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Tecs
(Tyachiv, Ukraine)

48°01' 23°35'

Ruthenian: Tacovo
Hungarian: Técsö

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

It is a town on the Tisa River, on the Chust-Sighet railway line. It is about 30 kilometers southeast of Chust, and a similar distance west of Sighet. The town was built near an old fortress that already existed in the year 1363. Most of its residents were Ruthenian, with a recognizable Hungarian minority (about 1/3 of the residents in 1930).

 

Population

Year Jews Total
1830 9 1,816
1880 321 -
1910 - 5,910
1920 - 5,399
1930 1,525 7,417
1941 - 10,731

 

The Beginning of Jewish Settlement

In the censuses of the Jews that took place in Hungary during the 18th century, several Jews were noted in Tecs. In the census of 1728, a Jew named Berko is mentioned, with a family, and the father of one child. He owned a horse and a cow. Berko was obligated to pay 15 florin annually as lease fees. In the census of 1735, a Jew named Bendia [apparently Bendet] is again mentioned, as the father of four children. Apparently, he was a well-to-do man, for a servant and a maid were listed with him, and he owned two horses, three cows, and five calves. Nevertheless, only 15 florin annually was demanded of him. In the census of 1746, two Jews already lived in Tecs, with their wives and three children. One of them also had a servant. The two families paid 18 florin annually. Their names were not listed in the census data.

In the following census, which took place in 1768, no Jews were listed in Tecs. From then on, Jews were not permitted to live in Tecs for several decades. It is almost certain that the local population, the majority of whom were Hungarian at that time, strongly opposed Jews settling among them. The Hungarian law stood at their side, for a privilege was granted to the authorities of the cities that were considered “field towns” (Mezöváros), not permitting Jews to live in their bounds. (Tecs had the status of a “field town” in that era.)[1]. Only after the suppression of the Hungarian revolt of 1848-49 were Jews granted the right to settle in almost all cities. Even in the census of 1830, only nine Jews (two or three families) lived in Tecs, in accordance with a special permit from the town authorities. Apparently, these were Jews with vital trades that were not found among the population.

From the 1850s and onward, when Jewish settlement was permitted without disturbance, the Jewish population of Tecs continually increased and grew in proportion. Many of the Jews of the nearby villages moved to Tecs, where they found a broad arena for setting up an economic base.

 

Rabbis and Rabbinical Judges

Tecs had its own rabbi and head of the rabbinical court at a relatively early period, when only several tens of families lived there. A short time after the renowned Gaon Rabbi Shmelke Klein was chosen as the rabbi of Chust (see entry) in the year 5612 (1852), he set up his eldest son Rabbi Yaakov Klein as the rabbi of the community of Tecs and “granted him the district of Tecs from his own district,” as is described by the grandson of Rabbi Shmelke, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Klein, the rabbi of Siladi-Tesha, in the book of Rabbi Shmelke (page 39). Rabbi Yaakov Klein was born in the city of Balkan [Balkány], the place of the first rabbinical post of Rabbi Shmelke, around the year 5593 (1833). He married the daughter of the wealthy Reb Wolfe from the suburb of Manastir [Mănăstirea] near Klausenberg [Cluj]. He was supported at the table of his father-in-law for a brief period and worked in commerce, but this did not succeed for him, and a short time later, he responded to the summons of his father to accept upon himself the yoke of the rabbinate of Tecs.

Rabbi Yaakov Klein wished to write gittin [bills of divorce] in Tecs, and he consulted the great ones of his generation, headed by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Tzanz [Nowy Sącz][2]. In the responsa Divrei Chaim (section 2, Even Haezer, paragraph 100), regarding the proper way to write the name of the city and the name of the Tisa River, he addresses it “to the rabbi, the renowned rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Yaakov, may his light shine, from the country of Hungary in the community of … district of Maramures.” [In the responsa, the name of the community was left blank, but Rabbi Chaim Dov Gross has already surmised that this is referring to Rabbi Yaakov Klein and the community of Tecs – Names of the Great Ones from the Land of Hagar, Maarechet Sefarim, II, 27, notes of Rachd'g)][3].

Rabbi Yaakov Klein only lived in Tecs for a few years, for after his father, Rabbi Shmelke, left Chust and accepted the rabbinate of Selits in the year 5620 (1860). Rabbi Yaakov left Tecs and accepted the rabbinate of Bilka near Selits. Rabbi Yaakov Klein died in Bilka in his prime, during the lifetime of his father, in the year 5633 or 4634 (1873-1874). (Incidentally, Rabbi Shmelke lost another son that year, Rabbi Shalom Klein, the head of the rabbinical court of Halmin [Halmeu]. The two tragedies in quick succession broke his heart, and he himself died a short time after). The novellae of Rabbi Yaakov Klein on four tractates of the Talmud were published in the book of his father Tzror Hachayim (Munkacz, 5636 – 1876), toward the end of the book.

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The well-known Tzadik Rabbi Chananya Yom

Tov Lipa Teitelbaum, the son of the Yetev Lev[4] occupied the rabbinical seat of Tecs for 19 years (5624-5643, 1864-1883). He was born in Stropkov on the first day of Shavuot 5596 (1836). He was educated by his father, and was a dedicated and beloved Hasid of the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz. After the death of the Divrei Chaim, he did not find it within his strength to see the city of Tzanz. Once, when he was sitting on a train that passed through Tzanz, he sat in the wagon with closed eyes, with tears flowing from his eyes. His eldest son, the author of Atzei Chaim, was born in Tecs. After the death of his father in the year 5643 (1883), he was chosen to fill his place as the rabbi, Admor, and head of the Yeshiva of Sighet. He died in Sighet on 29 Shvat, 5664 (1904). The following responsa were addressed to him when he lived in Tecz: Responsa Avnei Tzedek to his father, Orach Chaim section 54, 100; Even Haezer section 29; Responsa Beit Shearim, Yoreh Deah section 390 (5637, 1877). [Additional details about Rabbi Chananya Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum and his book Kedushat Yom Tov can be found in the Sighet entry.]

After the author of Kedushat Yom Tov moved to Sighet, his brother Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel Teitelbaum, apparently born in Gorlice in the year 5610 (1850) when the author of Yetev Lev served in the rabbinate there, was chosen to fill his place. In the year 5635 (1875), his father installed him on the rabbinical seat of Polien Riskova (see entry). He occupied the rabbinical seat in Tecs for approximately 35 years (5643-5678, 1883-1918), the longest period for any individual rabbi there. Even though the renowned and proclaimed Admor of the Hasidim of Sighet was his brother, the author of the Kedushat Yom Tov, and later the author of the Atzei Chaim, to whom Hasidim streamed from all areas of the country, Rabbi Eliahu of Tecs was a sort of local Admor, to whom many Jews from the areas also gathered around to be blessed with words of salvation and mercy. During his time, the number of Sighet Hassidim grew in Tecs. They gathered around Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel Teitelbaum, who earned recognition and reverence from all the Jews of Tecs and the area. He died on 29 Av, 5678 (1918)

 


Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel Teitelbaum

 

The two sons of Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel Teitelbaum, Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi Moshe, lived in Tecs. Rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum was the rabbi of the Sighet Hasidim of Tecs. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yaakov Panet, the rabbi of the community of Reteag in Transylvania. (He died several years before the Holocaust.) He felt out of a window when he as a baby, and his legs were injured. His father considered bringing him to Vienna for an operation. Before the journey, he traveled to the author of the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz. When the Tzadik of Tzanz read the petitionary note and saw the name “Chaim the son of Miriam” he said that his own name was also Chaim the son of Miriam, and that he too suffers from difficulties with the legs, but does not go to any doctor. Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel understood the comment and did not go to Vienna. Rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum remained handicapped in his legs for his entire life. He worshipped in the kloiz in Sighet and served as the rabbi of the kloiz. He was a fine prayer leader, and pleasant with his fellow. Even the Hasidim of Visznitz supported him. (Incidentally, he was a descendant of the Tzadikim of Kosów from his mother's side, for his mother was the daughter of the Tzadik Rabbi Pinchas Yosef Hager, the son of the author of the Torat Chaim of Kosów.) Rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum would also visit the Yeshivot of the area in which Hasidim Visznitz studied, where he was received with great honor. Rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum was killed in sanctification of the Divine Name in Auschwitz on the Festival of Shavuot, 5704 (1904). His son Rabbi Pinchas Yosef, who married the daughter of his uncle Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Tecs, was supposed to receive the rabbinate of Bishtina, but this did not happen due to a dispute. He also perished in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum was chosen as the rabbi of Tecs after the death of his father, Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel. He too was a sickly and weak man. Despite his weak strength, he served G-d with dedication beyond his powers. His physical strength was quickly depleted, and he traveled to Italy for convalescence, where he died in his prime several years after the First World War. His coffin was brought to Tecs, where he was buried in the canopy next to the grave of his father.

For several years, no rabbi sat on the rabbinical seat of Tecs. Around the year 5688 (1928), Rabbi Meir Greenwald married the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum. As a dowry, he was selected as the Rabbi of Tecs. He was the son of Rabbi Avraham Yosef Greenwald the son of the author of Arugat Habosem. A short time after he was chosen as the rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinski responded to him: Responsa Maharit'z volume I, section 146 (eve of the Sabbath of Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5689, 1929): The rabbi great in Torah, the sublime Tzadik, the branch of the tree of his ancestors, who stands in a praiseworthy fashion, Rabbi Meir Greenwald, may his light shine, the head of the rabbinical court of Tecs. The responsa was about going to a gentile court if necessary. Ten years later, his brother, Rabbi Yehoshua Geenwald, the rabbi of Chust, wrote a responsa to him: Responsa Chesed Yehoshua [first edition], section 28 (5699, 1939): regarding yeast that entered a gentile store on Passover, and it became clear that the owners of the factory were Jews who violate Jewish law.

Rabbi Meir Greenwald endured the tribulations of the Holocaust with backbreaking labor in a work brigade in Ukraine, suffering indescribable affliction. His wife and children were murdered in Auschwitz. After the war, he settled in Toronto, Canada, where he died on 28 Elul 5725 (1965)[5]. In the year 5721 (1961) he published the book of his grandfather from a manuscript saved by his uncle (the son of the author) Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Greenwald, the head of the rabbinical court of Tzelheim and the Arugat Habosem community of Brooklyn:

The book Arugat Habosem, novella and commentaries on Mishna produced by the Rabbi and Gaon, prince of Torah… Rabbi Moshe the son of .. Amram… I arranged and published it with some brief notes… the grandson of our rabbi… Meir Greenwald formerly head of the rabbinical court of Tecs and district, living here in Toronto, Canada, published in Brooklyn, 5721, 156 pages.

At the end of the introduction by Rabbi Meir Greenwald: When they took me to

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Ukraine and tortured me greatly… .with hard labor and broke my bones, they took my family and young children… to be murdered in Auschwitz.

On pages 145-156: The booklet Chibur Letahor, some customs, notes, and explanations on the book Arugat Habosem on Mishna, that G-d has graced me… Meir Greenwald, the grandson of our rabbi the author, may his holy memory be a blessing.

The first rabbinical judge in Tecs was Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kahane, the son of Yechiel Tzvi, the son of Yosef Mordechai, the author of Kuntrus Hasfeikot. He was a student of the author of Yetev Lev of Sighet and Rabbi Shmelke of Selits. It seems that he arrived in Tecs together with the author of Kedushat Yom Tov, or a short time thereafter. In any case, in the year 5628 (1868) he was already living in Tecs, for he signed the book Kiseh Rachamim (Ungvar, 5628). Apparently, Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kahane was chosen as the rabbinical judge of Tecs to satisfy the will of the Hassidim of Kosow-Visznitz, for, despite the fact that he was a student of the Yetev Lev, Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kahane affiliated with the Hassidim of Visznitz. Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Kahane died on 12 Sivan, 5656 (1896). He authored and published the book:

The book Divrei Tzadikim, an anthology of reasons behind many commandments and holy customs… that I collected and gathered from books and from the mouths of scribes of Gemara, Midrash, early and later rabbis [arranged alphabeticaly]… Sections I and II, Sighet, 5634-5636 (1874-1876). (3), 58, (5); [1], 46, (5), page. This was the first book published in Sighet.

The next judge was Rabbi Meir Weiss, the son of Rabbi Izik Abir Weiss, one of the elders and honorable people of Tecs, a primary student of Rabbi Aharon Maggid, the author of the book Beit Aharon (see further on). It is said of him: he was great in Torah, and a sublime Tzadik, who served G-d with soulful dedication. The sound of learning never ceased from his mouth for his entire life. He knew the entire six orders of Mishna by heart, and would at times invite a student to come to him to recite 18 chapters of Mishna by heart with exacting precision. Alongside with his greatness in Torah, he acted lowly and was very modest. He never got involved with anything that had the smell of politics. He was close to the Admor of Belz. One day, I noticed that the situation in the house of the rabbi was quite meater, even though he made efforts to hide this. I gave him 20 Czech Koruna, a large sum in those days. I was amazed to see that his wife turned to him and asked for a half Korona, and he responded negatively, claiming that he does not have any. I thought about his actions… Several days later the rabbi summoned me and asked me whether my father knows about the money that was in my possession. Only after I promised him that my parents know about the money did he agree to benefit from the gift. Rabbi Meir Weiss died in the year 5693 (1933).

From the year 5693 (1933) until the Holocaust, Rabbi Chaim Weiss, the son of the aforementioned, served as the rabbinical judge in Tecs. Like his father, he never got involved in any dispute or controversy between various Hassidic factions and camps. He too was a Hassid of Belz, but this had no influence on his relationship with the members of his community. He fulfilled his service with dedication, wisdom and faithfulness. All the Jews of Tecs related to him with honor and reverence. Aside from being an expert scholar, known throughout the area, he was an experienced halachic decisor, expert in all forms of rabbinic decisions from the early sages until the latter sages. During the years of the Holocaust, he suffered his share in full measure. After many tribulations in various camps, he died on the route from Dachau to Warsaw.

 

The Organization of the Community

We do not have any verified information regarding the beginning of the organized community of Tecs. It seems that there was already a regular minyan [prayer quorum] there from the middle of the 1840s, and probably also a mikva [ritual bath] and cemetery. We know definitively that an official registration of births, marriages, and deaths of Jews of Tecs itself as a primary community, and about thirty or more settlements and villages in a broad area surrounding Tecs, began in 1851. These settlements, which then expanded the district of Tecs, were: Kalin, Bedevelia, Bustur, Bushtina, Tshmalif, Kolodne, Dubove, Dulovo, Grosnica, Ganich, Vilchovich, Kerekhej, Kenigsfeld, Bilvarich, Ternove, Drahif, Kricheve, Leh-Lunka, Kriva, Nyagov, Mokra (Russian and German), Zlatari, Peflech, Terebla, Teresif, Krasnishora, Treshel, Igla, Vibariv, Vermezif, and Vinif. In time, some villages of the community of Tecs became independent communities, and also became central communities for other villages.

At the end of the 19th century, a synagogue was built, with a Beis Midrash adjacent to it (in the same building). Jews of the town who did not belong to the two large Hassidic groups of Sighet and Visznitz worshipped in the synagogue. Most of the worshippers in the Beis Midrash were Hassidim of Sighet, the group to which most of the Hassidim of Tecs affiliated. Their leader was Rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum. The second largest group of Hassidim in Tecs, the Visznitz Hassidim, had their own large kloiz, in which about 50-60 people worshipped. The Hassidim of Spinka, Belz, and others worshipped for the most part in the three aforementioned houses of worship, the main factor being the proximity to their homes. There was a small house of worship in the home of the wealthy and well-pedigreed Reb Tzvi Chaim Maggid (see further on), who was a Hassid of Otenia. There were also private houses of worship of Reb Yisrael Weiss and the Kramer family. There were small, temporary houses of worship for several of the youth organizations, such as Tiferet Bachurim of Tzerei Agudas Yisroel, Bnei Akiva, and Beitar.

We do not know the name of the first shochtim [ritual slaughterers] of Tecs, even though there is no doubt that there was a shochet serving the community and the district by the 1840s. The first shochet about whom we know was Reb David Yitzchak HaLevi Wurtzburger, whose origins were from the settlement of Interdam, Transylvania, where his father served in the holy task for decades and became the father of the family of shochtim called “Zevach Mishpacha.” Tens of descendants of that family worked as shochtim throughout Transylvania until the Holocaust (and even thereafter). We first come across Reb David Yitzchak Wurtzburger in the year 5654 (1894) in Tecs, as one of the signatories (prenumerants) for the book Mareh Yechezkel on the Torah (Deitz, 5654). His son, Reb Moshe Wurtzburger, served as the rabbinical judge in the community of Orshiva, and perished in the Holocaust. (He was in the Sondercommando group in Auschwitz). Reb David Yitzchak's grandson was among those who fell in the defense of Gush Etzion during the War of Independence. After the Frist World War, Reb Zeev Markovitch served as the shochet in Tecs. After his death (in the middle of the 1930s), his son-in-law Reb Shlomo Josefovitch served. Today, he serves as a shochet in a city in England.

The communal institutions consolidated as the community developed and its population increased. The chief communal institution, based on time and importance,

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was the Chevra Kadisha [burial society]. We do not know when it was founded, but we tend to surmise that it was founded at the time of the community itself. Aside from the activities for which it was created, the society also functioned in the arena of social assistance, and set aside a recognizable percentage of its income for charitable purposes. Torah classes were also given under its auspices. Reb Zalman Kalush headed the Chevra Kadisha between the two world wars. There were three groups for the study of Torah in public, with their members numbered in the tens. There were two Mishna study groups, one of the Beis Midrash of the Hassidim of Sighet, and one in the Visznitz Kloiz. There was a Talmud study group in the great synagogue , in which many scholars and people of erudition participated. The siyum[6] celebrations were festive, and attended by the majority of the Jews of Tecs. The following were the charitable and benevolent societies: the Bikur Cholim society [visiting of the sick], the Malbish Arumim society [provision of clothing to the poor], the Sandakaut society [providing the needs of a Brit celebration for poor families], the Matan Baseter society [provision of monetary gifts to the poor in a discreet fashion]. The community also supported a public kitchen. The JOINT established a cooperative agricultural bank in Tecs with lenient conditions for small-scale tradesmen and merchants. The director of the bank was Reb Mordechai Gross. During the period of the war, when connections with the free world were severed, the OMZSA, the national central social organization of Hungarian Jewry[7], supported the bank.

 


Reb Mordechai Kraus, head of the community

 

From among the heads of the community during the interwar period, we will note Reb Elisha Roth. However, Reb Yisrael Weiss served as the head of the community for most of the years. He was an educated Jew with a sharp mind. He also represented the Jews of Tecs in the local council, and, most of the time, was elected as the vice chairman of the council. Professionally, he worked in a gentile law office. He was the living spirit in that office, and found smart ways to do many good deeds for the local Jews in offering legal advice on many matters which were needed by the Jews. Reb Yosef Zicherman was one of the most active heads of the community. Reb Binyamin Shmilovitz served as vice head of the community for many years, and represented the community on the local council. Other heads of the community were Reb Shmuel Gnatz, Reb Mordechai Basch, and Mordechai Kraus, who also had influence on the authorities. For example, after the First World War, when Tecs was conquered by the Romanian Army, a Jew named Nathan Zager was sentenced to death. He was freed through the influence of Reb Mordechai Kraus.

A portion of the town called Klein Tecs [Little Tecs], on the south side of the Tisa River, was in Romania between the two world wars. (It was called Teceul Mic.) In 1930, it had a population of 41 Jews. They had their own minyan, but connections with the Jews of Tecs across the river were not severed. Many had permanent transit permits, which were used as well for reasons of livelihood, such as transporting necessary merchandise between the countries. After northern Transylvania was transferred to Hungary in August 1940, the municipalities were united once again.

The vast majority of the Jews of Tecs, as with the rest of the Jews of Maramures, had a “Jewish appearance” with respect to garb and conduct as Torah observant Jews with Hassidic customs. However, there was also a small strata of intelligentsia with general academic knowledge in the free professions. These included the lawyer Dr. Lazer, Dr. Hagdsosh (a father and son), Dr. Laszlo, and Dr. Fenyö. There were the physicians Dr. Greenstein, who was a district doctor, Dr. Kelerman, Dr. Weiss; the pharmacist Balasha, the director of the electric plant Kalush, and several other engineers and officials. The older ones were proficient in Hungarian culture and language, but the younger generation who received their education after the First World War, were also knowledgeable in the Czech language and literature. Some of them were traditional, with a strong sense of national consciousness.

Jewish education in Tecs took place in private cheders. Approximately ten cheders existed in Tecs, in which the majority of the children of the town were educated in Torah and fear of Heaven. The cheders were located in private houses, which the teachers rented for one term. There were teachers who maintained their cheder in the same location for several consecutive terms. However, there were also teachers who changed the location of their cheder at the beginning of each term. Boys studied in these cheders from a young age until after their Bar Mitzvah. Due to financial difficulties, the community did not set up a Talmud Torah under its auspices until just before the Second World War. Reb Yechezkel Leibovich was the living spirit of the Talmud Torah. However, there was comprehensive communal supervision of the private cheders; for the rabbi, the rabbinical judge, as well as householders would examine the students on set occasions. The Talmud Torah building was completed in the summer of 5698 (1938), but it was confiscated by the Czech Army even before it was dedicated. The Czech Army was in a state of emergency due to the general draft that was called at the end of the summer (one day before Rosh Hashanah 5699). The building served as barracks for new draftees A short time thereafter, the Hungarians conquered the region, and the building was transferred to the use of the Hungarian Army. At the end of the year 5699, the building was returned to the community, and some of the cheders were transferred to that building without a ceremony. Studies took place there until the end of 5701 (1941).

There was a Yeshiva in Tecs for a certain period. It had between 15 and 25 students, and was led by Rabbi Meir Greenwald. (It is possible that Rabbi Eliahu Betzalel Teitelbaum also maintained the Yeshiva for some of his years of tenure, but we do not have information regarding such). It is appropriate to note that, specifically on the actual threshold of the Holocaust, in the winter of 5704 (1944), a form of Yeshiva was set up in Tecs, directed by Rabbi Leib Glick, a student of the Mir Yeshiva. It had a student body of approximately 20 lads from the age of 15 and older. He ran

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Torah classes in his house at a high level, in accordance with the Lithuanian mode of study, which was a novel thing in Tecs.

 


Young Hechalutz Mizrachi of Tecs

 


Lads of Tecs who studied in the Pressburg Yeshiva

 

There was no Jewish secular school in Tecs, but from the 1930s and onward, the government elementary school ran three concurrent tracks. In one of the tracks, the students of all the classes were Jews. In the second track, there were mixed classes

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of Jews and Czechs, and in the third track, the students of all the classes were Ruthenians. (The Hungarian students studied in the Roman Catholic and Protestant parochial schools.) There were also many Jews in the semi-technical (Polgári) school. After the Hungarian conquest, stringent restrictions were imposed, and only a few Jewish students studied there.

The sources of livelihood of the Jews of Tecs and their economic composition were not fundamentally different than those of most of the Jews of the villages of the area. Most of them lived with meager livelihoods as tradesmen and non-professional daily workers. They toiled in all difficult and backbreaking work that came their way, so long as they could provide enough food for their large families. The specialty of the livelihoods of the Jews of Tecs was in the fruit orchard sector, especially apples. The area had a large bounty of apples, and the high-quality Jonathan apples were known in far-off places. Approximately 50 Jewish families of Tecs earned their livelihood from this branch of agriculture, both indirectly and directly, with various levels of success. Hundreds of wagonloads of apples left the Tecs train station annually on their way to far-off areas of the country – Bohemia, Moravia, and Sudetenland – where they paid good prices for this fine fruit, whose fame spread afar. Jews owned orchards. The partners Shmilovitz-Rotner were among the largest. Jews were also merchants who purchased the fruit from the orchards and marketed it. They were also middlemen, packers, transporters of fruit, and other such tradesmen.

A recognizable portion of the Jews of Tecs worked in various sectors of commerce. The most prominent were: the large wholesalers of groceries and other such products, including Chaim Roth, Yosef Zicherman, and the Hollander family, who also served the villages of the district. It is interesting to note that Roth was a Kohen, Zicherman a Levite, and Hollander a Yisrael. On the night of Simchat Torah, they would be called to the Torah in that order, and would pledge to donate all the wood that the synagogue would require for the entire winter. There was the large commercial enterprises of Leib Katz and Mordechai Kraus. The latter also owned a textile shop. Mordechai Leibovich and Ben-Zion Katz also had textile warehouses. The partners Hershkovitz and Kraus owned a factory that produce jam from the local fruits. They employed several tens of employees, mainly Jews. Chaim Gross owned a brick kiln.

All the financial enterprises in Tecs were in the hands of the Jews, with the exception of the local branch of the national bank. Banks and funds for loans and credit were owned by Grossman, Davidovitz, Mordechai Basch, and Reb Tzvi Chai Maggid (we will speak of him later). Most of the Jews of Tecs and much of the gentile population preferred the Jewish banks, for their conditions were more lenient and their directors were flexible in their business dealings, in contrast to the difficult and at times unreasonable conditions of the national bank.

There were several householders in Tecs who were great scholars, dedicating all their free time to the study of Torah. Among them were scholars expert in Talmud and rabbinic decisors. They were sharp, and were fit to become rabbis. However, they preferred to earn their livelihoods from the labor of their hands or from business. Nevertheless, they made their work secondary, and their study of Torah primary. The canvas is too short to list all the scholars of Tecs, for there were many, and most of them are no longer even known to the natives of the town. Approximately three generations before destruction overtook Hungarian Jewry, there lived in Tecs a scholar who was a Hassid of Zidichov named Reb Izik Abir Weiss, who raised a blessed, righteous generation. He lived in Tecs from at least the 1870s, but it is almost certain that he had lived there for many years before. (We find him among the signatories of the book Revid Hazahav, Premishla, 5636 – 1876). All five of his sons were geniuses in Torah from their shoulders and above. Three of them served as rabbis in Jewish communities and issued rabbinic decisions to those who asked. We have already mentioned above the rabbinical judge of Tecs, Rabbi Meir Weiss. One of his sons was Rabbi Yeshaya Weiss, a rabbinical decisor and rabbinical teacher in Sighet. He served as the rabbi of the Kahane family synagogue. He was born on the 14 Adar 5624 (1864), and was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name in Auschwitz on 25 Iyar 5704 (1944). According to many, he was one of the greatest scholars in Sighet (see the Sighet entry for additional details). The third brother was Rabbi David Weiss, who served as the rabbinical judge in the community of Ober Wisho (Vişeu de Sus) (see entry). The fourth brother, Reb Leib Weiss, was a noted scholar, honored by all the Jews of Tecs. The communal leadership extended to him appropriate honor in the synagogue, and he enjoyed the status of a scholar. The community afforded him an honorable livelihood by giving to him the permit for the selling of yeast, which was under the supervision of the community. (His grandson Rabbi Moshe Weiss was the teacher of the present Admor of Belz.) Reb Leib's son was Rabbi Naftali Hertzl, the famous rabbinical judge in Vilchovich. The fifth brother Reb Hirsch Weiss was the son-in-law of the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Alter Epstein, the head of the rabbinical court of Magierów and Oziran, the author of the book Ginzei Yosef on the Pri Megadim, the opening to Orach Chaim (Munkacz, 5655, 1895), and Ginzei Yosef, glosses and novella on the Talmud (Bilgoraj, 5691, 1931). Rabbi Yosef Alter Epstein was one of the great Hassidim of Belz, and the son-in-law of the Admorim of Belz. Through his influence, Reb Hirsch Weiss also became a Hassid of Belz (his brother was also influenced by him). Nevertheless, he called upon the elderly Admor of Visznitz, the author of Ahavat Yisrael, to teach his sons Torah.

The Steinmetz family was also a well-connected family in Tecs. All of their descendants were scholars, Hassidim, and people of good deeds. The father of the family, Reb Naftali Hertz Steinmetz, was one of the great Hassidim of Tzanz (and Sieniawa. He already lived in Tecs from at least the 1870s (he was among the signatories on the book Imrei Shoham, Kolomyja, 5640, 1880). His two sons, Reb Yosef Mordechai and Reb Nachman Steinmetz, also lived in Tecs and occupied themselves with Torah and Hassidism. The grandson of Reb Nachman Steinmetz (the son of his son Reb Chaim), Rabbi Asher Steinmetz was one of the great rabbis in Transylvania and Carpatho-Rus. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yisrael Freund (the son of the rabbi and Admor of Interdam and Nausaud, the rabbi of Rodna and Honiad (Huedin) in Transylvania. When his father-in-law was chosen as the rabbi of Honiad, Rabbi Asher Steinmetz took his place in Rodna. He quickly became known throughout the country, and was invited to various cities to head the rabbinical court and issue decisions on complex and thorny Torah matters. He ran an important Yeshiva in Rodna, where about 50 students studies. In the year 5698 (1938), he was chosen as the rabbi of the Hassidic community of Beregszasz, where he also headed a Yeshiva. He succeeded in publishing his work Mikve Yisrael on the issues of ritual baths prior to the Holocaust (Satmar, 5703 – 1943, printed a second time with many additions by his son-in-law, Jerusalem 5721, 1961). The book also includes halachic decisions and novella of his father-in-law Rabbi Yisrael Freund and his grandfather-n-law Rabbi

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Avraham Yehoshua Freund, the rabbi of Nausaud. Rabbi Asher Steinmetz was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name.

The aforementioned Reb Tzvi Chaim Maggid the son of Rabbi Meir was of great lineage, a scion of world giants: the Maggid of Nadworna, the author of Tzemach Hashem Latzvi, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, and the author of Beer Maim Chaim. Rabbi Tzvi Chaim Maggid married the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim Fishel Feldman of Bitshkov (see entry), the author of Yadot Ephraim and Degel Ephraim. After his marriage, he settled in Tecs and began to work in large-scale commerce. He became wealthy. He established a factory for wines and liquor distilling. He employed many Jews in his enterprise. His business flourished and succeeded, and spread over the borders of the country. He founded a commercial and manufacturing bank in Tecs, whose customers also included small-scale Jewish merchants who lived from hand to mouth, for whom other banks were closed to them due non-lenient conditions. This bank was a great salvation for the Jews of Tecs and the surrounding villages. Despite his wealth, Reb Tzvi Maggid did not change anything of his Hassidic garb. He did not change any of his externals even during his frequent trips to Prague and Budapest. He was connected to the Admorim of Otenia and Visznitz. He educated his children in the Hassidic way, and his house was suffused with Torah and fear of Heaven. Rabbis and Admorim would be his guests, and his house was a gathering place for scholars. Despite his many concerns, he would set times to study Torah, and all of his free time was devoted to Torah and Hassidism. He published the book Keter Torah of his ancestor Rabbi Meir the son of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev in a new edition with his preface, and the preface of his brother-in-law Rabbi Moshe Yisrael Feldman, the rabbi of Dragomireşti, who added some glosses (Satmar, 5693, 1933). A great deal of money was given to charity by the Maggid household. Reb Tzvi Chaim Maggid died in Tecs on 21 Elul, 5699 (1933). Most of his family members perished in the Holocaust.

 


Reb Tzvi Chaim Maggid

 

One of his sons who survived was Reb Aharon Maggid. He endured all the tribulations of the Holocaust. As has been stated, during his youth in Tecs, he studied with the rabbinical judge, Rabbi Meir Weiss, as well as with Rabbi Yoel Velitshker, who later became the head of the rabbinical court of Tresif. Later, he studied with the author of Keren LeDavid in Satmar, as well as in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager in Ober Wisho (Vişeu de Sus). He excelled as a genius in all the Yeshivot in which he studied, and his name went before him due to his great sharpness and expertise. When he came of age, he married the daughter of Rabbi Avraham Eliezer Weiss, the head of the rabbinical court in the city of Topolshen (Topo¾èany), Slovakia. They immigrated to the United States after the Holocaust, but set up the Yeshiva of “Beit Aharon VeOhel Sarah” in Jerusalem. He was active in commerce for his livelihood, making significant achievements from which he set up Torah institutions in Israel and the United States. He dedicate all of his free time to his monumental work on Torah, Beit Aharon, on Talmudic principles and clarification of the names of the Mishnaic and Talmudic sages. Ten volumes of this gigantic work appeared between the years of 5722-5735 (1962-1975) in large format, covering 6,205 pages, which only included the letter aleph. Rabbi Aharon Maggid died in Bnei Brak on 11 Marcheshvan, 5739 (1979).

Rabbi Moshe HaKohen Kohn, who settled in Tecs at the beginning of the 20th century, stemmed from a well-connected family. He was the son of Rabbi Naftali Yaakov HaKohen from the city of Nanesh, Hungary [Năneşti, Romania], who was the son-in-law of Rabi Aryeh Leibush Danziger of Tarcal, who was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yisrael Yehuda Shiff, the brother of the author of Yismach Moshe. Rabbi Moshe HaKohen died in Tecs on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5690 (1930). His son, Rabbi Naftali Yaakov HaKohen, was a main student of the author of Arugat Habosem of Chust. He married the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Dobver HaLevi Wurtzburger of Borsha, the son of the aforementioned Reb Shlomo, the shochet of Interdam. Rabbi Naftali Yaakov HaKohen was chosen as the rabbinical judge of the city of Cîrlibaba in Bukovina, and later settled in the city of Mihalifalva in Transylvania. He made aliya in the year 5708 (1948) and settled in Haifa. There, he began to gather material on the history of the giants of the Jewish people between the period of the close of the Talmud and the generation of the Code of Jewish Law, a period of about a thousand years. Within four years, he succeeded in publishing his nine-volume book: Otzar HaGedolim – Alufei Yaakov, covering the history of the giants of the Jewish people from the early Gaonic period… from the sealing of the Talmud in 4350 until 5350[8] (Bnei Brak – Haifa, 5727-5730, 1967-1970). Rabbi Naftali Yaakov HaKohen died a short time after the completion of the printing.

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir HaKohen Rappaport was also a young, well-connected scholar in Tecs. He was born in the city of Rawa Ruska, Galicia, in the year 5659 (1899). His father, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Rappaport, was the rabbi of the city, and died during the Holocaust in Belzec on 15 Av 5702 (1942). He was the grandson of the well-known Gaon Rabbi Dov Berish Rappaport, the head of the rabbinical court of Rawa Ruska, and the author of the book Derech Hamelech on the Rambam (Lemberg, 5652-5655, 182-1895). Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rappaport studied diligently in the home of his father, the rabbi of Rawa Ruska. After the First World War, he married a woman from Tecs, the daughter of Reb Avraham Abir Weiss, one of the notable, wealthy men of the city, who perished in the Holocaust. He lived in Tecs, studying Torah with a group of prominent young men, while his wife ran the business. After the Hungarian conquest, he was deported from Tecs to Romania on Shavuot, 5700 (1940). The Romanians deported him to Bessarabia, which had been transferred to the Soviet Union that year.

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The Soviets deported him to Siberia. After wandering about, he joined the Czech legion that was organized in the Soviet Union, and participated in the fight against the Nazis. Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rappaport was appointed as the army rabbi in the Czech legion. When the legion entered Prague, he was freed from the army and was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Prague. He spent many years dealing with male and female agunot[9].He immigrated to the United States in the year 5710 (1950) where he rebuilt his family by marrying the daughter of Rabbi Asher Rubin, the rabbi of Kartshin. Today, he is one of the important rabbis of Brooklyn.

From Torah, let us move on to sciences. One of the well-known scientific researchers of sub-atomic particles in the city of Houston is Judah Joel Leibovich, a native of Tecs. He studied in the Visznitz Yeshiva during his youth.

Following is another list of householders of Tecs, including scholars, communal activists, clergy, and tradesmen, as given over to us by Reb Benzion Tabak, a native of Tecs who lives in Bnei Brak.

Reb Benzion Katz is a scholar who conducts himself in Hassidic fashion. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yoel Deutsch, the rabbi of Ganich. Reb Benzion has three sons-in-law who are scholars: Reb Tzvi Leibovich, Reb Mordechai Anshel Leibovich, and Reb Meir Deutsch, the son of his brother-in-law Rabbi Moshe Deutsch, the rabbi of Ganich who made aliya to the Land of Israel and served as a rabbi in Netanya.

Teachers and disseminators of Torah in the city included Reb Zeida Foigl, Reb Moshe David Tabak, Reb Shmuel Melamed, Reb Tzvi Hoifman, and Reb Mechel Leibovich. All of them were Visznitz Hassidim.

Reb Naftali Rosenfeld was a Hassid of Sieniawa, and his sons Reb Shmuel Chaim Roisenfeld, an enthusiastic Visznitz Hassid (see entry on Vilchovich), Reb Moshe Roisenfeld who was called Moshe Teicher (see Chust entry), Reb Leibush Roisenfeld the gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha who was a man of benevolence and charity, Reb Shraga Feivish and his son-in-law Reb Yitzchak Katz, a communal activist, whose house was open wide for guests. Reb Avraham Hilman, one of the important city notables, pursued charity and benevolence, and was a Hassid of Sighet-Satmar. Admorim of the Sighet dynasty would be hosted in his house. Reb Natan Eli Ornstein was a scholar with generous traits, who would host the Admorim of Visznitz. Reb Herzl Kahane was the son-in-law of Reb Mordechai Chona of Vilchovich, the gabbai of the Visznitz Kloiz. His sons were Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Kahane and Reb Shimshon Kahane. Reb Chaim Ezriel Leibovich was the prayer leader in the Visznitz Kloiz, and had a pleasant voice. Reb Yitzchak Kahane was a Hassid of Otinia. His sons Leib and Meir were scholars who perished in Auschwitz. His two sons Shlomo and Shmuel made aliya to the Land of Israel.

The Chevra Tehillim society would conclude the entire book of Psalms every day, starting from 3:00 a.m. The following tradesmen who earned their livelihoods from the work of their hands participated in the recitation of Psalms: the glassmaker Reb Asher Enzil Hershkovitz, the shoemaker Reb Yuda Aharon Ganz, and the merchant Reb Tovia Festinger. The following people studied in the Chevra Mishnayot every day: the smith Reb Elimelech Leibovich , the shoemaker Reb Chaim David the son of Reb Avraham, and Reb Yitzchak Halpert. The small-scale merchants Reb Yaakov Itzkovitz and Reb David Greenberg studied Talmud and rabbinic decisors with Rabbi Meir Greenwald.

 

The Holocaust

The situation of the Jews deteriorated immediately after the conquest of the place by the Hungarian army on March 15, 1939. The local Hungarians, almost a third of the Tecs population, were pleasant to the Jews during the period of the Czech regime since they themselves were a tolerated national minority. However, during the Hungarian-Nazi regime, they were anti-Semitic and enemies of the Jews, eager to capture Jewish assets. There were also Ruthenian residents who were collaborators with the anti-Semitic Hungarian regime. The first steps of the anti-Jewish prosecution in Tecs, until the summer of 1941, were not different from those of other places of Maramures. These primarily included economic decrees that broke the staff of bread of the families of Tecs. There is no reason to repeat and review them here as well (for example, see the Chust entry). However, there were physical torments as well, also based on the economic arena, such as the arrest of several people from the respected Maggid family already during 1939. The pretext given for such incarceration was that they didn't follow some government financial laws relating to currency and merchandise. During that year, there were also several incidents of hooliganism by young Hungarians, who attacked and damaged the synagogue. Because of this action, the Jews organised a rotation of guard duty by young Jewish people. Attacks of that nature also occurred frequently over the following years. We especially recall two incidents: on the first Selichot night of 5701 (1941), when a group of Hungarians ambushed and beat Jews who were coming out of the mikva; and on the first Selichot night of 5703 (1943), when a Hungarian soldier with the rank of sergeant entered the synagogue during the Selichot service, and cursed and insulted the Jewish people and their religion. The young men Moshe Engelman, Yakil Hershkovitz and Yechezkel Levy (the son of the rabbi of Várhely), stood up to him bravely and and expelled him from the synagogue.

All those events were nothing compared to the tragic event of August 1941, in which about ten families (45-50 people) were deported from Tecs in the wake of civilian decrees. All those people were brought to the border town of Yasen (see entry), from where they were transported in trucks to Galicia. All were murdered by Hungarians and Germans, most of them next to the city of Kamenetz-Podolsk. They were shot by soldiers next to pits dug for that purpose. Not one person returned from all those who were deported. Amongst the murdered was Leah, the daughter of Reb Chaim Teitelbaum with her three children. The Hungarians intended to repeat this horrible atrocity once again. In the meantime, the leadership of Hungarian Jewry in Budapest convened. They complained to the upper echelons of the Hungarian government, and the decree was annulled.

Tens of Jews from Tecs met their death in the fields of Ukraine while drafted in forced labour battalions in the Hungarian army. They performed backbreaking labor in landmines, were underfed, worked in the freezing cold, with cruel degradation and direct cases of murder.

The Jews of Tecs also had close to two years of relative calm under the Kállay regime[10], starting at the end of the summer of 1942 and concluding at the end of the winter of 1944. During this time, there were few attacks and humiliations, as noted in the statements of Reb Elimelech Basch (see further on). The beginning of the end of the Jews of Tecs started with the German conquest on March 19, 1944. Already on the day after the conquest, the Jews of the town were left open to everyone, and every sadist could torment the Jews to their heart's desire. The youth of the Levente[11] were allowed to beat and denigrate anyone they wished. On the eve of Passover 5704 (1944), several people were arrested and taken to labor. On the Seder night, they broke into the homes of the rabbi and communal notables, making sucking motions with their fingers, with the aim of instilling fear upon the Jews and ruining their festival of freedom. Young Jews, including Zusia Aryeh Koifteil and Aryeh Einhorn (Arnon) organized themselves to stand up against them, and they responded to them with a double dose of wrath.

A registration of the Jews of Tecs was conducted on the intermediate days of Passover.

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They were commanded to register in an office set up specially for this. On the last day of Passover, Reb Yisrael Weiss, the final head of the community of Tecs, was summoned to the offices of the local council and ordered to inform the Jews about the establishment of a ghetto the following day. At that moment, he was given the job as head of the Judenrat; however, he was able to get out of that terrible, cruel role through various excuses. Jeno (Yaakov) Roth was chosen as head of the Judenrat. The rest of the members of the Judenrat were chosen according to their places of residence. A Jew was appointed from each district and assigned the responsibility of ensuring an orderly entry to the ghetto.

At first, it was decided to send the Jews of Tecs to the gigantic ghetto in the city of Mátészalka in Hungary, to where most of the Jews of Czech Maramures were sent. However, after the intercession of the Jews of Tecs, supported by several Hungarian members of the council whose consciences were finally showing signs of life, a place was designated for a ghetto at the southern edge of the city, between the Christian cemetery and the Tisa River. The gentile population of the place designated for the ghetto were evicted from there, but their houses remained locked, and the Jews placed only into the Jewish houses, with unbelievable crowding. Ten or fifteen people would be crowded into a single room. Some of the Jews lived in the yards, attics, cellars, temporary structures, barns, pens, and in any free place. The ghetto command was in the house of Reb Yitzchak Zeidman, the son-in-law of Reb Tzvi Maggid.

The Jews of Tecs did not accept the degree, and did not fulfil the command. They made use of various means to push off the command. They attempted to bribe the heads of the local council with large sums to declare the Jews of the city as afflicted with typhus, making it impossible to crowd them into a small area, lest the epidemic spread. Apparently, they succeeded, and this was even certified by the district physician. This was thwarted by the secretary of the council, Mátyás Vajdich, who was an evil Nazi and the driving force behind most of the anti-Jewish deeds in Tecs since the Nazi occupation, which he perpetrated with extra enthusiasm. He summoned the district medical authority from Chust, and they annulled the determination of the local physician. The Jews of Tecs were placed in the ghetto after a delay of about ten days.

Jews from the following settlements and villages were also brought to the Tecs ghetto: Dubove, Vishek, Vinif, Ganich (partial), Kerekhej, Spinka, and Remete (the two latter ones were from Romanian Maramures). According to the testimony of several Holocaust survivors, there were about 6,000 Jews in the Tecs Ghetto. Apparently, there is some mild exaggeration in this number. The total population of all the aforementioned places reaches about 5,000.

The situation in the Tecs Ghetto was completely bad. Aside from the intolerable crowding and the prohibition on leaving the living area during most of the hours of the day, most of the prisoners suffered constant hunger. The communal kitchen was only able to provide for a very small amount of the needs. The young Hungarians in the Levente paramilitary unit would beat and torture the young and the old, children and women. All the men up to the age of 55 were required to “exercise” every morning. This was just one more form of brutal torture, with shouting, curses, degradation, and profanity. Of course, even the Hungarian gendarmes would beat them incessantly for no reason and would search for hidden property. For example, Mendel Feintuch was beaten to the threshold of death. After that, he did not return to the ghetto. He was sent to one of the prison camps in the interior of the country, and nobody knows of his fate to this day.

There were several attempts of escape from the ghetto, but almost all ended in bad luck. The escape was not all that complicated. The issue was that there was no place to escape to and find refuge. The Ruthenians would follow after anyone hiding n the forests and turn them in to the gendarmes. The escapees were given over to the sadistic care of Mátyás Gajdich. They were beaten, wounded, and their heads were shaved (even the girls) with bands of hair in the form of a cross left on their heads. They were then returned to the ghetto.

Two families, those of Moshe Fogel and Mendel Cohen, were not brought into the ghetto, for they were under the rubric of the “special Jews” law – one because the head of the family fell during the First World War, and the second because of the head of the family died in a labor camp about one year earlier. However, their special merits did not stand for them during the time of the deportation to Auschwitz. Even those Jews were loaded on the deportation trains.

The Jews of Tecs and the area were deported to Auschwitz in two transports. The first transport left on Sivan 2, 5704 (May 24, 1944) and arrived in Auschwitz on Saturday, the eve of Shavuot. The second transport left on Sivan 4 (May 26), and arrived in Auschwitz on the second day of Shavuot. Before they boarded the deportation train, they were gathered in the jam factory next to the railway station, where thorough searches of their belongings and bodies were conducted, and they were again beaten without discrimination. They spent the final night in the cellar, which was full of water and mud, and was swarming with rats. Several people went out of their minds that night. The Jews of Tecs arrived in Auschwitz on train wagons crowded with 70-80 people each. Bodies were removed from several of the train wagons of people who died along the way from the indescribable tribulations and tortures.

We have a special document describing the atmosphere in Tecs during the years of the Holocaust, from 1942-1944, from the impression of Reb Elimelech Basch of Tecs, starting several days after the German conquest. Reb Elimelech Basch, a scholar and a proficient writer in Hebrew and Yiddish, was cremated in Auschwitz on the second day of Sukkot 5705 (1944) along with 32 Jews of Tecs, who risked their lives and did not go to work on Yom Kippur. The letters of Reb Elimelech Basch are also preserved in a Yiddish booklet containing a Purim play performed in Tecs on Purim of 5700 (1940). The pleasant verses in rich, sweet, Yiddish describe the communal realities in Tecs.

In the following lines, we bring some of the writings of Reb Elimelech Basch during the years of the Holocaust, in their original language. The remnants were found by his brother Reb Yaakov Basch, one of the last Jews of Tecs. When he made aliya to Israel in the year 5739 (1979), he brought them with him, and gave them over to Reb Elimelech Basch's daughter, Mrs. Pircha (Blima) Senderovich, in the city of Lod.

 

January 1942:

[A detailed description of the anti-Jewish discrimination regarding the distribution of food cards. They were made to wait in line for entire days, suffering from teasing, mocking, and denigration.]

In the summer of 5742 after Passover, we were in great fear due to the deportations in Slovakia.

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June:

They searched my house, looking in the holes and crevices… And they spoke harshly. They immediately sent me to go with them [with the police] to the city gate… Later, they presented us before the minister from Slotpina[12]. They conducted the protocols and freed me in peace.

 

July:

When I left the Beit Midrash, Moshe Maggid came to meet me, and said that I should not go on the main road, for the chief of police was snatching Jews from the marketplace, taking them to the city gate, and beating them cruelly. I went… through a tortuous route, and I did not go to services for two days.

While walking on the street to the Beis Midrash on the Sabbath of the portion of Matot-Masei, with Reb Yisrael Weiss, one lad… threw stones at me. When I turned to reprove him, he threw more. The uncircumcised Banias saw this.

The sheketz Amkarash threw a stone at the door of my room, that is, outside the door of the store. That day, the sheketz Makan chased after the son of my neighbor and spit on his head. He was brazen to me when I reproved him. The next day, the aforementioned sheketz chased after the son of Latzi Fuchs, and beat him for no reason. On the eve of the Sabbath of Ekev, Indig told how his son wrote to him from the Tabar [a labor camp in Ukraine] that Reb Zev Wiesel and his entire family [among the deportees of the summer of 1941] were murdered, and only one girl remained, who lives with them. Before he was murdered, he [Reb Zeev Wiesel] stood before a tree and wept aloud, begging to be brought to a Jewish burial.

 

August:

A description of the moods of the communal leaders relating to the situation. Some of them were pessimists and others were optimists. In the opinion of Mr. Roth: the salvation is near, and salvation may sprout within a few weeks. On the other hand, Mr. Weiss: “This will yet be drawn out, and there is no difference or benefit to any victory, for it is impossible to defeat them [the German enemy], neither with swords or with hunger, and it [the war] may still continue for two years.”

In the evening you will say, if only it was day[13] and we shall go to the Beis Midrash, for perhaps we may hear good news, etc. At times, we hear some lies from the flying bird [the radio], but to what benefit? A little time later, it is found to be a lie.

 

1943, March:

A few weeks after the defeat in Stalingrad [February 2, 1943], the world was happy, and it seems that the salvation was already just behind our wall[14]. However, at the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, the wheel turned a bit for various reasons: a) For the Germans began to be a bit victorious… b) The terrible news from Sal [and Bakia regarding deportations and murder], c) the terrible speech of the enemy Goeb[bels, the German minister of propaganda]. All week, a deep, dark melancholy fell upon everyone, and we went about like mourners with covered heads. On the night of the Sabbath in the Beis Midrash, Yosef Moshe told over in the name of a girl, the daughter of Radin from Solotvina, terrible news from the city of Prague – about how they were killing our Jewish brethren there in gas chambers. Great agony and grief were in the hearts of everyone.

 

March 1944:

Days of Fear

A revolution suddenly took place after the brief respite that pervaded under the Kállay government. On the Monday of the Torah portion of Vayikra [March 20], when my wife, may she live, returned from the capital city, she told how many Germans arrived… The people there were very afraid, and the city of P[est] was perplexed[15]. I went to the Beis Midrash and told this over. Yaakov Roth laughed about all this and said that it was impossible. On Tuesday the news became stronger even from other places. The news spread slowly but surely, and people began to become very afraid. On midday on the Sabbath, three decrees were loudly announced from six to six [that is, a decree that people cannot leave their houses from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.], etc…. On the third day at Mincha-Maariv, the physician comforted us. He told us that the Reds[16] were two kilometers from Chepa. Yaakov Berger said that they were below Kolomyja.

 

April:

All the days of the week of the Torah portion of Tzav passed in the same fashion. The fear was… in the category of: And Jethro feared[17], that is to say: one the one hand, we were happy hearing that the Reds were on their way, and on the other hand, we were deathly afraid about what might happen to us. Some said that we must be concerned that they might gather us all into some sort of prison camp, and other said that we must be concerned that they not take revenge upon us when they retreat, as is their nature. We consulted with each other about how to save ourselves if we were to go the forest and hide with gentile [literally: uncircumcised] acquaintances, and the like. From then, the verse, “in the evening you shall say” [13] was literally fulfilled with us in the six to six: that is, we were closed in all night long, and did not see or hear anything. Then, we waited for the morning to come. I was always one of the first ten in the Beis Midrash, and I waited with a thirsty soul to hear any new. Everyone asked his friend what was new? What did you hear? Etc.

On Tuesday night, a public fast day was declared for Wednesday [April 5], for on that day, a meeting of the wicked ones was to take place to decide on the Jewish question [apparently regarding the establishment of a ghetto in Tecs].

Since the aforementioned decree, that is the six to six, we began to conduct the Mincha and Maariv services at 5:00 p.m. I was also one of the first ten there as well. I always came at 4:00, for I sat at home all day and imagined that, just perhaps, I might hear something good at Mincha and Maariv.

On Wednesday, Jeno [Roth] came and said that the Germans were there, and that I should not go to services, but rather I should shave my face. From then, I stopped going [to the Beis Midrash].

That week, the rumors grew that the Reds were advancing. On Wednesday and Thursday, we began to notice clear signs that they were indeed approaching, for every day, we saw vehicles with German refugees getting off; that is, they were fleeing.

The Germans came here – on Wednesday [April 5]. They were busy with the telephone service, and did not touch the Jews. Various thoughts went through me all day as I sat at home on these days of grief and sighing. For example, I saw my children playing, and my heart poured out about them. That is, who knows what will be with them? What will be with the household furniture, books, various letters, and the like. My wife was of a different spirit. I debated with her that she should not clean or whitewash for Passover. However, she did her housework as normal. She spoke to my heart saying that as long as we were alive, we must await good things, and G-d will do what is good in His eyes.

Seeing my great worry, my son Yitzchak said that I should purchase a gun and bullets to shoot our entire family.

Thoughts and discussions such as these took place all day. From time to time, we heard a few words of comfort, which were like cold water on a weary soul. For example, at noon on Thursday, a Sazar [work group] passed through. Shia Matovitch[?] was among them. He said that we should not be afraid, for they are fleeing for their lives and hey do not have time to slaughter – only we should not go outside. He said that the escape is not in a natural fashion. I had already heard this on the previous Wednesday prior to Mincha and Maariv from Shimshon Cohen in the name of the brother-in-law of Shlomo the butcher.

On Thursday of the Torah portion of Tzav [April 6], many Jews gathered to purchase snow in the known forest.

Here ends the impressions of Reb Elimelech Basch. He did not write anything about the process of gathering the Jews and placing them in the ghetto, or about life in the ghetto. (If he did write, it did not reach us.) Even though there is nothing new in these impressions, and they do not tell anything that was not known from other written or oral testimonies, they speak in an authentic manner of the atmosphere and the perplexity of the Jews of Tecs during these bitter days of “grief and sighing” (as the writer expresses it), when hope and fear merged together. It is appropriate to pay attention to the living, fluent style of Hebrew used by the Jews of Tecs. He picked up the language from his cheder education and study of the sources.

[Page 313]

Survivors began to return after the Holocaust. In the spring of 1945, there were already about 40 Jewish youths, male and female, who had survived. There was an attempt to rehabilitate some sort of community. There were services in a minyan in the evening and the morning. A kosher public kitchen was set up with the support of the JOINT. When the decision to annex Carpatho-Rus to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic became known, almost all the survivors moved to Romania, from where they reached the free world. Most of them made aliya to Israel. The survivors relate that the first news of the annexation to the Soviet Union reached them during the prayers on the Sabbath day. Some of the worshippers removed their tallises, and crossed the river without any belongings in their pockets (due to the prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath) to Klein Tecs, which had been returned to Romania. Those who were too late risked their lives by swimming across the river. Some of them fell victim. Thus, one youth (the son-in-law of Reb Yosef Rotner) was shot in the river on June 1945.

A shadow of a community existed during the first years of Soviet rule. There were years when the authorities turned a blind eye to the existence of a minyan, as long as the worshippers arrived to work on time. There were also times where public worship was considered a serious crime. The communal buildings were confiscated by the authorities. Today, the Great Synagogue serves as a sports hall, and the Talmud Torah building houses of offices of the government cooperative. The mikva is a public bathhouse. The cemetery has been neglected with the passage of years. It has been renovated in the latter years, and a fence was built with the financial support provide by Reb Aharon Maggid from the United States. Today, six Jews still live in Tecs, all with senior economic and communal status. However, Jewish and religious life does not exist. Any Jew who wishes to recite Kaddish on a yahrzeit or to worship with a minyan on the High Holy Days travels to Chust.

 

Small Tecs (Klein Tecs)

As mentioned previously, Klein Tecs is in the Romanian sector. A bridge over the Tisa River connects it to greater Tecs.

Eleven families, consisting of about 50 individuals, lived in Klein Tecs. Their economic status was good. Most of them owned stores or taverns that provided food and liquor to the Czech side, whose residents crossed over without disturbance to purchase food provisions which were much cheaper on the Romanian side. In exchange, articles of clothing and manufactured products, which were cheaper on the Czech side, were brought over.

The house of Reb Eliahu Foigel was near the bridge. He was an honorable householder with a large store. He had good relations with the customs officials, and he offered help to those crossing the border in either direction. His house served as a brief rest stop for rabbis and Admorim who were waiting to cross the bridge, or who were returning from Czechoslovakia. Reb Eliahu Hershtik was another honorable householder. He owned a grocery store. He also had good relations with the customs officials, and he offered assistance in crossing the border to anyone who turned to him. Both Reb Eliahu Foigel, and Reb Moshe Eliahu Hershtik succeeded in making aliya to Israel after the war. Reb Zundel Foigel was a prominent resident. He owned a tavern that was the living spirit of the small settlement. He was a scholarly Jew, a prayer leader and Torah reader. He perished in Auschwitz.

There was a synagogue, mikva, and Talmud Torah there. They obtained the rest of their communal services from their larger sister, Grois [Greater] Tecs.

A flood of tribulations afflicted the small settlement in 1940 when it was annexed to the Hungarian regime. The Jews lost their livelihoods and all their rights. Their fate was the same as that of the Jews of Tecs.


Bibliography

Interviews with Reb Yitzchak Gershuni and several natives of Tecs.
Shlomo: Rashei Golat Ariel, Volume I, Brooklyn, 5736 (1976), pp 469-470.
Zichronot Hamaor, Section II, New York 5734 (1974), pp. 257-258; 503-506.
Rabbi Chaim Halberstam: Responsa Divrei Chaim, Volume II, Even Haezer, paragraph 100.
Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushinski: Responsa Mahari'tz, Volume I, Jerusalem, 5616 (1956), paragraph 146.
Rabbi Yehoshua Greenwald: Responsa Chesed Yehoshua [First Edition}, New York, 5708 (1948), paragraph 28.
Magyar-Zside Okleveltar, vol VII, Budapest, 1963, pp. 140, 308, 748.
Testimonies from Yad Vashem: 015/4; 015/469; 015/502; 015/530; 015/576; 015/613; 015/682; 015/846; 015/869; 015/ 909; 015/923; 015/927; 015/1252; 015/1264; 015/1287; 015/ 1347; 015/1379; 015/1427; 015/1433; 015/1434; 015/1435; 015/1543; 015/1590; 015/1596; 015/1634; 015/1679; 015/1801; 015/2110; 015/2294; 015/2307; 015/2381; 015/2533; 015/2620; 015/2718; 015/2771; 015/2933.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The Hungarian term translates literally to “field town” and seemingly means an outlying town. Return
  2. A get [Jewish bill of divorce] must include an accurate rendition of the locale of issue. Return
  3. The Land of Hagar refers to Hungary. For example, see https://books.google.ca/books/about/In_the_Land_of_Hagar.html?id=RcVtAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y . Rachd'g would be the acronym of Rabbi Chaim Dov Gross. Return
  4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yekusiel_Yehuda_Teitelbaum_(I) Return
  5. See http://kevarim.com/rabbi-meir-greenwald/ and https://www.geni.com/people/R-Mayer-Greenwald-ABD-Taish-Toronto-Montreal-Congregation-Me-or-HaGolah/6000000006712300575 Return
  6. A celebration on the completion of a significant section of study (e.g. a Talmudic tractate or a Mishnaic order). Return
  7. See https://portal.ehri-project.eu/authorities/ehri_cb-607 Return
  8. The Talmud is considered to have been concluded around the year 500 CE. 4350 corresponds to the year 590. There was a 100-year period following, considered the period of the Savoraim, which preceded the Gaonic period. Final emendations to the Talmud were made during that period. The Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] was considered to be completed in 1565. The year 5350 corresponds to 1590. Return
  9. People who were unsure whether or not their spouses had survived the war. They could not be permitted to remarry until the death of their spouse was established beyond a reasonable doubt. Great rabbinical efforts took place after the Holocaust to permit such people to remarry. Return
  10. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikl%C3%B3s_K%C3%A1llay Return
  11. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levente_(organization). Return
  12. Probably Solotvyno. Return
  13. Deuteronomy 28:67. Return
  14. Based on Song of Songs 2:9. Return
  15. Based on Esther 3:15. Return
  16. I.e. the Soviets. Return
  17. Based on Exodus 18:9. This is commonly translated “and Jethro rejoiced,” however some commentaries state that it means that Jethro got goosebumps out of his sadness at the destruction of the Egyptians. The usage hear picks up on the dual meaning. Return

 

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