the people. My mother even baked bread for them. Ecker lived, where the P.'s wife. In Jóska Ecker's house there was a ballroom. Young folks used it. His wife collected the entrance fee. (People) used to sing: “ Jóska Ecker waters down the wine ...”

Ernő Schwarcz had a store, where Jolán Császár used to live. My mother used to weave mats from rushes for the Schwarcz family. The mats were woven at Sándor Fábián's place. They used it for the Kukucska (Sukkah), but they also sold them house-to-house or took them to the market. Near Berti Karácsony's tavern live a family with 8-10 children. It was a very poor family. They were always afraid. The Lakatos-store used to be a warehouse. Jews lived in it. Lajos Weisz lived where the office used to be.”

Józsefné Fodor

“My father was on good terms with the Dicker family. They lived opposite the church, where the medical clinic is nowadays. We tried to hide him, but he was taken away anyway. At János Cztifra place Andor Króhn had a soda factory. He was handicapped and wasn't very fond of the Hungarians. Otto Klány lived just before Jancsi N.'s place. He had a house and a store. He had another store at around the corner, at the site of the Beszenyei's. Jóska Schwarcz lived where the (Communist) Party office used to be. After the war, he moved to Újhely. We used to meet there often and talked a lot. They were not so bad (people), you could live with them. (The person) who lived at Laci André's place, used to work the fields. Schreiber did the same. At the place of Sanyi Boros, Róth had a pub. Some of the poorer Jews opened grocery stores. They extended credit to the needy and the honest ones. Repayment of the debt often came from selling the new potatoes. The baker lived where now Gyuri D. Lives. They (the Jews) carried their cholent there to be cooked. That was the kosher food. What was not kosher, they gave to the neighbors. They were very religious. Jolán Dufek was often the topic of gossip. She had a bit of an ill repute. She was big woman of dark complexion. She lived here at Cigánd for a long time after the war. Náci lived at the Dezső Nagy house, across from the Dickers. He had two stores. They were not into getting rich quick, but little-by-little. But they prospered. “Better frequent pennies than occasional dollars”. They didn't light fire on a Saturdays. They had casual helpers.”

György János

[Page 20]

“In the courtyard of the bakery there lived a cobbler, uncle Gábor. He used to purchase eggs for sale. On Saturdays, they had a kind of ratatouille cooked at the baker. (Village) children used to carry them to the (Jewish) houses. They even lit their fires. They (the Jews) paid for it. We were rascals and used to peep into their Kukucska from the mulberry trees. We even threw the fruits at them. But they did not hurt anybody, they bore it in silence.”

Dániel Terjék

Fő u. 118. Friedmann family
“The Jewish boys grew long payot (sidelocks), the mischievous kids tugged on them. They turned this way and that, trying to get away, but they never forcibly resisted this ill treatment. They were good kids. My classmates was Éva Friedmann, as well. They lived at the place of Dani Nagy. We went to school in the afternoons, too, but, since we lived far away, I did not go home at noon. Éva used to invite me: Irénke, come and stay with us during the break. Her mom baked potato pancakes, but everyone got only one.

There were many very poor (Jewish) families. In '44, when Hitler slapped them (a difficult term to translate, implying that Hitler was responsible, not the Hungarians...), they were forced to go to harvest. Of course, they left the weedy, prickly parts them. They did not know how to deal with it, but they forced them. They were not used to this kind of work. I heard from my mother that by this time they were guarded and they could not leave the village. They were under house arrest.

The Jew, Csáki (Csáthy) lived on the farm of Puny. He used a horse-drawn carriage, which, at times, was driven by her daughter. My father bought land from him. We were three girls, so my father wanted us to have two acres each. But how am I to pay for it, master? - he asked. I know you, buy it, you will be able to pay for it later! And when the war came, we had lots of (cooking) oil, and we could pay off all our debts.”

Józsefné Tóth, née Irén Stofa

Identification of Further Jewish Houses Based on Memories:

Új élet u. 1. Uncle Gábor (cobbler) Petőfi u. 66-68. Dicker család
Kiss u. 17. Schwarcz Jenő, József Széchenyi u. 19. Krausz Adolf
Fő u. 107. Kircz család Petőfi u. 92. ?
Dózsa Gy. u. 35. Dicker Ali Fő u. 80. Weisz Lajos
Petőfi u. 107. Róth László, Aranka, Janka néni Petőfi u. Weisz Miklós
Petőfi u. 100. Róth Béla, Berger Ella, „Náci” Fő u. 72. Krón Andor

[Page 21]

Their Burial Customs

The Jewish cemetery of Cigánd in its current state


“The festive events were celebrated only within the family. Details never leaked out. We never went to the Jewish temple, because we were not allowed in.

When someone died, they undressed the body naked, wrapped it in white linen and they brought out the body on a cart. Even my poor father took them. They just buried the body in a grave. There was no ceremony[11]. The latter was held in the home. My father took several of them (to the cemetery). Old Jews.

[Page 22]

They didn't dress in black dresses. The graves were not particularly cared for. They erected a tombstone, and that was it. The grave was level, they didn't pile it up. They were particularly protective of their grave sites, and insisted that no one should touch them. Many a villager would have dug the graves up, as they were convinced that there was gold buried with the bodies. They should have known that there was no such thing in there.

Béláné Fodor

“It so happened that when a Jew died, they put the body in a cool place for a week[12]. Until then, they prayed at home. I do not know whether they put the body on ice or what they did with it. They took a deceased from Guttmann, too, as I remember. They didn't use nails for the coffin; it was made of only four simple planks, and it was covered. In the cemetery they removed the body, which was wrapped in linen, from the coffin. The deceased was put in the grave only in the wrapped sheet. Two people went down in the grave and put the body down on the bottom. They put a broken clay mug under the head. I was told that the mug should have a lot of money in it so that the deceased would be able to cross the river Jordan. Because there they have to pay duty to be able to go through. There were many people at the funeral, but we did not understand what they were singing. We used to say that they were “mumbling”. We were curious children, peering in. But we did not dare to go near. When the body was laid to rest, they used to throw small pebbles. Then there was applause, and they started filling up the grave with dirt. When the hole was filled, they went around and around the grave. They said what they wont to say at such times. Most likely it was some sort of prayer, part of the ceremony, what they say when they leave the deceased behind. And then they set off to walk home. No flowers, no wreath, not a single stem. Later, however, they cared for the grave site.”

Józsefné Tóth



“They (the Jews) had to wear a yellow star. We girls, when we went to school, had to wear black aprons, trimmed with red borders. They wore the same. 5 girls and 1 boy (Jews) went to the same class with us. The Friedmann girls and the Müller. To the school, where Dezső Titi now lives. One morning they (the Jews) showed up with the star. They tried to hide it. We stopped to talk with them, and we played with them.

[Page 23]

Then, someone noticed the stars: “What kind of badges are these?” They said that they were ordered ware them. It was a kind of six-pointed star. Later they were locked up and couldn't come to school any more.”

Barnáné Németh

“It was a Monday, sometime in mid-April. They were surrounded by the soldiers. In the morning they locked their residences, they couldn't go in or out. Then came the feather-hatted Gendarmes. It was about six in the morning. My father went to the well, in front of their house. The city clerk noticed him and shouted: - Hey buddy, get away from there! Not long afterwards, they were all escorted to the two-room school-house. Just the way they were roused from their sleep, hardly any belongings besides what they wore. There were about 20 families in the village, as I remember. They were escorted to the school on foot.”

János Tóth

“My father had a carriage. He was ordered to go and take them (the Jews) to the two-room school-house. He took them. They were crying, where would they take them, what would happen to them. They were kissing good bye, saying thanks and God bless you! Dicker wanted to give my father a watch, but it did not take it. He said: What are you thinking?”

Barnáné Németh

“The Gendarmes stood on guard in front of their entrances. They walked up and down. They were about to be taken away. By then they had been under house arrest for about three weeks. Then, uncle Sanyi, our neighbor, asked my father if he could help out with some money. My father said he could. I have a beautiful black suit here, said uncle Sanyi, I will hand it to you across the fence in the back. The exchange took place. During the three weeks they could only have food brought in. At the back of the house there was a small hole in the fence. That's where we stopped to chat with them. They were desperate. Poor aunt Eszti cried all the time, pouring out her soul in grief. The Gendarme escorted them to the two-room school-house. Our elders were not allowed in to help them. We took some food for them. My mother and my grandmother prepared it in a carry-dish, which was put in a canvas bag. A little bread here or some cake another time.”

Béláné Fodor

“One morning my mother made coffee and bread and butter to take them to my classmates. When I reached the school, the guard came up to me. He asked what I wanted. He sought permission from his commander. The girls came up to me. They thanked me for the breakfast. We said good bye crying. That was the last time I saw my classmates, Lili Kircz, Éva Friedmann and Éva Ecker alive.”

Józsefné Oláh

“The Dicker family was hidden at our place. They lived across the church. They were hidden when they were about to be taken. They were found and taken. I also remember, that Lajos Weisz lived at the current site of the mayor's office. He was taken the last, since the gendarme Tarnai, lived at his house. Tarnai was a very stern person. They didn't know anything about where they would be taken. There was no information, like nowadays. They had radio only 2-3 places.”

János György

[Page 24]

“I saw when they were taken away in carriages. They prayed earnestly; said one: pray that you wouldn't be taken away during winter. We just stared as they were being carried away.”

Dániel Terjék

“When they were gathered in the two-room school-house, some good people took food for them. The gendarmes looked the other way.”

József Fodor

“They transported them little by little, not all at once. They took them to the station at night. If we went near them, we were not allowed to stay long. The gendarmes took away their jewelry while they were still in the school-house. Gyugyu said that they took her earrings and ring. All their property remained behind. We do not know what the village did with it all. Our neighbor had two horses. We bought them. Two small horses.”

Béláné Fodor

“I witnessed their eviction. I went there hearing their great cries. Word got around that the Jews are being taken away. I saw two German soldiers. Kircz had two beautiful daughters, and a wife. The girls were about 12-14 years old. The were stood against the fence of the Fekete house. One German soldier held a gun on them, so they wouldn't escape. They cried. The women wanted to return to the house to get something, but the German didn't let her. I'll never forget their crying.”

Józsefné Tóth

“I was a youth-soldier. The poor Jews were locked up in the two-room school-house. They were there more than a week. Night and day. Two of us had to stand by the cemetery, and two others at the old post office. Another two in between. Six of us around the clock. The gendarmes came to check on us. It shouldn't even be said what the gendarmes were doing there! There were young, beautiful Jewish girls. Behind the school there were thick woods of acacia. And the judge also had a barn there. They went in the school and whomever they liked, they grabbed and took her out. We were appalled. The girls cried, those nice Jewish girls, but both gendarmes held them tight. They were gendarmes at Cigánd. One called Tátrai, the other Turai, I do not remember their names exactly. If a parent or someone else dared to protest, they just slapped them...nothing could be done. They were treated very badly, and we felt sorry for them. They only took them in the evenings. One night one, the other night someone else. Here were the Kircz girls, the Friedmanns, the old Józsi Ecker's. They were taken to the woods. We were not exactly children any more, but 20 year olds, we knew what was happenning! But who could we tell? And we had only wooden rifles.

They (the gendarmes) didn't allow people to take food for them. They were hungry and crying. There were some babies, too. The neighbors, good people from the village, brought some food. Milk in the evenings and mornings. They put us there to keep the folks away. They (the Jews)

[Page 25]

were just left there to waste away of hunger. How many times I say that one cannot feel how badly they treated them. I also remember, that they put them on carts and took them to the little-train station. Cart after cart. They loaded them up and took them away. We were no longer on duty at that time; they brought in more gendarmes from somewhere. The gendarmes escorted them so that none could get away. We went and stared. The villagers went along side with them. Some even cried for them. Then I want to mention that Vera Gyugyu had a baby son. The father was a Hungarian miller from Helmec. He took the baby from Vera. The gendarme noticed it and took the baby back from the father. He wanted to resist, but the gendarme knocked him down. While on the ground, he even hit him with his rifle butt. The man's parents were also present, but they did not dare to help him. They took the child along with his mother. One can't tell the horrendous things they did to them.”

Bertalan Fodor



“The bulk of the belongings were carried away to the Village Hall; From there they were carried away by people who were associated with the gendarmes. They (the Jews) left most things behind, which were ferreted away. There were people who took advantage (of the situation), pillaged and many became rich from it. They took all their clothing and belongings.”

Barnáné Németh

“At the end of the war, all (Jewish) furniture was taken to the Jewish temple. They brought them on carriages. There were some, who put aside (stole) the clothes and other valuables. The resourceful did well for themselves. They took the best to their homes. They were hard times.”

János Tóth

“Decades later, when I was already working as a registrar, my heart sank every time when I came across death notices, listing Auschwitz or Dachau, after the name of a classmate or one of their relatives.”

Józsefné Oláh

“Lajos Dicker came back after the deportations. He visited my father, then he went to Israel.”

János György

“Not everyone returned to their old residences. Uncle Jóska Schwarcz lived, where Pista Bémer lives now. He had a big hardware store. Later he moved to Újhely. He managed a store there, too, with Eszti Gönczi. I bless his wife for her goodness. She became a seamstress in Újhely. She visited Cigánd regarding that venture. “How I would love to peek in many a Cigánd cloth-chest” - she said - “to see all those homespun scarves and tablecloths.” She wanted to recruit

[Page 26]

young girls for her new sewing venture, but she had few takers. It was in 1975. We took part in three-month training course, and started work in the two-room school-house. She used to visit us often.”

Józsefné Tóth, née Irén Stofa

“I visited Budapest in 1957. Did some shopping in the department store, Corvin. There I saw and recognized Laci Róth. He walked with a shopping basket on his arm. I called out to him, but he put his finger on his mouth, to signal me to stay quiet. Then he took me to an office, where he greeted me cordially. He said, he was working there as an undercover security man.”

József Tóth

“Éva Schreiber visited Cigánd often, after the war. She was always in a hurry, but always stopped to see us. We never asked how she managed to survive. She would only say that the smaller ones were terrified. Their furniture were all carried away (stolen). I recognized many of their pots and pans, here and there.”

Erzsébet Fodor


Iskola u., Béla Elefánt and family

[Page 27]

Petőfi u. 87., „Náci”


Fő u. 80., Kircz family, Lajos Weisz

[Page 28]

Fő u. 109., Géza Müller


[Page 29]

The Synagogue

Pre-WW II, Front   Rear


Cca. 1970


In the 1920-s the Cigánd Jewish community organized, and built their own synagogue. During the war the building was severely damaged and it wasn't renovated for a while. In the 1950-s they renovated it (inside and out) and it became the 4 room, so called “Jewish School”. For many years the lower grades were thought here, then abandoned. Later it was privatized and worked as a sewing shop. Today, it's totally neglected and dilapidated.


[Page 30]

Report for the Chief Justice of Királyhelmec

I hereby report that an inventory was taken by the municipal magistrates with the help of gendarmerie of the belongings and cash found in the homes of the deported Jewish population of the village of Cigánd as detailed in the list submitted here and dated May 11 of this year.

The amount of cash received 53 Pengo and 10 filler.

The total monetary value of goods, jewelry, clocks, candle holders, etc.. adds up to approx 13,000 Pengo.

Chief registrar, Cigánd, June 5, 1944


The Annulment of the Jewish Laws

The Transitional National Government of Hungary abolished the Jewish law. This shameful act served only individual purposes, and nothing from the thus stolen properties was left for the ordinary people, most of whom had kept their distance from such a manner of wealth acquisitions. The platform of the democratic parties is totally against the ideology of racial or religious discrimination among fellow men[13].

Reading the above, one must know, that the Communist party took control of the political arena and the media right after the war ended. Clearly, the above is an example of their propaganda, blaming the ruling classes and distancing the “common” people from the atrocities and lootings, which took place. (AR)


  1. Vanished communities in Hungary : the history and tragic fate of the Jews in U´jhely and Zemple´n County
    ISBN: 091 995 2259, Published in 1986 by the Memorial Book Committee of Willowdale, Ontario.  Author: Meir Sas (Szasz) Return
  2. Prefecture: an administrative jurisdiction or subdivision.
  3. What constitutes Kosher is defined in the Hebrew Bible (Torah). In the case of wine production it has to be handled exclusively by Jews from harvest to bottling. Return
  4. From the newspaper “Zemplen”, June 29, 1944 Return
  5. From the newspaper “Zemplen”, June 29, 1944 Return
  6. The houses are shown in their present condition Return
  7. In reality, she is remembering Sandor Schonberger. Ilonka, his sister-in-law, indeed got pregnant, but from a non-Jewish miller. She had a baby girl, whom she never abandoned. Both were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. (Correction by Ella Revai) Return
  8. Cholent: Traditional Jewish bean dish, prepared on Friday, taken to the baker to be cooked in an oven so that it could be eaten warm on the Shabbat.
  9. This “pool” is a ritual bath, called the Mikvah. It's nothing to do with bathing (in fact it requires prior showering). Women and men are never allowed to use the Mikvah together, at the same time. (AR) Return
  10. In reality the breaking of the glass is only the man's responsibility, as a reminder of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Return
  11. Actually there is usually a very brief “ceremony” (recital of certain prayers), which, to the outside observer may seem like nothing at all. Return
  12. In reality a dead body must be buried in the shortest possible time. Usually within 24 hours. Clapping would be out of the question. Stones are not thrown, merely left on the grave. After the burial there is a one week mourning period, called the Shivah (typically at the home of the deceased. (AR) Return
  13. Article from NÉPÚJSÁG - political weekly – Sátoraljaújhely, March 31st, 1945 Return

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